Top 5 Home Tech Trends for 2021: Home Theater Is Hotter Than Ever

The custom integration channel has better tools and technology than ever to deliver reference class home theaters and help customers get the most out of today’s plethora of entertainment content.

Home Theater As A Top Tech Opportunity For Custom Integrators? Isn’t that a pretty broad and not really bold statement, you say?

In fact, the editors at CE Pro could call it an understatement. Home theater – and the various elements that go with it – can be the hottest residential integration ticket these days, with a perfect storm of influences CE pros supplying more than enough ammunition to benefit existing and new customers.

“I think we’ve seen a big shift from theater to home entertainment,” said Cheena Srinivasan, founder of Kaleidescape, who spoke extensively with CE Pro about anything that goes into that equation ahead of CEDIA Expo Virtual last fall.

Key shifts will make the home theater market boom in 2020

The main changes in 2020 included:

#1: COVID-19 has forced more consumers to want to upgrade their home entertainment systems, pushing more money into the category. Some of that money simply came from consumers reallocating savings that normally went into vacation travel expenses that fell by the wayside in 2020. The Digital Entertainment Group (DEG) reported for only part of last year that consumers spent more than $ 1.5 billion on digital entertainment transactions through Electronic Sellthrough (EST) and Video on Demand (VOD) in the second quarter of 2020 – this corresponds to an increase of 54% compared to the same period of the previous year.

# 2: Even before the outbreak of the pandemic, the time window between a film’s release in theaters and its release in home entertainment was shortened. That window of time was cut from 90 days to just 17 days with a deal announced by AMC Theaters and Universal Entertainment in August, which was then trumped last month by news that Warner Bros. streaming service HBO Max.

# 3: The cost of building and creating a great home theater setup has dropped dramatically. What used to take hundreds of thousands of dollars can now be built for a fraction of that sum. At the same time, however, integrators have more tools and technology than ever to blow the luxury clientele away with six- and seven-digit theater rooms.

# 4: The quality of the source material has improved. With the advent of DVD, then Bluray Disc, and now UltraHD Blu-ray, the improvements have been exponential, even with the advent of lower quality streaming video. But streaming video also now offers consumers myriad options that offer 4K High Dynamic Range and Dolby Atmos support across certain platforms.

# 5: Immersive audio such as Dolby Atmos and DTS: X offer a high quality audio experience while watching movies at home and the ability to install and calibrate larger surround sound systems. On the video side, 4K HDR projection has become the norm, and now 8K is emerging in displays and products like ultra-short throw projectors that offer even greater flexibility in installing 4K systems.

# 6: Cinema 4K format is reserved for the custom installation industry. “Most films, and now increasingly streaming content, are created in 2.4: 1 cinema format,” comments Shawn Kelly, founder of Panamorph. “Every high-end 4K projector now has anamorphic modes for use with an anamorphic conversion lens, so that full 4K display performance is delivered in this cinema format and at the same time instant changes are possible for 16: 9 content. You just can’t get this theatrical performance and experience with a 16: 9 display. And with today’s direct mount lenses, which are available exclusively through the CI channel, sales and installation are as easy as the message. “

Why your home theater business should be booming right now

Of course, it’s up to the integrators to capitalize on this potential golden age of home theater.

“When it comes to delivering a rich experience, we use the analogy that if you’re investing in a racing car, you’d better pump good rocket fuel for it,” says Srinivasan. “Otherwise you won’t get the full swing.”

He points out that source material is usually the weakest link, but as streaming and downloaded content mature, integrators can improve many areas of their portfolios as home theater covers a range of systems.

“Home entertainment is king, and more and more content will appear in home entertainment to give consumers access to great content,” he says. “This is an emotional sale, and emotional selling needs to have that emotional relevance component.”

Architecture cinema sets standards

Tapping into those emotions with powerful home theater demonstrations is something John Bishop has been doing on the CEDIA channel for decades, and he too conveyed how opportunistic retailers should be for this category during CEDIA Expo Virtual.

“The new cinema technology offers dealers a dramatic opportunity, the best opportunity we have had in 20 years I think.”

John Bishop, President, b / a / s Bishop Architectural Entertainment Services

“New cinema technology offers retailers a dramatic opportunity, the best opportunity we’ve had in 20 years,” commented Bishop, President of b / a / s bishop Architectural Entertainment Services, during his “Architectural Cinema: Deliver Premier Results for Projects at the Highest End ”session at the virtual trade fair.

Referring to IMAX theaters and Dolby Vision as examples of what he calls the HDR Cinema Sound & Image (HDR CSI) format, Bishop says, “This reference experience can now be verified through a specific design protocol and the use of premium lasers DLP projection and very high crest factor capable loudspeaker systems are brought home. ”

His “Mavericks Architectural Cinema” design focuses on three factors in order to provide a cinematic reference experience: sound (playback, dynamics, localization); Image (reproduction, brightness, color dynamics); and space (viewing geometry, lighting design).

For best results, consider, for example, a cinema-quality dynamic tone mapping system (one he uses from CEDIA exhibitor madVR) for the best HDR results and automated screen masking as differentiators that integrators can provide – Bishop takes into account actually nine different aspect ratios for its cinema builds and notices that even providers like Netflix and Amazon offer a lot of content in an aspect ratio of 2.0: 1.

“There are differences between masking and non-masking – videos are much sharper and much cooler when properly masked,” he enthused. “For our wealthy customers, art is important; Movies are one of the important art forms of modern civilization – make it important!

“Do real cinema at home, just us [integrators] can do it right, ”he notes, adding that today’s technologies make it possible to create amazing spaces in less time. “You can finance a six-figure sale in a 2 to 3 week project – it doesn’t always have to be 2 to 3 year projects. You give your customer something they have never seen before. “

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