How Far Away Should Your Home Theater Seats Be From Your Screen?
published onJanuary 25, 2012

Have some extra space in your house? A family room that isn’t exactly the gathering space you hoped it would be when you put in a comfy sectional sofa and game table? Maybe you’re already set on building the home theatre of your dreams, but you’re not sure exactly how to create that true “movie theater in your home” experience.

Getting the correct screen size and placing it in the right location based on your seating will make all the difference when it comes to your home theatre systems enveloping you in the action. Of course, lighting, speakers, the seats you select and even the snacks you serve (popcorn over potato chips, everytime) will also contribute to the overall mood and wow factor. But since going to the movies is largely a visual experience, screen size and placement makes a huge difference. We’d even venture to say the size of the screen and where you put it is more important than whether you choose LCD, LED or plasma, and the resolution of the screen. Of course, if you opt for projection systems you’re going into a completely different realm and raising the bar even higher for a more authentic “movies at home” experience. Whatever your choice, optimal viewing distances will remain approximately the same.

What the Experts Say

Obviously, it’s easier to buy a different size screen than to knock out walls and expand a room. So we’re assuming that the size of your home theater room is the constant factor. THX and SMPTE both make recommendations for optimal viewing distance for a home theatre experience and both include viewing angles, which are equally important in a home theatre setting.

THX standards recommend viewing angles between 26 and 36 degrees. In a small home theater, rather than a large commercial setting, you may have the luxury of placing all seats close to SMPTE’s optimal viewing area recommendation of 30 degrees.

As far as distance, SMPTE recommends the optimal viewing distance of no more than 1.87 times the width of your screen, with the closest allowable distance of about 75 percent of the width of the screen. (Note: Don’t confuse screen diagonal with screen width. The width is slightly shorter than the diagonal.)

THX standards state that the maximum viewing distance should be no more than about five times the width of the screen.

Other Factors to Consider

If you’re using a projector in your home theatre, you’ll also want to consider the brightness in lumens. Whether you’re using projection systems or an HDTV screen, you’ll want to take screen resolution into account, as well. You can afford to sit slightly farther away from a screen with a resolution of 1080i, and the benefits of 1080i over 720p only become visible at further distances.

Finally, as you create the ultimate immersive experience in your home theater, you’ll want to look at speaker placement as well so that everyone’s audio experience is not just comfortable, but enjoyable and immersive.

Leave it to the Pros?

If you’re the do-it-yourself type, these guidelines can help you create the experience you want in your home theatre. But if you’re more confused now than when you started, and still not sure what screen size is best for your new home theatre, give us a call.

We create custom home theatre solutions that fit your home, your dreams… and your budget.