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Important Questions for your Customer, on Home Theater Design (1 reply)

Charl Lotter
3 weeks ago
Charl Lotter 3 weeks ago

Hi all, nice general discussion would be: You're in the fortunate position where your customer would like you to design a Home Theater for them. Which questions, and why, do you ask your customer? And how does the answers of said questions influence your design choices?

Gerry Lemay
2 weeks ago
Gerry Lemay 2 weeks ago

Hi Charl,

Wow!  Your question seems to require a course or even a book for a proper answer.  The obvious first questions should be subject to your initial passive qualification of the client.  Qualification begins with your informal appraisal of the clients probable budget and their preferences.  That qualification is something that you'll get wrong some of the time but as you deal with more clients (and possibly lose a few) you'll get better at.  Everyone has heard the story about the customer wearing shabby clothes and being ignored by one sales person only to watch them buy a giant system from the next sales person.  You'll refine your appraisal once you begin a formal qualification at your meeting with them. 

  • Having said that (above), look at the car they drive the home they own and the space they want the theater.
  • Discover their level of knowledge.  Some clients know what they want and are familiar with key brands or technologies.  Give them your opinion without disparaging products or competitors.
  • Determine if they have an interior designer or architect;  if you are lucky you can begin consultation with them "before" they design a terrible room and already have it approved by the client.
  • Listen to the client and try to determine the importance of each preference.  Missing the key desire of the client is easy when there's so many requirements laid on the table.  If you drive them toward a reference system and all they wanted was a playroom to watch sports, you might lose their confidence.
  • I also highly recommend performing an informal "client training".  We discussed this in the class.  Teach them what's important technically before they hijack the room with poor seating placement or imprudent speaker locations, screen size, etc.  This is where a demo can be so useful.  Explain the metrics of a good design and try to get them interested in the concept of great sound and video, most clients are unaware of the industry standards for home theater.  Above all, gain their trust by avoiding baffling techno-speak, being clear, and being a good listener.

Once you're in the room to do a first walk-thru, you can begin laying out the system:

  • Determine the screen wall; using the short wall means more flexibility in seat placement.  That is, more seats will be in the sweet triangle.
  • Determine the seat locations;  be aware that clients often want more seats than the room can handle properly.
  • Find acceptable sub locations to even out the bass response for the most consistency seat-to-seat.
  • Based on the prime seating location place the left and right speakers.
  • Pick the screen size based upon SMPTE or THX standards.  Keep in mind the screen can be an obstacle for proper LCR placement.  An acoustically transparent screen makes good sound a much easier achievement.
  • And so on

Well, the beginning is the most important.  I'll let other chime in with their thoughts.  The hardest thing to get right is the budget.  If you can successfully gain the clients trust, start high.  It is just as unfortunate to start low and give the client less than they would have liked than to start high possibly scaring them off.  If you have established a good relationship with the client it shouldn't be hard to adjust the design to their budget.  The key is holding their trust and establishing your credibility.

My thoughts...

Gerry

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