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Building Your Dream Theater: Step 1 Assembling Your Team Print E-mail
Sunday, 01 May 2005
Article Index
Building Your Dream Theater: Step 1 Assembling Your Team
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When looking for your home theater designer, there are some specific things you will want to look for in addition to the things you will want to look for in your other professionals. Of course, you will want to check on their references, insurance and licenses, but there are also elements unique to the home theater designer. Are you looking for any automation? Systems integration? Touch panels? If so, you will want to not only ask if they can do it, but you will want to see examples. When looking at the examples, see if the touch panels are intuitive and easy to use. Does the integration work reliably and accomplish the goals set out? Perhaps you want integration so that when you hit “Movie” on the remote, the window shades drop, the lights lower and the phone system is muted. Any systems integration or home automation company can do this, but a good home theater designer will know which effects are desired for the home theater experience and therefore which systems should be linked and how the settings should relate to the hardware.

It is perfectly reasonable to ask to visit one or two of a designer’s installed home theaters, especially if you are doing a big job. Is the designer experienced in doing similar projects? Make sure that he or she has a good grasp of the technology you wish to incorporate into your system. Having firsthand knowledge with the intricacies and quirks of each system is worth a lot more than someone who has just read up on the specifications of your proposed system. As many audio and videophiles know, system synergy is crucial. The components of a theater need to complement one another, not just have good specifications. Looking good on paper and actually working well in the real world are completely different issues. These are some things that your home theater designer should be able to help you with and this is where the designer really becomes valuable.
Like an architect, much of what the home theater designer does is appearance-related. Therefore, it is important to make sure that the designer’s taste matches yours or that the designer is at least willing to work within your parameters rather than trying to force a signature design down your throat. That said, if the designer is good and has a signature system or core of components, there is probably a good reason for it, so ask about it.

As with the other key personnel involved, make sure to get bids for the designer’s work, references from homeowners and other professionals. When following up on references, ask the professionals how the designers were with coordinating and communicating with the other trades. Make sure you follow up on the references for everyone you are hiring, I am always amazed to hear my clients tell me that they were provided with a ton of references, so they assumed they person was good without actually checking the references directly.

Most good home theater designers and installers are members of CEDIA. If the designer you are looking at is not a member, ask why not. Does the designer meet the criteria for membership? If the installer is performing any work other than plugging in the gear, he or she will probably need to be a licensed contractor, at least for low-voltage electrical work. Check this person out the same way you would any other contractor with respect to construction license and insurance status. These are all easy requests for a top firm and they should easily be able to get you the documentation you need.

Once you have your team assembled, you will need to work out the details of their roles. Figuring out what each professional should do and confirming it in writing is an important step that sets the guidelines for the project.

The next article in this series will be on how to negotiate contracts with your hired professionals to set these guidelines and protect your best interests.

Disclaimer: The material contained in this article is not intended to be specific legal advice with respect to any particular problem or question and is intended to be a general overview of the subject. Before hiring any professionals or signing any contracts with respect to installation of your home theater system, it is recommended that you seek the advice of an attorney who is familiar with your particular project, concerns and needs.

Brian D. Kahn is a partner in the Law Offices of Linda L. Northrup, A P.C. The firm, with offices in Los Angeles and Westlake Village, California, has been focusing on the areas of real estate and construction law since 1981. He may be reached at (805) 230-2210.

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