Doing It Yourself versus Hiring the Home Theater Pros
You can handle a lot of home theater setup all by yourself. However, if you want it done right, you may want to bring in some experts to complement your work. If you don't have the right electrical outlets at the electronic station that you want to use, for instance, you may call in an electrical contractor to put in dedicated home run electrical cables. Also, setting up front projection is an art and better left to professionals. And there's nothing like having your system fine-tuned by a professional who really can tell if your sound is just right. Still, you can do all of this yourself, with some patience (and respect for the live conductors in your electrical system).
If you want a professional to set up your entire system, you probably need to be shopping in the high-end price range. So if you don't have some of the really expensive equipment, you can probably do a lot yourself or rely heavily on the local installation services of the store from which you buy your equipment. Even if your dealer doesn't want to do the entire installation for you, you may want to see if they can do a system calibration for you. If you buy online, expect to do most of the work yourself.
The people involved in your project depends on the size of your project and whether you're building a new home, renovating an old one, or simply making do with that spare room in the basement. In the end, it varies according to what you're trying to accomplish. If you plan to put a major home theater in your home — complete with theater seats, a popcorn and candy stand, and screen curtains — you may want to bring a home-theater consultant into the process. However, some very imaginative do-it-yourself (DIY) home theaters trade love and patience for consultants and big bills, with truly amazing results.
If you do bring in some help, make sure that you choose advisors who share your vision of an ideal home theater. The people that you choose should have experience with a broad range of home theaters, not just expensive or cheap ones. Find your home theater personality and match it with your contractors, and you have a winning combination.
You may have a hard time finding some kinds of contractors. For the more traditional groups of professionals (such as architects), you can often rely on word-of-mouth, recommendations from in-the-know friends, and a thorough review of the contractor's references. For contractors who install your home's electronics and wiring infrastructure, do these same things, as well as check their credentials. The Custom Electronics Design & Installation Association, or CEDIA, has a rigorous training and qualification program for people who do nothing but build and install home theater systems for a living. Check out the CEDIA Finder Service to find a qualifier contractor.