Second in a series of ?Light Papers? that address technical and aesthetic issues relating to the application of Matthews Designer Lighting in home theater environments.

Part Two Matthews Light Paper

Second in a series of "Light Papers" that address technical and aesthetic issues relating to the application of Matthews Designer Lighting in home theater environments.

Light Paper 1 established the premise that appropriate illumination is as essential to the home theater experience as is proper acoustical treatment. It also introduced four Matthews lighting instruments designed specifically for the home theater, and illustrated the application of those lighting instruments in four basic space layouts.

Light Paper 2 will provide an explanation of the quantitative and qualitative aspects of light that will allow the reader to expand his understanding of lighting beyond the basic space layout. In order to understand the material presented in Light Paper 2, it is necessary to first have an understanding of the material presented in Light Paper 1. Please also note that references to light Paper 1 will be made throughout this second

The growing market for home theaters - whether in dedicated rooms or within traditional living spaces - brings with it a need for appropriately designed peripheral lighting instruments. Matthews Designer Lighting is intended to enhance the appeal of home theater environments through the pairing of visually stimulating Hollywood design with theatrical functionality. A properly designed home theater should be comfortable and versatile, making it desirable for a variety of alternative activities including listening to music, reading, and entertaining guests. In a functional home theater, the quality of the lighting is as important to the visual experience as proper acoustics are to the auditory experience.

Rather than offer a redundant array of lights that overlap in form, fit, and function, Matthews has designed four classic lights, and each is offered in a variety of designer finishes. The lights are constructed with sufficient mass to ensure that they will not become energized and produce audible distractions at any frequency. All are designed and manufactured to the standard of a professional lighting instrument and are impeccably hand finished.

Lighting would be greatly simplified if it could be installed after the fact and moved around the space at will. However, in the contemporary home it is equally unacceptable to expose electrical wires or switch lights individually at the fixture. Electrical wires must be concealed within the structure of the space, and lights must be switched and dimmed from a central console, if not remotely. Thus, the introduction of lighting requires space planning and fixture specification.

The task of lighting a space is manifest in the realization that lighting necessitates the preplanning of properly sized openings accurately located in walls, ceilings, and floors, serviced by electrical wiring runs to a central switching/dimming panel. While the designer is not expected to work without the assistance of mechanical and electrical contractors, the responsibility for the selection and placement of lighting instruments resides solely with the designer.

It is therefore necessary for designers to learn the characteristics and capabilities of various lighting instruments in order to assess their application in aesthetically defining a particular space. In a sense, the designer must selectively paint the space with light, employing individual or zone controlled lighting instruments to transform the space on queue into one of a number of desired motifs. The discipline requires pre-visualization coupled with adaptable lighting instruments.

We begin our lighting design with an overview of the space.

1. Will the space be dedicated to home theater?

2. What other functions must the space serve?

3. How will the resulting space interface with the overall design and function of the home?

4. Are there limitations or obstructions within the space or an adjacent space that must be considered?

While it is understood that certain screens perform reasonably well in relatively bright environments, i.e., sports bars and family rooms, it will be assumed that the home theater space must be dark when used as a theater. How then, should the space appear with the lights up?

Because it is impossible to explore the almost limitless applications of home theater illumination in a single article, familiar reference points are presented to stimulate the visualization process. In order to simplify otherwise technical material, the method of presentation will offer basic formulas that can be solved quickly on site.

The standard measure of illumination is the foot-candle (fc). The chart below presents a condensed overview of several familiar settings and establishes a generally accepted illumination level for each.



Living Room


Dining Room








In terms of interior illumination, 80 - 100 fc would best be described as a bright, functional space, while 30 - 40 fc is more in keeping with a relaxed, non-critical task area. In fact, intimate dining areas and subdued hotel corridors are often illuminated with no more than 10 fc of light.

If the illumination in the home theater is to be bright and functional in the lights up mode, higher reflective values should be selected for the walls, ceilings and floors. If, on the other hand, a sense of intimacy is to be conveyed, reflectance must be subdued. The chart below suggests a simplified approach to the concept of reflectance.



> 72%
















< 4.5%


Reflectance is not directly related to hue (color). The relationship of color and reflectance occurs when a color is tinted, toned or shaded. Tinting is accomplished by adding a measured amount of white pigment to a color to lighten its value. Likewise, toning is accomplished by adding gray pigment, and shading by adding black pigment. While tinting brightens the base color, both toning and shading subdue or darken the base color. In the vernacular of an artist, it should be noted that colors are rarely applied "out of the tube."

A typical home theater measuring 18L x 12W x 9H occupies 216 sq. ft. of space.

The total lumen availability is used to determine the average illumination in a given area. The following formula is used to make the calculation on a flat surface such as a tabletop or floor area. The three applications described assume the use of a Matthews Cameo Light fitted with an MR-16 lamp as specified.

E (illumination fc) = F (flux, lm) / A (area, sq. ft.)

In simplified terms, the formula might be stated as follows: the average illumination on a surface - measured in foot-candles - is equal to the total lumens divided by the size of the area in square feet.


Using an FNV lamp rated at 875 total lumens to illuminate a table top in the theater measuring 42" square, the total foot candles (fc) measured at table top can be calculated as follows:

875 total lumens / 12.25 sq. ft. ((42" x 42")/144")

(E) Illumination (fc) = 875 lm / 12.25 sq. ft.

E = 71 fc

How bright is 71 fc? Recalling that 80 fc is typical for a living room, 71 fc is within the range of task illumination. Specific tasks that might be accomplished with 60 - 80 fc of illumination include handwriting and reading.

Suppose however, that we have a total of 875 lumens available to illuminate the entire 216 sq. ft. theater. The calculation is as follows:

875 total lumens / 216 sq. ft.

(E) Illumination (fc) = 875 lm / 216 sq. ft.

E = 4 fc

Even if the intent is subtle illumination, 4 fc is probably below the threshold of acceptability.

Further, while a single lamp generating 875 lumens can effectively illuminate a 42" table, it is ineffective in terms of illuminating an entire room. The fact that the beam of the FDN lamp is capable of providing 71 fc of illumination on the surface of a 42" table, but only 4 fc in the overall room area, reveals an additional variable that must be understood.

Referring to Chart 1 again, you will note that the FNV has a beam angle of 55 degrees. For purposes of analysis, 71 fc is available at the 42" tabletop provided the beam angle of the lamp matches the area of the tabletop.

Referring to Chart 2, the 55-degree beam angle of the FNV lamp approximately covers the 42" tabletop at a distance of 36".

Should you decide to install a recessed light in a 9' high ceiling above the tabletop - assuming that the table stands 30" above the floor - the light must travel a distance of 108" - 30" = 78". Recalling that the 55 degree beam angle of the FNV lamp exactly illuminates the 42" table top at a distance of 36", if the recessed light is to be used, it will be necessary to recalculate the illumination, as the beam of the FNV lamp originally selected will cover an area of approximately 8' x 8' from a distance of 78".

Using the (E) Illumination formula, divide 875 lumens by 64 sq. ft. The result is only 14 fc from a distance of 78" as compared to 71 fc from a distance of 36".

In order to maintain 71 fc it will be necessary to select a light that can be lowered from the ceiling and installed at a height of 39" above the tabletop, or alternately by selecting a lamp with a narrower beam angle. The EXZ lamp projects a 27 degree beam that can be estimated to project a beam of approximately 3 1/2' in diameter at a distance of 78".

Using the (E) Illumination formula, divide 825 lumens by 12.25 sq. ft. The result is 67 fc, which is in range of the original illumination level.

Two additional factors must be recognized. Lamps are round and therefore project a round beam. When sq. ft. calculations are used, it is necessary to bear in mind that a square surface will experience a fall off in illumination at the corners.

Secondly, light beams do not perform in a predictable manner until they travel approximately ten times their diameter. Hence, the beam of a 2"- MR-16 lamp is best utilized at distances greater than 20".

To download a pdf file of this paper visit

Background on the Author and Company
Over the past 30 years Matthews Studio Equipment has earned a reputation as the premier manufacturer of grip equipment for the motion picture, television and still photographic industries worldwide. Along the way, the company's products have become distinguished as REAL HOLLYWOOD GRIP. In addition to authoring several ANSI standards, Matthews has been the recipient of both an Oscar and an Emmy for technical achievement. Matthews launched a visual merchandising division in the early 1990's with the introduction of retail store fixturing for the Warner Brothers Studio Stores, and has since provided fixturing for Abercrombie & Fitch, Foot Locker, Levi Strauss, and numerous other national retail chains. In March, 2003, the company introduced a line of designer lighting products directed toward the home theater market. The line consists of 4 lighting instruments designed by Bill Hines to enhance the décor and functionality Matthews Designer Lighting is distributed exclusively in North America by StJohn Group, Inc. For more information, please visit or call 877-588-0075.

Comments (0)

This post does not have any comments. Be the first to leave a comment below.

Post A Comment

You must be logged in before you can post a comment. Login now.

Featured Product

ELK Products -M1 GOLD with Two-Way Wireless

ELK Products -M1 GOLD with Two-Way Wireless

The M1 Gold Security & Automation Control combines security, fire, energy management, lighting, and access control to provide total control of the home. Easily integrating with products of industry partner manufacturers, M1 controls offer a truly customized solution. With remote access capabilities and simple, user-friendly interfaces, M1 keeps homeowners informed and in control, anytime, anywhere! ELK's Two-Way Wireless family of products for the M1 offers a truly secure and reliable wireless solution with cutting edge techniques such as frequency hopping and UL approved jamming detection to defend against interference, hacking, and jamming. Advanced features ensure reliability, extend battery life, and provide innovative security enhancements including wirelessly interconnected smoke detectors, motion detectors with built-in security/convenience lights, and key fobs with a system status inquiry button, allowing users to see if an alarm has been activated before entering the home.