6 Home Theater Design Software Options (Free and Paid in 2018)

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Elegant home theater with curved sofa, wall lighting and large curved viewing screen.

While adding a media room or home theater doesn’t doesn’t necessarily increase your home’s value, that shouldn’t be the sole deciding factor.  Your home is for you and you should enjoy your home especially if you plan on staying in it for a while.

Interestingly, even though media rooms don’t necessarily add value, they are very popular.  If you want to add a home theater or media room to your house, the starting point is designing it with design software.  To design it, you need software.  Below is a list of some home theater design software options.

1. The Cinema Designer

The Cinema Designer is a cloud-based design tool created by Guy Singleton, an electrical and electronics engineer as well as managing director of Imagine This, a UK custom install company. TCD has been making headlines as a revolutionary software that helps installers and cinema designers to create a dedicated home theater room in just minutes instead of weeks.

TCD doesn’t offer a trial version so you must register to set up an account with them and decide whether you want to purchase it for a single use, for a monthly subscription or a for one-time fee for multiple uses over a year. There’s a cap of 30 uses per month to avoid password sharing and all updates are live and part of the subscription process.

The software follows a simple step by step process. The user first fills up all the basic details including the room dimensions and volume, screen ratio, seating layout within floor area and other preferences. The software takes everything in consideration to create a solid platform based in mathematics and physics. The home theater designs are based on on CEA/CEDIA CEB-22 and CEB-23 standards. The audio and video criteria are based on some ITU documents.

Features

  • Design Tool
  • 3D CAD
  • Rendered Visuals
  • PDF
  • Interactive seating configuration design tool
  • Sabine equation/RT60 calculation tool
  • Costs £150 GBP for a single use; £60 GBP/mo for a monthly subscription with 30 uses; one-time payment of £710 for 365 uses over a year

Pros

  • Finishes in just a matter of minutes what would usually take weeks
  • Plenty of powerful tools and design features
  • Provides a unified document for system proposals
  • Constant stream of updates and added features
  • Cheaper in the long run

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Need training and knowledge on THX, HAA, ISF or CEDIA to fully take advantage of the software

Screenshots/Videos:

Input Basic DetailsSpecify Seating DesignCalculationsGenerating CADCAD DrawingDesign Details28-Page DocumentRendered VisualsVideo WalkthroughVideo

The Cinema Designer Input Basic Details

The Cinema Designer Specify Seating Design

The Cinema Designer Calculations

The Cinema Designer Generating CAD

The Cinema Designer CAD Drawing

The Cinema Designer Design Details

The Cinema Designer The 28-Page Document

The Cinema Designer Rendered Visuals

The Cinema Desginer Video Walkthrough

The Cinema Desginer Video

Click here for The Cinema Designer

2. Room Builder by TheaterInvite.com

Room Builder is an online application tool by TheaterInvite.com, an online service that caters to an enjoyable home theater experience with friends. The application is free but is limited to a 2D drawing with built-in design objects such as chairs, sectionals/sofas, walls, tables and flooring. If you want a 3D render image, you’d have to shell out a hefty sum.

The user interface is extremely simple and uses the click and drag method to build the home theater. Room Builder is just a matter of choosing the objects from the left panel and adjusting the objects using the controls in the right panel. So aside from the simple click and drag, you can also rotate and resize the objects and even make sectionals.

Apart from the Room Builder, the site also offers other fun and enjoyable features for an exciting home theater experience. Users can create a movie event complete with a food menu, a personal theater website with a custom marquee, reserved seats for guests, printable movie tickets and send out invites.

Features

  • 2D drawing of a home theater
  • Create a movie event
  • Create a food menu
  • Custom marquee
  • Create your own personal theater website
  • Send a movie invitation
  • Reserve seats for guests
  • Print out movie tickets
  • Free to sign up and use the Room Builder with 2D image
  • Rendered 3D version of the home theater costs at a starting price of $699 and can be purchased here
  • Costs $20 to integrate your own photo or render image into the Room Builder

Pros

  • Very easy to use
  • The application is free
  • Fun to use

Cons

  • Limited designs, features and tools for building the home theater itself
  • Render image has to be purchased

Screenshots/Video:

Home ScreenUser InterfaceChairsSectionals/SofasWallsTablesFlooringControl PanelDimensionsSave2D DrawingRender ImageCreate An EventCreate A Food MenuChoose A MarqueeInvitationPersonal Theater WebsiteSeat ReservationsSeat Reservations 2Movie TicketsVideo

Room Builder Home Screen

Room Builder User Interface

Room Builder Chairs

Room Builder Sectionals/Sofas

Room Builder Walls

Room Builder Tables

Room Builder Flooring

Room Builder Control Panel

Room Builder Dimensions

Room Builder Save

Room Builder 2D Drawing

Room Builder Render Image

Room Builder Create An Event

Room Builder Create A Food Menu

Room Builder Choose A Marquee

Room Builder Invitation

Room Builder Personal Theater Website

Room Builder Seat Reservations

Room Builder Seat Reservations 2

Room Builder Movie Tickets

Room Builder Video

Click here for Room Builder by TheaterInvite.com

3. Home Designer Suite by Chief Architect

Home Designer Suite is a middle-of-the-line of the many software products by Chief Architect. It updates with a new version each year and can be downloaded from the website.

As a 3D home design software for DIY home enthusiasts, it tries to replicate the processes and considerations taken by professionals when it comes to home planning. When done right, the result can be comparable to a professional work. Although it should be great news for the novice and simple DIYers with no CAD backgrounds, this also comes with its own downsides.

Getting to grips with the tools, buttons and controls take time. Don’t expect to master the program overnight and certainly not in an hour.

Once you’re already starting your shed project, the program won’t allow you to just go on a roll and create right away. To start with a new plan, you’ll first have to deal with the House Builder Wizard which would ask you numerous questions about important details such as style of the house, minimum square footage, framing defaults, exterior siding, etc. This software certainly demands patience to be a virtue.

The difference with Home Designer Suite from other design softwares is it doesn’t start with a drawing or a sketch but with a wall that’s built one at a time.

To create your personal home theater, go to the Build drop down menu, Wall and Room Divider. There’s a detailed instruction to go about it posted on its website.

Features

  • 2D and 3D designs with automatic 3D rendering
  • Automated tools
  • Built-in style templates and 6,000+ library items
  • Extensive landscaping tools
  • Cost estimator
  • Virtual 3D tour
  • 3D viewer app
  • Rotate symbols in 3D
  • Home Designer Suite 2019 costs USD $99 with a 30-day refund warranty
  • Compatible with MAC and PC
  • Save designs to the Cloud

Pros

  • Sophisticated features
  • Professional-quality CAD tools

Cons

  • Amount of tools can be overwhelming
  • Entails a learning curve
  • Limited to only one computer at a time

Screenshots/Video:

Stepped FloorCamera View 1SoffitCamera View 2DoorwayCamera View 3Cabinet SpecificationsFinal ResultVideo

Home Designer Suite Stepped Floor

Home Designer Suite Camera View 1

Home Designer Suite Soffit

Home Designer Suite Camera View 2

Home Designer Suite Doorway

Home Designer Suite Camera View 3

Home Designer Suite Cabinet Specifications

Home Designer Suite Final Result

Home Designer Suite Video

Click here for Home Designer Suite by Chief Architect

4. Roomstyler 3D Planner

Roomstyler 3D Planner is a free online planning software by Park Home. It comes with pre-built design templates but also gives users the chance to start from scratch by setting dimensions and laying out to scale.

Like most web-based design software, it’s very easy to use. You simply click and drag from the selection laid out at the left side of the screen. For a free and simple software, it has a large number of objects to choose from. You can fill up your dream home theater easily and have fund doing so.

Roomstyler 3D Planner will require users to register at least at the end of the design phase so users can save their creation and take its 3D image.

Features

  • Free to use
  • Click and drag method
  • Pre-built templates
  • Users can talk with an Interior Design staff if they decide to get more help with their dream room

Pros

  • Very easy to use
  • Plenty of designs and objects to choose from
  • Free to use

Cons

  • Selection is geared towards mid-range type of home theater and not for the high-end type

Screenshots/Video:

Home ScreenUser InterfaceWallsDoorsWindowsArchitectureHome Entertainment ObjectsAV StorageDVD & Video & Home CinemaSound SystemsTVsCameraVideo

Roomstyler 3D Planner Home Screen

Roomstyler 3D Planner User Interface

Roomstyler 3D Planner Walls

Roomstyler 3D Planner Doors

Roomstyler 3D Planner Windows

Roomstyler 3D Planner Architecture

Roomstyler 3D Planner Home Entertainment Objects

Roomstyler 3D Planner Audio Visual Storage

Roomstyler 3D Planner DVD & Video & Home Cinema

Roomstyler 3D Planner Sound Systems

Roomstyler 3D Planner TVs

Roomstyler 3D Planner Camera

Roomstyler 3D Planner Video Tutorials

Click here for Roomstyler 3D Planner

5. SketchUp

SketchUp is a 3D modelling software used for various drawing applications such as interior design, architecture, civil and mechanical engineering, film, and video game design. It allows you to build almost anything from scratch and be as meticulous as possible. The free software is called SketchUp Make and can be downloaded from the website. The paid version is called SketchuUp Pro and is used by many professional architects.

Unlike many design softwares, users in SketchUp start with working in 3D. Another difference with SketchUp is it allows you to build everything and anything from scratch. This means there’s plenty of room for you to get wild and creative as you customize and add details. On the other hand, this can also mean that working with SketchUp can be complex.

Its user interface maybe daunting at first but it’s actually pretty simple. The most commonly used tool is the pencil tool and push and pull tools. So the technique is mostly draw then push and pull. That’s how most of the 3D models are created. This makes it easy to learn even for those with no CAD backgrounds. Within an hour, you’ll find yourself creating shapes and house models.

Features

  • 2D models
  • 3D models
  • It’s 3D Warehouse library of free 3D models is the world’s biggest
  • Lighting effects
  • Textures
  • Layer manager
  • Add model view, drawing scales, line weights, dimensions, callouts, and graphics
  • Animation
  • Precise dimensions
  • Export to PDFs, images and CAD files
  • Autosave and manually save in Sketchup format
  • Import JPEGs, CAD plans, PDFs and other file types
  • Works under Windows and MAC OS
  • Available in 10 languages

Pros

  • Has a free version
  • Smart and intuitive software
  • You can build and create anything with it
  • Lets you add complex details
  • Vast library of free 3D models as well as aesthetic design options
  • Plenty of video tutorials
  • Tablet version for androids and iphones

Cons

  • The free version doesn’t allow import of files
  • Only the paid version allows export of files
  • Shareable only within the 3D Warehouse
  • Tendency to stop responding when the file becomes too heavy

Screenshots/Video:

Step 1Step 2Step 3Step 4Step 5Step 6Step 7Step 8Step 9Step 10Step 11Step 12Step 13Step 14Step 15Step 16Step 17Step 18Step 19Step 20Step 21Step 22Step 23Step 24Step 25Step 26Step 27Step 28Step 29Step 30Video

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SketchUp Video

Click here for SketchUp

6. Microsoft Visio

I have a good friend who is a professional Audio Visual systems designer and project manager for a billion dollar company.  He designs state-of-the-art AV systems, including high end home theaters for company headquarters, law firms, boardrooms,  educational facilities, retail establishments, residential condo towers, hotels and wealthy home owners.  He’s worked on AV projects costing millions.

I asked him what his go-to design software is for these extensive AV projects and he told me he uses Microsoft Visio for everything.  He said that’s the industry standard, although some outfits use auto-cad.

Here’s a video of Microsoft Visio in action and what it can do.

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