How to Create a Dorm Room Wireless Home Theater

Create the ultimate movie-watching experience for yourself on campus

Setting up a wireless home theater in your dorm room is a great way to share movies and TV shows with friends, and can also provide a number of opportunities for larger social events on campus.

Here's what you need to keep in mind when planning your own movie theater, what sort of equipment you'll need, and solutions for possible problems that may arise.

Get Your Dorm's Wi-Fi Internet Sorted

Unless you're planning to just watch a DVD or Blu-ray in your dorm room, you'll need to organize a Wi-Fi connection. A wireless Wi-Fi signal is required to stream media from one device to another, such as from your iPhone to an Apple TV, and it's needed to download digital movies and TV series or stream them from a service like Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon.

Female college student connecting her dorm room internet Wi-Fi
One of the first things you need to do is connect your dorm room's internet. Caiaimage/Tom Merton / Caiaimage

Odds are your student dormitory already has Wi-Fi, in which case you'll just need to ask management for the password. If the internet in your dorm is wired, you'll have to create your own Wi-Fi hotspot using your Mac or Windows computer.

Choose Your Media Streaming Service

Once you have your Wi-Fi set up, decide which service you're going to use for wireless streaming in your dorm room. Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon are easily the most popular, but there are several niche streaming services, such as Crunchyroll for streaming anime, that you might like to try.

Male and female college students streaming media from their iPhone and laptop to their dorm room TV
Stream media from your smartphone or computer to your dorm room TV.  Tetra Images

The good news is all of the streaming services provide a free trial, so you don't have to pay upfront, and you can even create a new account once the trial is over for another free membership. Of course, if you're just thinking of streaming some media you've already downloaded from one device to another, you won't have to pay anything.

Potential Streaming Hardware You May Need

Now that you've decided what sort of media you're going to watch, you'll need to check what equipment, if any, is needed. Most streaming services require one of their official apps downloaded onto a smartphone, tablet, or computer for their media to be accessed. You'll also need to decide if you're going to be watching on a small computer screen, casting the media to a TV set, or using a projector.

The Apple TV connected to a television set
You may need a device like an Apple TV to stream or download media.  Apple

If you're thinking of casting media to a television from an iOS device like an iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad, remember you'll need to connect an Apple TV to your TV for it to work. Other devices capable of streaming to your TV are Google's Chromecast, Amazon's Fire TV, and Roku. If your dorm TV is a smart TV, you likely won't need to buy much.

Does Your Dorm Have a Smart TV?

A smart TV is a television that has added tech built in, enabling it to play apps in addition to the usual TV channels and HDMI sources. Many smart TVs come with streaming apps like Netflix and Hulu pre-installed, so if you're a fan of those services, you won't need any other devices; you can just stream directly from your TV.

A man using a smart TV
A smart TV comes with streaming apps pre-installed.  Manuel Breva Colmeiro / Moment Open

Some smart TVs also have built-in streaming or casting functionality, allowing them to receive Chromecast broadcasts from a phone or computer. The smart TV's app menu should mention if this particular feature is available.

Borrow or Build a Projector

Did you know you can very quickly and cheaply build your own projector out of your smartphone, a shoebox and a few other crafty items? Try it and you can take your projector anywhere.

If you're not that crafty, most colleges and universities with an art or film department will allow students to rent equipment for assignments, presentations, and art installations for free. All you need to do is ask someone who's studying in a related field to borrow a portable projector for your home theater screening. Depending on how much funding your school gets, the projectors may need to connect to a media source by cable. Newer portable projectors should support a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connection.

A university / college projector
Students can borrow equipment like projectors for special projects.  Arand / E+

Your college's film and art departments may also supply portable projector screens capable of improving the quality of the movie projection enormously, so it's worth asking if one is available. If screens aren't available, you could buy one if your budget allows or simply use your dorm room wall. Even the outside of the building is possible if you want a starlight cinema experience.

Choose Your Home Theater Furniture and Location

Arguably, two of the most important decisions you'll need to make will involve finding the best location for your wireless home theatre, and choosing the most practical seating solution.

Your personal dorm room will likely work well for your cinema, but if you're planning to use a common area, you'll need to ask other students if it's okay first. The last thing you want is to get in a fight with others because you're using the shared space without permission.

Two male college students carrying a female student on a lounge
Your furniture and location choices can make all the difference.  Hill Street Studios/Tobin Rogers / Blend Images

Once you have a location locked down for your small home theater, you'll have to consider seating arrangements. Most common areas will likely have a variety of chairs and lounges available, but if you're using an outdoor location, an easy solution is to simply use picnic blankets or plastic tarps. You can also invest in several cheap folding chairs.

Don't Forget Wireless Bluetooth Speakers

Watching a film or TV episode on a TV may provide okay sound, but if you're streaming media to a projector, you'll definitely want to incorporate some additional speakers to boost the sound.

Small cube bluetooth speaker
Bluetooth speakers can be used for class projects and for enhancing a doom room.  Joaqun Segura / EyeEm 

Portable Bluetooth speakers can pack a punch when it comes to sound quality, with many offering solid sound quality and often selling for prices that won't break the bank. If a high volume isn't enough and you want the full surround sound experience, you'll need to invest in a proper wireless home theater speaker system that has a variety of speakers for the rear, front, and side audio channels.

Avoid Drama and Inform Campus Security

If you're building your wireless home theater for a special movie night or event and you're planning to invite a lot of people, it's a good idea to inform campus security beforehand so they know what to expect. The last thing you want is your movie experience interrupted by security investigating a noise complaint. It's also a good idea to check the volume level of your dorm room entertainment system with your housemates to make sure your new setup isn't distracting them from studying or their own downtime.

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