Airlifted Plasma TV the Start of Awesomely Automated Penthouse
From palm-size to an 85 incher, the screens in this penthouse played a big role in the automation design.
February 06, 2014 by Lisa Montgomery

An 85-inch flat-panel TV isn’t the easiest of high-tech amenities to get installed into a home. It’s heavy, rigid and very expensive—nothing you’d want to drop on your toe, or anywhere else for that matter. And just try stuffing the unbendable screen into a standard-size elevator. Faced with the dilemma of carting an 85-inch Panasonic Premier plasma TV to a penthouse in a high-rise Dallas apartment building, the home theater and home automation pros from SoundImage  Addison, TX, commissioned a helicopter to deliver the gigantic display to the 27th floor. From deck they were able to lug the set into the great room where it was framed in a metal casing to give the illusion of floating on air. 

Although the air-lifted dispatch of the big-screen TV was definitely one of the most challenging and nerve-wracking parts of the renovation project, it was a much smaller screen that prompted the 26-year-old homeowner to outfit his 8,000-square-foot residence with a complete home automation system. Recalls SoundImage president Tony Militello: ” We were sitting in the empty, gutted shell of the apartment when I noticed the owner using his white iPhone—a lot. When I casually mentioned the fact that he could run his entire house with just that one phone, that was it. He was ready to automate from top to bottom.”

The natural choice of system, due to its iPhone-like, Apple-based operating platform, was a Savant home automation system. “The owner was so adept and operating his iPhone, it wouldn’t be that big of a stretch for him to use it to also operate the Savant system,” Militello continues.  Confident that the owner would master the controls easily, SoundImage put all things electronic under the Savant system’s command: the heating and cooling system, the Jacuzzi, lights, gas fireplaces, motorized window shades, surveillance cameras, and every audio and video component, including, of course, the 85-inch TV.

Being able to easily access a central rack of audio and video and components from anywhere in the penthouse was of huge importance to the owner, and the Savant system delivers by presenting all of the A/V options on the screen of an iPhone and iPad (as part of the Savant mobile app). From this menu, the owner can choose from Apple TV, DirecTV, Blu-ray to watch on any of 11 TVs, ranging from 22 inches to 85 inches in size. A Savant matrix switcher and HDMI baluns enable 1080p video to be distributed to each of the displays. High-resolution views of the cityscape, captured by two Axis cameras, can also be displayed on any TV or iDevice. 

Similarly, the homeowner can select from a library of music (his iTunes account or AppleTV) to play in any or all rooms, most of which were fitted with B&W in-ceiling and in-wall speakers (5 outdoor speakers from SpeakerCraft serve the patio). SoundImage preserved the integrity of the audio by pushing the audio through two Audio Control amplifiers. The great room audio was enhanced further via a Savant surround-sound preamp. As part of the Savant control architecture, the preamp can be accessed from any iOS device, giving the owner the ability to tweak from a menu of onscreen controls the surround fields, DSP and delay time and other advanced settings for an enhanced listening experience. 

If you’re considering a high-tech project, also check out:
6 Important Pieces of Info to Share with Your Tech Installer
Integrated Control vs. Multiple Apps for Home Automation
How to Add Lighting Control to Your Home

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Lisa Montgomery - Contributing Writer
Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.

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