April 09, 2013
by Lisa Montgomery
A State of Evolution
Today the home boasts 15 flat-panel TVs, chosen specifically by the owner for their ability to produce “vibrant colors and great contrast.” However, as is the case with all other electronic aspects of this house, the owner made arrangements for additional displays. In the loft area that separates the kids’ bedrooms from the guest suites, there’s an open cavity in the wall where a TV should be. All the necessary cabling is there, too. The problem: “My wife and I couldn’t agree on whether to put a TV there,” says the owner. “She wanted one; I didn’t.” It appears as if he finally conceded. The artwork that had been covering the opening has been removed, and she’s ready to hang a flat-panel TV. There’s also a spot for a TV in the in-law’s suite, only in this case the wiring comes up through the floor. “The plan is to put a TV inside a cabinet at the foot of the bed and motorize it so that the TV can lift up on command from a remote,” Weiner explains.
The home’s Lutron HomeWorks lighting control system is also evolving. Starr Systems started by programming the system to allow the family to issue basic commands to groups of light fixtures from lowprofile Lutron keypads mounted near the entrance of each room. For now, the buttons have temporary labels. “The family wanted to ‘live with the system’ before committing to specific settings and engraving,” says Weiner. Currently, the lights in each room are grouped together by fixture type. For example, in the dining room, there is a button that activates the chandelier, another turns on and off the sconces and another button controls the recessed ceiling fixtures.
This design works well for the family now, but the AMX and Lutron systems can be easily tweaked by Starr Systems should they choose to regroup or alter the settings of the lights to suit certain activities like entertaining, reading or relaxing.
Getting a Visual
Nowhere are changes in technology more apparent than in the world of home theater, and this home’s media room was designed to keep pace with new innovations. Take the theater’s Digital Projection International (DPI) Titan 3D video projector. It wasn’t always in the plan. Initially, Starr Systems had specified a projector that could handle only 2D content. When 3D projectors hit the market, the owners altered the plan immediately, investing in the Titan and plenty of 3D glasses to entertain a crowd.
In addition serving up 3D movies, the DPI Titan projector shows its fair share of video games and sporting events. “One of my 13-year-old son’s favorite pastimes is playing PlayStation 3 games on the big screen,” says the homeowner.
Engaging a Playstation button on the home theater menu on the iPad brightens the lights and activates the gaming console, which is stowed with the rest of the home theater components in an equipment rack in the adjacent mechanical room. The family can also use the iPad to select a movie that’s been stored digitally on the hard drive of a Kaleidescape media server or spin something they’ve rented on a Panasonic Blu-ray player, or stream from an Apple TV device. Because many movies are now filmed in a CinemaScope format, Starr Systems chose a superwide 2:35.1 screen from Da-Lite as the family’s main viewing format; however, they always have the option— by touching a button on the iPad—to view a program in a narrower 1.78:1 format. The command signals motorized fabric masking panels to descend over portions of the screen to alter its shape.
Regardless of the format that’s chosen, the screen is in the right position to hide the three front CT-Series B&W speakers. The screen is microperforated so audio from the speakers flows through unaffected. The remaining four B&W speakers and four subwoofers that make up the 7.1 surround-sound system are tucked behind the fabric ceiling and wall panels, which are removable in case Starr Systems needs to service or replace the equipment in the future.
Speaking of the future, there’s more in store for this cutting-edge theater. First on the list is a Sony Network Media Player. This product will enable the family to stream and store movies from Internet services such as Hulu Plus, Vudu and Pandora— something the homeowner admits he thought was something only computer users did. “I now know streaming has become a serious way to get content,” he says. Thankfully, the Starr Systems crew was thinking ahead when it designed the electronic systems for this award-winning house. With the right cabling in place, easy access to components and a home management system that’s built for expansion, this home is ready for any technology that comes its way.
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Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.