May 15, 2009
by Arlen Schweiger
This home theater needs to work like a Hummer: It’s roomy, high-performing and rugged. After all, it serves a family of five, including three children and local celebrity mom who enjoys entertaining.
It’s safe to say that Pat Carlini and John Miller’s family will get years of mileage from this basement remodel project that began when they enlisted the help of electronics systems installers DistinctAV of McCordsville, Ind.
“These people love to have parties at the house, but they also like having the theater as a family entertaining space,” says DistinctAV’s Derek Cowburn. “They’ve already gone through one [projector] bulb from having the theater on constantly.”
Having three children in the pre-teen to teen range and their friends jamming to Guitar Hero or competing in sports and shooter games can put a theater to the test. Because the walls were open during the renovation, DistinctAV was able to wire for just about anything Pat wanted—home controls, lighting, a variety of high-def video sources, music sources, computer access and more—and extend the technologies’ reach into the rest of the home.
A 7.1 B&K-fueled surround system and JVC projector/Da-Lite screen combo serve up the hours of daily entertainment, with help from goodies like Xbox and Wii gaming consoles, a Blu-ray player, a Vudu on-demand movie server, a Niveus media center, an iPod dock and cable DVRs.
Seven zones of Colorado vNet lighting hit every nook of the theater, from the proscenium to sconce lights to step lighting and to the starfield ceiling. Because the room includes entryways and an open window into the basement’s adjacent bar, billiards and wine cellar areas, Cowburn programmed several lighting scenes for viewing under any condition. There’s viewing at the bar, too, where a TV hidden behind the mirror shows up when it’s powered on.
A few finishing touches for Pat, who Cowburn says loves animals, include leopard print fabric in the two rows of theater seating and carpeting, a tropical fish screensaver that turns the projection screen into a 106-inch virtual fish tank, and an animated running cheetah in the “please wait” scene on the remote.
Simple automation controls come in a trifecta of Colorado vNet, RTI touchscreen remote and HomeSeer automation software, which neatly bridges everything. “I call HomeSeer the traffic cop, because it’s there to add the smart features,” says Cowburn, who can support the HomeSeer system remotely if necessary.
“The RTI really controls the A/V, but HomeSeer ties it all together as the smart piece.”
That includes the ability to quickly scan for airport delays and check the weather from an in-wall or remote touchscreen, and even deliver a text-to-speech page within the theater’s speaker system that commands “everyone come to dinner” in a female voice Cowburn says is remarkably similar to Pat’s. She might need to add a tasty dessert to drag the family away from this theater.
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Arlen writes about home technology installations and product news and reviews for electronichouse.com
and Electronic House magazine.