The owner of this 25,000-square-foot home in Fort Worth, Texas, had high hopes for the unfinished lower level. He envisioned a space with a dedicated theater, as well as a batting cage (he’s a professional baseball player, who asked to remain anonymous), a bar, and plenty of room for a billiards area, poker table, and an arcade nook. And no matter where you happened to be in the multi-faceted entertainment room, you’d be able to play music and watch TV.
Unfortunately, this last idea never came to fruition—at least the first time around. The company originally hired to design and install the home’s electronic systems went under well before the project could be completed. The custom electronics (CE) professionals had managed to route the necessary low-voltage wiring behind the walls and connecting a few in-wall touchpanels, however. This was accomplished during the final phases of the home’s construction. Sadly, the backbone was in place, but nothing, including all the fun stuff like TVs and speakers, nor a video projector or screen, had been hooked into it.
Another design and installation company would need to be hired, and quickly. While the house was being finished, the builder, Luis Jauregui of Jauregui, Inc., contacted Chris Pearson of Service Tech Audio Visual, Cedar Park, Texas, to resume where the previous CE pros had left off.
Based on the homeowner’s request to have music and video audible and visible from every nook and cranny, a solid distribution system and an intuitive user interface were crucial, says Mattie Horn, Service Tech’s marketing and user interface design pro. Horn and the rest of the Service Tech team employed a heavy-duty Crestron matrix switcher to route high-def signals from a variety of A/V sources to five displays and 12 Sonance in-ceiling speakers in the fun room, as well as to other TVs and speakers located elsewhere in the house. Service Tech packed the system with tons of entertainment options. From any area, the owners have instant access to five DirecTV satellite receivers, five Kaleidescape media servers, Apple TV, Sony Blu-ray Disc player, 10 IC Realtime surveillance cameras, Autonomic media server, two iPod docks and FM and SirusXM Radio.
With so much content from which to choose, a well-designed user interface was imperative, and Service Tech delivered, creating a Windows 8-like experience for the homeowner, where commands Audio, Video, Lighting and other electronic systems would be organized under separate “user tiles” to be displayed on various Crestron touchpanels and as well as their iPads.
Service Tech designed the user interface so that the homeowners can get a quick overview of the entire system by glancing at the home page, then choose a tile to see what’s happening (the temperature, lighting status, A/V equipment being used, for example) within a particular zone of the house (like the poker area). After choosing a zone within a particular user tile, the homeowners are free to control the music, video and other settings. For example, within the Audio tile, the homeowners could view what may already be playing in the poker area, view the other music choices and switch to a new source.
Video works the same way. Or, if the homeowners are hosting a party, they can enter the Advanced tile to select all zones to play the same song or video throughout the entire house. At any point, they can go to the tile to rearrange the night’s entertainment. “You can be playing poker with friends while watching the ballgame, while others are at the bar watching or listening to something completely different,” Horn explains.
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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.