October 05, 2011
| by Lisa Montgomery
With the advent of video streaming, many people have packed away their DVD collections for good, pulling movies instead from online services like Netflix and Hulu. Not the owner of this fully automated home. He’s an avid DVD collector, and he uses the somewhat outdated media as his main source of entertainment content.
Already topping out at somewhere near 1,200 discs, his collection is far from complete. “I’d say we buy 70 percent of the new movies that come out,” he says. He and his wife aren’t picky about what they watch, either. “We have everything from early Cary Grant and John Wayne movies to the latest Harry Potter releases. We have every decade covered.”
Digital Storage = Tidy Theater
At this rate, you’d expect the shelves of his media room to be jammed with an unruly assortment of DVD cases. But this recently built home theater couldn’t be tidier. Not a single DVD is in sight. That’s because they have been stored digitally on a Kaleidescape media server ($26,995). It reads the disc, places it in the correct category- action, comedy or drama- and stores it digitally on a 24-terabyte hard drive system.
To retrieve the stored content, they use a Wi-Fi enabled, 8-inch Crestron touchpanel (around $2,000), with a menu designed and programmed by the custom electronics (CE) pros at Home Entertainment Expo in Sudbury, Mass. The device, which communicates with a central Crestron microprocessor, also operates the home theater’s Runco video projector, Anthem processor, as well as the lights, thermostats, security cameras and other electronic devices throughout the 15,000-squarefoot residence.
Speakers Settle In
This level of control isn’t something the owners envisioned when they started remodeling their 20-year-old home. “At first we were only interested in a good home security system and a media room,” they relate. “Once you start designing an entertainment system, though, the rest becomes incestuous. You start thinking about other places you’d like to watch movies, how you’d like to control the equipment, rolling in music. And soon the project takes on a life of its own.” That new life includes flat-panel TVs in the master bedroom, family room, fitness room and three spare bedrooms, plus a 16-zone Crestron whole-house audio system. Home Entertainment Expo outfitted some TVs with Kaleidescape players (between $2,995 and $4,495 each) so that any movie stored in the main server can be accessed and viewed in these areas. Other TVs are equipped with their own local Sony
Blu-ray or Integra DVD players.
No viewing area is complete without speakers, so Home Entertainment Expo complemented each flat-panel TV with at least a pair of built-in Paradigm speakers. Some rooms, like the family room, received a full 5.1-channel surround-sound system. The theater got seven speakers plus a subwoofer. Again, one thing led to another, and the crew at Home Entertainment Expo was soon installing round, low-profile Paradigm speakers into the ceiling of the kitchen, rooftop deck, rotunda and other areas. Every speaker is tied to a Crestron whole-house audio system so that in addition to video, music can be spread
throughout the house.
Remarkably, the biggest portion of the audio budget was spent on the backyard. A dozen StereoStone rock speakers were placed strategically so that no area would lack tunes. This went for the swimming pool as well. As the pool was constructed, Home Entertainment Expo installed four Lubell Labs underwater speakers (about $1,500 each plus $600 for an amplifier) into the fiberglass shell. “They’re the same type of underwater speakers that are used in Olympic pools,” says the owner. “They were expensive, but because I swim laps for exercise, it was important to me that they sound great. There’s a big difference in quality between mediocre underwater speakers and great underwater speakers.”
Stepping up Security
As long as the family would be using Crestron remotes, keypads, touchpanels, and a Crestron app on their iPads to access and control their whole-house systems, “we thought why not also integrate the control of our security system, lights and thermostats,” the owner relates. After all, security was one of the main reasons the owners called Home Entertainment Expo in the first place.
When they bought the home two years ago, it already had a basic security system. “Because our grandkids would be spending a lot of time here, we decided it would be best to beef up the protection,” the owner explains. That meant yanking out the antiquated system and replacing it with a Napco Gemini security system, then programming the Crestron system so that the alarms controlled by the Gemini could be armed and disarmed from any control device, like an iPhone, inside or out. The owners would also leverage the video capabilities of the Crestron system by tying in 11 Channel Vision surveillance cameras. Any camera with pan, tilt and zoom capabilities would be controllable via a Crestron touchpanel. Additionally, the owners would be able to view live and recorded video on the screen of any touchpanel or TV.
But the niftiest application of all? When a driveway sensor detects that a vehicle has entered the property, a zoomed security camera image of it instantly pops up on the screen of every TV, and an announcement- from an MP3 of the owner’s voice- broadcasts through every speaker inside and outside the house. It’s an effective heads-up for the owners and illustrates the power of security and audio/video systems working in harmony.
Night Lights for Protection
Lighting plays a big role in the protection of the home, too. Home Entertainment Expo replaced the existing light switches with dozens of intelligent dimmers and keypads from Lutron, and programmed them to react automatically to certain commands. By pressing the all on button on a keypad near their bed, for example, the owners can activate every light inside and out. “It’s a great way to check out the backyard in the middle of the night,” they say. If any area requires further investigation, the owners can tap the camera icon on a portable Crestron touchpanel to catch a glimpse of the hallways, kitchen and backyard. Each bedroom’s Lutron keypad also has a kitchen path button that lights a safe pathway to the kitchen, and at an intensity that’s easy on the eyes. Quest for Tech If a midnight snack doesn’t satisfy this home’s night owl, he can always make his way to the home theater, where his journey into high-tech living began. His cherished movie collection is there, albeit in a digital form. And with more than 1,000 flicks at his fingertips, he’s bound to find one with a plot dull enough to put him to sleep.
Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.
As it turns out, the owners couldn’t have picked a better time to have Home Entertainment Expo of Sudbury, Mass., install their Crestron home control system. Everything that’s governed by the system—light switches, thermostats, A/V components—had to be physically connected via low-voltage wiring to a main home control processor. The fact that the owners were adding 8,000 square feet onto their house provided open avenues through which to route the cables. “In a project of this scope, wiring is the only way to go,” says Jim Ares, Home Entertainment Expo’s senior systems designer. “It’s the best assurance that your systems will operate reliably.”
Unfortunately, there were some areas in the existing structure where it was too difficult to add new cabling. Rather than drill into finished walls to fish in wiring, the company installed wireless components. They were careful of their selections, choosing products from manufacturers like Lutron that offer both hardwired and wireless systems that are designed to work together seamlessly. The same All On command from any keypad in the house can signal both the wired and wireless Lutron HomeWorks switches to turn on.