July 03, 2008
| by Rebecca Day
Anakin Skywalker is in the dune race of his life. His pod is dipping and twisting and when he’s bumped by a Tusken Raider, so am I. The announcer shouts, “Skywalker is spinning out of control,” and I whirl right along with him in front of a 13-foot screen. A shot ricochets off the pod’s windshield, and the headrest of my chair pops. Anakin steers over rocky terrain and my seat rumbles. Now this is how you go to the movies.
Most people pay $10 a head or more for this kind of big-screen experience—even without the rock ’n roll. At this St. Louis-area home theater, this is how four lucky children and their parents are able to watch movies any day of the week. D-Box motion simulator chairs, with their built-in actuators, respond to motion codes sent by a controller working in sync with the DVD player. You don’t just watch a movie; you feel it.
A Crestron touchpanel controller is the ticket to this multisensory delight. The homeowners press on to start the show, and the Crestron system dims the lights and powers up the Runco projector, source equipment, and 14 Classe Audio amplifiers churning out 5,600 watts to seven B&W speakers. As if that’s not enough, five B&W subs are powered by dedicated 500-watt Rotel amplifiers.
An 8,100-watt home theater may seem overpowering, but its designer says every watt is accounted for. “The more power you have, the less chance of blowing something when you crank up the volume,” says Stephen Cole, systems designer at custom electronics company The Sound Room in Chesterfield, MO.
The megawatt sound system is part of a carefully crafted acoustical package that was designed by The Sound Room before the walls went up. Cole created a room-within-a-room with a floating floor that uses sway braces as big springs to help control the sound. Two layers of drywall are separated by insulation to help manage sound reflections inside the room and to prevent the dynamic highs and lows of a 7.1-channel soundtrack from blasting out. The drywall, Quiet Rock from Quiet Solution, is THX-certified.
The idea for this home-theater-to-the-max began, as they often do, by word of mouth. “My brother was working with The Sound Room on his theater and suggested that my wife and I speak with them,” says the homeowner. “So we went to the showroom, and found out what else was possible.” The list of possibilities was nearly endless: security, lighting, distributed audio and video and elaborate control. “My wife loved the idea of controlled lighting,” he says, “so we added that and then it just kept expanding from there.”
The owner took the integration concept and ran with it throughout the house—no corners were cut. His imagination took off when he learned all that the Crestron control system could do. Crestron became the go-to for whole-house entertainment, security, lighting scenes, phone, intercom, and control of the geothermal HVAC system. The Sound Room used an Aprilaire controller and integrated it with the Crestron system, so that the homeowners can monitor and change the temperature from any keypad. “There’s not a thermostat in the house,” says the homeowner, “but I can change the levels in any room at any time via touchscreen. That’s cool.”
He even had The Sound Room put the kids’ electric train on Crestron control. “We had seen a train at a store in Union Station [in St. Louis] that ran through several rooms, and I wanted one like that at home,” he says. Discovering that he could automate the train was icing on the cake. The O-scale train runs along a track near the ceiling, from the playroom through the bathroom and into his son’s room, past a miniaturized version of his wife’s hair salon, mini replicas of cars he owns, and through a model shipyard in the bathroom.
Like most of the house, the automated train track is all about personalization. In fact, Crestron became synonymous with customization for this family. For entertainment, all family members have their own video and audio libraries available at the touch of a button. Mom, Dad and four kids each have their own iPods, which are accessible in any zone in the house. The iPods dock neatly inside a bookcase in the hearth room and all wire into the Crestron distribution system as independent sources in the multiroom audio system.
On the video side, seven Kaleidescape servers deliver 400 movies at any time. To guests lucky enough to occupy the guest suite above the garage that space boasts its own movie server and plasma TV.
Customization is one thing, parental controls are another. The parents instructed The Sound Room programmers to limit the video material each family member can watch based on MPAA ratings available through the DirecTV DVR and the Kaleidescape servers. Kids are limited to G-rated movies, and the guest suite maxes out at PG. The same philosophy works for lighting and security control. The parents have full access to every function in the system and enter a passcode when punching into their home page for complete home control. The kids are restricted from access to lighting and security functions, but have full reign over their customized entertainment content.