Easy Automation Simplifies Huge Ariz. Home
This home caters to the needs of guests and its owners by providing easy, one-touch control of lights, music, video, shades and more.
Credit: Joseph Hilliard
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January 27, 2010 by Lisa Montgomery

Private Matters
Despite all the special accommodations provided for their guests, the owners relish their privacy and rely on several electronic systems to maintain it. Sixteen surveillance cameras watch over the property, all of which can be accessed, controlled and viewed on any touchpanel. The owners can pull up a view from any camera at any time, or review video that’s been recorded over the past 24 hours on the hard drive of a special DVR.

Tied to the Crestron system, some of the surveillance features have been automated for the owners’ convenience. For example, when a vehicle pulls into the driveway at night, a hidden underground sensor signals the Crestron processor that triggers the exterior lights at the front of the house to illuminate and repositions the nearest camera for a closer look at the car. Inside, touchpanels alert the owners of the visitor by emitting a chime and automatically displaying a live video feed from the camera.

Even if the owners are traveling, they always know what’s happening at home. The only difference, says Bessette, is that the chime and video is delivered to their computer laptop. From thousands of miles away, the owners can see who’s at the house and decide whether they should log into the Crestron system to disarm the security sensors.

Overcoming a Tough Design
Keeping tabs on the property is particularly important when the owners have escaped to their 12-seat theater for the evening. Featuring a 160-inch CinemaScope screen, a 7.2 surround-sound system, and seats fitted with built-in motors, shakers and heaters, it’s easy to get lost in the action.

It would take a lot more than a huge display and killer audio, though, to create the immersive environment the owners wanted. Hundreds of hours of acoustical engineering were required of ASL to combat “one of the most unaccommodating room designs we’ve ever come across,” says Bessette. “The interior designer wanted to have wood walls on the sides and a glass wall at the back.” It was a decision that didn’t sit well with ASL, as these hard, reflective surfaces would cause the sound to reflect throughout the theater, making dialogue and effects difficult to discern.

“At first we were concerned that there was nothing we could do to improve the room acoustics,” says Bessette. Fortunately, ASL had an experienced acoustical engineer on staff, who up until this point had worked mainly on the company’s commercial projects. Using sophisticated computer modeling software, he ran hundreds of hours of tests, bouncing every audio frequency imaginable off the walls to figure out where the ASL team would need to install bass traps and other types of acoustical treatments. “The owners had invested $1 million in this theater, including the electronic components, so we couldn’t simply guess where to put the treatments,” says Steve O’Hara, ASL owner. “We had to be exact.”

Fortunately, the solution was simpler than ASL had anticipated. Plush carpeting and strategically positioned bass traps were installed to absorb the unwanted reflections.  Since too much absorption can make a room too acoustically “dead,” ASL added sound diffusers between sections of the wood wall paneling. Made of hardwood molding, the 1-foot-wide diffusers blended right in with the wall surface. 

Only when the room environment was acceptable did ASL start installing the equipment. Seven Tannoy speakers were placed behind the fluted wall diffusers, and two Tannoy subwoofers went beside the screen. A Digital Projection 1080p projector was placed near the back wall inside a specially constructed soffit, and a shape-shifting screen was fixed to the wall at the front. Electronically-controlled masking material changes the size of the Screen Research display automatically, depending on the format of the movie that’s selected by the owners. For example, if a 16:9 movie is chosen, black fabric covers the top and sides of the screen. Should they pick a flick that’s been filmed in CinemaScope, the masking material rolls back into its housing to reveal the entire 2.35:1 screen.

The same 600 or so movies available to the theater via the Kaleidescape server can also be viewed on numerous flat-panel TVs in the house, as well as on two 32-inch weatherproof SunBriteTV sets on the patio. Many of the Crestron touchpanels are portable, so users can select from a list of movies by genre, actor or other categories—as well as control the lights, temperature and window shades—as they stroll the enormous property.

With free access to movies, music, and temperature and lighting controls, guests might get the royal treatment from the Crestron system, but it’s the owners who ultimately rule the roost in this fully automated home. They’re able to operate what they want, how they want, from wherever they want with the ease of a kid-tested, mother-in-law approved home management system.

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Lisa Montgomery - Contributing Writer
Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.

Installer, Equipment

Systems Design and Installation
ASL Home Entertainment Group
Tucson, Ariz.

Robinette Architects
Tucson, Ariz.

Jeff Willmeng Homes
Tucson, Ariz.

Interior Designer
Lori Carroll and Associates
Tucson, Ariz.

Main Equipment
Home control: Crestron
Whole-house audio & video: Crestron
Entertainment server: Kaleidescape
Lighting control: Crestron
Security: HAI
Motorized shades: Somfy

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