January 18, 2010
| by Lisa Montgomery
These components, as well as every piece of A/V gear in the house, are networked together so that no matter where the family is, they have access to any video game on any console, 500 movies on a Kaleidescape media server, TV programs from two DirecTV satellite receivers with built-in DVRs, and music from multiple iPods (each child’s room has an iPod docking station, in addition to the kitchen and master suite).
At last count, the home had: two Microsoft Xbox 360s, two Sony PlayStation 3s, two Nintendo Wiis and one Nintendo Game Cube. Because the TVs and game consoles are networked, family members can participate in the same game but from different displays. During a duel of Mario Cart, for example, one person could race his car in the family room while the other person drives hers in the home theater. It’s an experience that takes gaming to a whole new level.
Installing this robust audio/video network was no easy feat. The AVX crew had to fish cabling behind walls, underneath floors and above ceilings—a process that took nearly a year to finish. While the home was being gutted, other contractors installed wiring to support a Lutron architectural lighting system and a Napco security system.
AVX worked closely with these firms to ensure that the lights and security devices could also be operated from the Crestron touchpanels. For example, HOME and AWAY commands turn on and off all of the A/V gear and lights. Security cameras were tied into the Crestron system as well, giving Crown the ability to visually monitor the front gate, driveway and backyard from any touchpanel or TV screen.
Several custom-programmed RTI remotes (one for each TV location) provide the same level of control as the touchpanels—the remotes just display the family’s options on a smaller screen. A menu of movie and music titles that have been stored on the Kaleidescape server, meanwhile, appears on the TV screen. Navigating to a film, recorded TV show or song is a simple matter of using the UP, DOWN and ENTER buttons on an RTI remote.
It helps that AVX set up the family with two DVRs—one for the kids and one for Mom. Each TV also has its own Blu-ray player and Kaleidescape player so that everyone can watch what they want. Without those players on each TV, the family would have been restricted to watch only what was playing on the main 103-inch screen in the home theater, says Calderone.
The Really BIG Screen
Installing the 103-inch Panasonic plasma was the most arduous task of this extensive project, says Calerdone. (Click here to view slides of the installation and end result.) It took three days of preparation, a specially constructed support system, and a half-dozen men to mount the beast to the wall.
The hard work paid off. “The home theater has become a neck-and-neck favorite with the whole-house music system,” Crown says. “When the music or plasma is playing, it changes the whole atmosphere of the house.”
The theater, in addition to all the new wiring, A/V equipment and the custom finishes, has taken the plain-Jane house and turned it into something much more suitable for the Crown family. Certainly, spending two years in the trenches with contractors would push most people over the edge, but for Janet Crown, every second of the process was worth it to have the family home of her dreams.
Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.