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One of the best times to integrate technology into your home is during a renovation. In this case, the homeowners were expanding their home to create a space for family fun and for entertaining guests, and part of the high-tech package would include custom installed A/V products tied to a professional control system.
The custom electronics (CE) professionals at Surreal Systems, Anaheim, Calif., already knew the homeowners from a previous job at a commercial building. The company came to this residential project when it was still in the design phase. This is helpful, says Surreal Systems president Matt Bernath, because layout, infrastructure and wiring decisions are easier to make when you’re involved from the beginning.
The homeowners were specific about what they wanted for this new 1,200-square-foot addition. “They wanted the look and feel of the Venetian sports bar,” says Bernath. As many millions of people have found, Vegas sports bars can be great places to relax or socialize because they offer a variety of activities all in one general area. The owners of this home wanted to create that same vibe.
Their new room offers exactly that. It combines a home theater area with a 138-inch videowall, a bar and gaming area for mahjong, plus an adjacent outside deck with a swimming pool—all with seamless audio piped in through inconspicuous in-ceiling speakers. The effect is very much like a Vegas hangout.
A large TV for watching movies and sports is always a requirement for any family entertainment room, but a standard TV wasn’t going to be big enough, and a projection system wasn’t going to be bright enough. Surreal Systems suggested a videowall similar to what you might see in a Vegas lounge. The company went with a 138-inch display made up of nine 46-inch Planar LCD monitors. The thin bezels of the Planar displays give the system a seamless look, with a brightness level and pixel density far exceeding that of any standard 1080p TV or video projector. Because each monitor is actually a 1080p display, the overall system produces a resolution greater than 4K. “It’s an incredible, very smooth-looking picture with great calibration tools,” says Bernath. The system comes with four off-board processors that scale all the incoming signals from Blu-ray players, a DVR and Apple TV to the native resolution of the system.
Movies and TV programs aren’t the only types of content the family likes to watch on their 138-inch videowall. One of their favorite videos to show on the screen matrix is a virtual aquarium. Because the room frequently has people partaking in different activities—from chatting at the bar, sitting at the two mahjong tables or lounging near the display—the Planar videowall system is often used for viewing video art, photos or background images. Surreal Systems showed the owners how to use their Apple TV to download and show video art, including the aforementioned aquarium scene, which has become one of the family’s favorite features.
Accompanying the display is a 7.1 surround-sound system featuring Definitive Technology Studio Monitors in the custom millwork. The game and bar areas of the room include SpeakerCraft in-ceiling speakers. Throughout the space, guests can enjoy the audio from the main display source or music sources. The same audio can also be piped outdoors to speakers around the pool, so the music experience is seamless across the entire Vegas-like environment. “When we turned the music on throughout the whole space, the way it properly blended at the default volume was a big hit for them,” says Bernath.
The family uses an Ovation music streaming system from Fusion Research to listen to Internet music and satellite radio. An Apple TV is also used for streaming their iTunes library. Occupants can also stream tunes directly from their own iDevices to the system via AirPlay.
Surreal Systems used a Lutron system for lighting control, which operates a number of different types of lighting loads, including hanging pendants, in-ceiling can lights, wall sconces and colored LED rope lighting. The rope lighting was added as an architectural accent that automatically cycles through various colors.
The lights and A/V equipment are both operated by a Savant home automation system. The homeowners like that they can control all the entertainment and lighting with either their iPads or iPhones, as well as from a simple wall keypad.
Photography by Jeri Koegel
More home theater and entertainment articles:
Soundbar or Soundbase? Which Speaker Style is for You?
10 Tips to Make a Family Room Look Like a Theater
7 Most Important Features in a Media Manager for Music and Movies
9 Overlooked Home Theater Features
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Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had training from THX, the Home Acoustics Alliance, Control4 and Sencore. His latest book is Necessary Myths
. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.