Fun and Games on L.A. Home’s 7 Consoles, 103” Plasma


Credit: Michael Neveux

Video games proliferate, but Halo isn’t the only thing happening in this automated, kid-friendly house. Say hello to a 103-inch plasma screen.

Jan. 18, 2010 — by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

“Pat warned my kids that if they didn’t turn off their Xbox when they were finished, it would burn out,” says Janet Crown, the owner of a recently renovated 12,000-square-foot home in Los Angeles, Calif. 

That’s Pat as in Patrick Calderone, who is the owner of Audio Video Experience (AVX), the custom electronics design and installation firm hired by Crown to rig her place with a variety of family-friendly electronic systems. As the audio/video expert on the two-year project, his advice was taken seriously by Crown’s three grade-schoolers.

“If they’d remember to turn off the lights even one-tenth of the time that they remember to shut off their video games, we would be the most electrically efficient house in town,” she laments. (Click here to view a slideshow of the home and 103” plasma install.)

Parental Control
It would take more than conscientious use of the Xbox for Crown to feel completely at ease with the impact of technology on her kids. Her goal was to install a user-friendly, reasonably indestructible audio/video system that was simple to operate and that would network the TVs, video games and computers. “I wanted this house to be a place where my kids could be kids, and not live in fear of breaking something if they touched it,” she says. “I also wanted to be able to monitor what they were watching, listening to or Googling.”

Calderone recommended a Crestron control system, which turned out to be a perfect parental companion. From 12-inch color Crestron touchpanels, Mom is able to monitor every TV, iPod and game console in the house. “If the kids get a little volume happy outside, I can adjust the volume right from the touchpanel,” she says. The same goes for the movies her kids watch or the games they play. Crown can see what’s happening, interrupt the video if necessary and even turn things completely off.

That’s a particularly handy feature, considering how the residence is laid out. The kids’ main video game playing area, for example, is located in a space above the garage, away from the common areas of the house. “It’s a place where her 5-, 9- and 11-year-old can really let loose,” says Calderone. He and his team outfitted the room with two Sony 46-inch LCD TVs, Sonance in-ceiling speakers, RTI remotes, Wi-Fi, and of course, the usual fare of gaming systems: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Wii.

There’s even a spot just for the adults. “Janet wanted to include a Nintendo Wii in the bar area right off the backyard for entertaining,” says Calderone. Here, AVX hooked the console to a wall-mounted 58-inch Panasonic high-def TV. Leon speakers used for front surround channels fire from a single housing that was custom-built to fit the width of the TV, and a pair of Focal in-ceiling speakers pump out the rear effects.

Networked A/V
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.

Handheld Control
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. 

Systems Design and Installation
Audio Video Experience
West Los Angeles, Calif.

Security and Telephone Systems
ProTech Security Systems
Simi Valley, Calif.

Lighting System and Electrical
Powerful Electric & HVAC
Los Angeles, Calif.

Control: Crestron
Audio/Video Distribution: Crestron
Media Server: Kaleidescape
Remotes: RTI
Lighting Control: Lutron
Security DVR: Dedicated Micros
Surveillance Cameras: Extreme Surveillance
Security System: Napco
Phone System: Panasonic
Intercom: Holovision

Return to full story: