Hidden Electronics Transform Outdoor Paradise


GOLD WINNER: Best Outdoor Space

You’d never know this backyard sports a 123-inch screen and 15 speakers.

May. 03, 2010 — by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

When you entertain large groups of people, as do the owners of this 11,000-square-foot-home, it helps to have an open area outside where people can mingle. A swimming pool provides a great place to hang out, as does a barbeque pit and kitchenette. Then there’s technology. Normally reserved for the indoors, a theater and a slew of speakers can really impress guests.

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The trick to adding technology outdoors, says Don Russell of Southern Cinema Design of Cumming, Ga., is finding products that can blend into the landscape without compromising performance. He and his team were able to achieve both goals for this extensive backyard project. Every stitch of hardware is cleverly hidden: speakers are in the bushes, components are in an outdoor equipment closet, and a projector and screen are tucked under the roofline of a rotunda.

Only when the owners press a button on a Control4 remote does the technology reveal itself—and then the whole environment changes. The effect can be different depending on the type of gathering, the time of day and the preferences of the family. For an afternoon barbeque, the owners might grab a handheld remote to cue their Control4 whole-house music system. XM Satellite Radio and Rhapsody provide an array of musical choices. The system simplifies the selection process, though, having already categorized the music by genre, favorite stations and so on. The owners enter their selections on the Control4 remote, iPhone or keypad mounted near the patio door.

A total of 15 weather-hardy speakers ensures that the entire acre is enveloped in music. Southern Cinema Design chose weatherproof models only—mainly from Klipsch and StereoStone—including speakers styled like rocks, units designed to be tucked inside planters and others that mounted to eaves and other structures.

Since the pool is a popular place during the day, the owners can choose to have music play through the speakers in that area only. Or they can fire up the speakers serving the basketball court and the fire pit. Southern Cinema Design set up the music system to treat each of the three outdoor areas as an independent listening zone so everybody can listen to something different at the same time.

When night falls, video and lighting take the stage. A full-fledged projection system in the rotunda and a commercial-grade, weather resistant Klipsch surround-sound system transform the area into an outdoor cinema. A few button presses on the Control4 remote begins the transformation: the waterfall that spills into the pool from the top of the rotunda stops, the 123-inch Stewart Filmscreen descends from a soffit on the ceiling in the rotunda, and the A/V gear stowed inside an equipment closet in the rotunda activates.

The owners can choose to watch video from a high-def DirecTV DVR, Sony Blu-ray player or a movie from their in-home 400-disc changer. After the movie is over, the owners can treat guests to a light show. Colored LEDs shoot sparks of color in and around the pool. The owners use the Control4 remote to manipulate the effects and to add musical accompaniment.

It’s a lot of high-tech activity for one backyard, but shutting down the systems for the night is a cinch, thanks to the goodnight button. Touching it signals the screen to roll up, the A/V gear to power down and all but few pathway lights leading to the house to switch off.

Outdoor Theater Tips 
Invest in a super-bright video projector. Though it’s dark outside, the projector will need to combat light from the moon, stars, porch lights, etc. Look for a projector that can output a minimum of 1,500 lumens.

Select a screen. The best match for a high-lumen projector is a high-intensity screen with a gain of at least 1.3 to 1.

Surround-sound. Doing a 5.1- or 7.1-channel surround sound system outside is best accomplished by following the same placement guidelines as an indoor theater: three in front and surround channels in the sides or back.

Components. If your house is a long way from the planned outdoor theater area, wiring your family room Blu-ray player to it might be a challenge. Consider a dedicated set of components for the outdoor theater, and place them in a well-protected building closer to the projector and screen. You’ll need shorter wiring runs, which will typically yield better video and sound than long wiring runs. Also make sure the components can access the Internet from the outdoor area.

Control. Convenient and portable, a handheld remote is the way to go. An RF model will typically work better than an IR remote. And it never hurts to have it waterproof.

For some more backyard theater ideas, check out more from ProjectorPeople’s backyard page as well as Backyardtheater.com.

Southern Cinema Design
Cumming, Ga.

Equipment List
3- Klipsch CA800T – Outdoor Theater Speakers
4- Klipsch AWR650SM – Rock Speakers
2- Monitor Audio Climate Outdoor Speakers
StereoStone outdoor speakers
Christie Digital projector
Stewart Filmscreen 123-inch projection screen
Control4 automation
1- Sony BDPS1000ES – Blu-ray Player
1- Sony DVPCX777ES – 400 Disc DVD/ CD Changer

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