Seaside Retreat Glows with Lighting and High-tech Touches
Special microphone brings the sense of sea indoors.
August 20, 2012 by Lisa Montgomery

Loud, in-your-gut audio combined with sensational lighting effects make this room (photo below) feel more like a downtown disco than a beachside haven. But much of this rockin’ Blue Room’s atmosphere can be attributed to what’s located outside the space rather than what’s inside. A 4-inch-thick piece of Plexiglas allows color-changing fiber-optic lighting installed throughout an outdoor hot tub area to spill into the 406-square-foot entertainment room. Bouncing off the walls of the tub, the evening lights cast an ocean-blue hue—or any other color desired. “The hot tub has become one of the main light fixtures of the room,” says Jason Voorhees, president of custom electronics design and installation company Cantara in Costa Mesa, Calif.

From a 5-inch AMX touchpanel, the homeowner can activate the spa’s lights, heater and jets, as well as a host of other equipment—all with the intent of making the room look and feel like a small-scale nightclub. To make it quick and easy for the homeowner to set the mood, Cantara created several SmartScenes, as the company terms them. Each scene arranges various strobes, colored LEDs and other specialty lighting to certain intensity levels and speeds. All the owner has to do is touch a button on the AMX touchpanel in the room “to initiate a crazy dance club effect where the lights pulse and a hidden haze machine emits a light mist—or [he can] engage a more laid-back effect where the lights are more subdued,” says Voorhees.

No ordinary light fixtures or system would be able to create such elaborate effects, so Cantara worked with entertainment lighting designer Red Fish Illuminations of Columbus, Ohio, which used professional-grade DMX (Digital Multiplexing)-based lighting components (see sidebar) from Chauvet Lighting and Alcorn McBride.

A 65-inch, 1080p LED Samsung TV mounted to the front wall is available for karaoke, cable TV, video games and Blu-ray movies, with the components stored in a custom-made cabinet below the display.

Music from any housewide audio source can be routed to the room and heard through four wall-mounted QSC speakers and a custom-designed Triad subwoofer tucked into a bench at the back of the room. Clark Synthesis motion transducers share space with the subwoofer, producing sound that you can actually feel while seated there.

The “peace” de resistance? To reconnect the owner with natural surroundings like the ocean, Cantara installed a microphone outside on the pool deck, which on command from an AMX touchpanel picks up and transmits sounds of the crashing waves through the home’s loudspeakers.

DMX Lighting System

In the world of theatrical lighting, DMX (Digital Multiplexing) is the communications standard for controlling specialty intelligent light fixtures, strobes, lasers and other types of lights like the ones used in the Blue Room. For this project, the custom electronics (CE) professionals at Cantara in Costa Mesa, Calif., worked with a professional entertainment lighting design firm Red Fish Illuminations in Columbus, Ohio, to design and install a DMX-based lighting system that includes approximately $10,000 worth of equipment. Using a DMX recorder from Alcorn McBride, the lighting designer was able to program various lighting “cues” that run for a set amount of time. For example, one cue pulses the lights with the music, while another creates geometric patterns. “The cues play out randomly,” says Red Fish Illuminations designer Doug Northeim, “so the lighting effects never look the same twice.” Cantara integrated the Alcorn McBride recorder into the home’s AMX automation system, which allows the homeowner to engage any of 10 preset lighting scenes from any AMX touchpanel in the house, including the 5-inch unit mounted to the wall of the Blue Room.

Check out picture of this award-winning home here.


Systems & Equipment
Control: AMX
Lighting Control: Chauvet, Alcorn McBride
Speakers: Clark Synthesis, QSC, Triad
Display: Samsung

Systems Design & Installation: Cantara, Costa Mesa, Calif.,
Lighting Design: Red Fish Illuminations, Columbus, Ohio,


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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.

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