May 26, 2011
by Rebecca Day
Why go to a resort when you can create your own in the comfort of your own backyard? That was the idea behind this outdoor pool and pavilion in the Dallas area. Even the best appointed resorts would be hard-pressed to match this personalized vision of the great outdoors. The owner of this inside-outside estate wanted TVs viewable from any angle in the cabana, and a jumbo outdoor theater that measured in feet rather than inches. Finding a projector was easy. The multi-tasking owner happed to be in the process of upgrading his home theater; the outdoor project presented an opportunity to recycle the Runco MBX-1 three-chip DLP projector that had once provided the big-screen action inside. The custom electronics (CE) pros at HomeTronics, Dallas, Texas, paired the projector with a Da-Lite 25-foot-wide projection screen.
This is Texas, after all, so sound had to be oversized, too. Speakers from California Audio Technology (CAT) provide front-channel sound and are powered by beefy CAT amplifiers. “The owner wanted a high-end sound system but he didn’t want it to affect the aesthetics of the outdoor area,” says Bryan Cruikshank, vice president of HomeTronics, so the audio followed form, thanks to some customization by CAT and the company’s subsequent blessing. Because windows were located where the front-channel speakers typically would have gone, HomeTronics worked with CAT to tweak the design of the speakers so that they could be installed high above the windows. Angled baffles were incorporated to direct the sound down to the listening areas.
Like the best contemporary resort, this vacationland is part high-tech, part nature, and HomeTronics managed to tie the two together. Located behind the polished pool area is a stocked pond with a dock and a “fishing shack” that houses the projector in its A-frame attic and a Middle Atlantic rack on the level below that holds all of the gear that feeds audio and video to the outdoor screen and speakers. Located 60 feet from the from the projection screen, it was the perfect spot for the projector and equipment, but it needed its own ventilation system to handle the steamy Dallas summers and chilly winters, too. “The challenge wasn’t the distance,” Cruikshank says. “It was finding a way to locate all the gear and the projector in a climate-controlled environment.” On hundred-degree evenings, when the MBX-1 is running with all the amplifiers, “they put off a lot of heat,” he says, “so we need some substantial cooling in there to keep everything between 50 and 85 degrees.” The shack also serves as a storage closet for a pair of powerful, “weatherized” 18-inch CAT subwoofers for the 5.1-channel outdoor theater.
Around the pool, HomeTronics went with NEAR speakers, which it chose for their ugged performance and water-resistant design. The NEAR speakers are part of the dramatic pool landscape that features gas-driven firepits atop stone structures that house front- and rear-firing NEAR speakers. Aluminum drivers are covered by a metal grill to allow sound to pass through freely.
The outdoor area is part of a house-wide AMX control system, which allows movies and music from indoor Kaleidescape media servers to be pumped outside, along with video and music from two satellite receivers, and music from satellite and AM/FM radio. Access to all of this content is simple via an AMX Wi-Fi touchpanel controller along with keypads located near the kitchen section and spa.
Surprisingly, the extra-large 25-foot Da-Lite screen isn’t motorized, which fit with the bucolic tone the owner wanted to evoke. When it’s time to pull down the big screen, the owner turns to a “rustic hand crank.” “He didn’t want it to be too electronic out there,” says HomeTronics vice president Bryan Cruikshank. EH