Dream Home Features Megawatt Theater

A 8,000-watt home theater, multi-room A/V, and personalized control for each family member make this house an entertainment dream.

Megawatt Theater

Anakin Skywalker is in the dune race of his life. His pod is dipping and twisting and when he’s bumped by a Tusken Raider, so am I. The announcer shouts, “Skywalker is spinning out of control,” and I whirl right along with him in front of a 13-foot screen. A shot ricochets off the pod’s windshield, and the headrest of my chair pops. Anakin steers over rocky terrain and my seat rumbles. Now this is how you go to the movies.

Most people pay $10 a head or more for this kind of big-screen experience—even without the rock ’n roll. At this St. Louis-area home theater, this is how four lucky children and their parents are able to watch movies any day of the week. D-Box motion simulator chairs, with their built-in actuators, respond to motion codes sent by a controller working in sync with the DVD player. You don’t just watch a movie; you feel it.

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A Crestron touchpanel controller is the ticket to this multisensory delight. The homeowners press on to start the show, and the Crestron system dims the lights and powers up the Runco projector, source equipment, and 14 Classe Audio amplifiers churning out 5,600 watts to seven B&W speakers. As if that’s not enough, five B&W subs are powered by dedicated 500-watt Rotel amplifiers.

An 8,100-watt home theater may seem overpowering, but its designer says every watt is accounted for. “The more power you have, the less chance of blowing something when you crank up the volume,” says Stephen Cole, systems designer at custom electronics company The Sound Room in Chesterfield, MO.

The megawatt sound system is part of a carefully crafted acoustical package that was designed by The Sound Room before the walls went up. Cole created a room-within-a-room with a floating floor that uses sway braces as big springs to help control the sound. Two layers of drywall are separated by insulation to help manage sound reflections inside the room and to prevent the dynamic highs and lows of a 7.1-channel soundtrack from blasting out. The drywall, Quiet Rock from Quiet Solution, is THX-certified.

Chugging Along
The idea for this home-theater-to-the-max began, as they often do, by word of mouth. “My brother was working with The Sound Room on his theater and suggested that my wife and I speak with them,” says the homeowner. “So we went to the showroom, and found out what else was possible.” The list of possibilities was nearly endless: security, lighting, distributed audio and video and elaborate control. “My wife loved the idea of controlled lighting,” he says, “so we added that and then it just kept expanding from there.”

The owner took the integration concept and ran with it throughout the house—no corners were cut. His imagination took off when he learned all that the Crestron control system could do. Crestron became the go-to for whole-house entertainment, security, lighting scenes, phone, intercom, and control of the geothermal HVAC system. The Sound Room used an Aprilaire controller and integrated it with the Crestron system, so that the homeowners can monitor and change the temperature from any keypad. “There’s not a thermostat in the house,” says the homeowner, “but I can change the levels in any room at any time via touchscreen. That’s cool.”

He even had The Sound Room put the kids’ electric train on Crestron control. “We had seen a train at a store in Union Station [in St. Louis] that ran through several rooms, and I wanted one like that at home,” he says. Discovering that he could automate the train was icing on the cake. The O-scale train runs along a track near the ceiling, from the playroom through the bathroom and into his son’s room, past a miniaturized version of his wife’s hair salon, mini replicas of cars he owns, and through a model shipyard in the bathroom.

Like most of the house, the automated train track is all about personalization. In fact, Crestron became synonymous with customization for this family. For entertainment, all family members have their own video and audio libraries available at the touch of a button. Mom, Dad and four kids each have their own iPods, which are accessible in any zone in the house. The iPods dock neatly inside a bookcase in the hearth room and all wire into the Crestron distribution system as independent sources in the multiroom audio system.

On the video side, seven Kaleidescape servers deliver 400 movies at any time. To guests lucky enough to occupy the guest suite above the garage that space boasts its own movie server and plasma TV.

Custom Fit
Customization is one thing, parental controls are another. The parents instructed The Sound Room programmers to limit the video material each family member can watch based on MPAA ratings available through the DirecTV DVR and the Kaleidescape servers. Kids are limited to G-rated movies, and the guest suite maxes out at PG. The same philosophy works for lighting and security control. The parents have full access to every function in the system and enter a passcode when punching into their home page for complete home control. The kids are restricted from access to lighting and security functions, but have full reign over their customized entertainment content.

The Sound Room simplified this complex programming feat into a menu-based series of screens for the parents and kids. “Who are you?” greets family members when they wake up any of a dozen Crestron touchscreens. After tapping their name, family members go into a section of pages customized to them and make music or video selections from there.

The tailored video has emerged as the homeowner’s favorite part of the electronics package. “You can access DVDs from any room, and I really like that,” he says, adding that it comes in handy when they begin a movie in the hearth room and want to finish it in the bedroom before dozing off. The DirecTV DVRs add their own level of customization, and are simple to access via Crestron touchpanels. “We can log on anywhere in the house and we acquire our own DVR, our own recordings, and our own favorite lists,” he says. “It’s pretty cool.”

A system of this size requires a well thought-out arsenal of equipment, and The Sound Room neatly organized the racks of gear inside a room behind the theater. The room is cooled by a dedicated HVAC unit with vents beneath each rack of equipment that create a cold air return from the furnace. “We designed a raised floor to create a chimney effect so that the room remains at a constant 60 degrees,” Cole says.

The Sound Room held programming meetings with the clients to let them know what was possible and then experimented with various macros for each room. “We put up paper templates for every keypad in the house,” says Cole, “and then had them walk around to see if they liked the lighting layout. When they wanted something changed, they wrote it down and we reprogrammed. When they were happy with the scenes, we had the lighting keypads engraved.”

Lighting scenes are nice when it comes to setting the mood in the dining room or creating a pathway to the kids’ rooms at night. However, in a 17,000-square-foot house, you want to be able to conserve energy—your own as well as what you buy from the utility company. “I love being able to hit one button next to my bed, and know that it’ll turn off every light in the house—along with the TV in my son’s room,” says the owner. “That saves me from having to go all over the house.”

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