Theater Comes to Its Senses

Security-style sensors put this theater's lighting on automatic pilot.


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Having the lights dim is a great way to kick off a movie. Most home theater owners can do this by pressing a button on a wall-mounted keypad or handheld remote. Simple enough, sure. But in this 340-square-foot space there’s no need for the owners to touch anything—except for the doorknob—to get the lights to do their thing.

The custom electronics professionals (CE pros) at Advanced Technologies in Baton Rouge, La., fitted the door to the room with a security sensor. When the door opens, it signals a Home Automation Inc. OmniProII automation system to switch on the light to 100 percent then slowly dim them over a period of 40 seconds. (A flex sensor planted beneath the floor initiates the same setup, in case the owners leave the door open). The 40-second fade gives viewers enough time to settle into their seats, grab the Universal Remote Control MX3000 remote and hit WATCH DVD to turn on the InFocus video projector, Onkyo surround-sound receiver and Sony PS3 for Blu-ray playback.

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A power sensor on projector prevents the light from brightening back to 100 percent should someone open the door in the middle of a movie. “If a hallway sensor notices someone walking down the hallway to the theater and the projector is on, the lights brighten to just 30 percent,” explains Advanced Technologies president Thomas Marino. “The projector is like the gateway—only when it’s off can the lights turn back on to full intensity.”

A sensor planted by the driveway also ensures that there are no unnecessary interruptions during a show. Whenever a vehicle drives past the sensor or the doorbell is pressed, a signal it transmitted to an Elan communications controller sounds a chime through the theater’s rear speakers.

The owners can touch the camera icon on the remote to pause the movie so they can view surveillance camera images on the 110-inch Vutec Silverstar screen. Play resumes automatically by exiting camera viewing.

Another set of sensors were tucked underneath the stairs leading to the second-floor theater. Simply stepping on the stairs triggers a sensor which illuminates a pathway. Since there’s no need to flip a switch, the owners’ hands are free to carry up snacks and drinks.

Marino installed sensors in other areas of the house, too. Both the refrigerator and freezer have one, and so do all of the hallways. The common way of monitoring the refrigerators and freezers is with a power sensor. But in this case, Marino installed temperature sensors inside the appliances. Should the freezer or refrigerator simply stop working (or should the kids forget to close the door), the sensors trip, and the HAI system alerts the owners with a phone call.

Motion sensors on the exterior of the house watch for trespassers. To prevent false alarms, Marino programmed them so that they must be tripped five times within a certain period of time before the HAI system alerts a central monitoring station. Prior to the fifth trip, the system broadcasts a verbal warning through the exterior speakers to “leave the premises.”

“The HAI automation system allowed me to make the owners’ security more discriminating,” says Marino. Discriminating lighting is a nice touch in the theater, too.


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