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Designing a home theatre? Take a look at this home theatre installation in a South Yarra home which has been designed with flexibility in mind.


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This modern and luxurious home in South Yarra, Victoria, has been designed to reveal as much, or as little equipment as the owner desires.

Victorian-based installer Cableman is behind this installation. Joshua Holko and his team of three installers toiled for over 400 hours on site to create this subtle, yet all encompassing masterpiece.

Being in the game for 12 years and being “probably the largest domestic integration company in Victoria,” according to Holko, Cableman was well qualified to take on the job.

“We do everything in-house,” he says. “We don’t subcontract anything out, whether it’s system design, cabling, installation, commissioning or programming. That allows us to quality-control each installation stage.”

So where did he start with this job? “When the client first came to see us, they didn’t really have an extremely detailed idea of what they wanted to do,” Holko explains. “They had a basic framework in mind, which we developed with them by showing them some things they could do. Some of those things appealed to their lifestyle and some didn’t. We basically designed the system to suit.”

 

A huge advantage for Holko was that he was able to be involved in planning the system before the house was built.


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“Actually, we were involved in the pre-planning stage, before any soil was turned. This helped a lot. Being able to route and reticulate cables to all parts of the home in order to meet our requirements was a huge advantage. We ran all the network backbone, the multi-room audio and home theatre cabling, all the video cabling, security and security camera cabling (including access control for keyless entry). We also did all the automation cabling for the motorised blinds and lighting systems.

“There was also a lot of work involved with the architect, such as with the projector we put in the bulkhead. And there was a lot of cabinetry work required for the lift-out and pop-up plasmas.” What’s that? Stowaway projectors? Automated plasmas? You bet. But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves just yet.

Flexible Home Theatre

The jewel in the crown of the installation is the media room.

“While this room contains a home theatre, it’s more of a media room because there’s not actually a full dedicated home theatre,” Hoko says. “It can function as a home theatre when the client prefers, but mostly it appears as an entertaining room. Like this room, most rooms in the home are multipurpose.

“I arrived at this design because the male client is a property developer and the installation had to fit with him using the property as a showpiece so it can suit the various tastes of his different clients.”

Holko says the design was also welcomed by the fairer half of the client partnership.

 

So how did the brief take form? “The clients’ basic brief was that they wanted the ability to simply watch TV without having to fire up a massive home theatre projector every time they wanted to quickly catch the news. We installed a 50-inch Fujitsu high-definition plasma on a Peerless wall mount plasma swing bracket, which allows the plasma to be hidden away, if required. Then we used a 100-inch motorised Stewart projector screen and a Marantz VPL12S3 long-throw lens projector in the same space, so they can have that large movie experience when they want it. But the client insisted that they didn’t want it to always appear to be a theatre, so we went to the effort of hiding the projector and projector screen. The projector screen is recessed right inside the ceiling and the projector is hidden in the bulkhead.”


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Similarly, the AV components are stowed away behind joinery in the back of the room. They include a Marantz SR7300 receiver and DV4300 DVD player, a Panasonic hard drive DVD recorder and set-top box, plus a Foxtel decoder.

Block-out blinds feature for daytime projector use, due to the large amount of east-facing glass in the room. “Plasma copes a lot better than projectors in ambient daylight. But no display device can cope with direct sunlight, which will greatly reduce a display’s contrast ratio,” explains Joshua.

Where are the speakers, you may ask? We wondered exactly the same thing, until we noticed a large run of grille cloth beneath the viewing area that gave the game away. Joshua turned to Jamo to do the speaking, with three (right, left and centre) D6 THX speakers lined across the front wall behind the black acoustically transparent material. A matching Jamo D6 THX subwoofer also resides there.

The media room’s rear didn’t afford any space to hide matching Jamo speakers, so Holko instead opted for a pair of Triad Bronze speakers, which he flush-mounted in the ceiling. These are lined up with the ceiling lights and are all but invisible.

 

The only part of the installation that needs to be in ready view is the Crestron control interface, which is the main device for all the home’s systems, including AV, lighting, automation and security. The Crestron controller also provides constant feedback to the owners. They know, for example, the status of various systems, including lighting and security systems, down to specific zones within the home.

The final touches for the room were provided in the form of acoustic tuning. “Because it’s quite an unusually shaped room and responds very unpredictably, we went to a lot of trouble to properly calibrate the room when we had finished the installation,” says Holko. “It’s a process of using a variety of instruments, including SPL meters and oscilloscopes, to set up, equalise and calibrate the room.”


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Rooms With A Few

Other rooms in the house are also lavishly endowed. The master bedroom gets the motorised plasma treatment, with a Marantz 42-incher doing the job.

Any particular reason Joshua chose Marantz? “We use a number of different plasma brands, but any of the good Japanese plasma screens will do the job very well. Our choice often depends on the source equipment used, the number of inputs and the mechanism in which it’s going to be housed. The mounting facility of plasmas is often very different between brands.”

The bedroom’s plasma screen hides flush in the ceiling until the owners wish it to appear. When it does so, it elegantly folds down via an automatically controlled lift. Are these kind of installations difficult to effect? “We’ve done quite a lot of motorised plasma installations now, so it wasn’t that tricky to do. The real issue is getting the lift mounted and installed during the ceiling construction phase. We come back and put the plasma in later, but it involves a lot of different trades. Everyone from a carpenter to a plasterer and painter are required. They all have to contribute to make it work.”

 

The plasma screen is flanked in the ceiling by a pair of Triad flush-mount speakers, which link to an Opus DXM20 digital zone amplifier. Rather than use another Crestron controller in the bedroom, Joshua selected a Marantz RC5400 universal touch-screen remote combined with a Marantz RX-77 RF extender. “This allows the client to control the AV system in the bedroom, which also features an independent DVD player, digital set-top box and DVD recorder.”


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Another bedroom interface is an Opus WCU 500 wall control unit, which controls multi-room audio. “All the clients’ music is stored on an i-Merge 160GB MP3 music server, which can be accessed from all around the home using the in-wall keypads. For example, if you want to listen to Crowded House, you can select it as an artist, then select the album you want, then adjust tracks and volume as desired – all from the key pad. The same luxury is afforded in the master bedroom ensuite, via an Opus WCU 300 Sub Zone module that extends a music zone.

Does Joshua encounter much demand for this? “Actually, ensuites are one of the most popular places to enjoy multi-room music,” says a chuckling Joshua. “They’re really handy for listening to the news in the morning while you’re having a shave, for example.”

The home’s other two bedrooms also have an Opus WCU 500 wall control unit and Triad in-ceiling speakers driven by an Opus DXM20 digital zone amplifier. The bedrooms also feature a local PC input, allowing output of computer source audio, which negates the need for PC speakers.

 

Hiccups

Any job of this magnitude is bound to encounter a few hiccups on the way. “The project management on jobs can be just has hard as the installation,” Holko says. “Our work is extra work for the trades, so you have to liaise with them. During the housing equipment and joinery phase alone you have requirements for cable reticulation, scalloping of the back shelves for cables, allowing sufficient space and talking to the builder about which way the trusses are going to run in the ceiling so you can make sure the screens will fit. It’s a difficult thing to manage sometimes. It comes down to your ability to work with and manage other parties.”

And the installation’s most outstanding feature? “Probably my favourite thing is the theatre, because it’s hidden. It doesn’t become a theatre until you want it to. When it does, it happens easily, quickly and stylishly.

“The clients love it, too. Our feed back to date is that they love the way the system integrates with their lifestyle. That’s the key element and it really works for them.”

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