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In this US case study, homeowners select a sophisticated entertainment system for their home and have it installed within tight construction deadlines.What would you do if your builder offered you an awesome, state-of-the-art entertainment system for your new house? Jump for joy? Pepper him with questions about the finer points of plasma? Or, maybe, like Mr. and Mrs. C., you’d get right down to business. As any buyer of a production or even semi-custom home knows, there’s little time to fiddle around when you’re working around the tight schedule of a builder – in this family’s case, Taylor Woodrow. As the family discovered during the rigorous homebuilding process, you’ve got to make many important decisions, and make them fast, otherwise you’ll miss a golden opportunity to own the exact entertainment system you want and have it integrated properly into the structure and design of the house.

Custom Creations

It’s a growing trend among home builders to offer entertainment packages to their homebuyers. A package from one builder might pull together a home theatre consisting of a big-screen TV and a set of five speakers; another builder might bundle all the components needed to feed music to four rooms of the house. The packages are pretty much set in stone, with little room for modifications and additions. If the package includes five speakers, that’s what you get – no more, no less. There’s a good reason for this cookie-cutter approach. It saves the builder time and money, and homebuyers the arduous process of sifting through and selecting their entertainment components piece by painstaking piece.

Mr. and Mrs. C., however, hooked up with a semi-custom homebuilder that was much more flexible with its home entertainment offerings. They worked with the builder’s home systems installation partner to completely customise their home entertainment system. They could choose from a wide variety of TVs, speakers, surround-sound systems and remote controls – and have those components installed wherever and however they wanted. Good thing. The homeowners packed their home with some of the best components around, including several stylish touchpanels to control the audio/video equipment, architectural speakers and wall-skimming plasma TVs.

 

The Nerve Centre

There are two basic schools of thought when it comes to assembling and designing the pieces of an elaborate home entertainment system. One, you can locate the components in different areas of the house – a VCR here, a DVD player there – or two, you can consolidate them in one main area. Mr. and Mrs. C. opted for the latter approach. Tucked neatly inside a specially designed closet in a main hallway are multiple DVD players, CD changers, satellite receivers, amplifiers and a sophisticated control processor to keep all the equipment in perfect sync. You’d never guess this unassuming closet has this much entertainment muscle. A door that resembles all the others in the house completely hides this blinking nerve centre from sight. Stowing nearly every piece of entertainment gear inside a closet is an effective way to keep a rather unsightly assortment of technology under wraps, but one that requires due diligence. The homeowners had to select the components well before the house was framed. That way, based on the measurements and ventilation requirements of the equipment, Taylor Woodrow could construct a space that was just the right size. Meanwhile, the installation team at Audio/Video Entertainment could route in the wire that would eventually feed DVD movies to every TV, music to every set of speakers, and commands to the nerve centre from several sophisticated touchscreen-based remote controls placed throughout the house.

Three Rooms That Rock

While just about every room of the 465-square-metre home receives a dose of music and movies, there are three areas that were engineered specifically during the construction phase to really rock. A private home office, for example, which is attached to the house by only a narrow breezeway, achieves acoustical perfection, thanks to custom-made speakers that are sonically matched to the size and shape of the room. ‘We drew up a diagram of the measurements of the room, with furniture placement indicated, and speaker manufacturer CAT (California Audio Technology) designed ones that would be best for the room,’ says Audio/Video Entertainment sales operation manager Larry Martinez.

To preserve the ocean view provided by the huge windows of the home office, CAT decided to ‘divide’ each of the room’s two in-wall speakers into two parts. The tweeter and midrange of each speaker are above the window, and the woofer is below. The speakers are angled and set into the wall according to the location of the desk chair. The result is an audiophile-grade listening room that also happens to be a functional home office.

No CDs clutter Mr. C.’s office. Instead, the tunes come from the Sony 400-disc CD changer located inside the central equipment closet. He doesn’t need to leave his desk to cue the music, either. A Crestron control system takes care of that. A small Crestron wireless touchpanel that sits on the office desk displays the titles and tracks of the family’s entire CD collection. By simply touching his finger to a song title on the screen, in seconds Mr. C. can relax to music in the office. The same touchpanel is used to adjust the volume, skip ahead to a different song on the track, or choose a different CD altogether.

 

Of course, 400 CDs are tough to control, even with the help of a sophisticated control system like the Crestron CNX. As Mr. C. discovered, utilising an Escient TuneBase music management system makes all the difference in the world. This system, the brains of which are located in the central closet, identifies each CD, the song titles on each disc, and retrieves the cover art for each CD through an internet connection to a CD database. Pictures of every cover and titles of every song can then be displayed on Mr. C.’s touchpanel. Now, using his computer, which is networked to the Escient TuneBase, he can arrange and organise the compilation of art and titles in any manner to create his own personal playlists. One playlist, for example, might display only jazz tunes.

From Music to Movies

The home office, obviously, was designed for music enjoyment. The family room, on the other hand, was conceived as a place to enjoy digital-grade movies – and lots of them. Like the Sony changer that holds the music, an Integra DVD player carries 300 movies for the family. Again, the family uses a portable wireless Crestron touchpanel to choose a flick. And again, an Escient server, this time a DVD Management System, organises and displays their choices in a logical manner. Although the types of entertainment that pervades the family room and the home office are different, the similarity between how management systems operate shortened the learning curve for the family significantly. Instead of having to learn how to work two distinctly different systems, the family was able to master both at the same time. Additionally, the touchpanel offers quick setup of the entire home theatre system. At the touch of a button it activates the surround-sound system and TV, and brings up a display of the DVD library. In seconds, the family is basking in the splendour of crisp and vivid 165cm (65in) TV images and body tingling surround sound.

A Little Privacy, Please

Many mums and dads crave occasional privacy from the kids, and Mr. and Mrs. C. are no exception. But they certainly didn’t want to sacrifice great entertainment just to get away. To ensure that their master suite was every bit as visually and audibly engaging as their family room and home office, Audio/Video Entertainment installed a 122cm (42in) widescreen plasma TV to a wall. To complement the screen, they outfitted the room with its own dedicated home theatre surround-sound system, including a set of five unobtrusive in-ceiling SpeakerCraft AIM speakers and a Triad in-wall subwoofer. The entire accouterment is commanded from, once again, a wireless Crestron touchpanel.

Unlike the mega-DVD and CD changers found in the closet, the VCR and DVD player of the master bedroom are fairly ordinary, intended to be used when Mr. or Mrs. C. brings home a movie from the video store. But that doesn’t mean they can’t access their giant digital libraries from the touchpanel anytime they wish. Another touchpanel, this one mounted to the wall in a short hallway that joins the sleeping area of the master suite to the bathroom, stands ready to pull music to the two round SpeakerCraft in-wall bathroom speakers. A separate wall-mounted volume control offers a quick and convenient means to raise the volume

Cooking Up Something Good

Kitchens are often overlooked as an entertainment area, but Mr. and Mrs. C. made sure theirs was completely up to the task. On a wall hangs a 38cm (15in) LCD TV. It, too, can display movies that are loaded into the DVD player in the nerve centre. But rather than risk a wireless touchpanel getting doused with tomato sauce or smeared with jam, Audio/Video Entertainment kept the critical controller out of harm’s way by installing it into a wall.

All the same information and controls as on the other touchpanels are displayed on the one in the kitchen, but with the added ability to command music to rock-shaped speakers located in the backyard. Once the family is outside, they can use a wireless touchpanel to select a different CD. A special antenna attached to the back of the house relays the signal to the equipment stored inside.

Finished in Record Time

Through quick decision making and close communications with their homebuilder and home systems installer, Mr. and Mrs. C. were able to not only construct a 465-square-metre home, but design and install a sophisticated home entertainment system into the house in about six months. Most systems of this magnitude take at least twice as long to complete. The pressure to meet the tight deadlines of the builder may have been a bit stressful for both the homeowners and their home systems installer, but being able to complete the project and enjoy movies and music sooner than they expected was a just reward.

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