Archive for 'home theater Tequesta'

Ultrabright Outdoor Home Theater Weathers the Elements

RTIBlogFlorida and Southern California are hotbeds for outdoor entertaining. New York? Not so much. But the fussy weather of the Northeast didn’t stop the owners of this outdoor space from integrating a reference-grade home theater system into their backyard. They made sure, with the help of their custom electronics professionals, that their expensive equipment would be well-protected from Mother Nature.

This was done through special programming of an RTI XP-8 control system and ingenious installation of the screen, projector and other components. The 14-foot-wide screen is motorized to roll up into a soffit underneath a balcony when no one is watching it. The owners can move the screen up and down by pressing buttons on a waterproof RTI remote or an iPad. However, if the owners’ weather station detects a wind velocity of over 8 miles per hour, the RTI system will automatically put the screen away and shut down the entire home theater system. When the wind dies down and the sun has set, the owners use the home theater again. This may sound a little restrictive but it’s for the best. These homeowners demanded only the best viewing experience from their outdoor theater. This can’t happen if the sunlight is blasting onto the screen. Therefore, the outdoor theater system can only be used after a certain time of day, as controlled by the astronomical clock inside the RTI XP-8 system.

In the dark, the outdoor theater screen can really shine. Its 14-foot-wide size guarantees that no matter where everyone is hanging out, they can clearly see all the action. An ultrabright (6,000-ANSI lumen), ISF (Imaging Science Foundation)-calibrated projector from Digital Projection International (DPI) was put behind the outdoor theater screen in an attic space. That way it’s protected from the elements and hidden from view.

The family can hear the movie from the swimming pool as well as the patio because of the surround sound system that was installed.  The speakers perform as the front channels of the surround-sound system, and are able to be played loudly and without distortion. In order to contain the sound to the yard they’re angled downward from the eave of the house. Planter speakers are positioned throughout the outdoor theater area to preclude audio “dead spots” and to serve as the surrounds. No movie is worth listening to if you can’t feel and hear the bass, so three subwoofers were strategically planted in the yard. The speakers and subs are driven by an amplifier that pushs out 2,500 watts of calibrated power.

The home theater may take center stage in this backyard, but the RTI system controls a lot more than the A/V equipment. The motorized patio umbrellas, as well as all of the lights, can be operated from an RTI remote or iPad. The umbrellas are designed to catch and channel rainwater to an underground water drainage system. This is just one more step that was taken to protect the outdoor home theater equipment from the weather.

HOME THEATER DESIGN BASICS

HomeTheaterBasicsYou’re ready for a home theater set-up, and you’re quivering with excitement at the thought of a fully immersed movie experience right in your own home. But there’s that one BIG question:

Where do you begin?

There are so many things to consider, both technical and financial. For example, a home theater can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $25,000 — or more. Or that Amazon lists several hundred possibilities for home theater speakers. With so many options, setting up your home theater can be a head-spinning experience.

But even the most non-tech-savvy home theater newbie can do a whole lot to accentuate their home theater experience, no matter what the price range is. Here’s some things that you need to know.

THE ROOM

Most likely you know where your home theater will be set up. It might be in the main living area, a spare bedroom or a basement where you can set up a movie palace complete with a popcorn machine. Each of these areas has special considerations in terms of comfort and sound quality. There are many common factors as well.

• Room shape. Square rooms tend to produce odd harmonic distortions. If you have the option, choose a rectangular room for your Home Theater.  Also, plan to place your televison and main speakers along a short wall for best sound projection in your Home Theater.

• Windows. The fewer windows in your Home Theater room, the better. Windows are hard surfaces that reflect sound-causing audio distortion. They also give off light that can produce reflections on your viewing surface.

Heavy curtains and shades may help, but that means closing blinds or drapes every time you turn on your home theater system. Opt for blackout-style window treatments, if you must, that track tight against window jambs to seal out light.

• Walls. If you’re tempted to staple inverted egg cartons all over the walls of your home theater room to try to muffle the sound, just relax. Regular drywall is a decent surface appropriate for home theater walls. However, break up spacious flat surfaces with furniture or drapes. Don’t add framed picture with glass as they are too reflective of sound and light.

Concrete or concrete block is a big no-no. If you’re setting up you Home Theater in a basement with concrete walls, think about installing studs and drywall.

Another option is acoustic wall panels designed specifically for home theaters. These panels are called “sound absorption” panels. They help to balance high and low frequencies to prevent echoes. Panels come as 1′ x 1′ or 2′ x 2′ squares costing anywhere from $4 to $20 per square foot.

Peel-and-stick carpet tiles are the budget-minded preference as they range from $2 to $4. You just don’t want to end up with a room that looks like Lloyd and Harry’s shaggy van from Dumb and Dumber.

Remember decreasing the sound works both ways. Controlling the sound in your home theater room means peace and quiet for the rest of your house.

• Flooring. Wall-to-wall carpet, with a cushy pad underneath, absorbs ambient sound and adds to the coziness of your home theater. Kids like to sprawl on the floor to watch movies

• Wall/room color. Paint your walls of your Home Theater as dark as you can stand them: Bright colors reflect light that’s particularly distracting when there’s a brightly lit scene on the screen. Choose eggshell or flat paints instead of gloss or semi-gloss..

Opt for colors such as neutral browns, tans or olive. Stronger colors, like red and blue, will give an odd cast to any ambient light in the Home Theater and may affect the colors you see on your screen.

THE SOUND

Speaker technology is remarkably advanced. Competition among top speaker manufacturers has helped turn home theater sound reproduction into a fine art. This means that a system you choose for your home theater is likely to be of very high quality.

Most home theater speaker systems (and movie soundtracks) are designed to provide specific sounds from specific areas of your listening environment. When a train goes thundering through a scene, you hear the sound move from one side to the other. However, speakers labeled as bipole or dipole aren’t compatible with this essential feature of home theater, so check before you buy.

• Speaker placement. A typical home theater features 5.1 surround sound, which means there are five full-range speakers and one low-range subwoofer. Place three speakers and the subwoofer toward the front of the Home Theater room, and the two remaining speakers on either side and slightly behind your viewing position. Keep speakers at least 20 inches from your Home Theater walls.

Each room is unique, and the best sound for you may come only after experimenting with your speaker placement. Luckily, speakers are moveable.

• Ideal distance. In a perfect world, your ears would be equal distance from each speaker in your Home Theater room. Seeing as your ears are on opposite sides of your head, it’s safe to say you won’t ever acquire this kind of perfection. Nonetheless, come as close to that target as possible.

Some speakers — certainly your subwoofer — will have individual volume controls you can fine-tune. More refined speakers provide millisecond adjustments, called delays, that time sound projection from each speaker so that everything makes it to your ears at precisely the same instant.  This is a handy feature for large Home Theater rooms with speakers at various distances.

Audioholics Online A/V Magazine even gives a formula: a 1 millisecond delay equates to 1.1 feet of distance. A speaker 5.5 more feet away from your head than your other speakers would require an advance setting of 5 milliseconds.

• Playing center field. Of all your speakers in your Home Theater, your center front speaker is probably the most influential. It is in charge of projecting sound directly from the screen. This is important mainly for dialogue. You don’t want to see the actors talking in front of you while the sound of their voices is coming from the side.

The center speaker shouldn’t be downgraded in your home theater budget. This speaker can sometimes be overshadowed by the tower speakers that are skirting it. Spend time adjusting your center speaker so that dialogue seems to come directly from your display.

• Woof, woof. Your subwoofer goes up front in your Home Theater. There’s only one, so you decide which side to put it on. The low bass ranges reproduced by a subwoofer will go through your Home Theater room, so angle is not as relevant as with the other speakers. A corner spot helps distribute your subwoofer’s sound evenly but, as with all components, experiment with a variety of positions before settling on the perfect location.

VIEWING

The forerunner of any home theater set-up is a high-definition display screen. The temptation is to balance size with increased viewing pleasure, but there are limits to this. You want to be immersed in the experience, but you don’t want a display so big that you have to move your head back and forth in an effort to take in all the action. You need to look for the right combination of display size and viewing angle.

Optimum angle. HDTV manufacturers and home theater experts place the best viewing angle between 30 to 40 degrees. Therefore, if you draw a triangle from the edges of the display to your nose, the angle that points at your head sould be 30 to 40 degrees. This angle lets you take in all the action with the least amount of eye movement.

If you stay the same distance from your display but move off to the side, the viewing angle gets smaller. If you plan to have multiple seating in your Home Theater room, make sure all the chairs have the best viewing angle.

Optimum distance. Ideal viewing angle can be expressed simply as distance as well.  This angle is usually 1.5 to 2.5 times the diagonal width of your screen. This means that you should sit no closer than 7.5 feet from a 60-inch-wide TV, and no more than 12.5 feet away. A viewing distance calculator can help when math skills falter.

This formula can work in reverse, too. If you know your viewing distance — say it’s 8 feet — then you can select an ideal display size. Eight feet is 96 inches. Divide by 2 (an average of 1.5 and 2.5) and you’ll get 48 inches. So the recommended HDTV display for your viewing distance in your Home Theater would be about 48 inches wide (measured diagonally).

Viewing height. The best viewing height in your Home Theater room is to have the center of the display screen at eye level. While that might seem primitive, some folks are tempted to elevate the display so that it hangs above their theater set-up. If you do raise your display, tilt it so that it faces the seating area in your Home Theater. It is even better if your seats recline so that you’re square to the display. Don’t forget to lift up your center speaker as well. When someone speaks you don’t want it to seem as if they’re talking out of the side of his mouth.

kalomirakisOne of the most well-known names in luxury home theater design is Theo Kalomirakis. He’s an influential leader in this industry.  His designs take a home theater beyond being merely a room with a big screen and lots of speakers, into a place with its own personality with lighting control and home automation.  The homeowners will have a total sensory experience from the moment they cross the threshold of their home theater room.

Kalomirakis-designed home theaters have won recognition from Electronic House Home of the Year Awards. Kalomirakis recently gave a presentation at Crestron’s Design Showroom in New York City.  He talked about common mistakes people make when building a home theater, the importance of home automation and how he approaches his designs with lighting control.

Q: Are there any frequent mistakes that people make when planning or building their home theaters?

A: It’s become like a little cottage industry for me, talking about the mistakes people make that started by mistakes I made. You don’t learn unless you make mistakes.

Mistake number 1: You get into a home where a designer is involved, and they have put the home theater seats on cement. This is not good for sound. If you don’t have carpeting on the floor the bass doesn’t hit you in the heart. It’s just like having a violin having its cavity filled with cement.

Mistake number 2, Risers: People think that if you separate the seats in your home theater by one step you’re going to see over other people’s heads. But it doesn’t work that way. If you have a screen that’s all the way to the floor, you’re going to have to do a lot more than one step. You’re going to have to do sightline risers, and this is something Home Theater Designers usually don’t know when designing a home theater room.

Mistake number 3: People think that if you put acoustical treatments on the wall, it seals the home theater from the rest of the house.  You have to be prepared to do both room isolation and room acoustics as they are two totally different things. These are the technical mistakes that I see people do. I’ve seen a lot of architectural mistakes, as well as made them myself in the past.  Hopefully I don’t make them anymore.

Q: What are some of the different enhancements that you can bring to a home theater that clients may not have thought of themselves?

A: I want to understand the design that goes into the rest of the house so that the home theater is not an ugly stepchild of the rest of the house. I believe that the home theater should follow the design direction of the home, but bring it to a new level without making it totally isolated.  I wouldn’t put an art deco home theater in the middle of a classical house.

What I think I bring to my clients is to educate them to actually justify the cost. I try to prevent them from making mistakes. I want them to be able to live in a home theater room that is heightening the experience without being so aesthetically different from what they have in the rest of the house.

You have to interview them. You have to learn what they like. Some people may not like the red curtain that seems to hang in every home theater room.  They may want something more neutral. You have to listen to them and be an interpreter of their dreams. I’m trying to tune into what they want and direct them into realizing their dreams without imposing myself on what they want to do.

Q: What can home automation bring to the experience of a home theater?

A: Everything. Without home automation you get a bunch of electronics that don’t communicate with each other.  There is nothing more frustrating for a client than having to hit ten remote controls to turn the lights down, open the curtain, or start the system. Home Automation is probably the most vital aspect for enjoying your home theater.

In my mind the most unique thing you can do is through lighting control. You can set up the levels of the home theater room so it’s lit up architecturally, not generically. In the home theater, lighting has to create drama. Home Automation allows you to create presets in the lighting control that gives the client the ability to see a variety of things.  Such as the slight illumination of the speaker grills when you watch a movie, or not seeing them at all, or having the step lights shown.

Q: At what point in the consultation does home automation customization enter the conversation with a client?

A: At the end of the project.  It’s very important that you separate all the lighting control sources in circuits. Step lights on one circuit, column lights on another, and curtain lights on yet another. So you can play with different levels, bringing certain lights up and down to the client’s desire. I don’t do that by myself. Each client will have different aesthetic preferences, so I sit down with them and ask them what levels they like their lights at and then have the Lighting Control Integrator hit the lighting control button and show them.

Q: Have you noticed any trends or shifts in what people are asking for lately?

A: There is more and more focus on multipurpose home theater rooms and less on dedicated home theaters because people are misinformed. Younger people, especially in the 20s and 30s, are used to experiencing media on tablets and iPhones. So for them a dedicated home theater room is not as important.  I see a trend toward not having a home theater in the center of the house. In my opinion you have to have both. You have to be able to watch your movies on a tablet while on a trip, but you don’t want to watch a movie on a tablet at home. And you don’t want to watch an epic movie on just a 50 or 60-inch TV. You want to be engrossed in the experience with home automation and lighting control in your home theater room.

Q: Do you have any advice for a reader who is interested in having a home theater installed but doesn’t know where to start?

A: Talk to their Home Theater and Home Automation designer. Designers are getting more perceptive about home theaters. Have someone take you by the hand and guide you through the process, show you what’s available with regards to lighting control and home automation for your home theater room.

How to Save on Home Automation Expenses

SAVE on home-automationJust because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.  This old cliché still holds true today.  Especially if you’re debating on having a Home Automation system installed in your house.

Home Automation systems can perform a variety of amazing actions. Whether it be regulating the temperature of your fish tank or hot tub, turning on the lights when you walk into your house, or raising and lowering the window shades at a designated time. It’s this kind of magic that makes Home Automation so appealing—and expensive.

Home Automation involves a mixture of different brands of products.  Getting several different products from several different companies to properly work together can become costly.

There are ways to save on costs while still covering as many of the key features of a Home Automation system as you can. For example, try not to have fancy setups in your home automation system such as having a hot tub turn on when a sensor notices that your car has pulled up into the driveway. Adding processing intelligence to your Home Automation system drives up the price. Another example is having a simple off button on a keypad that you push to turn off all the lights in the house rather than automating the lights to turn off whenever the security system triggers them.

You can also reduce the cost by limiting the number of products and systems your Home Automation system controls. Any time one system—like lighting—communicates with another system—like security, the cost can increase. For instance if you integrate audio/video distribution, HVAC and motorized window shades into your Home Automation system it will cost even more.

Programming a Home Automation system to sync the operation of the lights, thermostats and other devices can sometimes take a lot of time therefore costing a lot of money. So it’s important to decide whether it’s worth it to have the lights dim or the window shades close at a certain time of the day, or if you’d just be satisfied by pressing a couple buttons to make it happen.

Programming isn’t the only expense that you’ll incur when you bring a lot of products into your Home Automation system. The more you choose to automate the more hardware you will most likely have to buy. For example, you could easily use a programmable thermostat to adjust the heating and cooling automatically.  But you’ll need more processing power, more equipment, and a more sophisticated interface to make that thermostat adjust whenever you walk into your home theater room, open the draperies, or when you modify the settings from the screen of your TV.

Some tips to help keep costs down:

Be Realistic. Focus on what you need, rather than what you want in your home automation system.  Do you really need a sensor by the driveway to trigger on the lights on the front porch? Probably not.  Many security systems can control your home’s thermostats and lights, as well as protect your home.

Think Return On Investment. Choose features that offer a good return on investment—like heating and cooling control. Automating your HVAC system is one of the last things you often think about doing in a home automation system. In areas where energy costs are high, this has the highest payback of all the systems.  Automating the lights can also control your energy use.

Common Interface. Use a home automation system that will let you control devices with something you already own—like your iPod or iPad.

Don’t be Oversold. It’s often the subsystems you connect to your Home Automation system that raise the price.  For example, one brand might play at 20 watts per channel and cost $300 per room, while another plays at 200 watts and costs $2,500 per room. Be sure to understand what you’re getting for your money before choosing your subsystems.

Ask for Less. There is more than one way to set up your in the world of home automation. Always ask your Custom Designer if there’s a more economical way to get the features you want out of your home automation system.

Go Lite. In an effort to make their systems more marketable, many home automation companies offer less expensive versions of their elite home automation systems. Usually, these versions offer the same basic features as the expensive version, but on a smaller scale and without all the bells and whistles.

Line It Up. Ask your Home Automation Designer to break down everything you want to do and show you line by line what each item will cost.  If you have the time and money, anything can be done.  It’s important to ask how much time and money each component will add to your bottom line.

Expand Later. You don’t have to have everything done at the same time. You can start with one room and then expand the Home Automation system later. Most Home automation and control systems are expandable.  For example, if you have your media room and master bedroom integrated now, you can call the Custom Designer back next year to add the kitchen, dining room and rear deck.

Light Control in Home Theater Settings

lightingHome theater enthusiasts have long known that even the best displays on the market require careful control of room lighting for optimal performance. That’s why when we’re helping our customers design the ultimate home theater experience, we urge them to take extra time to consider light control options; it’s an often overlooked part of home theater design that can make an enormous difference when it’s time to watch a movie.

One of the benefits of whole-house home automation has always been having a finer degree of control over particular portions of your home “zones,” in the parlance of home automation professionals. This benefit is nowhere more apparent than in the case of homes that incorporate a dedicated home theater, where the typically-controlled elements of home automation are part and parcel to improving the movie-watching experience.

Light control is practically the heart and soul of home automation, and in a home theater setting those capabilities truly shine. For a system robust enough to control every light in a home, adjusting them for optimal comfort and safety throughout changing conditions over the course of days and nights, it becomes a trivially simple matter to have lights dim when a movie begins in a house’s home theater room, and fully automatically – perhaps even dimming just slightly during the opening credits and going to full black once the film begins.

Then, at the end of a movie, home automation systems can be programmed to raise the lights gradually as the credits roll, allowing movie viewers the opportunity to adjust their eyes slowly to a brightening room, rather than all at once. For longer films that seem to be increasingly popular among home theater viewers, this sort of gentle nudge back into the real world is much more pleasant.

For more information on home theater light control and our many other services, contact us today!

10 Tips to Make a Family Room Look Like a Home Theater

family room theatNot everyone has the luxury of dedicating a room solely for a Home Theater room. More often than not, that area is shared with another room such as a family room, den or perhaps a guest room.

That’s perfectly fine because your family room is already finished and furnished. Plus, it probably already has a decent-size TV and surround-sound system.

If your family room is like the majority of others, it may not look or feel much like a home theater. What it’s most likely lacking is in the environment of the room.  Changing things in the arrangement and design of the room can give it a better home theater vibe.

You can go as modest or as complex as you want to produce the desired cinematic effect for a home theater. Here are 10 ideas to consider.

1. Re-paint: Dark, rich colors like burgundy and navy blue scream home theater.   The video on your TV will look better with dark colors since light doesn’t reflect off dark colors as it does light ones.

2. Rearrange the Furniture: The screen at your local cinema sits directly in front of the seats; the TV in your Home Theater should as well.  This may require a slight adjustment of your furniture.

3. Add Architectural Details: There are many theater-inspired details such as decorative moldings or pillars at a home improvement store that will help to add detail to your Home Theater.

4. Incorporate New Lighting: Most of the pre-show lighting in a commercial theater is produced by sconces on the wall. Putting a few of these on the walls of your Home Theater room will add additional lighting that will look like the real thing.

5. Install Dimmers: If you don’t want to run new electrical wiring for the sconces in your Home Theater, we recommend swapping out your existing light switch for a dimmer. You will then be able to dim out the lights before the movie begins.

6. Hang Drapes: Nice, thick drapes like the ones that cover the screen at the movie theater will give you the look and feel you’re after for a Home Theater room. They will also block out incoming light and improve room acoustics.

7. Hide the Components: Remove all the audio and video components from the Home Theater room and place them somewhere else in the house, such as a closet or utility room. Replace your existing infrared remote control for a radio frequency-based remote. The new remote will then be able to broadcast commands to the equipment that is located in another room.

8. Build a Riser: You can enjoy the same stadium-style seating of your neighborhood cinema in your own Home Theater by having a riser built, as well as steps.

9. Pick New Seats: Invest in theater-style seating, especially if you’ve built risers in your Home Theater. These seats are available in a variety of colors to complement the new wall paint. They can also include features such as a reclining action and built-in cup holders.

10. Attach Fabric Wall Panels: The walls in most theaters are covered in fabric. You can do the same in your Home Theater, although the entire space does not have to be covered.

From the Bottom Up: Home Theater Seating

home-theater-seatingBack in the fledgling days of home theater, when the term was hardly commonplace and most considered having a big-screen TV the pinnacle of the notion; if you asked most people why they’d put the time, money and effort into watching movies at home, you’d hear about comfort nearly every time. Just a few years ago, going to the movies was an uncomfortable experience; seats were hard and tight together, and it was luck of the draw whether there would be someone in front of you with a hairdo so big you’d miss half the screen.

Back then, home theater seating was superior to the theater experience just by virtue of not being a hard-backed chair; simple couches won out. But today’s theaters are competing hard for our movie-going dollars; to maintain superiority, home theater designers have come up with incredible seating options that can make your viewing experience better than the best seats in the local cinema.

Whether you’re designing a dedicated home theater space with its own style, or a hybrid room that can be used for other purposes when not watching movies, home theater seating today comes in a wide variety of styles and fabrics that can stand out loud and proud — or vanish in the existing decor. No longer simply a big chair,  home theater seats now feature integrated touch-screens, fully-adjustable levels of support to match every imaginable body type – and, of course, intuitive cup holders and snack trays that tuck away when not needed.

From individual recliners, to banks of seats, to feature-rich convertible couch designs with coordinating accessories including light fixtures and curtains, today’s home theater seating gives cine-plex owners a run for their money. For more information about the options available, contact us today!