It’s hard to imagine a couple in Kentucky that has more fun spending time together than Gary and Sandy Patterson. They designed and built an outdoor movie and recreation area, and the entire neighborhood spends a lot of time at the Pattersons’ as well.
After forming the installation company Sanja Resort Living, the Pattersons wanted to use their Greensburg, KY, home as a showcase for automation systems. Outfitting the interior of his home with an HAI Omni system—along with plenty of other sweet audio and video gear—provided its share of benefits. And Gary decided to take it one step further with an exterior grill area that could be tied into the automation and electronics inside.
Consider it a success. “It is a demo area,” Gary says, “but from a personal standpoint, we’re outdoorsy people. We like being outdoors all the time, we love the movies, and an outdoor area was a way to attack both of those things. All the [audio and video] content really comes from inside, and we hadn’t done any long-distance installations, so I wasn’t quite sure how everything would work out, but it turned out slick as a ribbon.”
With help from Kessler Builders, The Grill emerged in the Pattersons’ 1,000-square-foot yard that’s nestled in a pine grove overlooking a lake. Sandy handled the designs, Gary managed the audio/video, and the two played give-and-take when it came to marrying both aspects of the project. Installing a fireplace with a base wide enough to hold a pair of center-channel speakers and matching the color of the fireplace with the speakers, for instance, grew from a combination of Sandy’s design input and Gary’s technical demands.
Most of The Grill is located within the framing of a rectangular structure supported by four columns, with plenty of concrete to secure it. The rectangular “ring,” as Gary refers to it, houses built-in enclosures for a Panasonic projector and Vutec screen, as well as 15 recessed light cans, wire and cable runs and four mounted Electro-Voice ZX1 speakers used as front and rear surrounds. Gary says Spencer Mallinson of Vutec worked with him to create an outdoor screen for the space, and Vutec custom designed a 133-inch model that features Vu-Flex Pro weatherproof screen material, stainless steel hardware and a fully enclosed aluminum housing. Gary ran nine Cat-5 cables through the enclosure to future-proof the area, without having to bust open the ring.
Having a background in the professional audio industry, Gary chose a combination of Electro-Voice speakers—two flanking the fireplace serve as the center channel—plus an EAW 15-inch subwoofer and Crown amplification as the heart of the sound system, and he picked a B&K Reference 20 preamplifier to process the surround mix. Left and right channels are connected to a Mackie DFX12 mixer, which leaves Gary and Sandy 10 channels to add instruments or microphones for creating a PA system or an impromptu concert.
“I play drums, and my wife plays keyboards, and we’ll have people show up or schedule something for a cookout because we’ve got friends with other instruments,” Gary says. “Or you can put in a concert video, crank up the speakers, and it’s like being there. It’s hard to pry my wife away on weekends. She just wants to stay out there.”
There really isn’t much reason to leave The Grill once the Pattersons and friends decide to settle in for an evening. The only local content source is an Oppo Digital DVD player, which can be used to pop in a DVD, upscaled to 1080i resolution, or a CD brought by one of the guests. Everything else is stored in the house, such as a high-def DirecTV DVR, two Sony 400-disc DVD/CD megachangers and an old-school SeaBand satellite control, with video routed through a DVDO iScan processor. A few clicks of a Logitech 890 remote lets the homeowners choose whatever TV show, movie or song they want, with help from Niles Audio Cat 5 baluns that deliver the HD video and digital audio from the interior hub.
“We really wanted something that when you walk up, you say, ‘Wow, that’s pretty cool,’ and we feel like we hit the mark there,” says Gary. “Every Friday night, the whole neighborhood shows up. Everyone pulls up in golf carts, and it’s like a drive-in theater.”
The Pattersons aren’t finished, either. Because the projection only works well after sunset, Gary plans to add an LCD for daytime viewing. Just one more reason to enjoy the great outdoors.
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Arlen writes about home technology installations and product news and reviews for electronichouse.com
and Electronic House magazine.