May 01, 2008
by Lisa Montgomery
It all began with a basic music system for the backyard. To give the patio and swimming pool a bit more pizzazz, the owners of this outdoor entertainment area hired Simply Sight & Sound of Orange County, CA, to install a whole-house music system that could deliver tunes to several outdoor SpeakerCraft speakers. Video had been available to the homeowners too, thanks to a “portable” plasma TV that could be carted to a special area on the patio. Simply Sight & Sound’s Jeff Cooper admits that it was a fairly cumbersome setup. “They had to pull the plasma off the wall in their bedroom every time they wanted to watch something outside,” he says.
Ready to simplify their entertainment arrangement, the owners called in Cooper to design a system that could stay outside permanently. Before a single piece of electronics could be installed, however, something to shield the display from the sun, rain and other outdoor elements would need to be constructed. A 15-by-15-foot covered cabana was created, comprised of four stone columns supporting a sturdy hipped roof. Within the open-beamed ceiling Cooper and his installation team tucked a Samsung 46-inch LCD TV and two SpeakerCraft speakers. Positioned on an adjustable Omni mount, the display derives video from an assortment of components located inside the house.
Using a custom-programmed RTI T2+ handheld remote, the owners can access a DirecTV satellite receiver and a Denon DVD player. Songs stored on the hard drive of an Escient FireBall music server can travel via trenched cabling to just the two speakers in the cabana or to every speaker on the property, depending on which audio zones the owners choose to activate. Video games and iPod music are options, too, as the entertainment area was equipped with outlets for game consoles and portable music players.
But the biggest audio/video impact comes from a soffit perched on an eave of the cabana. At the touch of button on the RTI remote, a 161-inch Draper video screen drops from the ceiling, turning the backyard into an outdoor movie theater. “The kids bring over their friends for movie nights out on the lawn,” says Cooper. A lightweight Epson video projector, which the owners keep inside until movie time, beams images from the DVD player or satellite receiver onto the screen. When the show is over, another press of a button tells the motorized screen to roll up into its housing, transforming the area back to its original design.
Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.