* NOW UPDATED WITH MORE JUICY SYSTEM DETAILS *
From sleek sounds systems on a superyacht to the ultimate games room - these are not movie sets but real homes, fitted out with the latest technology by custom-install experts.
The Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association (CEDIA) has just showcased the best its talented members have to offer - from affordable yet amazing home cinema projects to palatial home-automation projects we can only dream of.
This year I had the honour of being on the judging panel for the Region 1 Awards, alongside install, architectural and interior design specialists, plus some fellow technology types.
It meant I got to see a wealth of stunning projects from across the UK, Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Picking just a few winners was a tough task - and made my own home seem very kit-cluttered and cable-strewn, with just too many buttons to press...
Here are the 2011 CEDIA Region One Awards winners, complete with some pictures to give you just a flavour of the AV delights on offer to the lucky householders involved.
Some of the photographs highlight the entertainment kit in action; other show just how discreet custom-install systems can be - see if you can spot where the technology is hidden...
Best Media Room under £15,000
Winner: Dawsons Group, Integrated Media Room,UK
For the judges, the result is a “living space that works well with the technology and is not dominated by it, which is what this category is all about”. Nothing detracts from the main feature of the room – its fireplace – however, the client’s expectations demanded a multitude of AV products with switching and sourcing equipment remaining hidden (in the cabinet to the left of the screen).
To preserve the integrity of the interior design, Amina in-wall speakers were installed and although the shape of the room presented major challenges, Dawsons were able to test and achieve perfectly balanced 5.1 surround sound.
A Crestron Prodigy control system incorporates the Sky HD, Blu-ray, iPod and lighting onto one intuitive system that operates simply through one Crestron controller, while allowing further rooms to become integrated later.
The 42in screen has been subtly recessed, allowing the fireplace its pride of place and, to meet the demands of family life, Dawsons added an extra Sky box to increase the flexibility of both this room and the rest of the house.
Best Media Room over £15,000
Winner: Grahams Hi-Fi, The Pope’s House, UK (above)
Judged to be: “a beautiful bedroom that doubles as a completely concealed media room – incredible integration. Every bedroom should be like this one!”
The views from this beautiful home are stunning and the full length glass windows extend the room into the scenery beyond. The owners needed the install to respect both this view and the house's minimalist decor.
Grahams triumphed in achieving the brief. When the projector screen is stored, the room appears completely media free. Hardware is located in the main AV hub away from the bedroom itself. This allowed for the full integration of the bedroom on to the same system that controls the heating and ventilation, saving valued space in the room and minimising obvious signs of the system.
As a bonus, the video feeds from the CCTV and front door cameras were added to the system, which delivers content from both a Sky+ HD box and a Kaleidescape server.
The silent motor in the screen and perfectly judged angle of the projector (stored in the adjacent dressing room to mask any noise) complete the project which the judges loved for its subtle blend of design and technology.
Incidentally, this room is part of larger, £100,000+ overhaul of the home's technology - which even includes an entertainment system in the well-appointed panic room!
Best Media Room over £15,000
Highly Commended: Olive AV, The Art House, UK
Olive AV achieved a clinical and clever installation in this London basement – a multi-function, clutter-free media room.
The project features in-wall and ceiling speakers to complement the visual impact of the 85in screen.
The client has commented on how the clarity of screen coupled with the top-notch sound creates a “real sense of being there” and the judges agreed, stating, “the sound system and integration is amazing.”
Best Home Cinema under £40,000
Winner: The Big Picture, The Junk Room, UK
The client, a big movie fan, wanted to transform his double garage – currently used as a junk room – into a dedicated home cinema. The Big Picture used as much of the client’s current equipment as possible, which included Lutron hardware, a projector, an amp and Blu-ray player.
The project’s design features a room within a room to achieve better insulation, acoustic properties and the sense of an old-world cinema, far away from the reality of the outside world.
The set-up includes a custom-made, acoustically transparent 2.9m screen, with left, centre and right B&W speakers placed behind the screen.
The audio system comprises 94Db sensitive speakers (the most efficient within budgetary constraints), two 12in Velodyne subwoofers and rear speakers.
Hidden floor boxes were placed either side of the sofa to allow for internet, video and audio connection into the system.
But it’s the delighted client who offers the final verdict on this installation: “They delivered way beyond our remit and expectations.”
Best Home Cinema £40,000 - £100,000
More after the break
Winner: Prestige Audio, Northwood Home Cinema, UK
“A true re-creation of a cinematic experience in the home” was the judges’ verdict on this stunning home cinema with its scarlet red interior.
A single Crestron TPS-6X controls all functions of the room, including lighting scenes, AC and cinema functions, which are laid out in a simple, easy-to-use design for intuitive use by all family members, young and old.
HD projection is via a Runco VX-3000 projector, complete with a Cinewide lens. This was coupled with a 120in flat-masking screen, an essential aspect to ensure the client could watch his favourite TV viewing of Bollywood productions, which are currently in 16:9.
Audio includes seven speakers and two subwoofers, with a movie server providing the HD content.
Best Home Cinema over £100,000
Winner: FAB Audio Visual, Arabian Nights, UK
The judges praised the room’s surround sound system, complete with two Genelec HTS4B floor level subwoofers and two Genelec A1W312 active hidden monitors, concealed either side of the 120in screen.
The Screen Excellence acoustically transparent screen also conceals the HT312 centre speaker. The home cinema boasts a total of six Genelec A1Q25 active mounted speakers completing the sound system.
At the heart of the audio system sits an Onkyo SC886 processor and a Dolby Lake sound equalizer, usually found in large live music venues.
A single Crestron touchpanel controls the entire home cinema’s automation. As soon as a video source is selected (the options include a Kaleidescape movie server and Sky HD+), the projector and amplification turn on and the lights dim, giving spectators a real cinematic experience.
A Digital Projection Titan 1080p DLP projector and ISCO 3 anamorphic lens and lens carriage create the perfect image. To ensure the client was not disturbed by any unnecessary noise, the projector is housed in a mechanically ventilated box in the ceiling void of the room next door.
Best Integrated Home under £30,000
Winner: Elytronic, Hi-Tech Renovation, Cyprus
An integrated system for this modern, recently renovated home, incorporating multi-room audio and video distribution, a dedicated media room, lighting, blind and air-conditioning control presented major integration challenges for Elytronic.
Wireless technology and IR control featured prominently in the company’s discreet and effective solution, which, according to the judges, “simply looks fantastic”.
A total of 38 circuits and twelve blinds have been integrated using RAKO wireless dimmers and motor controls. RAKO modules are thoughtfully positioned behind removable spotlights and existing airconditioning panels to ensure serviceability and easy access.
High-definition video distribution is accomplished thanks to an AMX Precis LT 8x8 matrix, which switches to a total of four TV points - in the kitchen, the master bedroom, the living room and the living room home cinema projector.
This projector is mounted on a Future Automation lift, while a 3m Screenline in-ceiling screen also features in the media room to avoid compromising interior aesthetics.
All cables, meanwhile, have been managed to eliminate stressing when a screen rotates on its table stand or wall mount.
A six-zone Sonos multi-room audio system integrates with a NAS drive, hosting the client’s own music library, together with on-line music services and internet radio.
Best Integrated Home £30,000 - £110,000
Winner: SMC, Chelsea Family Home, UK
SMC provided an incredibly flexible and technically impressive installation for this family home in Chelsea.
The owners commissioned the company to add more value to their house, which they had recently put on the market. With this in mind, the system had to be versatile enough to suit current and future needs - with a special request for the audio system to create ambience during house viewings!
Included in the integration is a dedicated media room and the further integration of the lighting controls and heating, ventilation and airconditioning (HVAC).
A strong emphasis was placed on security and the CCTV is viewable through both the television and AMX touchscreens in the property. There is a secure video entry system, again, operated through the AMX system for both the front and rear of the home.
As the soon-to-be owner of the property was an unknown, SMC laid CAT5 cabling for HD and Ethernet connectivity, allowing complete freedom of choice in their home entertainment needs.
Best Integrated Home £30,000 - £110,000
Highly Commended: De Opera Domotica, Modern Home,The Netherlands
This impressively presented family home needed the addition of AV, IT, telephony, lighting and security to integrate on to a Crestron control solution and exist as close to invisible as possible. This meant an early and close working relationship with the interior designers. The system also had to be easy to use for the benefit of the client’s young children.
The operation of the entire system works through an intuitively programmed combination of two iPads and the control interfaces, both wall mounted and wireless.
A sense of invisible speakers was achieved through the netting that was tested for its audio performance and then rolled out across the projector housing and air conditioning outlets to ensure continuity.
Both the pool and bar area are stunning, with an array of high-end audio and video features that make it hugely versatile without ever having to compromise performance.
Best Integrated Home over £100,000
Winner: Henri Intégrateur Domotique, Villa des Amis, France
Described by the judges as “architecturally the top of this category”, “simply beautiful” and “somewhere we all dream of living”, this amazing family retreat operates as a holiday home for the client but also as an important social space for regular guests and extended family members.
With this in mind, the house needed to be suitable for entertaining as well as retaining a homely feel. As a holiday home, a robust security system was also a must to ensure full protection when empty.
Henri designed, integrated and installed an expansive, integrated custom installation, featuring lighting, whole-home audio, video, security, and control of all electronic devices, extending across all four floors of the property.
It is in the communal areas where the family enjoy the full scope of the technology installed. This has been purposely orchestrated to bring the family and guests together to enjoy these spaces and each other’s company to the full.
In keeping with the visual integrity of the property, the touchscreens for system operation are coherent from room to room and sit near doorways and windows to avoid any conflict with the home’s impressive décor.
Underground lies a leisure area: a gym, a pool, a stunning home cinema, a small library, a video collection, a gaming room, and a wine cellar with its own bar.
The pool and Turkish bath area is fitted with biometric access to avoid children entering without supervision and the entire security system is accessible from any location via the internet. As a bonus, Henri added energy saving devices to the racking as well as an advanced cabling system for further integration and upgrades.
Best Integrated Home over £100,000
Highly Commended: Federal Technologies, Private Villa, Abu Dhabi
This client was very clear in the brief for a luxury villa in Abu Dhabi. It was to “represent the very best in opulence.”
Federal Technologies rose to the occasion, with a whole-home solution including state-of-the-art communications, security, comfort and entertainment - while hiding speakers from view and ensuring the control was both intuitive for family, guests and staff to use.
It’s an impressive smart home - complete with multi-lingual control interfaces - that still functions as a family space for the client, his young children and elderly parents.
For the judges, “Federal Technologies went that extra mile to please the client. It’s a great example of integrating technology to fit into the family’s life and not the other way around.”
Best Innovative Solution - Residential
Winner: MR Domotica, Custom Built Motorised Hidden TV, The Netherlands
The clients requested a television to be installed to the kitchen that could not be seen when not in use, and during use would need to rotate to face all areas of the kitchen – a span of 270 degrees.
MR Domotica searched for suitable products but decided that a custom design was the only real solution. They combined three motors into one effective mechanism: one motor to open the door, one to bring the TV from inside the wall and one to facilitate rotation.
What really impressed the judges was not just the bespoke solution but its finer details. The installers factored for upgrades and the mechanism will accommodate a variety of screens if the current one is ever changed.
It will also complete its action with quick and quiet efficiency and was tested continuously for a week in the workshop before being installed to the home.
Best Multiple Scheme for a Property Developer
Winner: SMC, The Lancasters, UK
This London terrace had fallen into dilapidation and drew upon the skill of architects, developers and interior designers to bring the development back in line with its Grade II listed status.
The plan was to create a unique fusion of traditional architecture and cutting-edge design. Integrated technology was identified as significant in achieving this result and SMC has delivered AV, HVAC, lighting, shading, CCTV, security, door-entry and concierge communication, without detracting from the architectural splendour of the original features.
To limit the impact on the interior design scheme, SMC decided on IP-networkable digital systems throughout. The company worked with Crestron to produce a custom made 4in VOIP touchpanel compatible with the IP-network routing.
Each apartment has been wired for sound throughout, with keypads in place for volume control and source switching. The lighting schemes are unique to each apartment and the whole-home pre-sets vary depending on the location. with all South-facing apartments having integrated shading options, too.
A collaborative project involving Crestron and BPT’s development teams produced a bespoke VOIP video entry system and further bespoke solutions were provided by Lutron, who supplied a touchpanel designed around the interior colour schemes to control the lighting, HVAC, shading, AV switching, sourcing and volume.
The result sees 77 homes combine a seamless blend of period architecture and custom installation –mid-19th century architecture and bespoke smarthome solutions with which the client is delighted.
Winner: Sensory International, MY CLOUD 9, UK
The jaw-dropping technical installation here is every bit as enthralling as the visual spectacle of this yacht. The judges applauded Sensory International’s “ability to tease out full performance from every aspect of the equipment’s specifications”.
Every major area and cabin is supplied with cabling to effectively deliver the onboard media, while laying the provisions for future technologies. Each cabin enjoys its own HD satellite receiver, iPod docking and AV switching and amplification as well as movie servers.
A Kaleidescape server facilitates four independent feeds for the shared areas onboard and in “party” mode guests can set a single source to play throughout the yacht.
In the Sky Lounge a 90in projector screen extends from a motorised seating section and when taken back is completely hidden from view.
The discretion required from the interior design is maintained throughout with artwork masking the display screen in the master cabin and in the main saloon a lift-and-swivel mechanism extends and retracts the display from behind the seating.
The success of this project is best reflected when considering that Cloud 9 is the second commissioned project in this line and the third is now underway, having been identified as the standard specification by the shipyard for future builds.
Highly Commended: Dawsons Group, MY Chiqui, UK
A gorgeous and intimate yacht with great entertainment integration, this project proved a major upgrade challenge for Dawsons.
The client had decided to improve the existing AV spec to include a DVD and Blu-ray server integrated to every screen in the yacht, and working from a single platform. External speakers were also upgraded to bring them in-line with the quality of the new system.
Best Dressed Rack
Stop giggling - this award recognises the best behind-the-scenes work on an install; having an easily accessible/upgradeable rack that doesn't overheat is key.
Winner: Lewis Building Technology, Integrated Home Automation & Security, UK
This rack is located in the loft of a home where all audiovisual, data, security and lighting is centrally managed.
It supports an installation involving an incredible 26km - yes, kilometres - of Category 6 structured data cable, which distributes and controls the entire system with the exception of analogue speakers.
The loft space is restricted by the roof pitch, so the rack uses four adjacent 24U 19in cabinets. The two central cabinets are 800mm wide, providing vertical and horizontal cable management to all racks.
The four racks are home to a huge array of sources and equipment including AV Amps, surround sound controllers, AMX control, two Sky+ HD receivers, two Freesat receivers, an HDMI matrix, two AMX audio matrices, structured data patch panels, incoming broadband and telephone, PoE network switcher, connections to AV devices, heating and lighting, wireless and zigbee access points, security equipment and UPS!
Lewis Building Technology developed a separate interface for the client so that they can reboot the Sky receivers from their AMX touch screens. This interrupts the 230v mains to the Sky receivers and monitors consumption so that the AMX system is aware that the units have powered up.
Behind the cabinets, a solid plinth conceals floor-mounted cable trays and allows easy access to the rear of the rack for maintenance.
The CEDIA members themselves also voted on two trade categories: Best Trade Supplier was won by Creston, while Best Training Initiative went to Lutron.
An additional, new Award was Technician of the Year, open to open to nominations by member companies, seeking to reward an installer who consistently produces work to the highest standard. The inaugural winner was Laura Lazzerini from Italy’s Studio LGL.
And that's it for another year. We're off to buy Lottery tickets....