Friday, August 10, 2012

Unique Project Wins CEDIA 2012 Gold Award

By Todd Jarvis, Sterling Home Technologies

Each year, CEDIA recognizes the best of the best in the residential electronic systems industry. 2012 was a year of innovation, creativity, and technological advancement. This year, PMI was recognized with two Gold Awards for Technical Excellence in the Home Theater category of the 2012 CEDIA Electronic Lifestyles® Awards. One of these awards (Level IV) was a project where we partnered with Sterling Home Technologies in San Antonio, Texas.  

The main objective with this project was to deliver the best possible image and acoustics the client had ever experienced with minimal compromise and within a defined budget. During one of the first meetings with the client he said “I’m not looking for popcorn machines or spider man hanging from the ceiling - I want to be able to watch a movie loud enough to make my ears bleed while my wife sleeps in the bedroom on the other side of the wall.”

The design of the home was 99% complete when the client decided to add a serious dedicated home theater room. I received an eleventh hour phone call from the architect asking for room dimensions for a home theater. My first response was “no problem, how long is a piece of string…” He laughed and said ok, what size? We worked it out, but the result was that the home theater ended up right next to the master bedroom, requiring acoustic isolation to become a key component of the job.

The way we were able to achieve the client's request within the architectural challenge of having the home theater NEXT to the master bedroom: creating a superlative sounding room, with over-the-top volume and complete sound isolation.

The Runco video is awesome, the audio rocks, the Crestron system is super-cool. But what's over-the-top are the acoustics and sound isolation. The room sounds incredible; Tony Grimani said it's one of the best sounding rooms he's ever been in - even those that are multiples times the cost. During the two days of calibration, there were times when we had it so loud you had to have ear plugs, far louder than anyone would ever actually watch a movie, and you literally could NOT hear it in the adjacent master bedroom. And that's exactly what the client asked for a year and a half earlier.

photos by Jason Roberts

The audio system was carefully tested debugged and configured following a 90-step process. The electro- acoustic measurements were performed using a combination of near-field and far-field measurements, using both impulse response and real-time analysis tools, and then weighted using PMI’s patented SBIC method. Room correction was painstakingly manually implemented with a digital equalization processor. Extensive listening tests were used for fine-tuning of the room and speaker voicing. Audio standards were SMPTE 202M, THX, Dolby Digital and CEDIA best practices.

The video system was configured through all of the HDMI potential settings and tested with a wide array of calibration discs. Sencore analyzer was used for measurements to set primaries, secondaries, gray scale, and all other colorimetry adjustments. Fine tuning of gray scale was done with gray scale comparison to a reference D65 broadcast-grade monitor. Viewing tests performed at the end were used to confirm all of the settings.

The client wanted the ultimate audio/video experience, AND he wanted it loud, AND he didn’t want anyone outside the theater to hear it. This required significant coordination with the client, architect, builder, and most importantly our partnership with PMI. The acoustic engineering PMI provided gave us all the confidence that it would actually work. At the beginning of the job there were a lot of doubters. During the construction we heard a lot of “wow, I had no idea” … “you’re crazy.”  At the end of the job it worked perfectly!

The client was - and still is - really happy and grinning from ear-to-ear. The irony is that this is one of those projects where most of the hard work is all behind the scenes and the casual observer would never know what it took to make it happen.