Installing a multiple-display media system—not to be confused with a multimedia system—can be as complicated or as difficult as you make it, and it always helps if you know what you are doing. And Tim Rooney, owner of All Around Technology (AAT) in Rockville, Md., certainly does.
He and his team designed an integrated home and multi-display media room for Washington, D.C.-area real-estate magnate Herb Miller and family that culminated in AAT winning CEDIA’s 2004 Electronic Lifestyles Award for Best Integrated Home Level V.
Fast-forward three years. Miller was downsizing and moving to a smaller residence with his family. The house he purchased had several media rooms, which were, coincidentally, also installed by Rooney and the AAT team for the previous owner. The Millers wanted to retain the gorgeous millwork and fireplace along the front wall and keep the construction to an absolute minimum. “We found that we could construct a new rear wall that would give us an extra 24” depth to house all the speakers and TVs,” says Rooney. “By doing it this way, we were able to reuse the existing wall fabric, which was a custom dye lot now three years old.”
The media room that AAT was now hired to remodel had an existing Runco plasma hidden behind a piece of custom artwork that slides to the right for viewing. However, Miller wanted to duplicate the award-winning five-display media wall in this room, so a media-room remodel was in order.
“Herb really wanted to be able to use the system with the lights on, something he couldn’t do in his previous home,” says Rooney. “At the time we installed that original system in his old house, flat-panel displays were not being manufactured as small or as large as we needed them to be. We had to use a projector to get the 107-inch picture and four 32-inch (4:3) CRTs to fit into that space. Now we have more options, and by using all panel displays, Herb can watch with the lights on and has a great, consistent image across all five sets.”
In this new design, AAT selected four 32-inch LG 32LB4D LCDs as secondary displays. These were easy to install compared to hanging the main display—a 103-inch Panasonic TH-103PZ600U plasma—which was an exercise in brute force. (See sidebar “Hanging the 500-Pound Beast.”)
Once installed, the displays needed careful calibration. “We were very concerned about matching the color of the plasma to the secondary LCD displays. Fortunately, we have one of the best video calibrators in the country, Jim Doolittle. We flew him in from Boston to work his magic.” (See sidebar “The Science and Expertise of Calibration”).
Extreme Power Management
In addition to having five displays for watching sports and politics, Miller’s requirements for the new media-room were that the system be reliable, extremely simple to operate and sound incredible. To bolster reliability, Rooney and the AAT project team designed the entire system to run on a large MGE Dual Conversion UPS System that gives the Millers approximately two hours of run time when the power goes out (and a lot more than that if the system is on standby).
“Components, especially cable boxes and satellite receivers, are unpredictable when they lose their power,” says Rooney. “We didn’t want the homeowner to have to deal with those issues, so we needed constant power, which the MGE system accomplishes.”
For simplicity’s sake, AAT gave the Millers a Crestron MC-2E control system and Crestron TPMC8X touch panel with a graphic interface that looks very much like the five-display TV wall. If Miller wants to control one of the TVs, he simply presses the corresponding set on the touch panel. Rooney also equipped the Millers with a Universal Remote Control MX-980 remote to simplify the TV-watching aspect of the system.
“While touch panels offer a lot of functionality, sometimes clients appreciate having the option of using a simpler remote,” says Rooney. For consistency, Rooney used the MX-980 remote in all the home’s other media and television systems. That way, if a guest can operate the plasma in their room via the MX-980, they will be able to operate the system in the media room. Of course, there is much more to making a complex system like this run smoothly, and that is largely due to Rooney’s philosophy to keep systems incredibly simple throughout the entire design and installation process. (See sidebar “Multiple-Display Media Systems Made Easy” for details.)
A Sound Choice
For incredible sound, AAT used an Anthem AVM-40 surround sound and Anthem P5 Statement amplifier running James Loudspeakers 83-SDX fronts, 62-SDX rears and two EMB-1200 subwoofers in a 5.2 configuration. “We would have liked to get the side speakers in for 7.2 surround, but the ceiling was full of pipe, and the side wall locations were unavailable because the installation process would have required new fabric walls,” says Rooney.
With the previous owners’ system, AAT had installed treatments of stretched fabric over one-inch rigid fiberglass. Rooney used the same type of material across the front of the new multi-display wall, which worked well to cover the center and subwoofers.
“Because we were limiting the scope of our work to the existing conditions, we used a Dolby LP8D8 equalizer that offers phenomenal DSP equalization capability to fine tune the performance,” says Rooney. “We had a studio engineer familiar with the Dolby equalizer and software come in and EQ the room for the best sound. The result is stunning.”
With this solutions-oriented approach to meeting clients’ goals, it’s no wonder that Miller used AAT again for this media-room remodel. While this kind of loyalty is sometimes hard to find, it isn’t hard to foster, according to Rooney. (See sidebar, “Rooney’s Top Five Tips for Building Customer Loyalty,” for details.)
The breathtaking room has a gorgeous back wall with interesting artwork, millwork, and a cozy fireplace that is juxtaposed by a slick high-tech media wall up front. The effect of mixing high-tech with luxurious comfort is never jarring or forced, but rather a kind of natural evolution. Now, the Millers are even more pleased with their second multi-display wall than they were with their first. Miller’s son, who is a film buff and film major, can now watch Blu-ray movies or DVDs in the room, and Miller can enjoy five different programs, whether sports or politics, on the multi-display wall without feeling intimidated or overwhelmed by the system. In fact, the media room is the most popular room in the house—a sign that Rooney and his team at AAT will surely be around for the Millers’ next big move. CR