NEWS / BLOG

Wait! Where’s the TV?

Interior Design and Technology

Technology in Design by Vanilla Ice (Vanilla Ice Project)

It’s quite the dilemma. Many of us are fixated on home renovation shows, becoming obsessed with shiplap and subway tile.  We’re into open floor plans and oversized clocks. We want large dining rooms and dreamy outdoor spaces for entertaining, but when we’re ready to settle in on the comfy couch for our favorite weekly drama, or curl up with the family to stream a movie, we’d like to see a TV!  Have you noticed what’s missing in some of the “fixer upper” shows? Technology! Why IS that? Granted, some embrace technology-free zones with no disruptive television, gaming consoles or mobile devices in designated homework or family dinner spaces. That’s great, but many technologies actually keep us safe, comfortable, informed and entertained. Window coverings, LEDs, control devices and lighting design are elegant and convenient. So, why is technology so often overlooked in design?

Plan Now or Patch Later

First, for the best possible outcome, let the technology solutions provider (us) work with the Interior Designer from the onset of the project.  We can determine the technology requirements and provide the needed infrastructure before the shiplap, subway tile or custom wallpaper goes up. We can provide the cabling and determine power requirements, saving time and costly refinish work now or down the road. Sure, that painting looks great over the mantle, but would you eventually like to hang an OLED there? Let’s wire for it now so we don’t disturb the brick or wood later. Or, even better, let’s hang it now and conceal it with custom framed artwork that scrolls up to reveal the display! Oh yes, we can!

Wireless Isn’t the Only Answer

Windows are another key design element that require careful planning. Not only should consideration be made for the type and size of windows in media areas and other TV viewing areas, but thoughtful pre-wiring for control and power will be appreciated when you decide to install motorized shades.  It’s true that control for some features can be via wireless remotes, but we still need a power source. The same holds true for keypads and touchscreens, projectors, security features, architectural speakers and especially the home’s equipment rack.  The equipment rack is the technology hub, housing some or all of the system’s components. It is often centrally located in a closet that offers adequate ventilation and the ability to run cabling for every device and control interface to each room of the house. Homes with crawl spaces, basements and attics make this task somewhat easier, but often times we are faced with concrete, wood beams or even glass walls and floors of exquisite hardwood or tile that don’t allow access.  Get the picture?

Speaking of exquisite features, one “designer” that truly embraces tech is South Florida’s Vanilla Ice. While his over-the-top “bring on the bling” style is as different as our landscapes, his luxury designs focus on the elegance, entertainment and fun-factor of well-planned integrated technologies. From outdoor living areas, kitchens, master bedrooms and baths to outrageous home theaters and virtual reality gaming rooms, he focuses on how the family will use the space and designs around the technology. Say what you will about a rapper-turned-house-flipper, but his VIP (Vanilla Ice Project) designs require no retrofit (and he’s all about that fancy wallpaper).

So, let’s get the whole design team – the homeowner, the interior designer, architect and technology solutions provider in sync.  The end result will be a happy homeowner and beautiful, untouched high-end finishes (or maybe even some shiplap)!

Coming to a Stream Near You – Lossless Audio!

The music you play is as important as what you play it on and what you play it through. The truest, cleanest, highest bit rate content will yield the best sound under all the right conditions (connections, components, calibrations). Analog may be the “original”, but access and format are a challenge. So, how can you enjoy truly lossless audio?

What’s Missing?

We want our music and we want it now…but are we willing to compromise on quality? That answer seems to be yes, but to a point.  While earbuds and a smartphone can produce rather impressive sound, we understand that digital content is compressed and that we’re missing out on some of the depth (think standard definition vs. 4K). Portions of the music that have been deemed indiscernible to the human ear have been carved out.  This may be acceptable for casual on-the-go listening or while at the gym, but not when you want to really experience music. But that’s about to change.

On a mission to make available top-quality digital sound at a reasonable cost, rocker Neil Young is preparing to launch a high-quality streaming music service, Xstream. Xstream is based on a technology developed by Orastream and will be an adaptive streaming service that changes with available bandwidth. His feeling is that the higher bit rate will provide a more authentic analog sound vs. the more “squared-off” (more compressed) bit-rate which loses, in some ears, the essence of the music. While the technology behind the service is amazing in that it is capable of complete high resolution playback, Young himself expressed doubts that smartphone chips could adequately decipher the high-quality files.

Making a splash in the streaming service is Tidal.  Tidal is the first subscription streaming service to offer High Fidelity music along with HD music videos. Their lossless audio will stream on Apple devices and Android systems, as well as on a PC or when integrated in a wide range of hi-fi network players. To really appreciate the difference, they offer an audible demonstration of Lossless 1411 kbps (kilobits per second) music, as compared to the Vorbis 320 kbps of Spotify’s desktop version and iTunes’s AAC 256 kbps*.

Popular streaming service Spotify is reportedly testing the market for lossless audio too.  The service tier referred to as Spotify Hi-Fi would be competively priced between $15-$20/mo. Great news for those who want to access a vast library of tunes on a quality sound system.

If you’re one who enjoys hearing every note that every instrument plays which, until recently has meant analog, then these new streaming options are music to your ears. What you play it through (hi-end audio system) is another story, and one in which we at LaScala are eager to assist!

*As reported by Tidal

Additional References:

How to Build the Ideal Audiophile Listening Room

Bowers & Wilkins Blog: Digital Music – a Quick Guide to the Best Lossless files

Sony Music Goes Back to Vinyl Records

The Home-Field Advantage

Why go out to the sports bar, when you could build one in your own home?

 What comes to mind when you think of college football in Canada? Does the image of a crowded sports bar, or your friends and family struggling to view the same television screen come to mind? What about the ultimate in-home sports bar? Now, finding the best seat for the University of British Columbia game means never leaving the comfort of your own home.

When it comes to designing the ultimate in-home experience for game day viewing, a personal sports bar, with comfy furniture and lots of space to entertain, is highly sought-after. But what really matters is creating an immersive experience, complete with a large projection screen and high-definition projector or a huge flat screen television, and a complete surround sound system to bring the sights and sounds of the stadium into your home.

With your own in-home football zone, you never have to worry if the bar will be playing the right game, or if you’ll be entering into enemy territory. Your space can be designed around your team’s colors and memorabilia. Just think: acoustic paneling, comfy theater seating and wall art tailored for the ultimate UBC fan. Integrating your memorabilia and colors with the best audio and video can transform game day into an ultra-engaging sports experience.

Are fantasy sports more than just a hobby for you? Consider opting for multiple screens and watch multiple games at once, so you never have to miss a play. The ability to view multiple games and toggle between audio at the touch of a button gives any fantasy player an advantage on tracking stats.

And the options aren’t just limited to your home. Consider taking your dedication on the road with you, and deck out a mobile home like these Auburn football fans did, so that you always have the home-team advantage. Regardless of where you wish to create your personal “home team advantage,” give us a call and we’ll get your project kicked-off!

What’s Trending in Home Automation? Luxury

Gone are the days of home automation and luxury being two separate conversations and design concepts. More and more, luxury living is embracing home automation in order to provide optimal comfort solutions.

Imagine walking into your home, and the first thing your eye is drawn to is the artwork in your foyer – highlighted using experienced lighting design. Entertain guests with your high-tech wine cellar, complete with automated climate control and inventory management system. Even more, control the quality of the air inside your home.

And the options don’t end on the inside. Control luxury water features, audio and video entertainment systems, even operate a summer kitchen by the pool.

Home automation technology provides the epitome of luxury when combined with your own design style. The right technology will allow you to personalize your system to suit your lifestyle, giving you control of everything in your home – from the window shades, to the temperature and air quality, to your lights and even your security system. Advances in this technology provide you easy access to your entire home from your phone or tablet, and some systems can even operate via voice-activation.

With today’s trends in home automation luxury, nothing is off-limits. Whether you want a top-of-the-line smart kitchen, an all-encompassing security system, or an over-the-top outdoor movie theatre – there is a right mix of home automation technology for you that can be designed to suit your individual home design style.

How to Build a Listening Room, Part 2

We talked about performance speakers and the importance of proper speaker placement in Part 1 of our Listening Room feature. We also covered the acoustic properties and critical dimensions of the room design. Now, let’s dive into what drives the sound!

Key Components

The heart of your system driving sound to each channel is the amplifier.  Unlike your Home Theater’s AV Receiver that houses an all-in-one pre-amp, amplifier and processor for surround sound, hi-end audio systems have dedicated amplifiers, often one per channel. A more sophisticated set-up will have 2-way or 3-way amps that support each speaker. A pre-amp serves as the input device. It will convert signals from all audio sources such as a tuner, turntable and streaming devices to the signal that the amp wants.

It’s essential that the amplifier be matched to the specifications of the speaker to provide optimal output. LaScala can guide you through your choices and design to your listening preferences.  Our go-to is Classé, part of the B&W Group. Their line of components offers exquisite sound to complement any hi-end audio system. Check out this recent review of the Sigma 2200i integrated amplifier by Stereophile.

Connections

It is common knowledge that HDMI Cables are required to pass 4K and hi-end audio has similar requirements. Like video, quality cables are recommended for a solid, clean connection.  That doesn’t necessarily mean the most expensive, just of good quality and appropriately sized for the given application. We can calculate the appropriate gauge cable that will deliver the necessary wattage to the speaker based on the distance. As for the connectors, gold are preferred over silver or other metallic. Locking connectors are a good choice for equipment that is seldom moved.

Having sufficient, clean power is paramount to the sound quality. Every AV system needs a name brand, purposely built, surge protector. Surge protection will remove artifacts from your power, filtering out spikes and dips. Insufficient power can make the amplifiers put out harmonics that will “color” the sound, creating unwanted distortion.

Commissioning

Once the system has been designed and the components selected, the next step is installation and commissioning. Measuring and testing the room’s characteristics, reverb, etc., we’ll “tune” the room to enable undistorted sound.   By adjusting equalization (EQ), gain structure and speaker placement, we target a flat frequency response.

Content in Controversy

We often hear that a turntable’s needle against vinyl is the only way to listen to music. It can be argued that the harmonic distortion created introduces a mild alteration that is perceived by many as warmth. The pops and crackles the needle yields evoke a “vintage” sense that some find pleasing and quite authentic. However, according to Mark Slee of Facebook, “In terms of fidelity and accuracy of sonic reproduction, CDs outperform vinyl in significant ways. With that said, there are sonic artifacts and emotional attachments with vinyl that many find pleasing. This creates a preference for vinyl – which some would describe as better, but this is a subjective quality as measured by the ear of the beholder.” With turntable sales up 16%, there’s apparently some “old schoolers” out there that agree.

The higher the bit rate of the audio, the more accurate the sound. Analog is uncompressed and the format truest to form. Overly processed audio, on the other hand, can mask or cancel parts of the music, eliminating the ability to hear everything as it was mastered.

All things being equal, the more information a format can transmit, the better the sound produced. For the best listening experience, the sound transmitted should pass through quality cabling and components and be listened to in a space that is purposefully designed to capture every nuance. Are you ready to hear what you’ve been missing? Let our award-winning team at LaScala help design or retrofit your personal listening space and enjoy music as it was intended to be!

Additional Resources:

Is the sound on vinyl records better than on CDs or DVDs?

Vinyl Vs CD/Mp3: Insights into Music Formats & the Metaphysics of Our Music

24/192 Music Downloads…and why they make no sense

Sony Music Goes Back to Vinyl Records

What bitrate is needed to sound like analog FM?

Move Over Man Cave, The Lady Cave is here to Help Her Disconnect

Men aren’t the only ones to enjoy their personal space. She Sheds, Woman Caves, Lady Caves are throwing the man cave a “curve.” Feeling a need to escape the chaos and disconnect from the disruptive, hyper-connected world, the woman cave provides a soft sanctuary that continues to grow in popularity. Despite all the talk of “disconnecting”, many technologies can actually add comfort, convenience and the fun-factor to the space that is “for girls only!”  Here’s some things to keep in mind as you contemplate designing your personal corner of the world.

Choose your space

This is where the creativity begins. She caves are as varied as their female occupants. A spare bedroom with sunny windows that look out across the harbor may serve as a charming, relaxing haven while an outdoor she-shed (a transformed utility shed) may suit the clever crafter or budding artist quite well. With a little renovating, the attic could become the perfect refuge for the creative writer or provide some quiet “me-time” of yoga. Even a generously-sized closet or dressing room can become a cozy reading nook and, of course, the basement can make the ultimate gal-pal hangout, complete with wine frig and big screen.

Yours and Yours Alone

So, what’s your plan? Your space may require some outfitting or updates to make it comfortable and offer the amenities you desire. Disconnecting doesn’t necessarily mean a space void of any and all connectivity either. If you’re a fitness fanatic or serious music lover, you’ll want your she cave decked out with a nice sound system and HVAC control. The work-from-home entrepreneur will need to rely on a solid, secure network and the wine enthusiast may wish to consult her eSommelier or favorite Vivino app.

Additional smart technologies such as lighting and shade control, remote-controlled fireplaces and water features and user-friendly access to music or video streaming (yes, Chic-flicks!) can actually make things simpler and more comfortable.  And, while you may not want disruptive emails in your sanctuary, you do want to be reached if needed – safety first! And speaking of safety, nothing is more “glam” than security – both physically and digitally. Home technology can help you keep an eye on things – the front door, the crib-cam – which is comforting. Automating tasks such as locking all the doors, lowering all the window shades and turning on the alarm can instill a sense of calm after a chaotic day.

Design

No matter the look or theme of your space, properly planned technologies will not distract from your Zen. Whether working with your designer or putting the space together on your own, we can help by introducing you to gorgeous framed artwork that lifts to reveal your on-wall LCD and speakers that disguise themselves into the ceiling or wall without detracting from the décor. And imagine replacing that unsightly bank of light switches with an elegant keypad or touchscreen!

So, curl up on your chaise, grab your tablet or mirror your laptop on the big screen and scroll through these inspired spaces.  Imagine your perfect little getaway from the everyday and give us a call. Mom cave, shabby chic she shack…whatever suits you, and let’s get started!

Additional Resources:

At Home: The “she-shed” – women’s answer to the man cave

“She Shed:” The Answer to the Man Cave, WSJ Video

Today: Introducing the “She-Shed”: Women’s answer to the man cave

How to Build the Ideal Audiophile Listening Room, Part 1

B&W 800 Diamond Series

Hear the Music. Really Hear it.  “I’ve listened to that song a thousand times and I’m hearing things I’ve never heard before.”  That’s the definition of your perfect Listening Room. While our world of listening has transformed dramatically over the last decade, all that matters is what you want to hear. The science and mathematics are real, as are the hi-end audio components. The rest is subjective.

The Speakers

Loudspeakers convert electrical impulses into sound. Depending on the dimensions of the room, as well as the listener’s preferences, a well-designed audio system will transmit the desired range of frequencies (note that it may not be the widest range). Some audiophiles swear by 2-channel, with speakers positioned a calculated distance apart and at an optimal distance from the listener, facing the listener for a 2 dimensional listening experience.  The 2-channel system creates a virtual sound stage.  When professionally set-up, the listener is able to close his/her eyes and actually pick out exactly where, on the “stage”, that musician was positioned. Unlike viewing a movie, there is no need for various sounds (voice, music, effects) to “follow” around the room, so rear speakers or a full surround sound system are not desired. In fact, some find it unnatural for instruments to be heard behind them. The perfect speaker system, in the perfect acoustically treated room, will reproduce the sound as authentically as possible. However, while science can measure all facets of sound, the listening experience is quite personal and our passion for particular brands is rather cult-like. We, of course, have our favorites too.

An industry icon with a prestigious reputation built over 5 decades, Bowers & Wilkins touts its 800 Diamond Series as “the industry standard for accurate sound.” We couldn’t agree more.  The Diamond Dome tweeters of the iconic 802 D3 deliver natural treble while its Continuum cone and Aerofil cone provide amazing, subwoofer-free, midrange and bass, respectively.  Frequently the subject of audiophile reviews, the B&W Diamond Series does not disappoint. The D3 was unveiled last summer in Boston. Here’s a review featured in Audioholics that details the author’s experience of both the D3 as well as B&W’s flagship speaker, the $60k per pair Nautilus. The line’s CM Series, with its minimalist exterior and “tweeter on top” technology, also offers incredible audio performance. It is designed with the highest quality components and a “less is more” philosophy that ensures “nothing gets between you and the sound the artist intended you to hear.”

The Construction

Equally as important to the components is the environment.  The ideal listening room will be free of ambient noise and other distractions. Acoustic treatments will absorb the hum of the HVAC and rattling water pipes.  The space will be free of harsh lighting, filled only with soft, relaxing light and there will be no capacity for video. This combination of exceptional components producing nearly flawless sound and the distraction-free environment, will allow the listener to hear subtle artifacts in the music that were previously unnoticed.

The room’s furnishings and physical dimensions are essential to the experience.  The proper room requires some soft surfaces – some will say that even a glass coffee table or leather couch is not suitable as they will reflect sound, opting instead for fabric seating. The height of the seat back is recommended to be below the listener’s ear level, allowing unobstructed hearing without reflection. The single seat should be positioned in what will be known as the “sweet spot” or “money seat,” as determined by the engineer’s calculations. The calculations for the room itself are also of great importance.  To determine an acoustically accurate room for optimal listening, audio engineers employ the Bonello Graph, a method of calculating the ideal room ratio of dimension and volume, explained here by AcousticFields.com.  In the audiophile world, this is also referred to as the acoustic amoeba.

Are you an audiophile or serious music lover that wants to experience all that the music has to offer?  Hearing is believing! Let’s set up an in-home consultation and schedule a demo – you can even bring your own music. And stay-tuned. Part 2 will cover amplification, calibration, connectivity and content. Did you know Neil Young was launching a high-quality music streaming service?

Additional Resources:

Ideal Room Size Dimensions and Ratios for Audiophile Listening

Ideal Room Size Ratios & How To Apply The Bonello Graph

A Room to Listen In

B&W 800 Diamond Series

B&W 800 Diamond Series

A New Way to Keep Your Things Under Lock and Key

Smart Home Basics: Locks 101

We’ve all been there – you’re running late to work and you realize you never locked the door or closed the garage and you’re already at the office. If you are one of these people, a smart lock or garage might be for you!

With these smart security features, you’ll no longer need to rely solely on your existing monitoring system. By pairing your monitoring system with a smart lock or smart garage, you’re gaining 24/7 remote access to your home and who’s allowed in it – all from your smartphone or tablet. With features like keyless entry, remote locking and alert options, leaving a key under the mat is no longer necessary.

Smart locks and apps like Alarm.com’s have the ability to send you alerts whenever someone enters your home – and you will always know who it is, thanks to unique security codes you can set for each user. And good news for those forgetful folks: these apps can also send reminders whenever you forget to lock the door or close the garage, thanks to GPS monitoring on your phone. Thankfully, you’ll always have the ability to remotely lock and unlock your door.

Want more? Considering a smart lock with a video doorbell, or a camera that records each time your front door is opened. And if you’re one of the 70 percent of people who uses their garage as their main point-of-entry, some apps also feature alerts when movement is tracked by image sensors in your garage. And with a top-notch camera system, such as Luma Surveillance, you can even access remote playback and view live feed via their app.

Regardless of which smart home security technology you think is right for you, make sure you pair it with a professionally-monitored security system.  LaScala can help you pair features with your current or desired home automation system. For monitoring, we partner with Provident Security to keep your home secure. Give us a call and let’s get started. Then, you’ll be able to rest assured that your family (and belongings) are safe.

Additional Resources: Crestron

What are the Advantages of Custom Motorized Window Shades?

As chic as they are functional, motorized window treatments provide elegance and convenience to any space. They harvest natural daylight in sleek, sophisticated styles.  Motorized window coverings integrated into your home’s automated system make life easier, especially since many can now be controlled with your smart phone or tablet.  And, as they have become more popular in recent years, an added benefit is the increased value they bring to your home or office space.  But that’s just scratching the surface.

Designer-centric

There is a fabulous array of styles and custom solutions available that will complement any setting.  Aside from the huge variety of colors, patterns and weaves, the types of coverings are also extensive, ranging from pleated to honeycomb and roman shades to automated draperies.  Motorized treatments are even available for skylights, vertical and bottom-up applications for a unified design across all openings.

A 2017 trend is “clean”, multi-layered window treatments, pairing simple drapery panels or sheers with blinds or shades for the perfect combination of light and privacy.  As a CEDIA (Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association) professional, we’ll partner with your Interior Designer to create an expert blend of technology and design, pairing the right combination of weave and color with exquisite patterns and luxurious textures.

Another design-friendly benefit is the prevention of fading of fine furnishings through the UV protection properties of the shades. Aside from the practical aspects, the design applications seem endless! Window treatments no longer rely on wired connectivity and power. Battery-operated units allow for use on doors and other applications where wiring is not possible.  Motorized shades and draperies are not confined to windows either. Imagine the drama of elegant draperies parting at the touch of a button to reveal your home theater screen! Or being able to install a hidden drop-down projection screen in front of a window thanks to having black-out shades! For more ideas, visit our gallery.

Eco-friendly

Energy-saving is a prime function of shades. They are designed to both harvest daylight and block generated heat, offering substantial reduction in costs.

People-friendly

Window shades promote biophilic design, maximizing sunlight while reducing glare and fatigue.  While natural light is often sought to fill space however, according to a recent blog in ASID’s icon, “…sometimes natural light is just too bright. Blocking it out can be as important as letting it in. New innovations and technologies in shading are making it easier for designers to obtain the optimal balance of highly sought natural light and much needed light control.”

Another people-friendly feature is serving as nature’s alarm clock.  Imagine the peaceful, subtle awakening to the natural glow of sunrise.  Shades can be set to open gradually in the morning and close again at sunset.

Safety & Security

An important advantage to motorization is the lack of chains or cord pulls that entice children and pets, posing a serious safety hazard.  Another advantage is in your home’s security.  Just like programming lights to go on and off throughout the day while you’re away, shades opening and closing simulate a lived in look, deterring break-ins.

Privacy

Shades are an elegant solution for privacy.  They are perfect for hard-to-reach windows such as those surrounding your garden tub, an elevated vaulted ceiling area or featured stairwell niche.  In a space with multiple windows and French doors, this is a tremendous convenience and time-saver. And some fabrics even offer a one-way weave, blocking visibility into your house or hi-rise without interrupting your view to the outside.

In an office environment, shades are a simple solution to transforming glass-enclosed conference rooms into private meeting spaces.  Coupled with their acoustic properties, they also contribute toward privacy compliance measures.

If you’re considering updating your window treatments, consider not only integrating them into your home’s design, but into your home.  Let us show you why LaScala is “The Art of Technology” and how shades can transform your home or office.

Additional Resources:

Houzz: Small Luxuries: Motorized Window Coverings Offer Benefits to All

Electronics House: 10 Things to Know About Motorized Shades

http://www.lutron.com/en-US/Residential-Commercial-Solutions/Pages/Residential-Solutions/ShadingSolutions.aspx

https://www.lutronfabrics.com/fabrics/shade-type/roller-shades and check out inspiration gallery

Are millennials making smart technology more common?

With more millennials buying their own homes, smart home technology is on the up-and-up.

Houzz’s recent survey found that first-time home buyers – millennials in particular – are prioritizing smart home technology in new home construction and renovations.

New residential developments are emerging across the country, equipped with the latest and greatest features in smart technology. Texas, for example, is about to be home to a new development incorporating room for the smart technology decades from now, and how could impact its construction. High-speed fiber networks, outdoor technology with interactive capability and neighborhood safety and features have become a mainstay in residential construction, right at the top of their wish list.

Houzz’s survey also uncovered an interesting trend in integrating smart technology into their home renovations, for those who don’t want new construction. If you’re one of the 33 percent of recent home buyers who are considering investing in some form of smart technology in their homes, make sure you’re hiring the right pros to do it.

With home automation technology on the rise, it’s widely available. The demand for more innovation and creativity in smart technology is good news for both the home buyers and the integration professionals – especially now that more home owners are spending money on optimizing their space with tech. The right smart home technology has the ability to transform any home into a stylish, comfortable and safe home environment.

Even though smart technology can keep you safe, it’s just as important to protect your devices from hacking and other threats. According to Twice, customers are consistently seeking out IT support services in order to protect themselves from hackers. Consulting with professional integrators will help you determine the best tech for your needs and your home, without compromising safety.

Simple, Collaborative Presentation Systems

It’s a basic expectation really. You want to walk into a meeting room, easily connect your laptop, and make a presentation.  And you can.  Your conference room or huddle room system can be a simple plug-and-present; a wireless solution or one that is controlled by your smartphone. But, like all good designs, great outcomes depend on great input.  While any of those solutions may be an effective presentation system, if it doesn’t suit the needs of the user, it will fall short of expectation.  An effective presentation system is not as much about the technology as it is the user experience.  A few simple questions will uncover the right solution for you and your team.

Collaborative Conference Room

Define and Design

The first step in designing a system is to define the desired user experience for all users.  The right solution will depend on:

  • Who will be using the system? Will it be a defined group or will the room be open to visitors or personnel from other offices?
  • What is their experience level?
  • What are your company’s workflows?
  • Are you wanting teleconferencing, video conferencing, content sharing, whiteboarding?
  • Is there a company standard such as Skype for Business?
  • What is the desired interface? Minimal interaction, single-button press or plug-n-play? Do you want to avoid the use of small, uninstalled units such as a hand-held remote control that may disappear in a huddle room?
  • Will users be mobile – on smart phones or tablets? And how many connections are anticipated?
  • Do you want the system to detect user mobile phones, syncing the system based on the room’s scheduled calendar event?
  • Are you wanting to create a standardized solution that will be replicated across the enterprise?

Let’s Be Clear

In this era of rapidly evolving technologies, new acronyms and terminologies abound. VC, VTC, VMR and UC, for example, can mean a variety of things depending on who you’re talking to.  One person’s definition of video conferencing may mean a traditional conference room setting with dual-screen monitors and sophisticated cameras that track movement, displaying far side participants as well as shared content.  Another may be imagining a video call in the cloud with a completely remote or mobile staff.  Collaboration is another term that requires a clear definition.  To some it means simple screen sharing via Webex or Go-to-Meeting while others imagine a fully interactive experience that allows wireless sharing of multiple PCs or collaborative whiteboarding.

Wired, Wireless and your IT Department

Wireless presentations from a laptop, tablet or mobile phone (Bring Your Own Device) can offer seamless, convenient connectivity to the shared display, but not all IT departments allow this accessibility due to network security. Several solutions on the market today offer point-to-point connectivity, enabling connectivity via a self-contained Wi-Fi without being on your network.  Some companies require heightened security measures, restricting wireless and providing only a secure wired solution.

Designed to Scale

Your communications, conferencing and presentation systems are a strategy, not a trend.  Be sure your system is based on your needs and desired outcomes and not the latest solution offering by a particular manufacturer.  It should take into account your potential for future needs and growth and provide the required scalability.  As you add spaces and staff, standardizing on a solution that can be replicated throughout the building or across the campus is a clear cost advantage.  Not only will it save in design and installation costs, but users will be more likely to adopt and use the technology in the room if they are already familiar with it.  Savings are also realized on employee training.

Scalability needs to support technology needs as well. A well thought out strategy and design will provide IT infrastructure to support growth over the next 5 years or more. Network and data requirements, multiple VLANs and robust Wi-Fi can be implemented now, along with conduit and pre-wire for future expansion.

The solution drives the best possible outcome. Partner with an AV/IT professional to create huddle spaces, meeting rooms and board rooms that are efficient, effective and impactful, for your users and for your bottom line.

Additional Resources:

PC Magazine’s “The Best Video Conferencing Software of 2017

Crestron fully Integrated, Effortless Meetings

Extron features simple, intuitive collaboration

LaSala’s Engineering, Design Services and Deliverables

How to tech-out the most important rooms of your home

Incorporating smart technology into your favorite rooms creates aesthetics and luxury in any home.

Style and comfort are crucial to any home’s design; and implementing smart technologies into your design plan can provide a custom solution that gives you full control and accessibility of your favorite spaces. Equipping key rooms in your home with technology can provide endless comfort, while still complementing your individual style.

Home automation in the Master Bedroom

Home automation adds elegance and comfort throughout your home

Keeping your style in mind is key. Seamless built-in panels, hidden television units and in-ceiling speakers are just a few ways you can customize your audio, video and lighting experience, without compromising your rooms’ style.

With the proper technology in your design plan, “you can have full control of the technology in your room, and around your house for that matter, from the convenience of your bed.” For instance, by discreetly enclosing your television in a beautiful cabinet that matches your décor and in-wall speakers covered by your wallpaper or custom paint, bulky and aesthetically unpleasant equipment are hidden.

But this trend expands beyond just your bedroom. Imagine catching your favorite show while you’re in the shower, or checking up on your home’s surveillance video while you’re cooking dinner. More and more, homeowners are deciding to add technology in their bathrooms and kitchens – ensuring continuous accessibility at an arm’s length.

Finally, don’t forget your favorite outdoor spaces! Integrated lighting, video and audio technology are just as important in your indoor living spaces as they are the outside. Mood-lighting and discreet surround sound speakers can provide the same level of comfort and style in any livable space.

Let’s get started on your wish list.

How to Add Music Outside

Your patio is an extension of your home’s living space, especially this time of year!  It can also be a seasonal seating addition for your seaside restaurant.   At home and at work, we’re taking to the outdoors more and more.  We’re gathering around our fire pits and BBQ Grills, relaxing poolside and enjoying dinner at a favorite outdoor bistro.  Whether you’re engaged in an intense Bocce Ball Tournament, sipping cocktails on your chaise, or just puttering in your garden, there’s one thing that could really add to your enjoyment: music.

Choices in Outdoor Speakers

Outdoor audio comes in all shapes and sizes!  Where do you start? Here are some things to consider:

  • How would you like to use the system?  If you have an automated home control system, such as Crestron, your outdoor entertaining space can be added as an audio zone, allowing you to select any of the available sources (your audio library, streaming subscriptions, AV receiver or CD Player).  This integration also allows for signal interruption when the phone or doorbell rings – a convenience when throwing a party poolside!
  • Where would you like to have the music play?  Your outdoor area may consist of one or multiple zones.  You may find that you enjoy the ability to play music in some areas while broadcasting TV in others.  You may also enjoy having separate volume controls in each of those areas. Even if you elect not to do so right away, it is cost-effective and easier to wire for these future upgrades now.
  • Do you want to play the TV’s audio through the outdoor speakers?  The system can be set up allowing you to select either a music source or audio from your outdoor LCD to play through a selected zone or zones.
  • How do you want to control it?  Your smart phone makes a familiar, convenient control device.  You can also choose from simple remotes or waterproof models, either independent to the system or integrated onto a whole house remote control.

What’s the difference between indoor and outdoor speakers?

Quite a lot! Outdoor speakers are designed to endure the elements and to complement their environment.  They are durable, featuring marine-grade finishes and water-tight enclosures.  Speakers intended for interiors can’t brave Vancouver’s extremes of sun, sand, sea, snow, rain or even wind.  All-weather speakers also offer various installation locations. Speakers can be mounted under the eave or on a trellis, placed as an elegant patio planter, installed in your landscaping disguised as a spotlight or even buried underground as a subterranean subwoofer (James calls theirs an earthshaking experience!).

System Design meets “Interior” Design

Outdoor speakers are sleek and aesthetically designed, but the most important part of designing an outdoor audio system is proper speaker placement.  With no obstructions, sound travels easily from yard to yard.  In fact, a swimming pool or waterway can actually help to amplify it.  Speakers offer varying dispersion patterns that can be aimed and controlled within a specified area for smooth, consistent volume.  If you rely on having a pair mounted under the eave to cover a large area, the volume close to the source may be uncomfortably loud, while those at the edge of the patio can barely hear it.  Or, while you may be listening at a comfortable level at your BBQ Grill, your neighbors may be subject to a rock concert.  This is where a few well-placed landscape speakers would serve well, allowing for background level audio to play evenly throughout your space.

At the core

Control of the system requires connectivity.  You’ll want to make sure your Wi-Fi is reliable and accessible. This may mean setting up a separate network (think about the conveniences of a guest network) or at least ensuring adequate antenna coverage for a strong signal throughout the space.

Years of enjoyment

Your outdoor audio system will provide years of entertainment and enjoyment.  While it will endure everything Mother Nature and the Pacific has to throw at it, you can rest assured knowing that your high quality, professionally installed system will be supported by the manufacturer warranty and your integration specialist.

Additional Resources:

https://www.electronichouse.com/home-theater/planning-your-outdoor-audio-and-video-system/

https://www.newhomesource.com/resourcecenter/articles/bring-it-outdoors-the-latest-in-sound-and-tv-for-your-deck-yard-or-patio

http://www.cepro.com/article/6_tips_for_tackling_outdoor_audio

http://www.bowers-wilkins.com/Speakers/Installation-Speakers/Outdoor-Marine/Outdoor.html

http://www.triadspeakers.com/product-tag/outdoor/

James

Seek Professional Help! From a Certified Specialist, that is!

Resist!  It’s a sunny afternoon and you find yourself in your favorite home improvement store.  You stroll down the electrical aisle in search of a replacement wall plate and, BAM, there it is, DIY lighting control.  Dimmers, outdoor lighting…Oh, just imagine…”Honey, did you turn off the basement lights? No? Ok [picks up remote], I got it.”  Bliss. Sigh. You round the corner and on the end-cap display, spotlighted as if the clouds have parted and sopranos are welcoming a new dawn….motorized window shades!  With a remote! Simple, elegant…You’ve been dreaming about blackouts for the Master Bedroom and Home Theater…maybe a lighter weave for the family room to protect the furniture, ease glare on the TV and block the heat…sounds perfect but….not so fast!

While DIY has its place, we caution you when it comes to automated lighting control and motorized window shades.  We’ve recently experienced many homeowners calling to ask us to re-program their lighting and window treatments, integrating their weekend project into their system, only to find out that what they’ve installed is a single-room solution.  For us, the beauty of whole-home lighting and shade is just that – a whole-house integrated system.  Pre-set configurations; all-on/all-off, entertain, away, Good Morning!, Goodnight! modes– Portrait lights on while the shades are down, can lights on with shades at 50%….elegance, control and options galore!

So, be tempted by that jaw-dropping display…be inspired…but before placing anything in your cart, please check with us to learn your options.  We want to be sure you’re happy with your investment. Put the drill down and pick up the phone. We got this!

Transforming an Integrated System into an Integrated Lifestyle

More than incorporating various electronic components, an electronics systems contractor integrates lifestyle – in your home and in your office.  In today’s digital world, it’s what we’ve come to expect.  Don’t let those expectations fall short.

Proven methods ensure positive outcomes

A true differentiator in the digital environment, as a CEDIA Designer we subscribe to a proven design-build process: Discovery, Systems Design, Engineering, Implementation, Service & Support.  This process begins with a thorough discovery that allows us to understand your current and future needs and wants, along with your budget and timeline.  This is a critical step that drives design.  Equally as important is the documentation that communicates that design.

More than a list of gear

When presented with a design, it is critical that you understand how the system will perform.  Too often a business or homeowner is presented with a list of components.  That gets you to the bottom line, but what will the system do?  How will it function in each space and how can you trust it will perform as specified?  Along with expert system design and engineering, you should be presented with a comprehensive document package that demonstrates proven design; project drawings, schematics, easy-to-understand scope-of-work, hardware and labor requirements.  Once approved, this package communicates the design to the installation team, programmer, architect, interior designer, plumber, electrician, millwork carpenter, etc.

Lifecycle to Lifestyle

Once engaged, the implementation process begins.  We manage the project throughout its lifecycle, communicating during each phase to keep you informed and in charge! Our R&D Process further aligns results with expectations.

Designing your integrated lifestyle is more than a list of stuff, it’s how your devices and applications work together seamlessly throughout your day.  We want you to know what to expect. Expect to be blown away!

OLED is Flexing its Muscles, and its Design Capabilities!

On-Wall displays, once avoided by the Interior Design Professional at all costs, has thrust itself into the realm of stunning artwork, worthy of being featured, not hidden.  OLEDs of 2017, consuming less power than LED TVs, offer striking blacks and brilliant whites from surfaces that are no thicker than a credit card!

While the video technology’s curved, flat or even “wallpaper” configurations allow for incredible flexibility in design options, audio solutions have become equally as creative.

For example, LG’s newest OLED Wall-Paper, introduced at CES earlier this year, is so thin and light, it actually mounts to the wall with magnets, leaving no room within the display unit for AV control, connection ports or audio.  Their solution is an external shelf-like sound bar, mounted just below the video display which boasts Active HDR with Dolby Vision as well as spectacular Dolby Atmos for the sound.  You may imagine that professional installation is needed.  While some embrace the sleek design, others would prefer a less conspicuous solution: and perhaps it’s in the works.

Sony jumped back into the OLED arena, introducing its new Bravia A1 OLED TV, which turns the glass front into a speaker! The “Acoustic Surface” vibrates to create audio. The super-thin design also means there’s no need for a traditional stand. Instead, it features a pop-out lean stand similar to that of a much smaller tablet.

Samsung deviated from OLED by developing QLED which features “reinvented Quantum Dot technology.”  Truly designer-friendly, it comes with “invisible connection” for nearly undetectable cabling. For audio they’ve developed the Sound+ soundbar with subwoofer, complementing their line of flat and curved units both aesthetically and acoustically.

Interior Designers can now embrace technology in design with OLED TVs that are beautiful whether on or off.  So, which is right for you?  Give us a call – we’ll help you navigate OLED!

Virtual & Augmented Reality: Ready for Take-off?

We’ve heard about it for decades, but is Virtual Reality, with its sleek companion Augmented Reality, finally ready for prime-time?  Over the holidays, we all watched the commercials with people of all ages laughing, gasping, stunned as they were submerged into a deeper reality.  It’s only now that we’re seeing the potential, and how amazing VR & AR truly are.

Prevalent in the gaming world, augmented reality blends real-world with virtual world, allowing users to interact with virtual content in a real setting.  Let that sink in for a minute.  Imagine where that will take us.  Here’s just a sampling from the floor of CES2017.

AR goes beyond any other experience and its applications are as infinite as its experiences.  We’ll explore the gear in another post.  For now, just fathom where this incredible technology can transport you to…..

At home: Take a destination vacation, virtually

At work: Recruiting, training, visualization and providing a real connection for your remote workforce.

At play:  Pokemon was the tip of the gaming iceberg. Coming soon to an Xbox near you (2018) is mixed reality! And Six Flags partners with Samsung to launch a VR Roller coaster!

In retail:  VR/AR enhances experiential marketing and customer engagement

In healthcare: Imagine if your surgical team had access to augmented reality?   And for those experiencing low vision (blurry vision, tunnel vision or blind spots that can’t be corrected), a University of California, Berkeley Professor is working to bring a lower cost aid to this community, helping to restore their sight.

In education: True abstract learning at all levels.

In worship: Imagine.

Ready for take-off?  At the speed of sound! Mr. Sulu, set course for Earth. Punch it!

Recommended Sources:

https://www.cnet.com/news/gaming-vr-virtual-reality-ar-augmented-reality-help-restore-sight/

http://augray.com/blog/augmented-reality-virtual-reality-gaming/

http://augray.com/blog/augmented-reality-helps-reinventing-customer-engagement/

Add Luxury to your Vacation Home & Value to your Income Property

Your vacation home should be just that, a vacation.  It’s a restful sanctuary free from headaches, unnecessary chores and stress.  This is where an automated home can shine, literally.

You may be imagining your lakefront home with automated control of your lights, shades and water features. Or perhaps your mountain retreat with outdoor audio, a weatherproof LCD and remote control of your fire feature.  These features add enjoyment and value to your property.  But when you’ve made your Friday afternoon escape and pull into the drive, the last thing you want is a surprise such as a burst water heater, an A/C that’s been left on or, worse, evidence of a break-in.

From basic security features and keyless entries to more sophisticated occupancy and water sensors, your home can alert you should something go amiss.  If a pipe bursts you can react immediately and get a service technician on the property, hours before you may be able to arrive.  You can grant him access and have the repair performed before long-term damage can occur.

As a rental property, there is a tremendous perception of luxury and value in automation.  Easy navigation of the home’s unfamiliar entertainment system, for example, will increase their overall “experience” and enjoyment.  And they’ll appreciate the added security, particularly in remote areas.  You’ll appreciate that you can remotely mange your guest network, controlling which devices are allowed to be controlled, as well as the ability to turn off the A/C or heat when a door is left open.

Upon your guests’ check-out, you can remotely assess the home’s condition, ensure the lights are off, the shades are closed, the appliances are as they should be, the thermostat is set and the gate is latched.

When you’re ready to plan your perfect vacation get-away home, give us a call, even if it’s out of our area.  We can help design your luxury system and work with a trusted network of integration partners to make sure you’ll receive the service you’ve come to expect from us.

What’s My Line?

I’m often asked, what is it, exactly, that you do”? In some professions, that’s an easy, straightforward answer. For me, well, maybe it’s not so easy. Remember the iconic mid-century “What’s My Line”?  How many clues would it take to uncover my role?  It might be easier to say what I’m not.

I am CEDIA.  As a CEDIA Pro, I’m an Electronics Systems Contractor.  Others may refer to me as a Technologies Systems Integrator.  I have some specialties such as a Home Theater Designer.  And some call me a Residential Systems Integration Firm.  Hollywood gives me a bad rap (White House Down , the bad guys pose as AV Installers!)  Wow, that’s really not what I do!  For what I do, there’s rarely a drop-down selection that comes close because what I do is deliver the life you’ve dreamed of.  Really.

I integrate your home’s systems to perfectly operate as one – your climate, audio, video, security, lighting, shading…it’s automated, to your comfort and for your enjoyment.  My team and I masterfully make the system work as one – that’s the secret to simplifying everything on your end.  Easy, simple, elegant.

As a CEDIA pro, I believe life is best lived at home, simply. And that’s who I am.  I craft the personal home experience that delivers the life you’ve dreamed of for yourself and your family. A life lived best at home.  So, what do I do? I make the complicated simple. I put the lights on and open the shades. Yes, I do windows. More importantly, I let you know when the kids are home, and I keep you comfortable and entertained.

How do I do it?  I listen.  If you asked an architect to design a house, what would it look like?  What would it be made of, how many rooms would it have, do you want a big kitchen?  They’d start with a few questions: tell me about your style, your kids, what you enjoy doing together, do you enjoy cooking?  The same holds true for the technologies inside. They complement your lifestyle and make your house your home.  And that’s what I do. I am CEDIA and I’m listening.

Mad About Your Media Room!

Content is king!  From subscription streaming to satellite, sources for content seem endless, and so are your options for viewing!  Whether you’re hosting a Sunday afternoon of sports, a night of gaming, or any other excuse to have friends over, here’s some tips to treat all your guests to their favorite team, game or conversation.

Multi-screen or Multiple Screens?

The popularity of picture-in-picture viewing has exploded with the recent, feature-rich 4K options available.  And video walls comprised of multiple displays are seeing a spike, taking full advantage of available content.  Configurations include a mix of flatscreens and projection, offering an endless range of size choices.  Some prefer one large, main viewing canvas, flanked by smaller screens, either symmetrically or asymmetrically placed.  Others prefer a massive video wall comprised of a grid of narrow-bezel displays that can be configured to toggle content across the entire grid or in a multi-screen matrix.

Another option is offering multiple screens throughout a space, providing viewing from several seating or entertainment areas.  This works well when incorporating spaces such a billiards table, bar area, casual seating nook, etc.  Mounting solutions for a video matrix is somewhat complex however.  Aside from a seamless installation, panels must be accessible for maintenance, allow for heat dispersion and more.

And keep in mind that any security feed, such as your front door camera or baby monitor, are sources that can be fed onto the screens as well. This is ideal when your media room is in the basement and you’re watching for the pizza guy!

Design 

As an Electronics System Contractor, we will help with space planning and AV design and work alongside your interior design professional to ensure the best possible outcome, the perfect blend of aesthetics and technology.  Once you’ve decided on entertaining and viewing areas, there are a number of things to consider.

Optimize your room’s viewing by creating multiple layers of seating.  Take the tiered home theater seating approach and apply it across your space to take advantage of line of sight from anywhere in the room.  A first tier could be a mix of sleek gaming chairs, multi-purpose seating/storage ottomans and kid-friendly bean bags that could be stowed away when not needed. For your main seating tier, modular sectionals offer terrific flexibility while some well-placed  swivel chairs keep viewers engaged and comfortable.  Hi-top tables and bar seating provide guests a clear shot across the room while offering spaces for intimate conversation or a competitive hand of poker. And don’t ignore design conveniences like installing drink rails and providing side tables for your guests.

Sound

Audio does not take a back seat to video!  Designing the room’s acoustics is essential for comfortable listening and conversation.  Thoughtful acoustic design and noise control reduces fatigue and allows guests in each area to enjoy content and conversation.

Seamless Audio Switching is also essential to content enjoyment.  As content is chosen or swapped across screens, the sound must follow without a distracting stutter.  We can program flawless source switching across your devices – no fumbling with multiple devices and no missed moments of the game!  No time here for amateurs!

Ready to host a party in your in-home sports bar?

Great! Call us!  We’ll walk you through your choices, then design the system of your dreams that’s robust but fun and simple to use. Better get stocked up on beer!

For more ideas, visit us on houzz. And check out our website gallery.

How big is too big? Well, that depends…

While we learned that going big with your screen allows for a phenomenal 4K viewing experience, it can only be truly taken in from the proper distance…and there IS a science to it!  Let’s consult Wikipedia for the concise, scientific answer.  “Optimum HDTV viewing distance is the distance that provides the viewer with the optimum immersive visual HDTV experience. Although opinions vary on the exact screen size to distance relationship, formal research and recommendations suggest closer is preferred to farther, to provide a more immersive experience.[1][2] How close? ‘As close as you can stand it’. Hmmm, not very scientific…but, it’s not exactly wrong either.

As with any viewed screen, flat panel or projection screen, residential or commercial, we consider content, viewing distance and viewing angles.  With HDTV, we understand that the increase in pixels means more details and, hence, a sharper image.  Increasing the size of the screen means more details and overall better picture but….only if the increase does not exceed the visual capabilities of the observer.  Yes, there really can be too much of a good thing!  A key component to the equation is the angular resolution, your eye’s ability to distinguish small details.  As explained in How to Calculate the Optimal TV Screen Size Based on Resolution and Distance, “everyone loses the ability to distinguish fine details once they’re a certain distance from the screen, and everyone can see individual pixels if they get too close.”  Here are the calculations as shared on tekrevue but, bear in mind, as stated so eloquently by Hector Barbossa, “the code is more like guidelines than actual rules.” Argh!  Just call us.

Let the sun shine in!

Welcome (almost) spring!  Time to store the sweaters, uncover  the mower and throw open the windows. And, well…maybe it’s time to update the window coverings. Time to consider integrating motorized shades or drapes?

Automated shades are offered in a stunning array of colors, textures and weaves.  They can either block out light (excellent for home theaters or sleeping in on a Saturday morning!) or lightly filter sunlight, allowing for pleasant, unobstructed views free from harsh glare.  They come in honeycomb….they can cover skylights and custom sunroom windows and even come in battery operated versions to cover doors.  Window shades can be controlled from remotes or incorporated into an automated home’s system and controlled via any touchpanel or control device.  As your integrator, we can walk you through your options and, if you’re working with a designer, we’re happy to work together!

Bonus, they offer great heat and UV blocking, saving you money on cooling costs and protecting your upholstery from fading.  They’re convenient with one touch programming control of scenes that can control individual window coverings or the whole house. And, for added security, just like you do with your lights, you can control your shades to open and close while you’re away, even remotely!

Take the Inside Out!

Enjoy outdoor living at its finest when you combine the conveniences of your home’s interior with the warmth and openness of your home’s patio or deck.  Your outdoor grill or pool area can become a welcoming extension of your living room.  Just add music!

Technologies for outdoor living have quickly evolved in recent years.  All-weather LCDs are now thin and sleek, offering extensive mounting options with excellent viewing angles and anti-glare features.  They are rated for grueling weather conditions and will offer years of enjoyment, displaying everything from gruesome thrillers for your teens’ parties to game-day excitement with your friends and sappy romantic comedies for you and your “better-half” around the fire pit on date night.

And don’t forget the background music.  Well-placed weather-resistant speakers will provide music without blaring. And for extensive yards, meandering gardens or even boat docks, additional ornamental speakers can provide music evenly throughout.  Audio comes disguised in varies forms from the well-known rock and mushroom styles to attractive planters and spotlight styles.

Now is the time to start planning! Maximize your outdoor living this summer. Put down those hedge trimmers and let’s get started!

Get Smart, Not Stressed

So, what is a SMART home or technology-enabled workplace?  And what makes it so smart to have?  It seems to be a lot of things, and for a variety of reasons.  To some, it’s an all-in-one remote (and we mean the whole house) control.  To others, it’s a mobile security system.  It’s a convenience, it adds to your home’s resale value, it supports energy efficiency, and the list goes on.  But what’s the common denominator?  What makes the home automation market worth a projected 78.27 billion dollar industry by 2022? It’s simple; it simplifies your life.  Granted, it’s elegant, it’s a solid investment, it enables you to be remote, it’s all those things, but what it really does is make life easier.  And isn’t that nice to come home to?

So, if you were to design your SmartHome or automated workplace, what features would you want?  Here’s some fuel for thought:

What’s important to you? What features would simplify your lifestyle or make your place of business more efficient and secure?

  • Enhanced security solutions
  • Access and control to lighting, motorized shades and security features from anywhere
  • Update the look of your home or business
  • Upgrade for resale purposes or to attract/retain today’s tech-savvy workforce
  • Incorporate energy efficiency
  • Improve the functionality

 

What would you want to control?

  • Comfort (HVAC/heating and cooling)
  • Home theater/entertainment or conference room control
  • Lighting, window treatments
  • Security and monitoring
  • Distributed music with integrated intercom and doorbell
  • Communications

 

Now consider compatibility.   Think about your favorite services such as Pandora, napster, Deezer …and your favorite tech- friendly products like Sonos, echo, Lutron – all can be integrated onto one platform.

So what’s the trick to get all these devices and services to work together?  That part you leave to the professionals.  No stress, remember?  Technology is quickly evolving and today’s home automation integrators stay on top of these cutting-edge technologies.  They have continuous training and proper certifications to get your disparate pieces to blend in unison.  Music to your ears?  We think so.

Now, don’t you feel smart?

Amazon Alexa. A Virtual Assistant and…Caretaker?

Alexa, open the shades.  Alexa, play music.  Alexa, ask fitbit what my resting heart rate is. Ahhhhh.

How smart is your smarthome? Can it order a pizza? If Alexa were your virtual assistant it could!  Now THAT’s a SMARTHOME!  Alexa lives in the cloud and is automatically updated.  She comes with Echo, a far-field enabled device that activates upon hearing a “wake word”.  Echo also happens to be a 360° omni-directional speaker.  Ok, it’s not whole-house audiophile quality, but it’s a pretty cool way to stream your favorites through a portable device.

So why do we, a systems integrator, love it?  We love simplified solutions and Alexa makes control of your home’s systems even easier. She’s compatible with your Crestron home automation system, with Lutron Shades and more. And while all that is convenient, there’s a key life-safety feature not to be ignored.  Imagine the peace of mind of having Alexa for those “aging in place” with limited mobility.  Voice-activated technology can restore freedom and grant a measure of security.

Alexa, close the shades.  Alexa, what’s my heart rate now?

Size, sound & set-up matter when choosing the right TV!

4K, HDR, 3D…There are a lot of choices out there that offer stunning imagery, so how do you know which is the “best” and which one is right for you?  There’s more to it than pixels alone!

8,294,400, to be exact.

We’ve heard that 4K is the ultimate in pixel count, but what does that mean to the viewer?  More pixels filling the screen means more details, which means a sharper, crisper picture.  Imagine 4 times the resolution of full 1080p – over 8 million pixels! That’s a lot of detail!

Ok, but we learned when HD was introduced that the capabilities of the unit didn’t matter if the content wasn’t HD, right?  Correct, so let’s fast-forward to 2016’s Super Bowl 50, broadcast in, wait for it…you guessed it, 4K! Now, let’s jet to a rooftop in NYC where Marvel’s Iron Fist is being filmed, one of the first Netflix shows to debut in 4K HDR (High Dynamic Range).  HDR has taken us beyond Ultra High Definition (UHD) and 4K alone.  HDR  factors color, contrast, brightness and resolution to produce an uncompromising high dynamic range performance. It seems as though the tides have turned and content is now setting the pace. While not exactly the new “norm” just yet, 4K content is out there, even through some streaming services and, most definitely, gaming.  For a terrific breakdown, check out 4K TV: Everything you Need to Know.

So, what do you need to consider when selecting one of these amazing pieces of technology?  First is size.  In order to fully realize the exceptional difference, the viewing canvas needs to be worthy of the content.  Those pixels are meant to be seen so, Go Big!  Seriously, we’re talking 65”, 70”, 85”.  At that size, the difference between HD & 4K is stunning!  And while we’re still working through black levels and lost details in bright areas, audio is often overlooked.  An upgraded sound system can help integrate your various home theater components while maximizing your overall experience.

Not Your Father’s Rabbit Ears

These sleek, ultrathin displays are not plug-n-play. They are precision instruments that require meticulous calibrating to ensure the perfect picture – and if you’ve got 4K, watch 4K.  Along with proper installation and connectivity, integration of these fine-tuned machines is a bit tricky too.  This is where your integration experts are essential. They can guide you through the maze of compatibility and the “does this pass 4K?” query.  They’ve got the tools, training and certifications to not only help you select the right model, but get it programmed to work harmoniously with all of your AV components while displaying professionally calibrated picture and sound quality that make it a truly “dynamic” experience!

For more information, check out these articles:

Got a new 4K UHD TV? Here’s where to go to start watching the best 4K content right now

The 10 best 4K TVs of 2016

4K TV and UHD: Everything you need to know about Ultra HD

Today’s wireless world – build a better network

Network infrastructure is the backbone of all of your operating and communication systems, enabling connectivity and management across your enterprise, whether residential or commercial, wired or wireless, or a hybrid.  It’s hardware and software and services.  As its name implies, infrastructure is the platform that sustains a structure.  Now, imagine a major interchange with on ramps and exit ramps, detours and warning signs, roads shooting off to far destinations.  Every ounce of concrete and steel beam is carefully designed to carry the load.  Ok, so that’s a bit exaggerated, but the point is that each connection point, each pathway, is essential to the seamless operation of your network.

A wireless local-area network (WLAN) uses radio waves rather than ethernet cables to connect devices to the internet and network.  When first introduced, wireless connectivity lacked in speed and, most felt, in security.  Today’s wireless networks, however, are robust and feature security protections.  They are cost-effective in that they save installation and cabling costs.  They are also expandable, easy to set up, and offer increased mobility and collaboration as the systems allow for workers to connect from anywhere with ease.  The next level of Wi-Fi connectivity is a wireless mesh network, an emerging technology that utilizes a mesh of nodes (small radio transmitters) that talk to each other, creating a network blanket across a large area.

But that’s a bridge that spans across our “interchange”.

A Hybrid Network, on the other hand, can mean one of two things. Yes, it can refer to a wired/wireless combination as it contains two or more communications “standards” in one design, but it can also mean a network design that is comprised of two or more lines of product.  Both definitions offer plusses and minuses.

No matter the type, networks are designed and engineered structures providing a freeway of bandwidth and throughput for critical data.  We don’t require concrete and steel to meet the performance needs of today’s, and tomorrow’s, connected homes and collaborative offices, but some engineering and ingenuity is a must.  Give us a call. We’ll answer your AV/IT/IP questions and make sure your system is built on a solid foundation!

CEDIA Awards 2015

Thank you to all of our team members and partners who put us in a position to win a total of 5 awards at the 2015 CEDIA exposition, including the coveted Future Home Experience Award. This is a record win for any integrator in CEDIA’s 27 year history!

CEDIA 2015 Awards

CEDIA 2015 Awards

Future Home Experience Award

Future Home Experience Award

Best Integrated Home - Level 4

Best Integrated Home – Level 4

Best Media Room

Best Media Room

Best Documentation

Best Documentation

Best Integrated Home - Level 2

Best Integrated Home – Level 2

 

Join us for a Garden Tour – June 21st & 22nd





Summer is nearly upon us and so it is time once again to get outside and enjoy the beautiful weather. Many of you have invested heavily in your gardens, whether it was with blood, sweat and tears pruning the flora or perhaps you took a more laid back approach and had someone else do the dirty work. This weekend, La Scala wants to further inspire your love for getting outdoors and give you an opportunity to see what others have managed to achieve in their own gardens and what better way to do this than to walk 16 privately owned gardens as part of the Heritage Vancouver Society Garden Tour.

The Garden Tour, now in its 3rd year, has an eclectic selection of gardens, ranging from grand park-like estates to tiny townhouse gardens showing creative use of small space. There is a garden for all tastes on show including a hidden English cottage garden with Kai pond, a stunning contemporary house and garden, a garden created with salvaged materials and gardens that include fruit and vegetable patches…which one will be your favourite? The event runs from June 21 to June 22.

La Scala will be present at The Garden Tour in 2 of the 16 locations with the goal of showing you what is possible from a modern outdoor audio system. Each of the “La Scala” gardens will be discreetly equipped with a Sonance Landscape System, a system capable of producing jaw dropping audio quality without upsetting the aesthetic or balance of your outdoor space. Traditional outdoor audio setups rely on a pair of weather proof speakers installed on the back wall of your house or “rock” speakers attempting to hide in your planter beds. The problem with these systems is that they look awful on the wall and they tend to produce poor sound – too loud for those near the speakers and not loud enough for anyone further away. They also allow your neighbours enjoy (or not at all enjoy) your music selection.

Sonance Landscape System utilizes multiple discrete speakers and a below-ground subwoofer to produce amazing results, that are perfectly even and balanced no matter what part of your garden you are enjoying your cocktail in. The system also focuses the sound away from neighbouring properties, helping you maintain better relations with those next door. SLS is an infinitely expandable and customize-able system, allowing La Scala to do an outdoor audio design that is perfect for your home and we think there is no place better for you to hear the system before making your purchase.

Let La Scala come to your home and setup a Sonance Landscape Series Demonstration in your very own garden free of charge and with no obligation. Setup takes just minutes and we know you will be amazed at how good your own garden can sound.

For tickets to the event or to book your own private demonstration please contact:

Ian Burrows

ianb@lascala.ca

604-360-6039

 

La Scala receives Small Business Partnership Award at National Gala

 

La Scala – Vancouver Opera – Small Business Partnership Video

Small Business Partnership Award – La Scala Home Cinema and Integrated Media – November 15, 2013

Since 1960, Vancouver Opera has been providing British Columbians with stimulating and enriching programming that redefines opera and its accessibility. In 2011, it undertook a multi-phase renovation of its new home The O’Brian Centre for Vancouver Opera.

As the culmination of a long held-dream to amalgamate five separate spaces into one location, the project included the installation of multimedia equipment (cameras, screens, and digital and telecasting technologies) to further engage the community.

As a local company with many stakeholders in the arts sector, La Scala Home Cinema and Integrated Media provided $30,000 in leading edge multimedia and communications and equipment at an at-cost rate. With this new equipment in place, La Scala has played a significant role in the opera’s ability to further reach its community engagement programming.

Thanks to their investment and continuing support, their spirit of philanthropy has also attracted and inspired other partners.

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