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Home Theater

Football season is on the way

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With the upcoming NFL, college football & high school football seasons on the horizon, parties at the home will be commonplace. Between cheering for favorite teams and having fantasy drafts, football tends to bring together many families & friends each weekend during the fall. However, a major key to enjoying football at its best is making sure home entertainment is set up correctly.

Grand Home Automation has the ability, speed & know-how to make sure the home is set up for that fantasy football party. Or maybe having friends over after the big high school game. Even the ultimate in February – that big SuperBowl party. No matter the game, the importance of being ready for the upcoming seasons is crucial.

Personal Home Theater Systems

Having the luxury of a personal home theater system, provides all of your guests the best quality sound and image from any spot in the room. Completely custom theaters can include a bar for socializing or even a kitchenette to maximize your experience. Additionally, you’ll never miss a detail on the big screen with 4k visuals and crystal clear audio – custom made for YOUR space. Revamp your home to be the hot spot of the season with all of the bells and whistles technology has to offer!

Home Entertainment For The New Season

The start to a new season can also be the start to your new home entertainment experience. Let the excitement of the first game stick around all season long as you await each kick-off from the big screen. Feel like you’re in the stadium with the powerful audio effects from Dolby Atmos. This full-bodied system brings a whole new level of realism and excitement to each viewer. The placement of the speakers throughout the room create the illusion that you are surrounded in the environment and immersed in the game yourself.

After the game?

There’s never been a better time to invest in your own personalized home theater. After the game, enjoy a relaxing family movie night that even your kids won’t want to miss. Enjoy your theater any season, all season long! Let Grand Home Automation craft your perfect home theater to the space of your dreams! Our goal is to turn your vison into a masterpiece far past your expectation.

Check out more of our services online at: http://www.grandhome.com

Ultimate Home Theater Experience

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The foundation of every smart household is the A/V equipment and the experience it provides. It ensures the delivery of crystal-clear audio and video at lighting fast speed that is guaranteed to take your breath away. The ultra-high definition sound and 3D picture quality consumes you as if you are inside the action yourself. Innovative seating allows for personalization while remaining in control of your home theater experience. This is just the beginning of the refined details the latest technology has developed to enhance your lifestyle greater than you could ever imagine!

Home Theater Experience in Action

Dolby Atmos provides the ultimate home theater experience that the Kommel family couldn’t live without. The dual-laser projection technology on their life-size screen assures everyone inside the theater has the same quality experience wherever they choose to be. For the Kommel’s, it was especially important to utilize their theater as an entertainment room for guests. Located inside the theater is a kitchenette as well as a bar for their convenience. It was specifically noticeable to Mr. Kommel that the clarity of the audio and video is perfect whether he chooses to sit at the bar for socializing or in the lower level comfort area.

Home Theater styled by VIA Design and integrated by Grand Home Automation

As the lights dim down to complete darkness, the amount of sensitivity revealed to my ears provokes an eerie tone. The film begins with powerful surround sound that I can feel. The images are so clear that I’m beginning to question the realness of the action in front of me. Enhanced dimensionality of sound leaves me appreciating the talented placement of each of the 13 speakers and 8 sub-woofers as a bird flies swiftly across each panel around my body. The sound of its wings creates the illusion that it is strikingly close. I instantly feel deeply immersed in my surroundings.

Bringing The Art of Movie Making Back!

The goal of a home theater is to bring the art of movie making to the comfort and convenience of your own home. It provides a dedicated space for you and your family to escape into the ultimate cinematic experience at any time. The customization factor ensures the perfection of every detail to your liking. The best part: A unique layout tailored specifically to YOU!

Movies are intended to inspire, influence, and appreciate. The Kommel family allowed this luxury to transform their lives! They are now able to enjoy the most elite technology the market has to offer for their home theater.

Check out more of our Home Theater talk!https://grandhome.com/jaw-dropping-home-theaters/

Keeping Up with Streaming Content Updates

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Netflix subscribers were abuzz last month when it was announced that Disney would be pulling their content off the popular media streaming service. This is part of massive streaming content updates across the entertainment scope at Netflix. While it won’t happen until 2019, plenty of parents voiced their concern on social media, such as the dad who tweeted:

”This is not good for the millions of parents who use Moana, Zootopia or Finding Dory as negotiation tactics with their toddlers.”

Streaming Content UpdatesDisney plans to introduce their own streaming service, subscription cost yet undetermined, which many fear will be the first step of several additional services to add in order to watch a variety of content.

Disney owns ESPN, which will likewise introduce its own streaming service in 2019. Sports Illustrated says that it’s a similar model to that of HBO NOW, which is an online-only subscription that comes with access to all of HBO’s content but is not part of a cable package.

Disney CEO Bob Iger said that he envisions a more customizable user experience where consumers can select specific games, packages and even parts of games they want to purchase.

Both Disney and EPSN services will be similar to what the Netflix or Amazon Prime platforms offer: paying a fee for the specific content offered through those services. Which is very different from how many people still purchase content through cable or satellite providers. Companies are more motivated than ever to keep up with streaming content updates with the extreme movement to cord-cutting for millions of potential viewers.

So does that mean cable and traditional satellite tv providers are dead? Not so fast. Both satellite and cable companies are innovating quickly to keep up with consumer entertainment trends.

DirecTV recently launched DirecTVNow, which Tom’s Guide explains as “DirecTV is a satellite-TV subscription service, while DirecTV Now is an online streaming service that delivers live TV channels.” Both are owned by telecom giant AT&T. Priced much less than traditional packages, DirecTVNow offers a more flexible, portable service that delivers 50+ channels to any connected device.

Streaming Content Updates Smarthome

Meanwhile, Comcast is expected to unveil  XFinity Instant TV later this year, which will be a similar content subscription service available either as an add-on or stand alone.

The home entertainment landscape is changing rapidly. With all the choices available for today’s consumer, it’s more important than ever to partner with an experienced consultant to help you make the best home theatre decisions. Our team at Grand Home Automation can help! Contact us today to start the conversation.

Jaw Dropping Home Theaters

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The room is darkened, the popcorn is fresh, and the opening credits appear. Was that gum I just stepped in? Is this guy in front of us going to whisper loudly the whole movie? Oops I forgot to use the bathroom on my way in….

We all love seeing movies but sometimes the hassles of the local cinema can be too much. This is one reason the popularity of home theaters is continuing to grow. CEDIA’s annual report of the U.S. Market Size & Scope reports an increase in installation of home theaters in ‘15 compared to ‘14.

home-theatre-blogWe’ve all heard of (and probably seen) home theaters in person, but when looking into some of the most over-the-top, we found an article on Forbes that highlights some “fun to dream” about options. This includes a pirate-ship-themed theater with seating inside a wooden ship with the “sail” serving as a giant screen and a Caesar’s Palace in Vegas themed theater.

Beyond these quirky ideas, CE Pro (Custom Electronics Professionals), an established trade publication in our industry shares these 6 real trends for where the home theater market is going:

1. Multiple screens – for the ultimate multi-game sports viewing experience
2. Hybrid space – to increase the use of the room beyond just on-screen entertainment
3. Social networking – example: Grand Home Automation offers Samsung systems with built-in social apps like Facebook and Twitter, plus over 1,000 more.
4. Networking media – wireless is often not enough to stream content – ethernet or other more powerful networking is crucial
5. Speakers – floorstanding and speaker bars more popular, replacing in-wall speakers
6. Value – price is dropping and rendering options much more affordable

Do you agree with these trends? Which is the most relevant to you?

Grand Home Automation is committed to staying on top of the latest developments in the home theater industry. If you’re ready to talk about home theatre options in your home, contact us today!

HDTV ULTRA SYSTEMS

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Ultra HDTV systems are here & ready to show off in a big way. But wait, isn’t it all about 4K? 8K? 12K? Learn more about the HDTV love today here at Grand Home Automation.

In the beginning…

When our TV sets were big square-ish tubes of heavy glass, there was standard definition (SDTV), which had a resolution of 640 pixels (picture elements, or dots) in width, by 480 pixels in height. Not too bad, especially considering that VCR tapes couldn’t even attain that level of clarity. Then for a brief moment when wide-screen TVs first came on the scene, there was enhanced definition (EDTV), which added more pixels in width to accommodate the wider sets. Then, the big event – HDTV (high definition). At first, the studios could only muster a resolution of 1,280 by 720 pixels, which is still officially included in the HDTV standard. But a few years back we were bathed in the glory of full resolution HD, which consists of 1,920 by 1,080 dots of resolution, creating the crisp, clear, image we have come to expect of HD.

More is better In HDTV!

Our next upcoming official standard is Ultra-HD. Coming in with a whopping resolution of 3,840 by 2,160, it is essentially the equivalent of stacking four HDTV systems together, or twenty-seven old fashioned SDTVs. Quite impressive. The other term being used is “4K”. While similar to Ultra-HD, 4K is actually a commercial cinema standard that is comprised of 4,096 by 2,160 elements. We already have some video projectors with 4K resolution, and quite a few big-screen TVs that natively display Ultra-HD. For the most part, the two standard are interchangeable, with nearly all of these high-res TVs able to display either format. In the residential world, Ultra-HD will likely be the de facto standard.

Can you see the difference?

Absolutely yes! And maybe no. If you buy a 50″ Ultra HDTV and view it from a distance of twelve feet where your couch is, the human eye would not be able to resolve the extra detail. But if you have a 90″ set, and are only eight feet from it, or have a large video projection system in your home theater, you will surely be able to see and benefit from the added uber-clarity. Some may ask – With this new standard, how many frames, or full pictures are being flashed on the screen each second? Well, let’s leave that story for another time….

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Sean Hotchkiss

Patio, Porch or Poolside = Perfection!

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Our friend, Michael Menn recently invited us to post an article on his blog regarding outdoor electronics:

We’ve all heard the term before – ‘Staycation’. Which really means that people are focusing more on the home environment, and turning their attention back to family, friends, and home life. Pretty healthy, really.  So with more time spent in fun areas of the home such as the patio, porch, and poolside, some may wish to have their everyday media available. TV, music, internet, movies – outside? Why not?

Read the entire post here…

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Sean Hotchkiss

Better TV – 3D or 4K?

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In a dedicated home theater with a big screen TV, which is the best option for getting the latest tech – 3D stereoscopic viewing, or 4K super-high definition resolution?

I must admit, I haven’t been a huge fan of 3D TV for movie watching. The glasses can be awkward, and the effect just usually seems like a struggle for my eyes. Especially for a three hour movie – ugh! I have seen some really cool demos of video games in 3D, and have been quite impressed with that experience. To pull off 3D correctly, there are a few new technical challenges.

BRIGHTNESS

First of all, we need a lot more light output. Each eye must be shuttered off while the opposite eye is viewing the frame intended for it, so perceived brightness is cut in half from that alone. Then there is the fact that this process of switching from one eye to to the other cannot happen instantly, so both left and right images and shutters must be closed while the switch happens. This drops even more perceived brightness. The faster the technology is able to operate, the better, but we still end up with only 30% to 40% of our original perceived image brightness.

VIEWING ANGLE

Our next issue is that our brain fights the 3D effect the more aware we are of the edges of the screen. The 3D effect improves when the image extends much further than normal towards the edges of our peripheral vision, requiring us to sit closer or have a larger screen. This presents two problems for the projector. Firstly, for a given installation, increasing the screen size reduces the overall brightness, so now we need even more light output. Secondly, to have the image appear so big from our perspective, we need to have a lot more resolution from the projector so as not to see the ‘screen door’ of the pixel structure.

So what is ‘4K’? This term has been used for commercial cinema projectors with a horizontal resolution of at least 4,000 pixel elements. Typically, a 4K projector has a resolution of 4,096 x 2160, over four times the resolution of normal 1920 x 1080 HD TV. That’s a LOT of pixels! Do we have movies and TV shows available in glorious 4K resolution? Sadly, not yet. But it is coming in the next few years. In the meantime, 4K projectors will upscale existing HD content to fit their panels with some visual benefits (similar to line-doubling back in the day for us old fogeys). Given that 4K projectors are often used in very large screen applications, they usually have much more light output. Do you see where this is heading? Yes, a 4K projector could easily help with the obstacles listed above with 3D projection.

As an example, Sony’s new VPL-VW1000ES is a full 4K projector (some other manufacturer’s claimed “4K” equivalent projectors are not) has 2,000 lumens of output and 3D processing built-in. That is nearly three times the light output of consumer projectors we were seeing only a few years ago. We recently installed and calibrated one of these Sony units in a client’s home theater, and I must say I was VERY impressed. ISF color temperature calibration could be considered unnecessary, and it basically hit all the industry calibration standards dead-on when set to the reference settings mode in the menu. Then I tried on the 3D glasses. After whining about having to wear the glasses, I looked at the image while MegaMind was playing. Plenty of brightness.

Switching between eyes was nice and fast, with much less of the temporal warble I’ve seen in other projectors. Then I moved forward. On a nine foot wide screen, I was positioned only about eight feet away, which is generally considered too close. I still couldn’t see the pixels, just a nice smooth image. When the picture takes up that much of your field of view, it’s amazing how much better the eye/brain combo accepts the 3D effect. I would have to say it’s the best 3D experience I’ve personally ever had. In fact, the Sony 4K may just may be the best projector I have ever installed – and that includes the grand old days of large CRT projectors!

To wrap this all up – If you are currently thinking of installing a home theater with front projection, or may be considering upgrading your existing projector, I believe you should seriously consider going with the new Sony 4K. I think Sony is still running a promotional price right now. Wonder where you can get one delivered and professionally setup by a CEDIA certified Home Theater Design Specialist? Oh Right! Grand Home Automation…

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Sean Hotchkiss

2012 Home Theater Designs

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With CES just around the corner, there have been a lot of big changes in the world of home theater. Here, we want to take a look at what is big in the industry for 2012. What’s trending, what’s popular, and most importantly- what is going to give you the best experience in home theater designs for your money?

Make Way for the Cloud

A lot of fuss was made when iOS made the move to start storing data in the cloud. Were there going to be major privacy issues? Would media still be easy to access? Consumers were skeptical for about six seconds, but when everyone realized that Cloud storage meant synching on the fly and letting go of the tethers, the technology was rapidly adapted to. Home theater companies have absolutely been watching what happened with iOS, and the simple fact is that they are taking the idea and running with it. Cloud media storage is huge right now, and there is no doubt that it is going to get bigger. While discs may not go away entirely in 2012, there is no doubt that a massive surge in Cloud storage is going to put a huge dent in DVD sales and start the decline of the disc in a huge way.

Internet TV Finally Taken Seriously In Home Theater Designs

Internet TV has been around in some form for quite a while now, but it just hasn’t gotten the steam that many hoped. Hulu Plus and Netflix were doing okay (although Netflix made some simply massive mistakes in 2011), but the thinking is still largely that Internet TV is only for those times when you can’t find what you want through your cable company’s current lineup. With more than half of televisions expected to carry GoogleTV by year’s end, however, this may start to change. A huge increase in apps, as well as a surge in devices that can install and use them might also spell a significant increase in Internet TV, media streaming, and online viewing as a whole.

Sound Bars In Home Theater Designs

While prepackaged home theater kits have long been a great way to make up for the HDTVs shipping with inferior speakers, even the wireless solutions present a hassle for many people seeking an easy setup. Sound bars are absolutely surging in popularity, and many believe that 2012 will see a major increase in sound bar technology, sales, and implementation.

3DTV- Finally Coming to More Home Theaters Near You?

3DTV was expected to be huge when it was unveiled a couple of years ago, but the technology has gotten off to a lagging start. Many find the glasses cumbersome, the number of available channels and movies is simply too low to justify the cost, and oh, yes, the cost itself. Simply put, 3DTV hasn’t gotten a lot of early adopters. 2012 looks to be the year that this finally changes, with prices expected to lower throughout the year and much more content to become available. With numerous companies looking to make models that don’t require glasses, however, it might just be worth waiting a little bit longer!

Grand Rapids home theater customers have lots of options when it comes to custom design, but staying on top of the trends can be a big benefit. Not only does it keep you covered in terms of state of the art technology, but it makes future upgrades a lot more affordable. There are lots of big trends coming our way if CES was any indicator, and getting the right professional home theater design can turn your existing Michigan home theater into the envy of everyone you know.

10 Products to Enhance Your Home Theater System

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A great home theater system is more than just a place to watch your favorite shows and movies, it is an experience. With a solid setup, you can turn your viewing area into a space that allows you to become fully immersed in whatever you are watching, whether it is the latest Geico commercial or a James Bond film. HD video and audio technologies have come a long way in recent years, and even many older shows are being reworked to offer HD and blu-ray quality. Let’s take a look at 10 products that you can use to turn your ordinary Michigan home theater into an extraordinary one:

1. A great wireless lighting system that lets you dim and raise the lights for a total theatrical experience

2. Sony’s XBR– one of the highest performing HD, 3D, and Internet televisions on the market today

3. This Furman Elite-20 Pf I Power Source offers top quality and maximum protection for your home theater system

4. This Liberty Cable wall mount makes it easy to hang and tilt televisions up to 65” for perfectly angled viewing

5. Need more cable without signal loss? This HDMI extender from Liberty AV Solutions offers the perfect answer

6. Rigging your own system? A 250 foot reel of HDMI cable allows you to cut and crimp to fit, preventing tangled cords and excessive clutter.

7. A great digital media switcher from AMX makes it easy to select the components you want to use

8. Got digital media you want to share between devices? The MAX-CSE Encoder delivers it to any compatible device in your home

9. Leviton’s Connected Home structured cabling lets you distribute your home theater signals throughout your home

10. For an audio experience that is hard to rival, consider Leviton’s SpecGrade speakers

Home theater enhancement can be achieved a number of different ways these days, as technology seems to be growing at a record-setting pace. Building the ultimate Michigan home theater system is a great way to bring the best of the theatre into the comfort of your own home, and these 10 components can help you really make the most of the experience!

Elf Foundation / DeVos Children’s Hospital Project UPDATE

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As mentioned in 2010, Grand Home Automation partnered with the Elf Foundation to help create the hospital’s “Room of Magic”. This room is a private custom home theater, designed to bring entertainment and happiness and to foster a sense of fun and magic that can go a long way in the healing process. There is no doubt that a stay in the hospital can be traumatic for children, and the goal we share with the Elf Foundation is to help create a fun and fantastic experience for kids at Michigan’s Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.

As 2010 came to a close, we were very proud to be putting the finishing touches on the project, which features a Crestron TPS-6L with the Streamline graphics kit. This new custom theater system is a perfect fit for the newly rebuilt and redesigned hospital, and it takes kids away from the previous setup of VHS tapes and into a totally immersive and exciting home theater experience. The system installed by the experts here at Grand Home is just one part of a massive redesign that is intended to improve not only quality of care for these patients, but quality of life as well.

The Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital is truly something spectacular, and we have been so proud to be able to take part in this project. Grand Home Automation is a trusted name in upscale Michigan home theater design, and it was nothing short of wonderful to be able to take that reputation for quality and to be able to use it to really help make a difference for children who find themselves needing to spend time in these facilities. While each of the patient rooms at DeVos now has a state of the art television, the theater is designed to provide an unrivaled experience. Taking a break from doctors and illness is important for every patient, and we are proud to have been able to partner with the Elf Foundation to create a state of the art AV system for this amazing hospital.

Movies Bringing Suspension of Disbelief

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Ever catch something in movies or video games that makes you go “waaaait a minute…?” Ever find yourself wondering why nobody in her school recognizes Hannah Montana even though she looks exactly like plain old Miley with a wig on? This is called Suspension of Disbelief, coined by Victorian poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge (Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner) in the early 19th century. Essentially it happens when (and Coleridge used it namely with mythological creatures and fantasy in his poetry) the creator of a particular work (film, literature, art, etc) asks his audience to believe in some type of fantasy, even though it cannot exist in the realm of the real world. For example, George Lucas prefaces the movie Star Wars with “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” This is a direct request for viewers to remove themselves from reality and enter into a world that is completely un-like the world we live in. With this preface, we know as viewers not to question the reality of what we’re watching, just to go with it and have fun. With the rapid expansion of technology in the film/gaming industry and the ever-growing demand for means of entertainment, this theory holds tight more than ever.

When it comes to your home theater, Suspension of Disbelief can be split into two categories, similar to fiction movies and non-fiction movies. The fiction category is how you’d classify all the Hannah Montana and Star Wars stuff, where you’re being asked within the story to leave your comfy chair and enter a world where things are different than the world you live in. The non-fiction category refers to the technical aspect. Have you ever seen an old episode of Dr. Who or StarTrek? You as the viewer are asked to ignore the ridiculous special effects, bad dialogue, silly costumes, and awful audio effects and immerse yourself anyway. The audio and film industries have made unimaginable leaps and bounds in technology since those campy old SciFi movies, and your home theater experience should be no different. Rapidly improving 3D TV’s, projectors, gaming systems, HD surround sound, and HDMI specifications are all but eliminating this kind of Suspension of Disbelief, allowing you to jump head-first into your favorite movie or video game, without having to “ignore” the technical stuff. And it’s only getting more realistic. Your 3D TV will put you right in the middle of fantastic places. Your HD surround sound will make your experience more intense. Your internet-ready projector puts millions of streaming movies, TV shows, and video games instantly at your fingertips. And you can have this all in the comfort of your own home. Now that really is movie magic.

HOME THEATER SYSTEMS – 25 OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL LAYOUTS

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There’s not another room like it — home theater rooms are, without a doubt, the oasis of the home.

Very few things are more relaxing than kicking back in your favorite theater seat (which of course is the best seat in the house) and taking a load off after a long day. Home theater installers know this, and can design an infinite number of setups to complement any home’s personality or atmosphere to create a truly unique and breath-taking experience, inviting you to fulfill your escapist fantasies, time and time again.

Here’s a list of stunning home theaters that provide jaw-dropping design inspiration.

1. Forget your blues with this striking theater color scheme

2. Free your mind” in the The Matrix Theater

3. If you have a passion for theater acoustics, you’ll love The Gullion Theater

4. This beautiful home cinema seems like a suitable alternative to the chill of a cold winter day

5. James Bond is a perfectly chosen film for this perfectly classy design

6. The warm lighting and color scheme must make for a comfortable viewing atmosphere in this setup

7. An incredibly beautiful and almost surreal looking home theater

8. The Kips Bay Home Theater features very unique and visually appealing architectural elements

9. This relaxing, yet solitary theater rendering takes the term “admit one” a little too literally, perhaps

10. The Runco WindowWall is a perfect addition to this fantastically elegant theater

11. This may just be the the ultimate viewing experience for the big game

12. The light browns and hand-carved wooden panels kick up the class on a classic setup

13. Quite simply, a breathtaking theater rendering set in paradise

14. A social theater boasting contemporary design and a booming 7.1 surround sound system

15. It’s not difficult to believe that this huge home theater has no problem comfortably entertaining large groups of guests

16. This theater setup is a very classy looking creation

17. Try not to fall asleep while taking a peek into this incredibly relaxing home theater cinema

18. There’s a unique sense of style in this modern home theater creation

19. A colorful theater scheme that seems to play subtly on a more retro appearance

20. The large plush chairs make for an incredibly comfortable looking theater setup

21. It would seem inappropriate to watch anything but science fiction in this amazing home theater setup

22. This spacey home cinema indeed borrows heavily from the space sci-fi style, as well

23. This warm theater design utilizes open space and looks positively awesome

24. Enjoy the open air in the comfort of this unique theater

25. This interesting concept for home theater design is out of this world

Grand Home Automation Partnership with Elf Foundation for Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids to Bring Magic to Kids

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A little bit of magic can go a long way…

Especially when that magic comes from the unlikely collaboration of a world-class children’s hospital, a state-of-the-art entertainment system installation company and a non-profit organization to connect the two. Our team at Grand Home Automation is thrilled to introduce the Magic Theater in the 11th floor play room at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Grand Home Automation, Inc. known for providing high quality audio, video, control, and integration services, is excited to partner with the Elf Foundation to design and install a state-of-the-art entertainment system for the benefit of HDV Children’s Hospital’s patients and families. This system will provide a sense of relief and fun-filled diversion for kids in what is often a tedious and somewhat traumatic environment.

The Elf Foundation was founded in 2001, with the express mission of creating private entertainment theaters – “Rooms of Magic” – for children’s hospitals, shelters for abused children, autism centers, and children’s rehabilitation centers throughout North America. Operating as a 501©3 non-profit organization, the foundation acts as a catalyst within the consumer electronics industry and in local communities to advance their mission of bringing the magic of music and film to special kids in a time of need. To date, the Elf Foundation has opened over 70 “Room of Magic” theaters.

At Grand Home Automation we are thrilled to partner with the Elf Foundation. Since 1996, we have aimed to build a reputation of providing well designed and implemented electronic systems for upscale residential clientele. Our clients appreciate our high level of technical expertise as well as the depth of knowledge and understanding required for customizing their services to the lifestyles they live. GHA has also won the accolades of our peers and suppliers within our industry. Our projects have earned us top honors in consumer electronics field competitions as well as the coveted national first place award in 2004 by Lutron lighting control company. In addition, Grand Home Automation, Inc. was recently been named for the 7th year in a row as a CE Pro Top 100 dealer in America. Even with these accolades, our heart still beats for community, and we’re honored to partner with such amazing companies to make room for magic in Grand Rapids.

Please visit www.elfsystems.org and www.grandhome.com for more information.

Your Home Theater is a Big Win for the Super Bowl

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You may have heard that this year’s Super Bowl broke the record for the most-watched television program of any kind in the history of TV– with an average viewing audience of 106.5 million.

Bearing that in mind, why would anyone want to cram into a bar that’s as busy as a mall on Christmas Eve? If you have the right equipment at home, you won’t have to fight to get into an overcrowded venue, and you’re probably going to get a better view than the friend (of a friend, of a friend) who actually had Super Bowl tickets (and a box of tissue for the nosebleeds). If you want the finest viewing experience, leave it to three-time Super Bowl Champion, Jerry Rice, to give you some inspiration in getting the most out of your home theater setup.

Playing for the San Francisco 49ers for fifteen seasons and being regarded as one of the best players in NFL history doesn’t exactly lend itself to inconspicuous public outings with his family, and being a man devoted to his family (and, of course, a huge sports junky), Rice included a 750 sq. ft. theater in his own home to beat the crowds. The theater boasts several impressive components, including four Crown Audio amplifiers, rated at 30 amps each, which power 40+ Tannoy speakers and Electro-Voice subwoofers, to produce a 10,000 watt sound system. To put this into perspective, the Rices’ theater has better sound than an IMAX. And when he’s not participating in the pre-game coin toss, Rice can catch the big game projected onto his 123-inch Stewart screen, seated comfortably on any of the 16 graded CineLounger seats.

If Jerry Rice’s theater sounds appealing to you, and you have the modest $200,000 – $500,000 budget to use for your own home theater, you can have your version in your very own home. However, if that sounds a tad out of your price range, don’t worry; there are a few tips that will give you a quality experience, and may leave you with a little more money for the chips and dip. For instance, if you haven’t upgraded yet, and you’re looking for a great video experience, you’re going to need the crystal clarity of an HDTV with HD service. There is much debate between LCD and plasma, but for the fast-paced action of the big game, the smoothness of a plasma display is yet unsurpassed in providing a front row seat to the Super Bowl. You’ll also want to pick up a surround sound system to impart the energy of the stadium right into your home theater. A unit around 1000 watts will do the job nicely.

Just remember, though, that if you have a screen bigger than 55-inches, and you’re blasting the action through a Dolby 7.1 audio system — don’t charge for the brews, or you may receive a visit from your local law enforcement, courtesy of the NFL.

12 Steps to Creating The Perfect Home Theater

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Ok, so you’ve admitted that you have a movie addiction, and now you’re committed to creating your own home theater – the ultimate indulgence for your addiction. When you consider how much you’re spending on your home entertainment equipment, it makes sense to create the best theater room possible for your budget. So here’s a 12-step program to help you and your co-dependent movie junkie get the greatest bang for your buck.

Step 1: Start out with what you envision the perfect home theater room to be. Does it look like something fabulous that would be seen on MTV’s “Cribs”? Or are you going more for a mini authentic theater look? Does it have to fit into your current home decorating style or will it be an environment all its own?

Step 2: Set a budget. Though you enjoy going to an imaginary world through movies, this is not the time to live in an imaginary world. Be real about what you can spend on your home theater equipment and furniture. Doing otherwise may be a less than pleasant reality.

Step 3: Even a genius like Orson Welles wouldn’t buy furniture for his home theater without measuring first. Measure everything in the room and make a diagram to take shopping with you so you know the measurements of the room and where windows, doors, etc. are. Unless you have Transformer-like powers, you want to be sure everything fits before you make any purchases. Home theater equipment and furniture are too heavy to move around several times until it’s in the right location and especially to lug back to the store if it doesn’t fit!

Step 4: Time for some R & D. Guys, there’s no way around it – you have to go shopping to make informed and intelligent decisions about your home theater equipment. If you have a spouse, family member, or friend involved, be sure you go together. Bring back detailed notes, pictures (when possible), prices, delivery information, fabric and paint samples.

Step 5: Time for some gut level honesty- discuss and/or decide what HAS to be in the room and what can be left out, what colors you love and hate, and whether or not you want the theater equipment to be visible when not in use. If you’re doing this with someone, this is where you begin the compromise process with each other.

Step 6: Every good movie needs a good snack and beverage to go with it. But who wants to run to the kitchen every time a food or drink is craved? Make sure your home theater is equipped with a snack and drink bar, maybe include a microwave for popping popcorn.

Step 7: How much of a techie are you? Again, this is not the time to be living in fantasy land. There will be plenty of time for that after the theater is finished. In the meantime, hire a professional who specializes in knowing where to place your home theater equipment for the best sound and who can set things up so your electrical circuits aren’t overloaded.

Step 8: Pay special attention to the seating. If you and your guests are not comfortable, not much else will matter. First, you will have to determine how many people you want to be able to seat and gauge that to the space you have to fill to get the actual seat size. In addition to complementing the décor of the room, keeping within your budget, and buying high-quality, you will want to make sure the seat offers both firmness and flexibility and that the armrests are wide and comfortable. A cup holder and a good foot rest are also nice options to have. Also keep in mind that the style of chairs you select for your home theater will greatly affect the sound. Shorter back chairs will allow the sound to travel to your ears with truer, clearer sound.

Step 9: You want home theater drama that’s not part of the movie? Any good cinematographer would tell you that’s where lighting comes in. Sconce lighting would make the room feel like a movie theater; track lights over the seats let people read and write; more lights on the sides of the theater room make light available wherever you are at. Make sure to install a lighting control system (with a remote, please!) that will control each section of lights separately, and will provide dimming options.

Step 10: Anything you put into your home theater has the potential to affect the sound (yes, even your kids). Not only do window coverings help dim the room and prevent reflection but they, along with other strategically placed fabric panels, also help to reduce acoustical distortion by keeping the sound waves from bouncing around too much.

Step 11: As previously stated, large objects will cause sound to bounce off of them, so your home theater room isn’t the place for that sculpture you did in your art class or even a coffee table. Express yourself with cool wall art, textures and textiles, have plenty of comfortable seating, and let the equipment take center stage in your home theater.

Step 12: You’ve reached the last scene of your home theater designing adventure – all that’s left is to carry out the assembly process. Once your room has the audio/visual components, seating, and other details in place, you will have your dream home theater available to feed your home entertainment addiction to your heart’s desire.

HDTV in 3D

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TMA! (too many acronyms)
Yes, it appears that 3D is making another swing at the hearts of the viewing audience. Does having 3D in the home mean we’ll have to sit in the living room wearing those silly cardboard glasses? Well, yes, and no. Glasses are required so that each eye only sees the image its supposed to see, but technology has advanced quit a bit from the color filter days. Today, the glasses either use polarized filters, or electronic liquid crystal shutters. The polarized filters are really only for a commercial theater where two projectors will be pointed at the screen. In the home, the electronic type will be used primarily, meaning your glasses will need batteries. The shutters open and close alternately for each eye, at up to sixty times per second.

To get 3D images to our home theaters requires that the entire delivery chain be adapted for the technology. First, the movies must be filmed in 3D. Of course computer animated movies don’t really require cameras, so they can handle that. But for real-life 3D, essentially two cameras must be used to record simultaneously, placed about the same distance apart as our own human eyes. It makes sense then, that the information from those cameras would be doubled, which necessitates a higher bandwidth cable and connector format. They are already putting that in place with the HDMI 1.4 standard. BluRay discs can handle the extra information, but new players with the new format output will be manufactured. Now we we have to get this uber-dense signal to our TV; we’ll likely need a new HDMI cable for that. Speaking of the TV, it will need to have the upgraded input, along with the ability to show twice as many image frames per second; 120(Hz) in fact, so start making plans for an upgrade.

Is it worth it? Well, that’s pretty subjective. There is no denying that 3D is a really cool effect. However, there are many caveats such as how close to the screen you must sit, and how big the screen is, or the effect just doesn’t want to ‘connect’ with your brain. In fact, our brains just aren’t that easily fooled, and it usually takes a focused effort to keep your eyes and brain open to the effect for the whole movie. Many people find this very fatiguing, maybe even painful after awhile. Personally, I think the biggest benefit of 3D video in the home will be for gaming. If I already have to use a funky controller or steering wheel, I’ll gladly wear the glasses to have the full 3D experience while driving my favorite rally car. But I just don’t think the majority of film directors are going to force their audience to wear space cadet glasses and strain to focus for an hour and a half, or two, or three.
______________________
Sean Hotchkiss
shotchkiss@grandhome.com

Out of Control!

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You have it all planned out in your head – Just exactly what kind of theater seats you’re going to have, the color of the carpet and wall-fabrics, how many rows of seats, how big the screen will be, and so on. You can imagine turning it on for the first evening, having the THX ‘whoosh’ or your favorite movie scene ‘shock and awe’ you into quivering A/V delight. But don’t stop there – actually run through what it really takes to make that all happen…

– Set the temperature to the right spot, just cool enough for a lap blanket
– Get all the electronics warmed up
– Turn the lights down low at first, then totally off for the main event
– Find the projector remote
– Turn on the projector
– Set the projector input to ‘HDMI1’ for the BluRay player
– Find the video processor remote
– Set the video processor input to ‘DVD’
– Make sure the video memory is set to ‘Cinema’
– Find the surround processor remote
– Turn on the surround processor
– Set the audio input to ‘DVD1’
– Set the surround mode to ‘Cinema’
– Make sure THX processing is engaged
– Set the volume to reference -10dB
– Turn on all the audio amplifiers
– Find the BluRay remote
– Turn on the BluRay player
– Get the disc playing
– Use the ‘pop-up menu’ to get to right scene for the big show

Much less dreamy, huh?
Can you really remember all of that? Could any member of your family? Guests? Probably not. What about the different settings for different sources like satellite tv or VuDu? This problem of control is what companies like Crestron are perfect for. From a simple handheld automated remote control to a fancy wireless touchpanel, these controllers can turn an evening focused on technology, ‘stuff’, and frustration, into one spent enoying the true art of cinema.

Remember – The image may be pristine, and the audio dynamic and crystal clear, but if you can’t turn it on, it’s all just an expensive living room.
______________________
Sean Hotchkiss
shotchkiss@grandhome.com

Choosing a Home Theater Installer

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Choosing a Home Theater Installer: A Checklist
On any given day, you can find a great component for your home theater. You can upgrade your video, sound or entire system with just one good salesman (or one good deal at the big box). But, to get the most out of your home theater experience, you’ll need to look into a reputable home theater installer.

Why choose a home theater installer? Well, consider a few things – the least of which is that high-quality equipment you just bought. You probably bought that audio or video equipment because it was top-notch, so you could enhance your TV, movie-watching or home stereo experience. Like most things, there’s the right way and then there’s the other way to get these things done. You can be thorough or you can take a few shortcuts. Now, it doesn’t much matter sometimes, when all you want is the screen to light up and sound to come out of the speakers, but if you’ve made an investment in parts, then you should get the service, too.

We’ve sat down and come up with a helpful checklist for choosing a home theater installer. Please, forgive us for being uncompromisingly forthright with our list, we’re experts in home theater installations and we’re here to help.

1. Look for a CEDIA certification. First and foremost, do your research. CEDIA is the industry organization, and the website will help you find the very best in custom electronic residential design and installation … and peace of mind. Locate a CEDIA installer here.

2. Inventory your audio and video. Take a moment to write down what you’ve got, as far as equipment and components. Consider the age of your electronics, too. It’ll be good to be able to share thoughts with the pros on what you’ve already got and what to consider for the future.

3. Make plans to wire. Even wireless systems require a few wires here and there. Especially if you are building new or just remodeling your home theater room, start with a plan (or at least expectations) for wiring for the future. This will help with further home automation controls down the road.

4. Think about integration. It’s possible to integrate lighting and other home comfort controls at the same time you install your new, modern home theater. So, make a wish list of things you think might be nice to have integrated… you never know how easily that can be done!

5. Ask around. Web searches and links are great, but we also recommend that you ask around for references. Ask your neighbors, or even your local Better Business Bureau. Find a finished project that might be similar to what you’ve got in mind for your home theater. There’s nothing quite like good word of mouth.

Our only other recommendation: Be careful, because your home theater project may turn your home cinema into the new “family room,” so expect a lot of use!

Let us know your thoughts and comments! Do you have someone great to recommend?

The Truth: LED TVs explained.

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If you’ve been watching TV lately, you might have seen some new commercials from manufacturers like Samsung, hyping their new “LED” televisions as a whole new breed that’s “changing how we watch TV.”

Technically, these new “LED” TV’s are just LCD televisions with a display lit by LEDs on the outer edge of the TV, as opposed to being lit from behind. Most LCD TVs use fluorescent backlighting.

So, this LED designation refers to the backlighting system thats employed on the newer LCD TVs, not the chip itself that’s produce the image. You might say that the only true LED TV is the one you see at a stadium or ballpark. The new home models should actually be called LCD / LED TVs.

But, an LED TV can claim:

– Lower power consumption.
– No Mercury.
– Thinner profile (because no flourescent-based backlighting).
– Balanced color saturation.

The good news is that LED backlighting is representing a new advance in technology, giving LCD TVs a performance level similar to plasmas in terms of black levels, while also allowing for even thinner, sleeker LCD TV designs. At Grand Home Automation, we’re all about advancement.

Trust us to keep you posted on new developments and new product offerings when it comes to enhancing the home theater experience.

The Top 5 Technologies That Advanced The Home Theater Experience

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At Grand Home Automation, we love experiences. We also love giving our clients truest cinematic experience right in their own home. It’s amazing how far we’ve come as an industry with new video technologies, developments in acoustic research and home theater planning.

With ordinary home theater systems, like the part-by-part component systems you see advertised at big box retailers, you can lay back and take in a movie experience. But, with a Grand Home theater, the movie experience takes YOU in. We couldn’t make the outstanding home theaters that we’ve planned and installed over the years if it weren’t for some landmark developments in home theater technology.

As we see it, these are our Top 5 advancements in the home theater industry:

1. Dolby Digital. Chances are, you’ve heard – and probably owned – a Dolby technology product, but the  wouldn’t-be-a-movie-without-it surround sound technology now is known as Dolby Digital®. With six channels of full-range sound: front center, front left, front right, rear left, rear right, and the subwoofer for deep bass, Dolby Digital technology makes a richer and more realistic movie sound experience. This technology is so advanced and even so user-friendly, that what you recorded in Dolby Digital can be played back in mono, stereo, Dolby Surround or Pro Logic. (Check out who we like).

2. HD Front Projection Systems. The old CRT projectors were great… and expensive… and heavy… but the digital revolution brought us new video projection technology. With a drop in prices, this means that today’s modern front projectors are becoming more accessible to a wider range of people, particularly to those seeking the finest in home entertainment. Not only does the video projector provide more screen size for the price (a value hard to deny), it’s also as close to a cinema-like experience.

3. LCD Technology. We could go on all day about LCD vs. DLP projector technologies, but for the sake of naming a top technology that advanced the home theater business, we’re going with LCD. LCD (liquid crystal display) has been around, gives a great color saturation and gives a sharp image at any resolution. LCD TVs and projectors are widely available, and even if we continued to argue back and forth about LCD and DLP, the only winner in all this would be you, the home theater owner.

4. High Contrast Screens.
They call it the silver screen, but it’s not entirely silver. A top-notch viewing screen isn’t entirely flat either – it will also have perforations in it, so sound can travel through it. Another little fact: you can futz with the color from your projector, but a high-contrast screen will help make whites really pop and will also help make a truer black. You can learn about projection screens from our partner at www.da-lite.com

5. HDMI. The HDMI interface is the global standard for connecting high-definition Consumer Electronics and even your PC products. It’s the uncompressed, all-digital interface that delivers quality and ease of use. HDMI cables represent a digital alternative to consumer analog standards such as coaxial cable, S-Video,  D-Terminal, and VGA. For your home theater, this new standard allows you to be fully digital, with great ease and with more access to high-definition expandability for the future.

What do you think? What’s made your home theater experience lately?

Highlights from CEDIA Expo 08, Denver Colorado

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Once a year, we integrators gather for professional training and an industry trade show. The acronym CEDIA stands for Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association. I’ve enjoyed attending since 1994, and here are a few highlights from this year’s event that I thought were worth sharing:

Audio

While there were no earth shattering changes in the audio world, everything is improving. Audio processors continue to add features, such as digital room correction that is automated, yet still fine-tunable by pro’s for super-precise adjustment. The Integra separate processor stood out as an astounding bang for the buck unit, laden with features such as balanced outputs, on-board HDMI processing, and pretty much every surround decoding format known to man.

Interestingly, subwoofers are getting much smarter. Triad’s new line of subwoofer amplifiers carry an impressive on-board DSP processor with multiple bands of digital parametric equalization, delay, phase, and adjustable crossover frequency for both the woofer itself, the line outs for satellite speakers, and line outs for custom multi-way sub setups (VERY cool – I’m still geeked about that one).

For loudspeakers, we’re seeing more line-array arrangements from companies like McIntosh and Artison which are very appropriate for rooms with poor acoustics such as tile floors and plaster ceilings. And for those theaters that are extremely large, or even perhaps sporting pavilions, there are companies such as PHC that are producing commercial cinema grade systems that have enough output to power these oversize spaces. Yes, these speakers are quite large.

Video

Who says bigger isn’t better? New video projectors from companies such as Meridian Audio and JVC with resolutions over 4,000 horizontal pixels are absolutely stunning. These higher resolutions will allow us to dramatically increase screen size and still have an image that is watchable in the front row. Interestingly, rear projection is making a comeback in the form of high-end 16:9 and 2.35:1 aspect ratio high performance displays that show a phenomenal image even in extremely high ambient light conditions. While not inexpensive, custom rear projection may be the way to go for those who would otherwise be considering that $100k uber-giant plasma screen.

Remembering that our reference video systems are really just trying to faithfully reproduce the original film as created by the director and cinema photographer, why not just install a film projector? A new company called Wolfe Cinema is doing just that, producing true 35mm film projectors for the residential market at prices that may be less than you would imagine. About the size of your kitchen refrigerator, two are recommended, so each reel can be switched into place without interruption. Apparently, 35mm reels of up to date movies can be rented or even purchased for around $2,000 each.

Where’s my popcorn? When it comes to digital content delivery, there is a company about to begin digital distribution of very high bitrate (45mbps) movies directly from the studios by means a proprietary hard drive shipping system. Some serious encryption is no doubt taking place here to keep the hackers at bay.

Control

Improvements in control systems continue to flow, but you still have to choose between the less expensive systems with limited options and scalability, or go for the fully custom solution that while expensive, is virtually unlimited in accomplishing whatever a creative mind can conjure up.

The up and coming major application for home automation technology is energy management. Combine thorough energy monitoring with custom integration control, and some serious savings can be realized. While this level of ‘green’ won’t be widely available in homes for a few years, the top automations firms (yours truly) are doing it on projects right now. Call today, operators standing by…

Gaming

One of the training sessions I attended focused on video gaming, which turned out to be an eye-opener for me. I’m not a big gamer myself, though I do enjoy GT3 racing on an ancient Sony PS2 in my home theater once or twice a year (lame, I know). But it really got me to thinking about those families who may actually do a decent amount of gaming.

There are two primary forms of gaming: immersive, and social. The immersive style would be something like the racing I just mentioned or perhaps one of those first-person action games where you can play for hours and almost loose contact with your physical body. These immersive games require isolation, and a home theater may be just the spot.

Social gaming is a completely different beast. When you’re playing Guitar Hero, where do you stand? Are you blocking the projector from hitting the video screen? Do you have your back to your audience while looking at the big screen? And when playing Wii bowling, you need a lot of room, probably right where the sweet spot theater chairs are. If you plan on having your home theater pull double duty for video gaming these are just some of the important things to consider.

Come to think of it, maybe you should make an appointment to talk with your local CEDIA certified home theater design specialist / propeller-headed A/V geek. I wonder who?…
______________________
Sean Hotchkiss
shotchkiss@grandhome.com

GHA’s Bill Langejans Interviewed by Detriot’s WWJ News Radio

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Bill Langejans, one of our Grand Home Automation client consultants, was recently interviewed by WWJ 950 News Radio in Detroit. Check out the article on their website for some great tips on home theater setup, as well as some tips on what not to do (hint: avoid putting that expensive flat screen TV over your fireplace!)

GHA Launches Home Theater Website

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Grand Home Automation is proud to announce the launch of this website dedicated to assiting people with Home theater and media room installation related issues. As the primary contributor to this blog, I hope to cover topics that are of concern to those who are contemplating the building of a new home theater, or wish to improve upon the one they already have. Harmonizing with Grand Home’s general philosophy, a strong emphasis will be placed on planning, design, and engineering. With so many factors to consider, it’s just too risky to buy a bunch of gear, wire it up, and hope everything works out alright.

As a CEDIA certified home theater design specialist, I will be stressing the importance of getting the room design right. Extremely expensive equipment will perform quite poorly in an uncontrolled environment, while even modest electronics can perform wonderfully under the right conditions with proper calibration. Some of the primary considerations for any home theater space that will be discussed here are:

  • Acoustic treatment – sound control inside the room
  • Acoustic isolation – keeping theater sounds in, and house sounds out
  • Audio processing and amplification
  • Video technologies
  • Visual formats and layout
  • Lighting control and effects
  • Climate control and ventillation
  • Interior furnishings and decor
  • Control systems – doesn’t matter how great it performs if you can’t turn it on

I’m looking forward to exploring and sharing my favorite topic – Home Theater!
______________________
Sean Hotchkiss
shotchkiss@grandhome.com