High Rise AV

Walking into this penthouse condominium in an affluent area of Los Angeles Mark Schafer and Mark Stewart of CustomLA knew it would require just the right control system for this ambitious AV design to meet the homeowner's expectations. They wanted whole house audio and video, yet, they had little interest in learning a complex system that would require more technical savvy than they possessed or desired. It was also critical that the technology blend into the fashionable, yet comfortable, interior created by Threshold Design.

"At Custom LA we tell our customers that control is the most important part of any system," explains Mark Schafer, president of CustomLA. "In this case, due to the client's requirements and budget, we decided on RTI's system. There is a K4 In-Wall Touchscreen remote located in the foyer near the main living area and a T4 Handheld remote in the library with T3 Touchscreen Remotes placed in zones throughout the house. Not only do they provide control for all the AV functions, they allow for additional control of lighting, blinds, and shades."

CustomLA recommended a Sony DVD/CD Changer to store the homeowner's optical media in conjunction with the Escient Fireball media manager. Using Escient's intuitive graphical interface, the homeowner can effortlessly access their media from any of the four main TVs. To keep the entire system centralized, eliminating clutter and simplifying system operations as much as possible, the bulk of the electronics (sans TVs) was installed in an equipment rack housed within a closet. The phone, data, and satellite systems are built into the walls with an On-Q panels.

Installing a whole-home distributed AV system in a high-rise building offers its own challenges. To prevent sound leakage into neighboring units, soundproofing was necessary. CustomLA removed the interior stuffing of each Sonance speaker firebox and lined the insides of the boxes with Dynamat sound absorbing material, and then reinstalled the stuffing.

Two AV receivers installed in the equipment rack run the high definition video and audio for the four main zones (library, living room, master bedroom, and master sitting room), while the Sonance whole-home music system drives the in-wall/ceiling speakers installed throughout the house (except the four main zones).

The main viewing area is the library and since it was already packed with natural sound absorbing surfaces and materials, little was needed to make the room sound terrific. A 63" Plasma TV was placed over the fireplace with three Canton 360F speakers installed within the beautiful millwork and rear speakers were mounted in the soffits. A Velodyne subwoofer is concealed inside the cabinet under the TV.

The living room and master bedroom feature automated lifts for the TVs, allowing them to be out of sight when not in use. While the living room is used primarily for music, for special occasions a 42" TV lifts up from behind the couch. The swiveling lift in the bedroom can be positioned via remote depending on where the homeowner is viewing the TV– either the bed, chair, or sofa.

Taking a year and half to complete, CustomLA worked side by side with Landry Design Group, Goldenberg Contractors, and Powerful Electric to ensure that all the AV subsystems were properly integrated into the overall design.

"To ensure the system truly is invisible, as far as the customer is concerned, it requires the development of a trusting and respectful relationship between all the subcontractors on the project," says Schafer. "It would be so easy for a project of this size to go astray with so many creative ideas floating around. Forging these positive relationships with other trades and the customer is what allows us the freedom to create these magnificent spaces."