New to Automation - Questions about Controller and software. - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 10 Old 08-02-2012, 08:04 AM - Thread Starter
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So I'm setting up my home theater and I'm new to automation. I have a 50" Panasonic Plasma for the kids to play games on and such, then a 106" Screen that will lower in front of it for movie time. Basically what I want to do is is a one room solution where I can:

- Turn one/off lights and ceiling fan (Wifi)
- Turn on/off TV or Projector (50" Panny Plasma and Panny 100U) - (IR)
- Lower/Raise Projection Screen (IR)
- Turn on/off Denon (IR)
- Turn on/off HTPC (IR)
- Control XBMC and Windows Media Center
- Control Thermostat (wifi)

So I'm looking for something that support Wifi and IR w/ DIY install and a good UI on an android or iOS device. It has to be simple to use for wife/kids acceptance factor smile.gif

I was looking at a Control4 but didn't realize it was a closed system. I like their interface though and the abilities it has. I also looked at iRule and a VeraLite as maybe an option. Anyone else have a suggestion for systems similar to this? I'd love to have something simple to use like the Elan/Control4 interface, but not closed.

Right now I have no hardware as far as dimmers/switches/thermostat. So I'm open to anything.

Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance and feel free to follow up with any questions you may have for me. Have a great day guys!
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post #2 of 10 Old 08-02-2012, 02:41 PM
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(1) Control 4 is not designed for and sold to the DIY market - a dealer must configure your system (add components, commands, etc.). There is a limited function Homeowner version of the software which allows you to make tweaks. With that said, there are those who HAVE DIY'ed C4 in the past (mostly on older, obsolete versions of the software), so some things are possible.

(2) Control 4 remotes (either hard-button or app-based) communicate with the Controller through wi-fi - no need to have IR on those. All control points connect from Controller to the devices. And yes, you would run IR emitter cables from those 4 ports to the devices you need to control. A blaster that is not facing the equipment may not work well, or at least not reliably 100% of the time. If you need more than 4 IR devices, you may be able to use dual emitter cables (e.g., 1 connection point to Controller port, with a split and 2 separate emitter ends).
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post #3 of 10 Old 08-02-2012, 03:26 PM
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It doesn't seem to me you need to spend the kind of money it takes to get something like Control4 installed for your home theater. There are very good DIY software packages available that can do everything you need to do. The 3 major players are Elve, CQC and Homeseer. Each has their unique selling points.

I looked at all of them, and decided Elve was best for me given my limited technical depth. This has proven to be an excellent choice, and the most economical of all of them at the current price of $99.

Using your own software and system allows you to select the components you want and to change them from time to time. Propitiatory systems such as Control4 lock you into their stuff and make you beholding to the integrator. My view is that it's my money, I want to control the system choices.

I run about everything you're talking about and much, much more using an iPad. You can also use an Android tablet.. And, I'm only a small DIY user with limited knowledge compared to some of the users of DIY software.

Here's a link to my home theater setup, which includes a diagram of how it it connected to give you a rough idea. Click on "Control System". Remember, I'm doing much more than you're talking about, but, I predict once you get started, you'll want to expand. It's a disease (a good one).

http://www.deanejohnson.com/johnsonhometheater/

Deane.
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post #4 of 10 Old 08-02-2012, 05:28 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks Mike and Deane.

Mike - yes I understood that the remotes or tables connect via wifi, it was more the component communication part with the IR functions I was concerned about. I did a bit more digging and it looks like a neat system, but I did not realize it was closed and not really for the DIY.

That said, I am not sold on Control4. The price was reasonable and I liked the interface of the software. That was a big selling point because it needs the wife and kids acceptance factor smile.gif I'm sure most of you understand that one.

Deane, great suggestions and I appreciate the reply. I'll certainly take a look at Elve, CQC and Homeseer and see what they have to offer. I guess my biggest concerns about the DIY stuff is more the software end of things. I'll be the first to admit I like slick/polished software, lol. But I am open and will look at what is out there.

Any other suggestions are more than welcome and appreciated!!!
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post #5 of 10 Old 08-02-2012, 06:18 PM
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You can certainly create very slick interfaces with CQC, with high family acceptance factor. Check the Gallery link for some examples (www.charmedquark.com). We try to be equally strong on both the front and back end. So really sexy graphical interfaces and a very robust and flexible server side.

Dean Roddey
Chairman/CTO, Charmed Quark Systems, Ltd

www.charmedquark.com

 

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post #6 of 10 Old 08-02-2012, 07:46 PM - Thread Starter
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I edited my original post because of the closed system of Control4. I'm looking for something I can tinker with and put together how I want. What about the VeraLite or iRule? Are there any other systems similar to this that are decent?
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post #7 of 10 Old 08-03-2012, 03:06 AM
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With Elve, and I believe also with CQC, the necessary software is included in the package at no extra charge that let's you make as fancy and impressive GUI screens as your imagination will allow. With Homeseer, it's an add-on to the basic package. Personally, I have a tendency to prefer to purchase software that is all-inclusive from the beginning rather than be nickeled and dimed to death as I do more and more with my system.

I don't know anything about Veralite or IRule, so can't comment. My suspicion is that they are a bit limited in scope compared to the three software systems we are talking about.
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post #8 of 10 Old 08-03-2012, 07:53 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Deane Johnson View Post

It doesn't seem to me you need to spend the kind of money it takes to get something like Control4 installed for your home theater. There are very good DIY software packages available that can do everything you need to do. The 3 major players are Elve, CQC and Homeseer. Each has their unique selling points.
 

If you are looking at DIY solutions you should also take a look at MainLobby.

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post #9 of 10 Old 08-03-2012, 10:51 AM - Thread Starter
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Elve looks interesting because the GUI is open and you can design what you want. As a former Graphic Artist / GUI designer I think it might be nice to design my own interface. I guess my only worry is the time involved and how easy it is to work with the development tool. I sent them a msg to ask a few hardware related questions and controller suggestions.

I'll go take a look at MainLobby as well. It's a different approach than what I expected with the whole DIY aspect, but I think it so far. It's a shame Elan and Control4 are closed systems and they don't make it easy to dev your own. I'm not as concerned about being locked into certain hardware as long as it's decent, but the fact you can design/develop your own components and scenes isn't much fun.

Good stuff guys! Thanks again for all the help. Let me know if you have other suggestions.
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post #10 of 10 Old 08-14-2012, 12:08 PM
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I have a RedEye Pro controller (from ThinkFlood) in a pretty extensive setup. With 6 TV's, 2 satellite receivers, 2 media players and Blu-ray players all located in my basement. The setup also includes a home theatre with a projector with an amp to control the sound w/an HDMI/CAT6 8x8 Matrix to drive content to each output.

I use the RedEye Pro unit because it gave me the ability to control up to 24 IR devices (8 physical IR ports but I can put 3 IR blasters per port), 2 serial devices and 2 Relay devices and for the past 6 months they've made IP control available so I control my boxee box and few other devices through IP control. I also have my home with Insteon switches, sprinklers and door locks however I have yet to program all of that in the RedEye using IP control (hoping that someone from Thinkflood - redeye can write the driver for this) - there are a number of requests for this on their support forum.

The nice thing about RedEye is that it doesn't matter how many devices you have and it supports both iOS and Android or you can use a web browser from anywhere. The interface is really simple to use and you don't have to be a designer or use designer software to do this. My design skills are terrible and I don't have the time to spend designing specific configurations for multiple remotes (ie a design for an iPad, a design/template for an iPod and/or android). I wanted consistency throughout my devices where I would make one change that would reflect across the board to all my remotes. I'm sure there are other DIY solutions that others have mentioned that may do this as well but I'm unaware - just posting my experience.

There are some pro's and cons to the RedEye unit:

Pros:
Easy to use w/limited tech skills - my kids (5yr old) knows what to do and especially my non-tech savvy wife likes the control
Extendable/expandable w/IP control
Good support

Cons:
Cost: approx. $700 for the redeye pro unit. But the redeye (non-pro) is about $200. The only thing it lacks is serial control and it only has 1 IR port but you can split that to 3 IR blasters. It does offer IP control.
Lack of complete control over the GUI (so as I stated earlier the GUI template is pretty much locked if you want to make it custom - however apparently they are working on changing that). This is where other DIY solutions as mentioned in this thread will surpass the RedEye functionality.

I have installed these systems in 2 of my friends places and they love it. And, as mentioned by others in this thread, I like to have complete control over my setup and I'm always tinkering with things ie adding more components, removing, updating others hardware and I don't want to pay someone to program each change.

Hope this helps!
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