Originally Posted by Dean Roddey
And, every day at a random time, Cleopatra locks the doors in one of the rooms and tests the halon system.
FWIW, me reading AVS and laughing hysterically at the precise moment my wife walks in the room and looks at the laptop is exactly why she, most of her friends, and the article think we're total DIY geeks.
|Have the Resources and Support of a Professional Home Automation Installer, at a Do-It-Yourself Price.
Oh ****, I might have to get a real job soon...
I should say that making it a lot easier to whip up a nice looking UI is high on our list now. All the underlying functionality is there to do it, and available raw for those who want to really customize, but we will be building a lot more helper functionality on top of that, so make it easier. There's a fairly basic 'themes' system now, which will be expanded substantially, probaby in 1.8, and some more like a 'layout' type of scheme built on top of it. So the themes provide consistent look and feel on the widgets, and layouts provide various standard interface navigation schemes and common functionality that can be auto-generated.
Still though, if you are looking for super-fancy UIs to your specs, and/or one-off, and are willing to pay for them, nothing can compete with the graphics capabilities of a modern PC really. It has power to burn when it comes to use of lots of alpha blended images and animations.
Dean, are going to charge for it, either as package upgrade or within the price of the other software, etc?
|...the graphics and GUI are a large part of the difference in cost. Not only are there more buttons and pages, the textures and fine detail are much different. Most time somebody comes out swinging I don't they're accounting for this substantial difference in finished products, though I think most of us here on this thread understand it.
Bigpapa, are you saying there is software/hardware available to the "Big 2" to create better GUI? or are the CIs that build the GUI better at it? I cant create the same detail using something like CQC if I had any passion or skill in being "artistic"?
Of course from my project management seat I would tell any developer that if they spent more time with the "art" then with the "substance" then they just cost me money ;) so Im definitely not the person to care about "polished" and "fine" details and therefore would have an extremely hard time putting a value to that.
I believe applications should be clear and have simple flow to them. Font size, colors and so on are just preferences that dont change functionality.
|Bigpapa, are you saying there is software/hardware available to the "Big 2" to create better GUI? or are the CIs that build the GUI better at it? I cant create the same detail using something like CQC if I had any passion or skill in being "artistic"?
Not really, not necessarily, and no. Ultra polished TS's can be created for CQS, it just takes time and effort. I'm clarifying that one of the usual reasons for price differential is the development of the GUI, which has little to do with the platform.
Most of you guys here can create the really nice GUI, it just takes time. The TS screenshot I posted was developed by using Photoshop first then importing. I'm sure IVB could do it, but he's sorta busy right now. Idon't have the patience to do it myself, and the guy who did it does GUI for a living. I think he did a really good job.
Polished GUI isn't just for show... 3D features are used to clearly show a user what a button is and what not, obviously. Buttons should be layed out with that 'flow.'
The point is that we (or a DIYer with the time and energy) could do the same work, but it has nothing to do with Crestron or AMX; it has more to do with the $1M-$100K-$10k cost comparison. I think there is a value to the polished look beyond vanity, it's not all just for show.
|Dean, are going to charge for it, either as package upgrade or within the price of the other software, etc?
I assume it will just be a core part of the system, basically just capabilities of the Interface Designer tool. So you'd just tell the interface designer you want to generate an interface set based on a layout. It would let you pick the layout, and pick the theme you want to use, and it would generate them. It would do things like spit out the top level interface, and the various overlays and provide the buttons for the navigation. So you'd end up with all of the screens and their naviation pre-done, whcih you can then start filling in.
Another part of it would be the ability to auto-generate certain types of common pages, like a media browsing page, where you always a category browser, a cover art browser and a first letter selection tool bar. Or a set of widgets to implement a keypad. Or a set of weather forecast widgets. That kind of stuff. These aren't hard to do, they are just time consuming. So these auto-generation helpers would just make it a lot faster to do them. You can then adjust them as desired after they are spit out.
Originally Posted by Dean Roddey
These aren't hard to do, they're just time consuming
That's exactly why GUI is a large part of the cost differential between a $20k system and a $1M system. Time.
Well, they aren't THAT time consuming :-) You've seen my interfaces, right? I did those in probably under 16 hours of actual work time, including the underlying macros. Of course I know the tools better than anyone, so I have some advantage there. But it's not as hard as it might seem.
I spent a lot more time generating some custom graphics, but that's just because I wanted to, not because I had to. We ship a very nice set of graphics and I could have stayed completely within that set and done a very job. And I also do them because it provides the double benefit of me being able to create a nice new look, and also because I then include those graphics into the standard set of images that we ship, which improves the product at the same time.
Out guy did 6 months part time to develop the package seen on my screen shot.
I agree, it's not so much difficulty as much as patience and persistence.
It really depends on a persons skill with Photoshop/Illustrator on how long something will take to create but I was pretty surprised when I seen some of the graphics being sold by companys such as GUIFX and can say I can do pretty well the same stuff in minimal time...most templates I can have drawn up in a few hours.
The thing is everybody has their price and while graphics might be easy for somebody like myself to create for the typical homeowner who has no experience they would have a hell of a time trying to create something that looks better than their kids myspace website...for them the option of paying someone witha bit of talent is something they need and if they don't mind paying it's their choice.
While I do agree graphics and design do cost I always seem to get a good laugh at the cost of some graphics people sell as well as their *self claim* to being a graphics professional..obviously thats a title that might work on some business cards just don't be handing it out at an Adobe convention and showing samples of your work :-)
I was amazed last summer the first time I seen people selling DirecTV logo packs and XM Radio logo packs, simply put they visited Lyngsat and downloaded all the channel icons for DirecTV and put them on a simple white button background with a 3D bevel and maybe did a few slight touchups and then they sell these for about $60-$80 dollars a package to multiple users.. I agree customers demand channel icons but unless you have written permission to reuse and resell network logos I'd hate to be the self claimed graphics artist being sued by a big network for reselling their logo without permission.
Most GUI graphics are relatively simple in my opinion....most designs for GUIs are very similar to web page design and making 3D buttons, Glossy buttons and interfaces is something that can be learned rather quickly even by a novice in their spare time but guaranteed its gonna take some time..I have used Photoshop since version 3.0 about ten years or so.
Here is a simple example of something I seen selling for $44.99 on another website that I decided to create myself, If I recall correctly it took me a little less than 2 hours to design in photoshop and I donated it to anybody that wanted to use it, the advantage with mine is it will work with any system that uses standard graphics and I provided the source file for anybody to edit..the other version for sale is made in flash and not very customizable.http://www.touchscreengraphics.com/i...white-body.png
In the end I totally agree graphics cost and indeed time is a factor..some things can take alot longer to create and should cost more..I'm curious on a typical high end installation how much the graphics alone are sold for?, I see GUIFX selling stuff that could be done in a day for $500 so I wonder what the custom stuff everybody talks about costs and is their somewhere with more examples..I'd be very interested in seeing some of the templates used in the mega-buck installations.
Maybe this won't meany anything to non-graphics geeks, but one reason why it's often a lot easier (in CQC anyway) than you might think is that we can use alpha blended images. Alpha blending allows every pixel in an image to have it's own transparency/opacity setting. This can be used in a lot of ways, but the most common way is to blend the edges of the image into the background.
So, if you want to have a sunken or raised surround under a button, such as these 'membrane' type buttons on the left of this screen:http://charmedquark.com/Web2/Downloa...diaOverlay.jpg
You don't have to draw those buttons into the background. They can just be dropped onto the background as a separate widget, and they blend perfectly into whatever background is there because they are alpha blended into it (not just the edges in this case but the whole raised section.) This makes it far easier to compose these types of things than if you only had color based transparency (which creates a hard edge and therefore would require that you draw that smooth raised section into the background and redraw that image every time you want to change the layout.) In our system, you'd just grab the underlying surround image and the button and just move them.
This makes it far easier to quickly change an elaborate interface of that sort, and of course can be used in many other ways to create slick transparent images that will blend well into many backgrounds. Some systems allow a global transparency setting, in which you can apply a single transparency level to all the pixels in the image, and that also can help, but can't provide that smooth edge blending effect.
It can also do things like this:http://charmedquark.com/Web2/Downloa...s/Hilitefx.jpg
Look at the button at the top, which has been lighted up red when pressed. Notice how the red light has reflected off the edges above and below it. This is done by adding an alpha blended halo around the image.
And it can be used to create very smooth edges, anti-aliasing, without having to have special anti-aliasing support in the drawing (which is normally only available in vector graphics.) By adjusting the opacity of the pixels along the edges, you can create a natural anti-aliasing effect that will work against any background color or texture.
And we can create these types of text effects on the fly:http://charmedquark.com/Web2/Downloa...ges/TextFX.png
So you don't have to laboriously draw them this way. And if the data to display is dynamic, you can't draw them as images anyway, you have to be able to generate the effect on the fly so that it can change to display the current value.
Originally Posted by ripper
If I recall correctly it took me a little less than 2 hours to design in photoshop and I donated it to anybody that wanted to use it
And this is why I love that ripper bought CQC - Between him & vladstudio.com [$30 lifetime subscription], you see where 99% of my graphics came from.
And Dean's posts makes me realize I need to finish up all this LV wiring, so I can get cracking on those UI improvements.
|In the end I totally agree graphics cost and indeed time is a factor..some things can take alot longer to create and should cost more..I'm curious on a typical high end installation how much the graphics alone are sold for?, I see GUIFX selling stuff that could be done in a day for $500 so I wonder what the custom stuff everybody talks about costs and is their somewhere with more examples..I'd be very interested in seeing some of the templates used in the mega-buck installations.
It's hard to say since it's not a separate line item. We developed a package of textures and templates utililized on all our AMX projects, and our guy continually develops stuff. We now have animating icons that are fairly complex. This is not a fluff or vanity thing, having a source icon animate is a great feature because it provides immediate feedback to a user when looking at a house layout or similar.
Our TS's will have all the same graphics and textures, but of course a more expensive job will have more buttons and pages. The features and looks (IVB calls them skins) will be the same.
I think most guys here have the capacity to do it, I don't think for a second we're the only ones doing it. Again, it's expensive to do (because of time) and we're going to charge for it. A DIY'er can do it, but it's going to take a while to learn how to do.
Dean, love the recessed buttons. 3D features aren't so much fluff since it should be clear where a user should touch/press a button as opposed to data or graphics.
Ripper, you should meet some of the guys I know who are "Home Theater Designers." Or, maybe you shouldn't... :o
Originally Posted by bigpapa
Ripper, you should meet some of the guys I know who are "Home Theater Designers." Or, maybe you shouldn't... :o
I'm a easy going guy, I think maybe my one post just bothered some people and thats understandable when I make comments about something another person sells.
I generally work 10-14 hour days online doing various stuff so anything I do with graphics is done in my spare time or on weekends..my current job has nothing at all to do with graphics, from 1995-2001 I designed websites and ran a few large websites so thats where my graphics experience comes from but after that I never really used photoshop much and just last year started using it a bit more often.
Everything I make nowadays I give away if people want it, though I could probably do it to make money after seeing what others have done I'm not sure I could meet deadlines if somebody said they needed it done in a week..given a fair amount of time anything is possible.
All the CQC users were really nice when I first started my demo of the product and I appreciate their support getting me up to speed fast after I left a competing product..Dean went out of his way to walk me through creating a driver for the Russound ST2-XM(over a week of posts) and his support for the users is never ending and he can indeed "walk the walk" when it comes to coding and provide the features for his product...I have total respect for CQC and the way they treat the end-user and have to say the group of users on the CQC forums are some of the most helpful people you will find.
**BigPapa you mention a screenshot of some work done..is that on the avs forum somewhere?
Anybody remember the OP? I wonder if he found a dealer.
QQQ, I missed the picture of the wire hanging out (I hate that) but my assessment was about the same as yours. The first time I came home in a bad mood and that fake B* welcomed me to "my" house, that plasma would be toast. Of course if she was that hologram you mentioned - that might be different
BigPapa, The graphics you showed and those done by Ripper certainly add cost the the job, either in dollars to pay for them or time to do them. I'm thankful there are guys like Ripper around that will allow others to use their work. Not often an option for you guys, although I would think that work could be amortized over several jobs. Laying them out in CQC is a fairly easy proposition. Dean has put a decent selection in the product and made it easy to import others, but as I'm sure most in this discussion realize, much of the art is in the thoughtful and logical layout. Personally, I'm a simplicity freak. I want what the user sees to be as elegant as possible, but as I tell my wife and employees, simple ain't easy - at least for the designer.
Good disscussion gentlemen
|I'm a easy going guy, I think maybe my one post just bothered some people and thats understandable when I make comments about something another person sells.
I think we've moved past that. It seemed like you were saying 'most of' us CI's at first, but clarified that. I'm joking about some of the 'Jimbos' I know of... I think we'll keep that joke going for a little while.
|**BigPapa you mention a screenshot of some work done..is that on the avs forum somewhere?
Too lazy to look. If I have time later I'll convert a Source page so you can see the icons, though I can't make them animate.
|Not often an option for you guys, although I would think that work could be amortized over several jobs. Laying them out in CQC is a fairly easy proposition. Dean has put a decent selection in the product and made it easy to import others, but as I'm sure most in this discussion realize, much of the art is in the thoughtful and logical layout. Personally, I'm a simplicity freak. I want what the user sees to be as elegant as possible, but as I tell my wife and employees, simple ain't easy - at least for the designer.
I misspoke earlier when I said GUI was not a line item. We usually have a programming budget, coding and GUI will be encompassed in that line item. They are assessed by us separately, and of course we amortize over several jobs, charging development time for stuff we aren't likely to use again.
I'd think our TS's are elegant, and I'd put them up against any out there I've seen. They aren't perfect, and we do have to change them when a client gives us some input. I think the key is to keep thinking simple, or what I call 'engineering stupid.' Some of the smartest engineers or programmers I know can't 'engineer stupid.'
Hopefully, we always stay students of GUI and keep refining our package.
As for CQS, I can't think of a reason why the GUI couldn't be (it essentially almost is) refined as any awesome AMX system... it's a matter of time and efforts mixed with skills. I think most of the stuff I saw from you guys is really good, probably better than I could or have the patience to do.
I tried to get as much detail as possible since the other page screen shot lost a lot of detail in the transfer. The outer area looks like brushed aluminum and the textures are really detailed.
Remeber that the icons animate; if you go back to the source selection page to choose another source, the currently selected source will animate. Typical animations include DVD's spinning, film running, iPods doing a slow spin, speakers slowly vibrating and spitting out notes, and my personal favorite... the Tivo thingy jumping up and down.
I'm not here to show off or be elitist and say anything less than this is keck. The point is this isn't just to be cool or clever; the animating icons make the system easier to use because it's instant and intuitive feedback.
When integrating with security, we often import the actual plans from the architect onto a page, create green lines for closed windows and red for open ones that feedback in real time (or with a delay of a second or two). I think IVB was doing something like this in his gig, but it's really cool to have your actual house drawing on there with the representative colored lines for status.
Again, it isn't just glossy though it looks that way; the amount of information displayed at a glance of your actual house with representative green and red lines is awesome. Imagine having to sit at your alarm keypad and read every batch of 16 LCD characters scrolling through each open door and window... in a big house with many doors and windows.
This is technology making our lives easier, no doubt. I don't think we're the only ones doing this, and I think this is very capable for CQS/Dean/IVB/you, but it's very time consuming to develop all this stuff and you're typical $20k automation system aint gonna do it, much less your typical DIYer.
I do see it offered by Dean once he gets around to developing it, maybe in a few years. Till then, you're stuck with me and my company. Or, you can hire QQQ and get a nicer GUI, with that house beeyatch talking to you also.
Thanks for posting the screenshots Bigpapa, nice work.
Most of the stuff I have done with CQC is testing..my new house is being built and won't be finished for about 2 more months so I'm basically testing everything out of a rack in my office..after the house is finished I will fully integrate the ELK M1 and will have different templates showing 3D views or flat views of the house plan showing temperatures open windows/doors lights on/off etc fans on/off...can't really test much Elk stuff at the moment and I'll wait till its all in the house.
My main concern at first was controlling my archived CD collection, I have 1100+ CD's in .flac format and tried a few products and after 6 months realized the product I was using for a front end just couldn't cut it for controlling my collection I decided to look at other options and went back to CQC forums and decided to give the software a full 30 day trial.
Within about a week or so in my spare time I had my music collection totally under control with CQC and laid out exactly how I wanted things to work..with the other software I was stuck with a layout that couldn't really be changed and I wasn't about to wait maybe a year or more for them to give the program more functionality that I needed.
I'd be lying if I said I am building my system on the cheap but I am trying to build it with as much expandability as possible and a few of the components do cost, I have a Russound CAV6.6 for whole house audio/paging and also have the Russound ST2-XM for XM radio and AM/FM radio throughout the house..for component video switching I'll be using the Neothings Avalon...the house also has HDMI runs to 4 locations but HDMI switching isn't needed just yet and I'll add that when I need it...I also have the Elk M1 with about 5 temp sensors, doorbell monitor, zwave interface...I also havent settled on what touchscreens I'll be using just yet but do have a couple I use for testing now.
Add to all that a couple terabytes of storage and things start to add up, my main concern was future expandability with storage and components and also the fact that I could roll my own home control system and change anything I wanted on my own time and not have to pay somebody else to do something that I could actually do myself.
I have no idea exactly what I have spent just yet or what I will spend by the time my project is actually completed but some of the needed components listed above are not cheap..its not like I bought a $699 computer installed CQC some speakers and kept it under $1000...not even close and things add up real quick the more features you want, I knew this wouldn't be cheap but I wanted it to be flexible and I also wanted to be the one maintaining my own system and as well upgrading it with as much flexibility as possible.
Last but not least the time factor..I started this late last summer when I decided I would control my new house I was building, waited for 6 months for upgrades to another product that never came so I moved on to CQC and have been using it since about Feb/March and I'm still testing things, still drawing templates and still have a few small things to buy before I'm actually in the house making everything work.