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Theater Automation & Remote Question

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 
**Had this originally posted in the Theater Construction thread, but seems like it might be better fit over here...**

Hey all,

Listen, I really don't mean to post a redundant thread, but I'm so turned around backwards after reading stuff on the interwebs about theater automation that I need to get some definitive advice I can rely on for my application.

Long story short, I've completely reconstructed my home theater from the ground up, and now am to the point of planning and installing components and lighting. I'd like to tie them all together for control though one remote, and also leave room for a little expandability (adding / replacing components, etc).

Here's what I have that I'd like to control from one remote:

- Epson PowerLite 8350 projector
- Playstation 3
- Wii
- Sony Reciever (circa 2004, exact model number unknown, will update when I get home)
- Comcast HD Cable Box
- Lighting (see below for more detail)

Future additions probably include a stand alone blue ray player and the like, but I would imagine those are very simple to add.

Playstation 3: I do know that it has no IR or RF receiver, so I have to purchase a special adapter. Not sure which one though, and/or if it depends on my other set-up.

Wii: My wife likes it ok, so back off. Is it possible to incorporate in the system and control from the same remote? Is an adapter necessary like the PS3?

Lighting: Here's my biggest confusion. Basically I'll have 5 different sets of lights in the same room I'd like to be able to control for different scenes, or independent of one another. Certain ones dim as others shut off or come on, etc etc, you get the idea.

From what I've read, I'd like to stay away from x 10 stuff, as I hear it fails early. I was also planning on going maybe Z-wave or Insteon, but heard those don't work with Harmony remotes well. That pretty much leaves Lutron in my price range, but I'm confused about how all their stuff works together.

Here's a basic diagram of my set up, since I've read some of the Lutron systems require a very direct line of sight to work correctly.

The 5 sets I'd like to be able to control and set independently are:

- Overhead Cans
- Wall Sconces
- Stage Cans
- Understage Light
- Cans in adjoining room

All are incandescent, and the understage light is a rope light. I have not wired up the Stage Cans or understage light yet. The other 3 zones are wired into a gang box to the left rear of my room. I'm planning on wiring the new 2 zones into or near the existing box of 3 to keep all my lighting controls in the same spot.

So after all that, I really just have a few questions: (another bullet point list! I know you're excited!)

- What remote should I be looking at to control all this stuff? In a perfect world, everything would be tied together so neatly that my wife could come downstairs, press "movie", and have everything turn on, adjust, dim, etc to the correct levels, then have everything come back up automatically when she presses "stop" or pause". Basically as close to 1 button brainless operation as possible. I was originally considering the Harmony 900 for it's great reviews, but noticed there might be some compatibility issues. Any other options and/or opinions are welcome.

- Exactly what components do I need to control the lighting? I'm also planning on hard wiring in the rope light to a switch for operation and aesthetics.

- My component cabinet is going to be housed behind a piece of tinted glass, but should I look into installing an all-in-one IR module to combine all the signals to one distinct point I could hide below the screen? Could I also do this for the switches, assuming that I have to use IR? Do they make something that could detect an RF from the remote, convert it into IR where appropriate, and then send it to everything? The one thing I want to avoid with my switches on the left rear wall is having to point the remote at the cabinet for one button press, and then at the gang box of switches for another. (however, I would like to keep the gang box where it is for manual operation when needed).

- Are there any other considerations I'm missing? I'm getting down to the final steps of my remodel, and want to make sure I've covered all my bases before I start closing everything up.

Cost of all this stuff is also a consideration, as I'm not looking to go crazy with a total Control 4-esque system, and the Harmony 900 was probably about the max in my price range for a remote. I do want to make sure I'm spending money on good products though, and not skimping on important components.

Finally, I'd like to think of myself as a very handy and intelligent individual (and also a good googler when those first 2 things fail me), so any programming of remotes or install of components shouldn't be a problem.

Thanks for reading my long and winded post, and I really appreciate you guys taking the time to help set me straight!

Let me know if there's any more info I can provide, and I'll be sure to update the thread with any developments.

post #2 of 7
The Harmony 900 is a great remote for basic and slightly advanced operations. When you start talking about controlling lights and creating scenes you really want to consider a URC remote like the MX-880, 990, 3000. The $200 extra bucks you spend will be well worth it in the aggravation department. As with anything regarding electronics the ease of use, and reliability of your remote will depend on the talents of the programmer. If you decide to go that route I would ask the dealer which lighting systems he's had the most success with.

Logitech makes a PS3 adapter that works with just about any aftermarket remote system.

The Wii cannot be controlled by your HT Remote but you could have a "macro" or "activity" that would turn your system on so you could use the Wii remote.
post #3 of 7
I agree that once you start wanting to control lighting in conjunction with your AV equipment, start looking into URC or something similar. I have zero programming experience but wanted a similar setup to what you're looking for. I'm working with a home automation guy and the URC MX-980 was my top URC choice to control the AV equipment and lighting scenes from one stick. I will be using Lutron's Ra2 system for my lighting, which is friendly for retrofits as long as your lighting was wired with a neutral.

This remote is designed to be super easy to use when properly programmed. There is a movie button and a music button, an LCD that lets you choose components to control (cable, BluRay, Roku, etc.), and the basic transport and number buttons. For example, I'd planned to have mine configured to set a certain lighting scene, turn on all the components, and be ready to go with one button push. The remote communicates with a base station that all of your components are plugged into.

Make sure you research programming your own URC or similar remote prior to buying. Some of the pro model remotes are easy to get, but you'll have a tough time getting your hands on the programming software since you're not a dealer.
post #4 of 7
Thread Starter 
thanks for the info guys. I think the lutron ra2 might be above my budget, so I'll look for something a little more basic.

Any additional recommendations on lighting that hits a lower price point than the ra2s?
post #5 of 7
X10 lighting control is an inexpensive option. While you can't do scenes, you can control the modules ( switches and plug-in lamp modules ) via IR using an IR-543 controller. Most universal remotes have X10 codes in their databases, including the Harmony remotes. If used for a single room setup, and if all loads are on the same phase, it can be quite reliable.

As others have suggested, URC has a special Lutron line of compatible dimmers. The least expensive remote that supports URC/Lutron lighting is the MX-450. It's a RF remote similar in features to the Harmony 900. While the remote is available on Amazon, the lighting modules are not. You have to source them from a URC dealer or custom installer.

The next step up is mesh networked modules. Z-Wave is dominant right now for home applications, although Zigbee is gaining ground. Neither of these solutions have a direct IR interface. You need a PC to act as a controller and equip it with an IR interface. The IR interface to the PC sends triggers that the Home Automation software reacts to and controls scenes via Z-Wave or Zigbee. This is now getting into Home Automation territory. www.coocoontech.com is a good resource site to learn about these technologies. The older Harmony 890 and 1000 can control Z-Wave directly, but they are discontinued models and Z-Wave support is limited. Newer Harmony remotes don't have Z-Wave support.

After this come the Radio-Ra's, Control 4's, and then AMX and Crestron offerings. All are dealer/installer only products.

For the setup you propose, you could probably get away with just using X10. Then you have a broad choice of universal remotes. I have both Harmony and URC's. Harmony's are simpler to setup, URC's offer more flexibility. It comes down to preference. Your total cost for the light switch dimmers and lamp modules, plus an IR-543 would probably be under $100 if you shop the eBay vendors.

post #6 of 7

It sounds as if you want something that will give you a professional look and feel, without the expense of a control system that can cost you several thousand dollars just to get in the door.

My suggestion would be to go with URC. Most of my clients in your position usually go with an MX-980 (which can be customized extremely well to tailor your decor and desirable features) and an MRF-350 base unit. URC is great because you can control the lighting they have - simply replace the switch or dimmer with a URC dimmer and the remote can communicate with the dimmer or switch wirelessly.

You can step up with URC to the two way remotes which offer you some pretty cool features and a great deal of room to expand, but if I were you I would start out with an MX-980/MRF-350. The 980 can really be tailored to also be very simple to use. Most of the 980's I design are for people who are looking for a high resolution remote with plenty of screen but with enough hard buttons to not have to press their way around.

If you have any questions feel free to send me an email or PM.

Total Control Remotes
post #7 of 7
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the info guys! I went with Lutron spacers, and will be installing them once they arrive. I'll keep you posted on how it goes.

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