The Integration Guide to Outdoor AV

March 6, 2017

This Integration Guide was sponsored by Apollo Enclosures, Mirage Vision, Peerless-AV, and Rockustics as a supplement to Residential Systems, March 2017

Homeowners the world over covet outdoor space. Backyards, patios, and—in the case of urban dwellers—cultivated rooftops and balconies, often serve as an extension of the living room, the nucleus of at-home entertainment. Residential integration manufacturers have long catered to this growing lifestyle trend, but in recent years, client requests in the outdoor category have pushed through significant product developments in both audio and video that specifically address the challenges these environments present.

Coastal Source’s CAS (component audio systems) take a similar discreet approach, with designs that complement and blend into the outdoor environment.

“The biggest influence has been the consumer’s desire to invest heavily in their outdoor space as an entertainment destination or an additional family/dining area,” said Brian Walter, president of Clearview Innovations, who manufactures outdoor display solutions. “The outdoor space has changed from a simple patio with a table and chairs to full-blown functioning outdoor kitchen, large dining area, fireplace with additional seating, and all the way to outdoor theater areas. Now, for our CEDIA clientele, this means the addition of outdoor electronics like lighting, audio, and televisions that are all-weather, waterproof, and integrate into their customers’ home automation systems the same way as their indoor equipment functions.”

Performance quality of AV products in the outdoor space has always been a top priority for both integrators and their manufacturing partners, but as cultural changes coupled with lightning-speed technologies have swiftly shifted, more homeowners are receptive to expanding their outdoor AV systems, especially when it comes to video.

“Technology is ever-changing within the flat panel industry,” said Lynn Stearns, president and founder of Apollo Enclosures. “When resolution went from full HD to 4K UHD, the image clarity quadrupled the quality of viewing TV, giving picture detail that was amazing. The newest introduction of the HDR (high dynamic range) feature to 4K is the next step toward viewing perfection. HDR content on HDR-compatible TVs gets brighter and darker at the same time with more gray in between. Colors are more vivid and more shades of color can be seen. This feature emulates the images that were only once available in higher nit-value displays that were brighter, but not as clear. Now consumers can use this technology to obtain clearer, sharper pictures in an outdoor environment without paying the high cost of outdoor high-brightness displays. The integrators have the advantage of selling a technology that will produce a far better and brighter picture in an outdoor environment at significant savings.”

FOR YOUR VIEWING PLEASURE

Managing ambient light is one of the challenges to a successful outdoor TV installation. Séura has tackled the problem with a new outdoor television feature that automatically adjusts backlight brightness and picture contrast in answer to shifting light conditions.

Séura has tackled the problem with a new outdoor television feature that automatically adjusts backlight brightness and picture contrast in answer to shifting light conditions.

“This was accomplished by creating picture-mode variations made up of 100 brightness settings and 10 LCD picture adjustment settings—something that no other indoor or outdoor TV manufacturer offers, and that Séura has a patent pending on,” explained Séura’s VP of sales and marketing, Keegan Coulter. The patent-pending feature is called Adaptive Picture Technology and is currently available on Séura Storm Ultra Bright outdoor TVs.

“Séura’s Adaptive Picture Technology ensures the best possible outdoor viewing experience by automatically adjusting the backlight brightness and picture contrast as lighting conditions change throughout the day and night,” Coulter added. “In the span of a one-hour TV show, you may have significantly different outdoor lighting conditions. Adaptive Picture Technology ensures that you will be experiencing the best possible version of that show at all times.”

Peerless-AV cites the integration of High TNI IPS panels (a marriage of technology that allows for wide viewing angles and screen damage prevention) as having the largest influence on its outdoor display division. The company integrated the technology into its full line of outdoor TVs and commercial displays.

“IPS technology allows for extremely wide viewing angles, so when our commercial panels are used in a drive-thru menu board-style deployment, the [integrator], along with the customer, can rest assured that the message is coming across with color accuracy, an extremely important component in displaying brand-imaging,” said Todd Mares, director of emerging technologies at Peerless-AV. “In integrating this type of technology in our displays, we are placing the decisions in the hands of the integrators and end users: integrators can choose any location that is best and end users are able to achieve their goals without worry of damage or longevity.”

MirageVision’s Diamond Pro series of 4K televisions bring the qualities embodied in smart indoor displays to the outdoor environment. Using a process that incorporates calibration, the Diamond Pro series streams video with 4K quality using the same television that end users often buy for indoor viewing.

Peerless-AV’s UltraView outdoor TV UV491

“With 4K, SUHD, and OLED technologies coming to the forefront of the television market, it makes shopping for a normal TV difficult, much less getting the same quality in an outdoor environment,” said Chris Panek, lead technician for MirageVision. “With our process, we can now take any new technology or format, and make it usable in the outdoors. This gives integrators a much larger product spread to offer every size of budget an option for outdoor viewing.”

Clearview Innovations’ Window TV presents a new way to bring AV entertainment outdoors, according to Walter, who pointed to its IP-rated construction and integrator friendliness.

“The Window TV follows the hidden technology path where consumers are constantly looking at solutions for hiding, concealing, or camouflaging their bulky electronics,” Walter said. “When activated, a screen appears in the glass of your window. When off, all you see is clear translucent glass in a finely crafted windowpane. We are currently developing flip image software so the window TV can double as an outdoor TV. You may choose to place this window on the outside area of your patio and the inside of your family room. When you want to watch outside you select the flip image function and now you have an outdoor TV.”

Looking beyond evolving video delivery speeds and technologies, climate is undeniably the hardest element to manage for outdoor displays. Enclosures have served as valuable assets in this regard, protecting, securing, and often enhancing displays in outdoor environments.

“All of the models in the Apollo product line are capable of supporting the technology of your choice, however frequently it changes, by simply upgrading the TV while always having an enclosure to protect your investment,” Stearns said. “As the picture quality and brightness increase in standard TVs on the market, the better they are for outdoor viewing.”

LISTEN UP

Audio technology been a popular outdoor technology feature for years, and from the start, there has been a trend toward discreet sound delivery. Although rock-like speakers remain a popular option, slimmer, smaller, and now, buried speakers are getting their share of the spotlight. Along with form factor changes, outdoor audio systems are also getting an injection of technology in addition to mechanical reworking that have proven enticing to consumers.

Origin Acoustics’ Seasons Landscape Collection is an expandable system of speakers than can include multiple satellites and subwoofers as an integration project requires. OA’s Taylor Nichols noted that the collection’s discreet design makes it ideal for refined outdoor living.

“Our Seasons Landscape Collection gives listeners a superior sounding option that goes visibly unnoticed outdoors,” said Nichols, who is OA’s director of marketing. “The camouflage design and profile makes it possible to completely hide a full-fledged multizone audio system outdoors. With multiple mounting options and the ability to expand with 70V taps, the systems can be installed in any outdoor environment or landscape design. These systems operate completely uninterrupted by even the harshest weather conditions with full weatherproof protection.”

Coastal Source’s CAS (component audio systems) take a similar discreet approach, with designs that complement and blend into the outdoor environment. The collection of outdoor-rated streams and amplifiers also offer integrators an easy installation process.

“The Coastal Source patented plug-and-play cabling system further enhances the CAS’s easy install and performance advantages,” said Franco D’Ascanio, president of Coastal Source. “The Ellipse Bollard speakers deliver large audiophile speaker frequency response, efficiency, and fidelity while blending into the environment partially buried or above ground.”

Taking its cues from its luxury yacht clientele, James Loudspeaker has addressed durability, finishes, and assembly techniques learned in that market to its domestic custom audio products, including the Omni Series outdoor speaker.

The James Loudspeaker Omni Series is a versatile outdoor speaker with 360 degrees of dispersion ideal for scenarios where small satellites and a subwoofer aren’t suitable

“The Omni Series is a versatile outdoor speaker with 360 degrees of dispersion ideal for scenarios where small satellites and a subwoofer aren’t suitable,” said Ted Telesky, chief marketing officer for James Loudspeaker. “The Omni Series can be used as a single channel of a multi-speaker system, it can be used as a single stereo solution (receiving both left and right channels of input), and it can be used full range or biamplified with the built-in subwoofer module. As a completely different example, the W-Series was developed to go into corners and up against wall/ceiling junctures and has been used numerous times as an outdoor solution under eaves. All of these speakers use severe marine powder coat and are available in both standard and custom colors.”

Digital signal processing (DSP), a well-established technology often found in high-end indoor speaker systems, is making its way into outdoor audio speakers as well, as noted by NEAR Speakers William Kieltyka, who views this standard-bearing tool as an important part of an installer’s repertoire along with voice recognition IP devices (Alexa, Google Home, etc.).

“This spring we are delivering two new power amplifiers purpose designed to drive outdoor loudspeakers and subwoofers,” Kieltyka revealed. “Both the 1400W 7XL and the 700W 3XL amps feature a vast array of digital features that allow integrators to optimize the performance of any combination of outdoor speakers and subwoofers. The DSP engine provides 15-band parametric equalization, adjustable crossover filters, adjustable peak limiter, RMS compressor, and phase and time delay for each channel. Despite the complexity of these features, these new amps are remarkably easy to set up and use. We programmed in 16 preset configurations, perfectly crossed over, equalized, and power limited for the most common combinations of NEAR speakers. More advanced users can access the full array of DSP controls through a GUI via a laptop.”

With a raft of speaker styles, including its Planter series, Rockustics has long offered an environmentally camouflaged option for its customers. According to Andy Lopez, the company’s director of international sales, Rockustics recently “re-voiced” speaker models to provide an optimal listening experience in both residential and commercial applications faced with challenging environments.

“Equally important to residential customers is the appearance of the speakers, as the outdoor living area has become a very important space for the client,” Lopez said. “As the original ‘rock’ speaker in the market, the convergence of sound quality and appearance have always been a top priority with the Rockustics brand. We take great pride in providing robust construction with unmatched fidelity that seamlessly combines nature and technology.”

STAYING CONNECTED

Connectivity is the crux of outdoor AV integration today. Streaming services, both in audio and video, have had such a dramatic influence on how and where consumers entertain, making access to sources outdoors much easier. With this development, however, have come expectations for near flawless operability and easy access to the music and videos central to any good gathering. For the residential video channel, this means outdoor smart TVs capable of wireless delivery of content, while the audio side continues to improve on what is already great audio dispersion and discreet component placement and an emphasis on a robust Wi-Fi network.

“The increasing buzz of ‘mobility’ as a key next focus item in the technology age will put pressure on integrators to tailor home automation systems that connect the user with their ideal lifestyle end to end,” Nichols said. “No matter where they go, the luxury customer wants everything to be a path of least resistance. Every product that is designed for the outdoors needs to fit into this on-demand requirement and perform flawlessly with minimal interaction.”

Llanor Alleyne is a contributing editor to Residential Systems.

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