What You Need to ‘Carry’ If
You Want to be a Professional
Sam Cavitt (firstname.lastname@example.org) is
president of Paradise Theater in Kihei,
Hawaii, and Carlsbad, California.
We may be unable to launch a massive
public relations campaign to raise the
world’s or even the industry’s perception
of our specialty, but we can walk the walk
if we have the right tools of the trade.
One attribute that generally identifies
true professionals is their tools. In fact,
if you visit the offices of other design
professionals, the tools of their trade are
clearly visible and almost taken for granted.
Not so in the area of home theater design.
We have had the opportunity to poll
medium to large groups of electronics
systems professionals and regularly ask
specific questions. “Do you identify
yourself as a home theater designer?”
Almost all do. The next question is more
illuminating: “Do you utilize any type of
computer-assisted drawing program?”
(Notice we did not specifically say CAD).
Less than 50 percent of those who identify
themselves as home theater designers can say yes to that question. These
are basic capabilities that require some essential tools of the design trade.
Many electronic systems professionals and even home theater specialists
prefer not to provide room design services and many collaborate with
professionals that do. However, in the interest of raising the bar and
empowering more of our peers to walk the walk, I will describe some of the
design tools and how companies can integrate them into their businesses.
This is not intended to be a complete list of all the available tools but
certainly will provide home theater designers a place to get started.
The range of solutions for this area is large; so is the range of cost and
learning curves. Thus, it is important to identify what a company wants
and needs to deliver before choosing the right set of tools.
For 2D drafting and design, there are some inexpensive and relatively
simple choices. AutoCAD LT by AutoDesk offers 2D CAD and the native
ability to exchange drawings with architects, designers, and engineers
in the native file format. AutoCAD LT does represent a learning curve,
although, CAD classes are accessible online as well as at many public and
Visio provides a 2D design and engineering environment that delivers
very nice graphical presentation and enjoys a number of industry specific
applications. Developers such as D-Tools have created integrated
design, sales, and management
solutions, and a suite of design and
engineering stencils (representative
equipment shapes). Visio enables
a budding home theater designer
to provide good-looking 2D scale
drawings relatively quickly. There
is a bit of a learning curve however for importing and exporting to CAD, and
the integrated solutions require planning and implementation for best results.
Three-D design and drafting tools offer more functionality but at steeper
cost and learning curve. AutoCAD’s full version includes all the capability
of the LT version, as well as 3D design and also integration with other
applications (such as D-Tools).
VectorWorks is a 3D design software that is very well appointed with
features for the price. The application has several suites depending on what
features a designer will require. Like all full-featured applications, there is
a learning curve, but the application is relatively easy to understand and
offers a very strong set of tools for the cost. One disadvantage, as a smaller
software company in an AutoCAD-dominated industry, is that it requires
import and export of the AutoCAD files. This functionality works well,
but it requires either up-to-date software or having the files sent in CAD
file interchange format (dxf).
Home theater designers can walk the walk
with the right tools of the trade.
Sketchup Pro is a newer product on the marketplace, and while it is
gaining ground, I have not yet tested it. My company is investigating the
application as a quick study tool.
Advanced 3D design tools provide exciting visualization and more but
significant cost, learning curve, and implementation. For instance, 3D
Studio is a photorealistic 3D modeling application that enables 3D CAD
files to generate highly realistic renderings. Obviously for those that create
high-level interiors and want to show clientele precisely what it will look
like, this is a valuable tool.
VectorWorks also has a number of 3D rendering applications at various
price points, depending on the level of photorealism required.
Revit is a very powerful but expensive and challenging application. In
time, many design professionals will utilize a tool like Revit, so keep your
eyes open for developments in parametric design tools across the design
When offering home theater design services, be sure to clearly define
what that means to your clientele. If it means discovering what a client’s
system needs are and accurately specifying and installing electronics to
fulfill that requirement, make sure the scope of work for your services
is clear. If it means creating a space that will support that equipment,
optimize the acoustical and visual performance, is aesthetically and
ergonomically appropriate, environmentally comfortable, structurally
sound, and is supported by documentation good enough to be successfully
built, then either make sure you possess and can use the required tools,
or engage a specialist and collaborate.
Either way, the bar will be raised in
our industry, and the client will be