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My Control Systems Cup Runneth Over

I made an off-hand remark in an earlier blog that I was in search of a control systems option for my evolving basement home theater in Carmel, Indiana. Boy, did I get some options.

I made an off-hand remark in an earlier blog that I was in search of a control systems option for my evolving basement home theater in Carmel, Indiana. Boy, did I get some options.

After playing with three excellent solutions, I happily integrated Niles Audios new intelliControl 2 (iC2) hard-button universal remote into the system. Now I can finally control my relatively simple AV system without having to stand up, walk to the back of the room, and aim one of several device remotes into the control room of my theater.

In the process of selecting Niles for my day-to-day home theater solution, I gained a fabulous education on wizard-based programming software from RTI and Universal Electronics Inc. Both systems were very intuitive and both manufacturers websites offered webinar-style instruction on programming their systems.

As I got more deeply entangled in learning how to program a control system, I developed more and more questions (and Im not the instruction-manual-reading type!) I was impressed with both UEI’s and RTIs quick responses and the online resources made available to dealers. UEI, at two different junctions, even scheduled one-on-one tutorials over the phone for me. Again, though I ultimately found these programs intuitive, my ramp up to custom installer level confidence took me some time. I had never heard of an if/then statement for determining power status of an IR device until I went through this exercise.

UEI’s Q50So over time I became very comfortable with the software used to program UEIs Nevo Q50 and found that the remote itself was beautifully designed with the right combination of hard buttons and color touch screen. My intention for the Q50 was never as my home theater solution, but as my family room remote. It did an admirable job in that regard, though I did find that it was a little too wide and edges too sharp, especially in the hands of Mrs. Resi Editor. Alas, I had to send back my reviewer sample to the folks at UEI, so I moved on to another option for the family room.

RTI’s T4 with my family room system Enter RTIs T4 touch panel, stage left. Again programming all of RTIs products is essentially the same, whether a hard-button remote, a touch panel like the T4 or a hybrid blend of the two. It is impressive to me that after our industry struggled for so many years to custom program every touch panel for every job, we now have viable options like what RTI and others offer, that dont require C-Sharp programming skills.

Im still getting used to the weight and bulkiness of a touch panel, but I always wanted a chance to try one out in my own home. I havent been disappointed with the graphics or simplicity of operation from what RTI provides.

Niles’ Ken Johnson tweaks my theater If there are heroes in this story, however, its the folks at Niles who not only offered a review sample of their brilliantly designed update of its very successful intelliControl remote, they sent the designer of the product from Miami to my house in Indiana to teach me, in person, how to program it. Ironically, Ken Johnsons baby, the iC2, probably required the least hand holding off all, and yet here he was at my house to walk me through the process. Ken gave me a few options upon his arrival: I can show you how to design the system, and it wont take long, I promise, then let you program it on your own terms I can walk you through, then watch as you design the system yourself or I can talk you through it and then get your system up and running before I leave at the end of the day. Though I felt I had learned so much from UEI and RTI, I was tired enough at that point to go with Plan C from Mr. Johnson.

Ken, in fact, walked me through what I found to be the most intuitive programming software I had seen since Logitechs Harmony software (which admittedly isnt a perfect solution for larger integrated homes). Ken showed me how he had designed the software to avoid if/then statement altogether, and made it as wizards-based as possible.

Pay no attention to the RF controller behind the curtain!Although I felt at home with the programming environment, at the end of the day (literally) I couldnt have been happier than to have the designer of a control system, designing my control system. During the process, I even learned a little bit more about working with RS232 control, which I had been a little intimidated about before. And, in fact, Ken had my theater in working order by days end. We designed single-button macros for watching DVDs, watching the DVR, or listening to music, and we added custom labels onto the programming hard keys to change my aspect ratio or shift my projected image from left to right or top to bottom. I was truly amazed that an entirely hard-button design could still be fully customized to control an integrated system. Good work, again, Niles.

Up next… my work with iSky‘s starry ceiling tiles and acoustical wall panels.