One concept that emerged out of the pandemic was that homeowners got a deeper appreciation for outdoor AV technology that could convert their backyards into staycation paradises. Fortunately, well after the phrase “quarantine at home” has been retired, enhanced backyards continue to be a priority for clients — even in areas where the climate may diminish the amount of use these systems can have.
“We were always doing some level of sound outside — even if it was just to get music to the pool area,” says Bryan Naquin, owner of Acadian Home Theater & Automation in Baton Rouge, La. “That has now morphed into doing a lot more outdoor video and more high-end outdoor sound to cover larger spaces. Then we started doing a lot of outdoor motorized screens because, here in the South, it gets very hot and in Louisiana there’s every kind of bug you can imagine. People see these amazing, indoor/outdoor spaces in California where you open these giant nano doors and the inside now is the outside. That is just not a reality outside of maybe two weeks out of the year here in the South, so doing outdoor motorized screens makes that outdoor area so much more usable and creates a nice indoor/outdoor flow. That has exploded over the past few years.”
The ‘Disney World’ Approach
Acadian recently completed a whole-home installation for a newly constructed Antebellum-style mansion that features a main house along with a guest house, a party pavilion, and a boat house surrounding the pool in the backyard. The main house, guest house, and party pavilion make up approximately 30,000 square feet. The boat house is more of a novelty, as it holds a pontoon boat that they can use to get around the waterway that surrounds the property.
“The pool pavilion is a giant pergola and we have sound out there,” says Naquin. “We have sound covering the entire pool area and there’s also a wall-mounted SunBriteTV television and a barbecue area right outside the main house. The party pavilion has a very nice outdoor area with motorized mosquito screens that come down for bug and climate control. However, there was no good place to put a television that made sense because of the physical layout, so we used a Nexus TV lift and we dropped a second SunBriteTV out of the ceiling.”
The entire compound is wired for sound using plenty of Episode landscape speakers from Snap One. Naquin knows how to set up large spaces for sound because he received advice from an excellent, if unusual, resource.
“Our idea of doing outdoor sound is the ‘Disney World’ approach,” he says. “The first time I ever went to Disney World was as an adult who was already in this business. I remember seeing what looked like one of those green Bose speakers every 60 to 70 feet. I started doing a little research because I was curious as to know why there were so many speakers and I reached out to someone at Disney. Surprisingly enough, someone got back to me, and they sent me a dissertation on how sound creates pressure in an outdoor space.
“You want to create equal pressure across a large space, and there’s math behind how all that works. It fascinated me, and so now we take that same approach with outdoor spaces — we want to create equal sound across a very large space, so there’s no hot zone. You don’t go under the pool cabana and have great sound but then you walk five feet away from it and you can’t hear it. In that case, the only way to hear it is to pump that area up, but, when you do that, no one can hang out under the cabana because they’re getting blown away by sound. Equal pressure fixes that.”
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Each building on the compound is connected to the main house through fiber-optic cable, and Araknis wireless access points in the yard keep everyone connected to their devices, with the main audio and video being served over an AVPro Edge matrix.
“In the main house we have we have two or three equipment racks and then one in each of the sub-buildings,” says Naquin. “Those sub-buildings are all fed through Clearline fiber-optic cables laid throughout the property and connected back to the main system, with the longest fiber run — around 850 feet — going to the front gate so that it could be added to the home’s Control4 system.
“Tying all those together with fiber was important — there’re gates that we have control over and there’re 40 or 50 cameras on the property, so making sure the infrastructure was good to support all that wireless technology was very important to the client, as was having strong wireless internet throughout.”
Although Acadian did not install any of the outdoor lighting fixtures, it was up to them to make sure it worked with the home’s lighting control system. “It’s a full centralized lighting system with Control4 for the entire property,” says Naquin, which included the front and side gates as well as a challenging structure in the backyard.
“They have these massive fountain lights in the back, and it was a fiasco to get control of those because it’s not anything that we’ve ever done before,” explains Naquin. “The light is tied into the fountain itself, so the light is inside of the fountain. It does not have a traditional on-off switch — it’s got a circuit board with a bunch of relays on it. What we had to do was figure out which relay didn’t mess with the fountain, but only turned the light on and off. Then, we had to tie that into Control4. Now, we can turn it on and off, but it’s also color-changing, and so it had a little remote that would allow it to change the RGB settings. We learned that remote into IR and then we tied that to the circuit board with another Control4 piece so that the owner could have full control of the fountain from his smartphone.”
Working With Many Trades
As a new construction project, Acadian was fortunate to get involved early on. “A liaison for the family was doing some research on technology firms in the area,” explains Naquin. “The home is about an hour and 30 minutes from our office in a rural area of Louisiana. Being the largest integrator in Louisiana — and the only CE Pro 100 integrator in the state — it was a natural choice for them to want to work with us. They were basically looking for recommendations, but the owner was tech-savvy. For instance, he knew the rooms that he wanted to have music and he knew the rooms he wanted to have TV and he knew he wanted a home theater.”
Coming in early meant that Naquin had a full complement of other trades to interface with, schedule around, and accommodate. “We worked closely with the contractor,” he says. “We worked really closely with the electrician. We worked closely with the HVAC contractor, the landscape lighting contractor, the gate installation operator, the interior designer, and the architect. It was a two-and-a-half-year build.”
Dealing with so many trades can be difficult, but in this case, it was made easier by the homeowner, who brought in Acadian when he brought in the others. “Because the homeowner was so intimately involved, it made working with the others a lot more seamless,” says Naquin. “We don’t really get a lot of blowback working with landscape designers once we can actually get in front of them and they realize, ‘Oh, these guys know what they’re talking about.’
“Normally I don’t think they see as part of the process — our concerns are not on their radar as part of their overall designs. But, when they’re designing a landscape system, I’ve never seen one with an audio or a video system or a provision for any of that. The landscape designers need to realize that people want the stuff we provide and, if they would incorporate it in their designs in some way, shape, or form, it would make these projects much more seamless.”
The family has been in the home for close to a year and a half now, and the only feedback Naquin has received is that they are very happy with everything, and that the party pavilion with the drop-down television has been getting plenty of use. While he doesn’t see any major upgrades coming soon, he is sure the family will soon benefit from an update on the tech that is already in place.
“There will be a point in time where they’re going to have to start upgrading things — for example, from 4K video to 8K,” concludes Naquin. “Control4 is constantly upgrading its operating system and making it better and better. We will probably talk to the family about the new Halo remote because it has voice control built in. They don’t really have any voice control currently, but that could be a great upgrade point down the road.”