Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly. Update my browser now


Striving for A/V Perfection

How far will you go for the "perfect" system?

On Monday you get a call from your favorite builder who has just begun excavation on a beautiful new home for a famous celebrity. This will be the most impressive home he has ever built and a great feather in your cap if you can put together a system design that wins the job. You feel your heart begin to pound as he goes on about how expensive and impressive this home will be.

The internationally known architects and interior designers are flying in next week from Zurich for a meeting with three different A/V firms. The builder is sending over the blueprints for you to prepare your design for the meeting. You will only get one chance to meet with the team to convince them that your design is the best. The other bidders are established firms with great reputations and this is not going to be a slam-dunk.

The package delivered Wednesday is much larger than you expect, as it includes a 350-page book of project specs and requirements. Everything is spelled out to the finest detail, even down to the exact cabinetry, furniture and art choices. As you page through the chapters you see clearly how much planning and coordination is going into this project. The professionalism and impact of the scope are almost overwhelming.

Thursday morning you start punching room names and equipment lists into your computer, just as you have done for years, but the list of equipment on the screen in front of you today is a bore. You really want this job, but for some reason none of this is working for you, and your mind wanders.

You stay late Friday night to go over the floor plans and elevations, digging hard to find the something special that will separate your design presentation from the other bidders. You find your mind is still swirling with creative ideas that slip in and out as you finally fall into bed at 1 a.m. Rather than answers, you lie awake surprised at the questions that come. You find yourself rethinking all of your approaches, rejecting the standard approaches and reaching for the elusive “perfect design.”

The architects have reserved the great room for your home theater. This area includes 30-foot ceilings and a wall of glass reaching to the top, providing a stunning view of the snowcapped mountain peaks. The walls and floors will be covered with beautiful stone imported from Greece. A stunning 300-year-old cabinet found in an historic castle in Scotland will soon be delivered by private plane. All of the A/V components must fit into the spaces in this cabinet, even though it is only 15 inches deep.

The furniture plan includes seating in a square pattern oriented to the view out the glass windows. As this home will soon be featured in Architectural Digest, all speakers and signs of electronic equipment must be completely hidden from view.

It is into this puzzle that you must fit your perfect system. Perfect, but with these design elements how can it be perfect? How can you offer anything creative and true to your love of sound and picture in a space like this? The only spot for surround speakers is 30 feet up. The acoustics and screen placement are all wrong and will never work with the seating and all this daylight flooding in.

No matter how hard you try, you can’t fit this square peg into this round hole. If the decorating is to be served, then the sound and picture will be wrong. If you follow the specs, the client will have a beautiful home in a fancy magazine with a crappy misfit token home theater in an awesome cabinet. If the architects and decorators are to be pleased, then all of your expertise will be compromised, and the A/V experience will be a betrayal. As you drift off to sleep you feel this dream is becoming a nightmare.

Five days later you wait for your turn as the final presenter. You are ushered into the conference room and are greeted with a warm handshake by the famous client. You receive greetings from the architects and decorators that you have thought so much about this whole week. You take your seat as your 30 minutes begins.

You begin a brief story of the history of your company, your philosophy and your sincere love of music and show some of your favorite installations. As you unroll the blueprints, the room of experts gasp as you reveal that there will be not be a home theater in the great room.

You moved the theater to the den at the other end of the house. In the den you eliminated the large windows, covered the small windows, deleted the billiard table, reworked the seating plan, added carpet and some fabric wall treatments, selected darker colors, selected beautiful rosewood speakers, added a Grafik Eye and have completely soundproofed the walls.

After all, you are the home theater designer.