I’ve written many times about not installing anything in a client’s home until you’ve lived and breathed it for three to six months in your own home or showroom. The same goes for our manufacturing partners. In fact, I am currently beta-testing a new version of Crestron Studio, a software platform to make programming a Crestron system easier and more programmer-friendly.
A lot goes into simplifying a complicated program, just as a lot goes into simplifying a complicated client system. How many times have you gone to see a potential new client, or an old client whose home you hadn’t been to in a while, who just wanted a "small change" like being able to access Netflix in their living room and you had to be the bearer of the bad news? You had to break it to them that it will take replacing their TV, AVR, media switching equipment, and cabling because everything is 10 years old and nothing they have is HDMI capable. So to install a $99 AppleTV, they will need to spend $5,000 or more on all new equipment and labor—and oh yeah, the control system is out of date and no longer supported, so they will need a new remote and processor. That adds another $1K-2K to the tab.
Updating the programming platform for something like Crestron is magnitudes more complicated. We actually are running a live test at the home of my friend Mark Feinberg (the owner of Home Theater Advisors) and we have run into a few snags with the programming.
We have the team from Crestron helping out, and we know we will work through everything and fortunately Mark’s wife and kids are showing patience with the hiccups; they fully support him growing his business and expanding into more lucrative and higher end projects. This is Mark’s opportunity to get hands-on with Crestron, and we both fully believe that Studio will enable him to offer his middle-market clientele full Crestron systems at a more affordable price as the programming cost can be brought down with Studio. But not being able to use the handheld remote and relying exclusively on iOS control is not something his wife loves doing, especially with the double taps being executed on the TiVo so that selecting a show to watch is a game of trying to get two lines away so an up button press that executes two presses every time will land on the right line. But we’re getting there and when everything is wrapped up, they will have a rock solid system that now ties into their PYNG lighting and shading, giving true whole-home control.
This is a huge time investment for me, Mark, and our manufacturer partner. I have spent several days of programming pre-install, an entire day (and evening until 10 p.m.) with Mark and two of our installers getting the initial system setup and programming loaded, and now several days worth of man-hours doing troubleshooting with the Crestron team and Mark. We are all committed to making Studio a huge success and will not stop until we accomplish that goal, but a lot goes into making that a reality. Similar time and effort goes into any great product before it is released to the CI channel.
Beta testing is a fact of life and is something we all need to be dedicated to—from the largest most successful manufacturer or control company down to the one-man AV integrator that works on small $500-5,000 jobs and needs to make sure he knows the ins and outs of the remotes he programs and the HDBaseT extenders that he installs. Making sure the product is right before it is put into the hands of the end-user is critical to success.
+Todd Anthony Puma is president of The Source Home Theater Installation in New York City.