Baker Stone was tasked with creating a villa experience comparable to a super yacht complete with exterior cinema. Check out how the company delivered on this demanding project.
CEDIA install company Baker Stone was first approached about Avakas Villas in 2012 after work on the main structure of this project had been started and contracts were already in place with an architect, interior designer, a local lighting designer/supplier, an electrical contractor and a mechanical contractor.
As the construction style and program, like much of Europe, is different to that in the UK, most of the cable conduits were already embedded in the concrete structure so keypad, touchscreen and other locations were already fixed as was the lighting layout. Apart from that, Andy Baker from the company explains that the company was given a free hand to design, install, program and commission a system to suit the client’s requirements.
The villa is one of five originally planned for the site and the client wanted the dwelling to rival the luxury yacht experience, so it was necessary to provide high quality audio and video throughout alongside a stable and secure network (wired and wireless) that would provide the backbone and inter-connectivity for all the proposed systems.
Andy explains, “Every system, audio, video, HVAC, lighting, CCTV etc can run ‘stand-alone’ but one of the many advantages of the Savant control system is that it readily and simply integrates all of the systems into one, easy to use interface. Whether on an Android or iOS device or one of Savant’s superb Pro Remotes, the user experience is consistent and unified.
“Yes, this project brought its challenges. I guess anything of this size and complexity would, but with the help of key suppliers, we were able to overcome some fairly unique difficulties.”
Baker Stone’s very first job was to design a cable infrastructure that would support all the planned systems whilst retaining as much flexibility as possible, just in case the client wanted to make changes during the project. Andy says that very early on it was agreed that the vast bulk of the ‘standard’ lighting would be DALI controlled rather than phase dimmed or 0-10v controlled. Not only did this save the client significant expenditure, but it retained the longed-for flexibility.”
In addition, at least a single circuit of RGB lighting was specified for every room, some rooms/zones had four, five or more circuits with more than 60 RGB circuits in total.
Andy says, “Simply put, a single DMX universe should easily have handled the 180+ control channels needed, but when the drivers were delivered to site it was, quickly discovered that they were limited to the first 64 DMX addresses – something that hadn’t been foreseen. Clearly it wasn’t possible to send back all the ordered and paid for DMX drivers that were supplied locally, so a creative solution was needed.”
It quickly became apparent to Baker Stone that amBX could provide a solution – a Light Scene Engine was ordered from amBX distributor for the UK Sun-Light Solutions (SLS) along with the necessary interfaces to provide six DMX universes for control. In the end only five of those universes were used.
However, having the amBX unit in place meant that integration with both Lutron and Savant was relatively straightforward. SLS was able to supply a Lutron interface that meant the amBX scenes could readily be ‘mapped’ to Lutron button presses or dimmer levels – both of which have been used within this project. Savant was able to provide a custom written ‘profile’ based on the amBX protocol so control from Savant was just as simple.
Andy adds, “All in all, the addition of the amBX unit saved the day and brought with it the additional advantages of many included ‘scenes’ plus custom scenes that were written by amBX especially for this project. The custom scenes were used primarily on the external lighting.”
Another major part of the project was the impressive poolside exterior cinema.
Andy takes up the story, “In brief the client wanted an outdoor cinema experience that was bigger and better than screen manufacturers normally cater for. We therefore had to ‘think outside the box’ and, in the end, a five-metre wide roller screen was manufactured by Oceanair from standard components normally used for large awnings and huge building site graphics. Coupled with a superb NEC projector specified with the help of RGB Communications (PH1400 commercial unit), the external cinema is one of the key elements of the villa’s entertainment experience and one that visitors never forget.”
Andy explains further, “We had installed outdoor direct view screens before with a two-speaker setup, but this was a big one for us. The project not only required the big screen, but it also needed surround sound. We now had an idea of how the screen was going to work. Side channels would be vital, so the screen material was kept as tight as possible and didn’t blow around in the local breeze. Obviously, it needed to be waterproof, especially as it would only be 200m from the sea. The screen material also needed to be stable, as temperatures in Cyprus can vary from just above zero to the high 30s. Yes, believe it or not, I have seen snow in Cyprus.”
With the components chosen, the team had to create a solution that could keep the projector protected from the outdoor elements.
Andy describes the process, “An expensive projector out in the open really isn’t going to work for long. So, a protective housing was needed and, as often happens, Google and business contacts, came to our rescue. Someone suggested a company that suggested someone else, who knew someone that made projector enclosures, but didn’t have a number for them. In the end, we ordered a unit called The Blizzard from Tempest in California. Luckily, they have a European representative based in the UK, so ordering the unit was relatively straightforward.”
An additional custom-made curved enclosure was employed to fit the oval hollow concrete tower, and to ensure the aesthetic was able to match the outdoor shower as part of the project.
Andy adds, “By now, we had the makings of a cinema – a big roller blind for a screen, a projector, a waterproof box and a large construction kit of parts for the aesthetic enclosure, but wait we need some audio as well.
“The audio was relatively straightforward to design, but we were restrained by what the architect would let us do. However, we managed to persuade him to allow us to knock some holes in the side of the villa for the front speakers, while the rear speakers could mount on the pergola at the back of the open courtyard. Of course, we had to acquire custom grills made to cover the holes in a RAL colour to match the surrounding stone.
“We decided to install some of the biggest Sonance Mariner speakers, as these products are waterproof, they sound great and the sound could be ‘aimed’ using the standard brackets that are supplied with the speakers. The speakers were powered from an Integra AVR, housed in a cupboard in the nearby utility room. A sub was located in the base of the projector tower.”
Control of the cinema was added to the overall Savant system for the house. IP control of the AVR, the projector and the Lutron motor module that controls the screen was all achieved via Savant. Just Add Power provided the video distribution, again with IP control and PoE.
Andy says, “Revisiting the site a few weeks after we completed and tested the installation, it was great to see our client, some friends and their children enjoying their new cinema, blissfully unaware of the technology and innovation behind the experience.”
As is often the case, despite the ‘fixed’ nature of much of the build, the client decided after work had begun that they wanted to add a gym and a disco.
Andy says, “Fortunately the flexibility of the installed wiring meant that adding in a disco, along with its control, was relatively easy, however the ceiling that would support the lights needed strengthening. A custom design was done by Chauvet and part of the games room became a disco – there is still room for a pool table in the rest of the room.
“The addition of a gym was a little more complex. This involved taking down two walls and digging out a volume of approximately 10 cubic metres of concrete and earth to provide enough space. Once again the installed cabling infrastructure was flexible enough to cope with this huge change.”
Clearly the logistics of a project of this size a long way from home presented its own set of challenges. With the majority of the equipment being sourced in the UK and some being shipped from the USA, the team quickly became more knowledgeable about shipping options, rules, regulations and such like, something that has been of benefit as the company has now completed other projects in Europe.
Savant Pro Host + redundant Host for automatic backup
2 x Savant Smart Control 25
1 x Savant Smart Media Pro 12 chassis c/w digital and analogue Input and Output Modules
11 x In-Wall Savant iPad docks – PoE (9 x iPad Mini 2 x iPad Air)
3 x Hand-Held iPad Mini units
3 x Savant Pro Remotes
Pakedge R10 Router
2 x Pakedge 24 Port Switches c/w PoE
1 x Pakedge 24 Port Switch
1 x Pakedge Wireless Controller
1 x Pakedge Network Patroller
9 x Pakedge WAPs – 7 Internal, 2 External
amBX Light Scene Engine controlling over 60 RGB Lighting Circuits using 5 DMX Universes
Lutron QS Processor and associated PSU
5 x Lutron DALI Modules
13 x Lutron Phase Dimming Modules
13 x Lutron Switch Modules
7 x Lutron 10 Way Blind Power Panels
8 x Lutron IO units
1 x Lutron Motor Module
21 Zones of Audio – 3 with Surround Sound
Speakers – Sonance
Amplifiers – Sonance and Integra
Just Add Power
1 x 24 Port Pakedge Switch c/w PoE
5 x Samsung TVs
1 x AquaVision TV
1 x NEC Projector and Custom Built Outdoor Electric Screen
Custom designed/built North Controls system by Intelligent Controls
This controls 2 x GSHP units, 1 x ASHP unit and all pumps, manifolds, immersions and solar water heating for the entire villa including three pools.
Mobotix T25 Camera and Intercom
IC Realtime – 7 Cameras and 1 NVR