Lighting, System Control & The Rack

Rack
I knew that server and component racks were expensive. This was confirmed once I started researching racks on the web. I decided that spending money on an actual rack could be back burnered. Instead I bought a heavy duty metal framed shelf from the Home Depot. The dimensions were 36″ wide by 18″ deep. What I found was that the components fit perfectly in the 18″ deep section.

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I ended up building the shelf in an 18″x18″ configuration, not using the 36″ supports they included. I had to buy another shelf to get more of the 18″ supports, but what I ended up with was a pretty solid makeshift rack.

Remote Control
With the basement having three separate zones, each with their own AV receiver and components, there was going to be a lot of remote controls to manage. I already owned a Harmony Touch remote but it wasn’t RF, so it wouldn’t work the way it was since all of the components would be housed in a separate closet. It seemed if I paired it up with the Harmony Ultimate Hub, I could unlock the Touches RF functionality, plus be able to control everything via a mobile app.

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The process of getting all of this setup has not gone as well as I would have liked. The main problem is that the three Denon receivers I have all use the same IR signal. So when I choose an activity such as, Watch a Bluray in the theatre, all of my Denon receivers switch their source to Bluray. This basically makes my activity based actions useless.

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I was using separate mobile apps for each component – the Denon app to control my receivers, the Apple Remote app to control my AppleTVs, the Roku app to control my Roku 3,and the Harmony app to control my other components such as PS3 and cable box. As one can imagine, this is annoying, and not a lot better than just having a bunch of separate physical remotes.

After a couple months I finally upgraded my Harmony Touch to work with the Ultimate Hub, unlocking the remote’s RF features. A cool thing about this is that you can configure what signal will control each device. So all my components in the closet are controlled by the signal from the Hub (initiated by the Touch), and the components outside of the closet (the TVs, projector, and screen masking) are controlled directly from the Touch’s IR signal. This works quite well, but does not solve my problem with the Denon receivers using the same IR signal.

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All of my devices (including AV receivers) are on my home network so I’m looking at the possibility of controlling each device via their IP, as long as they support IP control. I’ve been making do with what I currently have, but definitely need to get the situation sorted out. I have heard good things about the Roomie Remote, so I will look further into that.

Light Control
There’s something about having the lights dim right before the movie starts that completes the home theatre experience. From the beginning I considered it a must to have a remote controlled lighting system. After some research I decided on the Lutron Caseta system. I’m happy with the final product, but there definitely were some issues along the way.

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After the electrician wired up the Caseta controls he realized that they were not compatible with the pot lights he had already installed. Instead of scrapping the Caseta and going with a compatible system we decided to replace the pot lights. Since our ceiling was not yet drywalled it was a pretty simple task.

We then encountered another problem. The lights would not completely shut off. After some back and forth with Lutron our electrician discovered that the dimmer would need to have a load capacitor installed. Since we installed LEDs, the little bit of current that is always running to the system was enough to power the LEDs. After the load capacitors were installed, everything worked like a charm.

We also added the Lutron SmartBridge to the system which allows the lights to be controlled over WiFi on your mobile phone. The RF remotes that were included with the Caseta system was probably good enough, but I did like some of the options that the bridge added, such as adding different scenes or pre-sets. With the addition of the SmartBridge I was also hoping that we could control the lights via our Harmony Ultimate Hub, but it does not seem to be possible. It seems that it is compatible with the Harmony Smart Control Hub, but I’m not sure. The Logitech Harmony Product line is very confusing and they keep rebranding products, making it impossible to know what is what.

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After using the theatre for a few months one thing I wish I would have done differently is having separate zones for the theatre lights. Right now all lights are on or off. I would liked to have had the three lights directly in front of the screen on a separate zone from the rest. There are times that I would like to have the lights in front of the screen off, and the rest on. The typical case for this would be before the feature presentation, where something like trivia or photos would be projected on the screen.