Outdoor AV Finds Growth in EMEA

Elytronic - Crestron Awards 2016 winner 5

Believe it or not we love the great outdoors even in Northern Europe. More and more, the garden has become an extension of the home whether that’s because indoor space is limited or simply a desire to make the most of the natural environment around us, enjoy the sun and improve our health.

Homeowners are spending more on their outdoor spaces in order to turn them into entertainment spaces. The garden has become the favourite place to entertain, and relax with family and friends and a trend has developed for taking the inside outside with elaborate furniture, BBQ cooking stations, ambient lighting and audio visual equipment all playing a part.

Outdoor entertainment systems are popular and very practical, however, the want for outdoor audio far surpasses the want for outdoor video mainly from a cost and practicality perspective. Whether around a pool, patio, garden room or greenhouse, we like to take our music with us from inside to outside, simply and easily. With a Crestron multiroom audio distribution system you can distribute audio throughout the house and out into the garden, controlled by a single remote or wireless device and fully integrated with any security or lighting scheme.

When pitching to clients, integrators need to consider environmental factors as well as longevity and future proofing. Weather plays a significant part in the decision making process for clients. If the weather is particularly wet and cold outdoor audio might be a hard sell. Space is also a challenge for some clients because of noise pollution. For those city dwellers that live in close proximity to their neighbours, sound can be a contentious issue. Speaker placement in an outdoor space can be trickier than in a living room. Outside, sound travels, and needs careful planning to see how the sound is projected throughout the space. It is better to set speakers around the garden to face the house so that the sound is always focused on the patio area and away from neighbouring property.

Apartment buildings can be tricky because they often impose a covenant stating no external speakers are allowed. Whereas a country retreat with countless acres should have no problems with such restrictions—almost anything is possible. One thing to consider in a larger garden is just how many speakers would be required to create the same experience as inside the house. Since outside sound dissipates quickly, installing subwoofers that can be partially buried, like Crestron’s IGS82T, would help to create extra depth.

Elytronic - Crestron Awards 2016 winner 6Preservation of the aesthetics of a home and garden, whilst still being able to provide high levels of acoustic performance is key, as is trying to ensure clients understand the need for separate audio zones just like inside the home. If an outdoor space has specific areas for cooking, swimming and watching TV for example the requirements in each area are varied and so is speaker placement, volume and source control all become important areas of consideration for the integrator. (Pictured left, above and throughout: Crestron Awards 2016 winner - Elytronic)

The biggest demands we see from clients are for entertainment sources such as Karaoke machines, live instruments or DJ setups to be inputted into the audio distribution system. This means wherever you are at a party you can still be part of the action. In addition clients often request the ability to watch big events outdoors. Whether it be a World Cup match or live concert stream, the important thing to get right is choosing a TV designed specifically for the outdoors, something that can withstand weather conditions from snow and rain to sun humidity and salty ocean air.

Crestron have developed a waterproof remote for just this situation, a useful addition to any outdoor AV installation. As with speakers, placement is key, although with newer technology such as high-powered LED the glare of the sun on a screen is less of a problem than it used to be.

Outdoor projection on the other hand is usually reserved for night screenings and thus sunlight is not a challenging factor.

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When integrators are planning an outdoor installation they should focus on the key areas of audio, video and lighting. With these in mind they should then carefully consider the needs of their clients and how the space is going to be used on a daily and seasonal basis. Planning zones of how the space will work and how the client will move through the space will indicate the level of lighting, sound and visual stimulation required to make it work.

Integrators of outdoor AV should also consider aesthetics, product durability and budget carefully in the planning process and cabling is a big consideration whether it’s a new landscaping project or a retro fit situation. Outdoor cabling needs protection not only from water ingression but also other environmental factors such as lightning or extreme weather as well as animals and garden maintenance.

High quality discrete outdoor speakers, such as Crestron’s Landscape range, with the choice of operation either at 8 Ohms or 70 / 100-volts Line are essential for a quality outdoor AV installation. 70- and 100-volt speaker systems allow for longer wire runs using small gauge wire, and provide the potential for connecting numerous speakers per circuit. This is especially useful in external applications due to long cable runs, alternatively you can locate a SONNEX audio expander closer to the application using a Fibre extender which greatly reduces the threat of interference and potential damage from lighting strikes.

Looking forward over the next five years the demand for outdoor space will continue to be very high. The introduction of Sky bars and lounges within luxury developments gives residents the opportunity to be outside within capital cities. These bars and lounges often feature the latest technology to enhance the users experience from distributed video to outdoor displays and audio to outdoor speakers. Media content can be changed at the touch of a button with separate Ultra High Definition content being displayed and different audio being played as background music. These establishments often change their look and feel throughout the day and the use of technology enables them to achieve that. It is these developments that are fueling clients’ expectation of what outdoor AV can do for them and what reliability they can expect. 

Phillip Pini has been in charge of Residential Development at Crestron EMEA for four years. In this role he talks to industry experts, focusing on key Property Developers, Main Contractors, MEP Contractors Consultants, Architects and Interior Designers.