Best Practice: Top Tips for Delivering Great Outdoor Entertainment Systems

By Peter Aylett, Archimedia Middle East. Ensure that you have a strong wireless signal Customers’ mobile devices are the centre of their digital world. Used for streaming content and system control, it is essential that when providing an outdoor entertainment system that you plan for and install a very robust wireless network. As with all wireless networks, just having any old signal strength is not enough. You need to plan for low-power devices (phones and tablets) to have enough signal available to give them maximum data throughput wherever they are. Simply using a high power’ access point is not enough as the access point may be able to shout loudly, but if the mobile device is only able to reply with a whisper then two way communications will not be reliable. Your solutions are: 1. Cable for the use of enough outdoor access points to give you adequate coverage 2. Consider using access points with high gain directional antennas to cover large outdoor areas [caption id="attachment_9362" align="aligncenter" width="400"] Outdoor wireless access points llow you to design for total coverage.[/caption] Make sure you use WPA2/AES wireless security with STRONG passcodes. It is easy for a potential hacker to penetrate a network where there is a strong wireless signal in areas that are not physically secure. Ensure your speakers go loud enough Speakers used outdoors rarely have the benefits of a solid wall to provide boundary gain and also need to cover a much wider area than when used indoors. The more speakers you use, the less loud each individual one will have to go to in order to provide a great sound. Just using two speakers firing out into a garden will mean that people standing close to the speakers (and probably the neighbours too) will be deafened, whilst those at the other end of the garden will barely here the music. When placing and aiming speakers, do so as to minimise the amount of sound that crosses the boundary of the property and into neighbours’ gardens. [caption id="attachment_9360" align="aligncenter" width="582"] Outdoor speaker systems are available with large subs that can be buried. These systems come in 70100V line versions for when long cable runs are required.[/caption] Consider using subwoofers as well. When we listen to music, if there is good bass we perceive the music to be louder’ and so have less tendency to turn the volume up. There are now some fantastic subwoofers that can be buried to hide their bulk with just a mushroom’-shaped vent letting the sound out above ground. Use the correct cables Where using long speaker cable runs, consider instead using a 70 or 100V system. These systems are designed to drive long speaker cable runs with multiple speakers connected to a single line. Though not the last word in audiophile sound quality, correctly driven with the correct amplifier they can sound very good and avoid the compromises and issues connected with using multiple 4/8 Ohm speakers on long cable runs. If you do use conventional 4 or 8 Ohm speakers, always use at least16/4 speaker cable and consider using 14/4 for runs over 25M. Always run cables outdoors through at least IP66 rated conduit. This applies to both audio and network cables. Zone the audio As well as using multiple speakers to keep sound pressure levels even across an outside space, consider zoning sets of speakers so that volume can be adjusted separately between zones. This will allow your customer to set different volume levels for different occasions. Make sure your picture is bright enough Getting a decent picture outdoors often means that you have to compete for brightness with the sun. And you will lose. Position and orient any display devices to be shaded from any direct sunlight hitting the screen. If it is a direct view (LCD/OLED) screen, ensure that the screen is designed for outdoor use. These screens will be at least IP66 rated, be condensation proof, temperature controlled (potentially for both heat and cold) and have anti-glare screens. They are also often much brighter than screens designed for indoor use. The digital signage world is a great source for outdoor display devices. [caption id="attachment_9359" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] There are some extreme outdoor TVs available. This one is a 201 from Cseed.[/caption] Brightness is crucial not just for direct view screens but also for outdoor projection systems. Outdoor projection can be amazing once the sun has gone down—just don’t expect it to give a good picture during daylight regardless of the screen type or brightness of projector specified. If a larger screen is required than is practical with a direct view screen, consider a rear projection system. Rear projection screens are available that are weatherproof and high contrast for outdoor use. Dont forget the lighting! Great outdoor entertaining needs great lighting! Use the astronomic time clock in a lighting control system to program an Outdoor Party’ scene that changes as the sun goes down. Persuade your customer to have multiple outdoor lighting circuits and to treat the outdoor lighting just as importantly as the indoor lighting. Conclusion Outdoor entertainment systems are seen as an essential addition to high-end homes in warmer climates. In the UK, though there is less scope to use them all year round, there are still many opportunities to sell and install these high margin systems. Stick to the basic rules and your customers can transform the humble garden into an amazing outdoor entertainment space. Peter Aylett is a world-renowned speaker and lecturer in residential technology, and the Technical Director at Archimedia, a multinational high-end residential integrator in The Middle East. He is also currently Chair of CEDIA’s International Technology Council Applied Content Action Team, and a regular contributor to HiddenWires.

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