CEDIA: How to successfully deploy Outdoor AV

CEDIA members, Jon Rebbeck, SMC technical account manager, and Kevin Wilton, SMC director of operations, discuss the challenges and solutions to mastering outdoor AV.

Customer lifestyles have changed significantly in recent years, leading to a lack of clear division between indoor and outdoor living, especially when entertaining. This has resulted in WiFi, music, and lighting all needing to work seamlessly to create an impressive environmental “soundscape.”

With the increasing desire for discreet outdoor AV solutions that perform just as well as indoor installations, it is important to understand that “natural” environments require a different approach.

External settings are more sensitive to environmental conditions, and so, it is more challenging to create a consistently reliable experience. The sound system, for example, has to deliver through a range of environmental conditions, rather than simply within the controlled volume of a room; distributed speakers (which can easily be concealed in planting) together with a number of subwoofers, are likely, therefore, to work best. The Sonance Landscape Series is a good example of this. Understanding how clients plan to use external spaces is also essential to allow for “zoning” of the system to provide custom control when required.

"The typical outdoor AV installation has come a long way and is likely now to include integrated lighting and shading control, internet connectivity, and security."

in-wall Outdoor Speaker Close UpThroughout the design and delivery of all outdoor systems, care should be taken to ensure that installations are planned and installed with minimum visual impact on external living space and landscaped areas. This extends to ensuring that visually sympathetic ease of access for maintenance is considered during the design stage.

Critical issues such as the avoidance of water ingress into sub-system architecture need early thought, and so, very early stage design coordination is key to a successful, problem-free installation. “Direct burial” cable or “duct grade” cable within conduit may be required and external cable connections should be avoided wherever possible, but where needed, should be housed in enclosures that are water- and weatherproof.

The typical outdoor AV installation has come a long way and is likely now to include integrated lighting and shading control, internet connectivity, and security. As outdoor and indoor spaces are often physically integrated in the modern home, ensuring consistency of control is very important. This is likely to mean that managed WiFi is essential to provide complete and continuous coverage. This can be achieved using externally rated network cabling and wireless access points. A robust, fast internet connection is also likely to be crucial.

The rise of the outdoor cinema

Outdoor televisions are increasing in popularity and requests for outdoor cinemas are soaring. With external projection systems, brightness is key, and the associated audio solutions need to be designed very carefully to reflect the likely location and number of viewers and their potential seating, standing, or even lying positions! Of course, any solution also needs to be waterproof and able to withstand the elements.

When designing the lighting control system for external areas, it is best to implement it as part of the main system, again, in order to achieve a seamless transition between internal and external spaces. Consideration should also be given to lighting and landscape design. Clients often invest substantially in the landscaping within their gardens. Integrators are able to add significant value to this investment by working with landscape architects and lighting designers to ensure landscape design features can be optimised across a range of light conditions and use cases.

Lighting scenes in external areas can be programmed to operate automatically, depending on the time of the day or ambient light levels, as can automated shades. Integration with light sensors and weather stations can provide the client with automated responses to changes in climactic conditions, to deliver a consistent environment internally and externally across a range of conditions.

Sympathetic integration of external systems will allow clients to make the most of their outdoor spaces and can add significant value to installations within any suitable property.