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2014 Electronic Lifestyles® Awards: Home Tech At Its Best, Part 1

December 11, 2014 | Comments

Hollywood has the Oscars to recognize outstanding contributions to the art of movie making. CEDIA has the Electronic Lifestyles® Awards (Ellas?) to honor the innovation, creativity, and technical skill behind the best home entertainment and automation systems on the planet.

This year's winning class includes more than three-dozen custom installation projects in eight categories. Here's a look at four winning systems.

Home Theater Level II ($75,000-$125,000) Silver Technical Design Award

Here's something many of us can relate to: The desire to transform an underutilized space into an entertainment getaway or, in this case, a "family theater/man cave." The homeowners' objective was clear: They wanted to be "wowed" whether watching a movie or taking in a UFC (ultimate fighting) match - one of their favorite pastimes.

The solution? Create a mini theater - complete with a 4K Ultra HD video projection system, 7.1-channel surround sound, and comfy leather seating for up to seven people - in what had been a nondescript 13-by-22-foot room in the basement.



Amenities include a 10-foot screen, blackout shades for two windows, and an elevated second row of seating with recessed floor lighting. All nine speakers (including two subwoofers) are concealed in the walls of this inviting space, which is defined by muted colors and magnificent crown molding. Everything, including the shades and lighting, is controlled from a gesture-driven iPad app. Sweet.

Installation by Encore Home Theaters, Chantilly, VA

Integrated Home Level I ($75,000 & Under) Silver Technical Design Award

When it comes to the technology required to seamlessly (and invisibly) integrate audio, video, lighting, climate control, and IP security cameras throughout a 5,000-square-foot home and its surrounding nine acres, let's just be thankful for CEDIA-trained professionals.

This largely retrofit project spans eight audio zones and five video zones across seven rooms and three outdoor areas and includes a gate-access system that sounds a "doorbell" chime around the house so family members can check the security camera to see who's at the gate before opening it.

Clever installation tricks and state-of-the-art technology make it possible to enjoy music in the living room from a system you can't see - even the subwoofer is hidden in the floor - and enjoy high-def video from eight sources on TVs around the house and out on the patio. Everything - 67 devices in all - is controlled from a custom iPhone/iPad/Android interface that's easy to use and personalized for each family member.

To preserve the home's aesthetic appeal, the dozens of components that make this automated wonderland possible are tucked away in custom cabinets, one of which is located in a unique loft-turned-media-room featuring a 10-foot projection screen and fully concealed surround-sound speaker system.

Installation by FX Pros, Benton, AR


Hidden Installation Gold Technical Design Award &
Best Overall Hidden Installation

One look at this ultramodern décor and you begin to appreciate the homeowner's desire to build a cost-no-object TV mechanism that would accommodate viewing anywhere in a large bar and lounge area (pictured) yet disappear when not in use.

Traditional lifts and ceiling drops were ruled out because, as cool as they are, they aren't entirely invisible. The solution? Hire a custom fabrication company to design and build a fully automated TV mount and sliding mechanism for the decorative mirror that conceals it.

Structural integrity was paramount, so the stainless steel structure was welded to a 10 foot I-beam, bolted to the concrete foundation floor and attached to a 1,500-pound force actuator that swings the 55-inch TV outwards while tilting it 180 degrees so the viewing angle can be adjusted to perfection by a second high-precision actuator. The result is a feat of TV acrobatics unlike anything you've seen - all controlled via a touch panel on the bar or the homeowner's smartphone.

Installation by Station Earth, Fergus, Ontario

Home Theater Level IV ($200,000-$450,000) Silver Technical Design Award

This expertly crafted, high-performance theater may well be the gift to end all gifts, presented by a very generous son to his parents on their 50th anniversary. Built to fit into an existing exercise room and completed on an accelerated schedule, the space smacks of Hollywood screening room, designed to deliver lifelike sound and images in a comfortable, acoustically treated environment with seating for 10.

Detail is the operative word. The walls and ceiling are decoupled to isolate the space from external noise and contain the magnificent sound presented by a suite of ultra-high-end Wisdom Audio speakers. You won't see any speakers because all seven of them - plus four JBL Synthesis subwoofers - are built into the finely appointed walls.

A DPI projector brings the 11.5-foot screen to life with pristine images guaranteed to dazzle the homeowners every time. All AV gear plus climate control and eight zones of lighting are controlled via an intuitive iPad interface. Nothing quite like going to the movies at home.

Installation by Digital Ear, Santa Ana, CA

Keep an eye out for Part 2 of this mini-series. To learn more about custom installation options like the ones featured here, consult a CEDIA professional. Click here for a list of CEDIA-member home technology professionals in your area.