Theater Automation

If you have ever lived with a Home Theater system, you know how hard it can be for you and your family to operate. To watch a movie on DVD, you must do the following at a minimum:

  1. Turn on the DVD player
  2. Turn on the TV
  3. Turn on the surround processor
  4. Change the TV to the proper input (Aux 1, HDMI, etc.)
  5. Change the Processor to the proper input (DVD input)
  6. Change the Processor to the proper mode (Dolby Digital, etc.)

If anyone of these steps is skipped, you end up with either sound but no video, or video with no sound. For instance, if you put the TV in the proper video mode, but forget to put the processor in the proper mode, you end up with video, but no audio. To make the problem even worse, most devices have one button to turn the device on AND off. So, if you can’t actually see the device (it’s in a cabinet or another room), when you hit the "Power" button on your remote, you don’t know whether you turned the device on or off! Complicate this whole thing with the fact that you have 5 or 6 remotes, and you need to have a PhD to watch a movie! Learning remotes can get you down to one remote, but still don’t make it easy to set up.

Some companies like Control4 and RTI have devices that will fix this problem. These "Smart Theater Control Systems" automate the whole process by using smart macros and sensors to monitor the system. With these systems, if you want to watch a DVD movie, you do the following:

Press the button labeled DVD.

That’s all there is to it! But here’s what happened in the background:

  1. Check DVD player power. If it is off, turn it on. If it is on, leave it on!
  2. Check TV power. If it is off, turn it on. If it is on, leave it on!
  3. Check processor power. If it is off, turn it on. If it is on, leave it on!
  4. Change the TV to the proper input mode (HDMI)
  5. Change the Processor to the proper input mode (DVD input)
  6. Change the Processor to the proper sound mode (Dolby Digital)
  7. Lower the shades
  8. Dim the lights
  9. Play the DVD

Cost of this system is around $1500.00 installed. A small price to pay for keeping your marriage from ending in divorce!

The remote uses radio frequencies (RF) or 802.11 networking, not Infrared (IR) to talk to a controller that sits next to your Theater system. This means that you have much better range than by using an IR remote, and you don’t have to point the remote at the components. The controller converts the RF signals to IR, and controls the components of your Theater system. The controller also accepts sensors as inputs. These sensors are used to monitor the system so it knows if the TV, VCR, ETC. are on or off.


RTI T4 Remote