Larger and larger outdoor entertainment systems have been on the rise in recent years, and California is naturally one of the most robust markets for serious installations. One homeowner in Southern California has raised the bar for summer cookouts by thinking pretty far outside the box and turning his outdoor living space into a nearly-commercial level amphitheater with a custom-built 220-inch motorized projection screen (18 feet!), 20 speakers, fully automated landscape lighting and a performance stage with 10 inputs that connect to a mixing board inside. If that weren’t enough, there’s also a 15-foot-tall LED-lit sculpture of a question mark intended to indulge meditation in the front yard. Talk about unique!
“I wanted to create a space where the community could come together, where we could hold events and where my son could really get creative with his friends,” the homeowner said. “The last event we held was a children’s charity benefit where we hosted about 200 people. We had bands play on the stage, and we can broadcast through every speaker both inside and outside the house. It’s been really great, and it allows us to have fun without stressing because it’s so easy to use. Everything is basically plug-and-play, and any adjustments are easy to make with the ELAN g! mobile app on my iPhone or iPad. My son has been using it since he was 6 years old.”
The story starts two years ago when the owner had an ELAN g! system installed inside the home to run multi-room audio and five surveillance cameras. Since then he and his integrator AM House have expanded the system to include automated lighting indoors and in the landscape, where there are six zones split between different levels as the property descends down the hillside, plus the entire amphitheater setup, the spa controls and a total of 20 professional-grade Niles outdoor speakers in multiple zones.
“This is one of the coolest backyards I’ve ever seen, let alone designed and installed,” said Justin Brees, owner of electronics integration firm AM House. “Between the custom-made Vutec projection screen, the super-bright 3600 lumen Optima 1080p projector and the Niles speakers and ELAN control, it’s more like a commercial entertainment space than a backyard. Having a stage to hold performances and play them throughout the entire property was a really cool idea and we were able to make it all very simple to operate with the ELAN system.”
While the homeowner has to be mindful of windy conditions when going to watch a movie on the awe-inspiring 18-foot projection screen, the opportunities for enjoying this incredible outdoor space are nearly limitless. From viewing summer movies and fall football games to arranging concerts and throwing parties, it’s a very impressive yet inviting space for the whole community, or for him and his son to enjoy a quiet night.
“All this is possible because of the stellar job that Jose Bermeo, the main builder on this job, did bringing my vision to life,” the owner added. “I knew what I wanted, and I hoped it was possible, but both Jose and Justin really knocked it out of the park with the execution. To me this is part home improvement, part community building and part gift to my son. And for two years it’s been a work-in-progress because I keep finding new things I want the system to do or new subsystems to integrate, so I’m sure this isn’t the last of it. It might be a unique space as far as technology goes, but for me and my son it’s really a way to fully enjoy the beautiful area we live in with our friends and the community.”
The family controls the whole system through the ELAN g! mobile app on iPhones and iPads, which allows them to set all the lighting levels for the six landscape zones, the volume for the eight indoor zones and five outdoor zones, and to control up the spa and projection system. It’s about as simple as it could be, and that was a core requirement for the project. After all, a party space this cool makes you want to have fun, not tinker with settings and knobs all night.
“I imagine this backyard is the envy of the neighborhood,” Brees added, “and rightfully so! As he said, this is an ongoing project, so I’m sure we'll be adding more cool features over time and that’s why it’s such a good thing we used the ELAN system – it’s easy to expand and easy to use. That’s one of the reasons I stick with ELAN for my business, because it allows my clients to start with a small system and grow it over time.”
The brain of the system is an ELAN controller, and audio is run through an ELAN 16-channel amplifier. There are Niles in-ceiling speakers throughout the home and Niles OS outdoor speakers on the patio and in the landscaping. The room with the mixing board features four studio monitors. The Jandy spa controls connect seamlessly with the ELAN system, allowing for full mobile control of the temperature, on/off and other settings.