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  #21  
Old Feb 28th, 2018
livitup livitup is offline
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I'll separate this into three basic parts: Control4 in general, Control4 with KScape, and my experience with Magnolia.

Control4 in general:
We recently completed the build and moved into our new house. I knew that I wanted to go all-in with whole-home media and home automation with this house. I had extensive pre-wiring done by the builder, however installation of any kind of systems was left to be done after the fact due to incredibly high markup by my builder's low-voltage partner. My background is in IT systems engineering, so I enjoy working on challenges like "build a home media and automation system." I looked very heavily into building my own solution - sourcing speakers, audio/video matrices, sources, A/V control, lighting control, lock and security integration, etc. I found that every open source or DIY commercial solution was lacking in one way or another. So I considered building my own "control plane" to integrate hubs, standalone devices, inputs, outputs, etc.
I put a lot of effort into researching and planning what would be required to pull it off. It got to the point where I realized the amount of time it would take to build and implement such a solution was prohibitive. The alternative is something like Control4, RTI, Savant, Crestron, etc. I hated the idea of being dependent on a dealer to update my system. If I decided I wanted the theater lights at 40% during intermission, rather than 60%, I wanted to be able to make that change myself. If I buy a new XBox for my man cave, I don't want to have to wait for someone to roll a truck to install it - I want to plug in the HDMI cable and start playing!
Control4 is the best possible compromise. They are unique in making available the "home edition" of their programming software. It's the same software that dealers use to program your system, with a few things removed: you can't add or remove devices from the project, and you can't add or remove the physical connections that the system is aware of between devices. There are a few other small things, but that's the majority of the limits. With ComposerHE, I have been able to program my own lighting scenes, create macros to be run when a wall switch is tapped, add custom buttons to the navigators to run my macros, etc. So if you are like me, a technology enthusiast who wants as much access to the system as possible, Control4 is the best by far of any of the commercially available systems.
As far as the hardware goes, it has been rock solid since the system was installed about 4 months ago. It has a very high wife acceptance factor. I am very happy with my decision.

Control4 with Kscape:
Control4 uses "drivers" to define how to control devices throughout the home. There are two drivers available for Kaleidescape in the Control4 ecosystem. One is a free driver provided by Control4 itself. This driver allows you to use the Control4 remote controls as a universal remote with your K-player, and to do basic-to-moderate automation. Dim the lights when you press play, that kind of thing. (I can post a full list of hooks if you care.)
There is a third-party driver, for which there is an additional charge, that really opens up a ton of options. It pulls your full movie list into the Control4 ecosystem, so the same remote/tablet/OSD has a full list of the movies in your K, and you can play directly from them without any fuss. It exposes a ton of additional events you can program off of. So now, my theater works like this:
  • When I walk into the theater I 'double tap' the top of the first light switch in the hallway. This tells Control4 to run a macro that sets all the lights in the theater (4 distinct circuits) to the "seating time" levels.
  • I'll sit down in my chair and use the Control4 app on a tablet to browse the list of movies on my K and pick one. I tap the movie.
  • Control4 turns on my projector, AVR, and Strato. The movie automatically begins playing.
  • The Strato tells Control4 what the aspect ratio of the film it is playing is. Control4 then executes a series of commands to zoom the projector to a preset and mask the screen to meet the movie format. (I have a Scope screen).
  • Control4 listens for a "opening credits" event that the Strato sends, and once it gets it the lights dim to the "take your seats" level. (This usually happens 5-10 seconds into the opening credits)
  • Control4 listens for a "main feature" event and then turns off the lights the rest of the way.
  • My Control4 remote has a button mapped to intermission mode, when I push it Control4 sets the Strato into intermission mode, and slowly ramps up the main theater lights to about 40%.
  • When the movie is over, the Strato sends an "end credits" event to Control4, which then sets the lights (except the lights that are right in front of the screen) to 80% over 120 seconds. (This usually fires about 10-15 seconds after the movie fades to black and the credits start rolling.)
  • When the movie is over-over, the Strato natively exits out to the cover art OSD, and Control4 sees this happens and turns all the lights on to 100%.
It is literally awesome for all that automation to happen totally hands-off. People who come over are amazed the first time they experience it. Control4 + Kaleidescape + The "Chowmein" 3rd-party driver == an awesome theater experience. Heck, I want to go watch a movie right now.

Magnolia:
The Magnolia experience has been quite good, though not perfect. I interviewed 2 other dealers before selecting Magnolia. In a nutshell, the people doing the work are incredible. The consultant I work with directly is very helpful, though he often needs to get approval or coordinate with other elements in Magnolia (managers, technicians, etc.) and that is sometimes problematic - I have to stay on top of that or else things fall through the cracks. The pricing was kind of opaque. They charged me exactly what my budget was. Am I happy with the result? Absolutely. Could I have paid less for the exact same amount of kit by going through another dealer? I don't really know. The experience is very much oriented to non-technical people who expect to contract for a service. The service costs a fixed price, and how much of that they spend on materials vs. labor vs. profit is none of your concern.
A good analogy is this: If you go to buy a car you see the sticker and you know the base price, and how much each option is, and you can total it up to get the MSRP. Imagine instead, you walk into the dealership and the salesman says "how much do you want to spend?" You tell him a price, and some basic requirements (4 doors, safe, large cargo space, leather seats) and he says "ah, here's the car for you." On the window is a price tag, not itemized, but just the price. It's exactly what you intended to spend. You test drive the car, it's great, you're happy... but did you get a good deal?
Magnolia did the installation of 17 zones of speakers (mostly in-ceiling, some in-wall or free-standing), 8 video zones, all the Control4 gear, integrated my DirecTV and AppleTV boxes, set up two home theaters, and programmed everything including about 25 light switches, without me lifting a finger. A Control4 system is only as good as the programming, and mine is complex. I'm happy I had experienced and skilled Control4 programmers to set everything up. And the few times that something has gone wonky it's been nice to send an email and not even try to troubleshoot it myself. It's very different for me to go hands-off, but it's refreshing.

Wow... that was probably 1000% more information than you expected. Let me know if there's anything you'd like more detail on.
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  #22  
Old Feb 28th, 2018
RAV RAV is offline
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Thank you so much! I find your information to be incredibly helpful, especially since I am aligned with many aspects of your background and your goals for the system. I manage an engineering team and am reasonably technically proficient. I was considering Crestron at one point but didn't like the walled garden approach or the markups (I remember an Ethernet option card for which I recognized the electronic components - and it had maybe $15 of parts and was selling for something like $300).

I didn't realize that there was a Home Edition of the Control4 software. That is a huge plus! I also don't like to be tethered to my dealer for small changes to programming. That alone is enough to swing the decision for me. It's also good to know that you are very happy with the Chowmain driver - we use our Kaleidescape system a lot (and love it).

It's very good to hear that your large Control4 system has been rock solid. I am planning to use Control4 to control the lighting throughout our new home (for which we are just now applying for permits). We are turning our basement into a kind of mini entertainment "complex" with a Home Theater, Dance Club, Arcade, and Lounge - so a lot of lighting to control. On a related note one of my ongoing projects has been figuring out how to contain haze for a proper laser light show without setting off smoke detectors!

I am going to dive deeper into Control4 and figure out a bit more how to optimally take advantage of the system for our new home.

Once again - thanks for taking the time to provide so much helpful information!
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  #23  
Old Feb 28th, 2018
JohnJ JohnJ is offline
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livitup, thanks for the write-up! There is some good information here.

John
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  #24  
Old Mar 1st, 2018
Montucky Montucky is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by livitup View Post
Control4 + Kaleidescape + The "Chowmein" 3rd-party driver == an awesome theater experience.
Great write-up, but this is the main thing that stuck out to me. So true. While I'm a bit more of an RTI fanboy than C4, my experience mirrored yours. It's really all up to how good of a programmer you end up with, but with all the cool drivers that can drive a Kaleidescape system plus everything else, seeing everything work in concert is the bee's knees for sure.

People who don't have a control system really are missing out on a huge component of what the K experience is all about. Well, I guess that K is still a portion of the overall experience, but still, I do that think that K is such a vital part of a totally streamlined and seamless system.

Nothing beats simply hitting "Watch Kaleidescape" on the remote, then watching the projector fire up, the screen's LEDs light up, the blinds drop, the curtains close, the lights go to whatever I set them to, and the Kaleidescape cover menu come alive. All in perfect harmony. Then select a movie, and watch the lights go to movie mode, my step lights staying on of course, the sound come to life, and just absolutely melting into a film. A proper "intermission" button is pretty sweet too for sure.
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  #25  
Old Mar 6th, 2018
iansilv iansilv is offline
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I got a NEEO remote. So far its really good for the price, but... lots of irritating quirks. It's like they forgot to do some really basic things related to the software. No IP control of devices, but they released an SDK...
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  #26  
Old Apr 21st, 2018
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alanchow alanchow is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by livitup View Post
Control4 + Kaleidescape + The "Chowmein" 3rd-party driver == an awesome theater experience.
Thank you for the fantastic review. We worked hard to make the best Control4 driver possible. Alot of what we achieved is thanks to the guys at Kaleidescape working with us to make it happen.

As livitup mentions Kaleidescape with the help of Control4 and our driver transforms your theatre into a truly immersive experience like no other. Kaleidescape really shines when integrated properly.

For more information about our driver please see website below.
https://www.chowmainsoft.com/kaleidescape

John from residential systems wrote an excellent indepth review. See it here.
https://www.residentialsystems.com/res-blogs/1192

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Check out our awesome Kaleidescape driver for the Control4 Home Automation System
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  #27  
Old Apr 23rd, 2018
iansilv iansilv is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alanchow View Post
Thank you for the fantastic review. We worked hard to make the best Control4 driver possible. Alot of what we achieved is thanks to the guys at Kaleidescape working with us to make it happen.

As livitup mentions Kaleidescape with the help of Control4 and our driver transforms your theatre into a truly immersive experience like no other. Kaleidescape really shines when integrated properly.

For more information about our driver please see website below.
https://www.chowmainsoft.com/kaleidescape

John from residential systems wrote an excellent indepth review. See it here.
https://www.residentialsystems.com/res-blogs/1192

Alan dumb question maybe, but is control 4 and your driver controlling the K system with IP control?
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  #28  
Old Apr 23rd, 2018
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alanchow alanchow is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by iansilv View Post
Alan dumb question maybe, but is control 4 and your driver controlling the K system with IP control?
It communicates via IP to both server and client.

Note I am about to go away for two weeks on leave. If you have any additional questions in the mean time please reach out to our support team
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Check out our awesome Kaleidescape driver for the Control4 Home Automation System
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  #29  
Old May 13th, 2018
carajo carajo is offline
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I use Alanís driver on 2 homes and love it. Great job.
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  #30  
Old Sep 3rd, 2018
EnvisionIT EnvisionIT is offline
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Honestly, you should try DemoPad at demopad.com.

I had a fully programmed remote system designed in iRule. Now that they are slowly being discontinued I have made the switch to Demopad.

In a weekend I designed an iPad app that can control my Datasat, Sony Proj, Lumagen, multiple KScape devices, Oppo, DirecTV, Roku, AppleTV and lastly my Stewart screen.

Any device that is IP based has built in support. For my Lumagen, I had to have an Global Cache ITach Serial device which is approx 100 at amazon. Outside of that there is a one time charge of approx 30.00 on the apple store for the app. I can update it as many times as I need with the designer software which runs on your pc and is free for all IP based devices.

Anyway just a thought if you want to try to customize something yourself vs having someone design it for you.
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