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Fiber Optics Can Transform Home Theater Systems

Fibre Optics & Star Ceilings for Custom Installation

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Successful integrators know the importance of differentiating their offerings from the mainstream. They want to be able to show clients products and technologies that can’t be found in a big box store. But specialty products don’t just add a cool-factor to projects; the labour component of installing them also adds to the bottom line.

One area integrators might not have considered is performance-oriented decor options for cinema and media rooms. We’ve covered the benefits of acoustic treatments in previous Custom Corner instalments. Star ceiling panels, as well as fibre optic lighting in general, are decor accents that add enormous visual appeal to a home cinema.

Fibre optic lighting, whether simple or complex, has come on strong over the last couple of years. Most systems can be sourced locally through wholesale outlets that cater to electricians, so pick up a few catalogues and browse the potential offerings. One option, for instance, is rope lighting that can delineate steps and risers in a darkened room. Most are dimmable in the same way as conventional light fixtures, and thus are controllable by your control system. The visual appeal they create can be stunning, but the products themselves can be quite inexpensive, so think of them more as a value-added approach to adding labour dollars to the project.

Bear in mind that some off-the-shelf fibre optic and rope light products are entirely low voltage and just plug in to an outlet, while others connect directly to the home’s 120v AC and need to be connected by a licensed electrician. Choose the products accordingly.

Possibly the most dramatic decor accessory that integrators can add into an installation is a star ceiling. In fact, several dealers across the country have recently installed iSky star panels into their demo rooms, and the response from clients has been hugely positive.

Acoustically absorbent, iSky panels are configured in 24 x 24″, 30 x 30″ and 48 x 48″ square pieces that can be surface-mounted to finished ceilings or cloud-mounted below any ceiling, as well as 24 x 24″ drop in panels for suspended ceilings. The panels can be easily cut to accommodate lighting fixtures, smoke alarms, and such. Triangle and quarter round end piece panels with stars are also available to accommodate odd-shaped rooms.

The big advantage of iSky panels, according to the dealers who’ve installed them, is their simplicity. Older star ceilings required manually running individual fibres back to a home run location. It’s difficult to imagine a more tedious task! The iSky panels connect via a two-conductor connector, and up to 50 panels can be run from a single three-amp, 12V power supply. In dealer demo rooms, I’ve seen the finished star ceiling turned on and off from the touch panel that controls the cinema, and the first reaction is: “Cool!”

The simplicity of the system makes it accessible to clients with a broad range of budgets.

Another new product from iSky is an LED strip lighting called URay. It comes in flexible 12″ low-voltage strips and an assortment of corner pieces, along with accessories to create highlight glow effects around the perimeter of iSky panels or on their own, as accent lighting. They come in blue, red, amber and cool white. And a dimmer module is available.

It goes without saying that custom installations used to be bread and butter for integrators. But jobs like hanging a flat panel TV have become commoditized, with the resulting margins shrinking. Consequently, evolving integration businesses should seek new categories that will give them an edge, differentiate them from competitors, and add profit. Think outside of the box, and give added niceties like decor accessories a chance.

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