Software That Saves
The origin story of a powerful, CEDIA-owned home cinema design tool may be one of practicality, but how it works is comparable to a childhood game, according to The CEDIA Designer’s creator, Guy Singleton. About five years ago, Singleton realized the need to streamline the time-consuming and complicated design process for home theaters and media rooms, so the electrical engineer got to work.
The inner workings of The CEDIA Designer software, he said on an episode of the CEDIA Podcast, basically function like the game of Mousetrap. “It isn’t actually as simple as, practically, it first looks,” he said. “You’ve got a boot that kicks a ball, that does something else… there’s lots of things that all come together.”
In a far more elegant fashion than the Rube-Goldberg-machine-like Mousetrap, the cloud-based program simultaneously factors together all the technical, visual, and project elements of a design and yields a more-than-30-page proposal that is client-ready and loaded with schematics and detailed visuals. A virtual-reality-driven, immersive preview of what the final product will look like is also available.
The CEDIA Designer is more than a convenient way of pre-visualizing the setup, materials, and parameters of a home cinema or media room; it’s like giving time back to your team for projects of all sizes. “The reality with any sales process is that it’s highly, highly, highly unlikely that you’re going to nail that design in Round One with the customer,” said Peter Aylett, president and chief technology officer of Archimedia, and an early adopter of the software.
“You’ve got architects, you’ve got interior designers, you’ve got the fit-out contractors, you’ve got air conditioning people to deal with, and through the whole design process, there are changes, after changes, after changes,” Aylett added, during his appearance with Singleton on the podcast. “But at some point, you’ve got to press a button and go, ‘Right, this is it, this is the final design that is going to be turned into shop drawings that is then going to be built on site.’” He estimates TCD can do in 15 minutes what it might take an experienced draftsperson two days to create and render.
Aylett, whose company employs about 150 and has a presence in the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Morocco, emphasizes that TCD is a tool and it doesn’t replace the expertise of home technology professionals. But, if integrators “learn the crap out of” it, they can gain back an “immense” amount of time that he says can be spent on communications, programming, bookkeeping and training endeavors. “It’s free time, and that’s the most valuable commodity we have,” Aylett told podcast hosts Ed Wenck and Walt Zerbe.
How It Works
After entering the type of room you’re laying out, and the dimensions of the space, TCD intuitively walks you through each stage of designing a room from the ground up. It considers factors like the number of audio channels, screen type, decorative and sound-affecting materials, seating, and hardware, offering adjustment options along the way.
Not quite sure about the number or kind of speakers you’ll eventually need as you enter the early planning stages? Singleton created the program to help “let the room decide” what goes in. Have a client that is partial to one brand or another? TCD’s product library is ever-growing and updated to accurately represent manufacturers’ specifications, industry standards, and engineering best practices.
With Great Power Comes
Aylett calls TCD a “phenomenal” tool, but he cautions that it’s no substitute for old-fashioned training, skills, and know-how.
“We do have a responsibility as an industry not to say, ‘Oh, well, you know, TCD means I don’t need to learn about cinema design anymore.’ I think we need to go the opposite direction,” he asserted. “If our customer says, ‘So, tell me about this… why does it make a difference,’ we can really explain deeply what that TCD output is and then, once they’ve signed on the dotted line, we then have the expertise to translate that brilliant design into something that is built in the real world.”
Singleton is actively involved in keeping the program on the cutting edge through frequent updates of products and specs available to TCD users. He compares CEDIA’s ownership of the software to another childhood favorite, “The Sword and the Stone.”
“Now [that] it’s a CEDIA product, knowing how great the CEDIA training is, knowing how great the cinema design workshops are, and all those other associated courses that go with that, I think there is a responsibility [that] it is in the right hands. It’s almost ‘Excalibur’ in that it needs somebody like CEDIA to wield it - responsibly,” he said. “I know they’re going to do the right thing with it.”
Find out more about The CEDIA Designer at thecediadesigner.org.