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Integrate Distributed Audio & Video- with Apple Products into Your Home Automation System

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Today I would like to talk a little about distributed A/V, and integrating it into your home automation system. Distributed A/V refers to having a central location (usually a storage closet etc.) for all the equipment, such as CD/DVD/Blue Ray players, Radios, Receivers, Stereos etc., and then sending whatever signal is desired to all the different locations in the house. Usually this is done with wires, but more and more wireless options are coming out.  There are a lot of excellent products out there that share media around the home from companies such as Russound, Crestron and Control 4. These are all nice systems and very capable, but they are very expensive. I contend that using solutions from Apple, you can create an elegant system to distribute A/V around your home and integrate it into a whole home control system. Let’s get started!
The systems I mentioned before cost thousands of dollars, where we can do the same

Fits in your hand.

Fits in your hand.

thing with some Apple products for a few hundred dollars. Most people these days have their music (and increasingly their movies, TV shows, podcasts etc.)
on their computers and millions of people, use iTunes as the control hub. iTunes has come a long way from the simple music player it started out as. It can now play all different types of media and share them around the home using it’s AirTunes technology. The first device I’d like to talk about is the Airport Express. This device looks like your typical laptop power supply, and costs only $99! I am a big fan of these devices, and do not believe they get the credit they deserve. They can do an amazing number of things. First off, its a wireless router, and can be used to expand an existing wireless network. It can also act as a print server, and for the purposes of this post, can receive audio from your computer wirelessly. The Airport Express connects to any receiver, stereo or powered set of speakers to play whatever audio the computer sends to it.  This gives you the flexibility to send audio to your better speakers in the home theater or living room, or just a cheap set of speakers in the garage.  You can also purchase some inexpensive speakers for locations where you don’t want to risk losing
Apple Airport Express

Apple Airport Express

expensive ones, such as the restroom, porch, garage etc.  It’s a very portable solution as well.  Maybe you only want to bring out a set of speakers to the pool for one day for a party.  As long as there is power and you are in range of the wifi signal, you are in luck.  At $99 each, you can easily afford to put a few of these around the house, maybe even in the kids rooms.
Use Airport Express Around the Home

This graphic from Apple shows how easy this technology is to use and how capable it is. The airport express can provide the wireless network, or can connect to an existing network to expand it and add new functions such as print sharing and audio distribution. Since its Apple, it works with your Mac or PC, your Apple TV and iPhone or iPod touch. Photo Credit: Apple.com

The second product is the Apple TV. Now this is another very cool product that gets no respect.  I have one and use it often.  It is a set top device, with ethernet and wifi connectivity.  It connects to your iTunes and can either sync and store content locally, or can stream media from up to 5 computers!  The Apple TV lets you view Movies, TV Shows, Podcasts, Music Videos, YouTube Videos, Photos and more.  You can even stream your iTunes music to it.  When you connect it to your home theater gear, you can use the Apple TV as another AirTunes Station to complement your Airport Expresses.
Now for the good part. What I have done, is integrate these Apple products into my home automation system.  Using simple AppleScripts, the Airport Express can be controlled remotely, from many different devices.  For example, I have a keypad in my Master Bathroom that allows me to play/pause/previous/next and control the music.  Touch-screens can also be used all around the house to control the media being played.  I have  created web pages that allow me to control anything in my home.  I added the Airport Express and Apple TV locations to be able to stream music and control which locations are used.  For Example, I have 5 “zones” of audio in my home.  Since my house is controllable over the web, I can use my iPhone, iPod Touch, Laptops or devices like a Nokia tablet or soon, the iPad to activate/deactivate certain zones, select specific playlists, artists, or internet radio stations.  Since Applescript is so powerful and built in to the Mac OS, there really is no limit to what you can do.
If you have any questions or comments, I’d love to hear from you.  Thanks for joining us, and we look forward to connecting with you.  Like always, we are on Facebook and Twitter.  Take care!

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Comments

  1. Leighton  March 27, 2010

    I’d be curious if you are able to use AppleScript to enable/disable certain airport speakers? I have a similar setup/concept in my home, but haven’t been able to crack the nut on getting iTunes to switch between the 5 different airtunes speakers with AppleScript.

    reply
    • DupreyHomeAutomation  March 28, 2010

      Hi, thanks for the comment. Yes we use Applescript to control speakers all the time. I use an excellent app called Airfoil to facilitate this. This app gives you the ability to stream to Macs and PC’s, Apple TV’s, Airport Expresses, as well as iPhone’s and iPod Touches. As far as I know, there is no built in method of calling a set of speakers directly via applescript, that is why many people use Airfoil. Here is a really simple applescript that will select a specific airport express. Let me know if you have any further questions. Thanks.
      ————–
      tell application “Airfoil”
      set aSpeaker to every speaker whose name is “KitchenExpress”
      set firstSpeaker to first item in aSpeaker
      connect to firstSpeaker
      end tell
      ————–

      reply
  2. Refined  June 7, 2010

    I need to distribute Apple TV to multiple locations. It only has one component out. How can I have multi room distribution from one centrally located Apple TV?

    reply
    • DupreyHomeAutomation  June 14, 2010

      Hi thanks for the comment, sorry for the delay. There are ways of distributing the Apple TV with distribution equipment, but I don’t think that is Apple’s Intention. I think a better way is to put your media on a central server, it could even be a Mac Mini. Then use Apple TV, or multiple Apple TV’s around the home to stream the media to them. We use our Apple TV to stream video from all the Macs (or you can use a PC w iTunes) or even stream music FROM the Apple TV’s to speakers throughout the house via AirTunes on Airport Express. Apple doesn’t get much publicity for these products, but they work great and provide an excellent audio video experience for the money. Let me know if you have any questions.

      reply
  3. fall-line  September 9, 2010

    Thank you for posting this writeup. I have created an applescript to directly control the Airtunes/Airplay (in iTunes 10) functionality from within iTunes if anyone is interested.
    http://fall-line.com/2010/09/control-airplayairtunes-feature-of-itunes-with-applescript/
    Cheers

    reply
  4. CHeFkoch  December 2, 2010

    Is there a possibility to delay any video file to sync the audio broadcasted via Airfoil?
    For example online streams via browser flashformated?

    reply

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