{ An Easier Life vs A Better Life }

By Walt Burns

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Depending on your outlook – and whom you talk to – we are either at an exciting moment or a frightening point in the evolving relationship between humans and technology. Everyone agrees that the tools of technology can make our lives dramatically easier, but is easier necessarily better? When we bring so much technology into our homes, do we lose something in the pursuit of constant convenience that drives us away from the Zen-like rhythm of common domestic rituals? When we can simply demand a bag of chips without leaving our seat and have them arrive a few moments later, are we really heading in the right direction? Perhaps the value is not in making our lives easier, but in making our lives better?

Within both the realms of sound and light, the technological bar has risen considerably in the past couple of years. In the Gallatin Valley, a few businesses have been around long enough to recognize just how exciting these times are and, most importantly, have the skills and knowledge to make them a reality.

AMBIANCE HOME AUTOMATION and LIGHTING

There was a time when being able to flick a switch and immediately fill a room with light was exciting enough that no one really thought to ask for more. If you wanted to create a mood, you lit a candle. Talk to someone like Toby Zangenberg at Ambiance and you start to have your eyes opened, so to speak, to what’s possible with today’s lighting technology.

Toby knows a lot about lighting. And he knows more every day.

“You have to educate yourself every single day. We’re constantly learning new products and systems. It’s literally changing monthly right now. New products come out every month and they’re getting better and better,” explains Toby.

Providing fully customizable home automation technologies to clients around the country from its home base in the Gallatin Valley, Ambiance creates innovative lighting design, lighting control systems, and automated shading solutions.

From the electrical drawings to the final installation, Ambiance is involved. “If lighting is important to you, someone like me should be involved,” Toby adds. “I’m generally brought in by the architect to design the lighting plan. We specify all the materials and develop the lighting, power, and automation plans. If there’s going to be a lighting control system, we would design that and incorporate any AV controls.”

Spend some time with Toby and the magnitude of the technology available starts to take shape. You begin to realize how much the way we see the world has bearing on more than just our visual perception. It affects how we taste, hear, and feel.

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Yes, lighting controls the mood and that level of control is growing daily. Toby reflects, “The lighting world has changed dramatically. Back in the old days everything was just recessed cans and regular light bulbs. More generic. There was nice stuff but it was just incandescent and halogen bulbs. With the advent of LED, everything is becoming more technical.”

This level of technical expertise distinguishes Ambiance. “Early on, when LED got started, there were a lot of pitfalls and a lot of things you needed to avoid. It’s difficult to keep up with all the new things and so most people just buy what the wholesale house has and that’s what you end up with in your house. What we’re trying to do is educate the client on what’s available; we make recommendations based on everything we’ve talked about and are able to support that with the reasons why.

“From the standpoint of light intensity, we used to measure things in wattage, now it’s in lumen output, color temperature, and dimming. A large part of what we’re doing is educating our clients as to what types of products are out there and the different price points. The way things are controlled and dimmed has advanced substantially. It is a lot different than just five years ago.”

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“In the old days, I could use the same products for five or six years. Now it’s changing so fast that I’ve spec’ed jobs and then changed the materials by the time we got to construction to something that’s better – and often more cost-effective.”

–Toby Zangenberg, Ambiance

Not only are the fixtures and bulbs going through substantial product evolutions but even the controls and wiring itself are changing. “Now you have single-button control panels. Even the wiring is different. It’s getting to the point where all the lights might be running off data wire instead of 120-volt. Dimming is often controlled with DMX instead of a regular dimmer,” Toby explains.

He continues, “In the old days, I could use the same products for five or six years. Now it’s changing so fast that I’ve spec’ed jobs and then changed the materials by the time we got to construction to something that’s better – and often more cost-effective.”

It’s not only the command and knowledge of the electricity that cements those types of relationships between Ambiance and architects. “We are at the job site weekly, addressing all the issues that might come up from the electrical standpoint,” explains Toby. It’s one thing to talk about the possibilities and quite another to make sure they come to fruition.

Having developed this level of expertise, it comes as no surprise that Ambiance’s scope extends beyond the Gallatin Valley and Big Sky. “We’ve done jobs in California, Hawaii, Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. I have an architect I work with in Colorado and Sun Valley. When I ask him, who is going to do all his lighting for a project, he says, ‘You are.’”

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SAV DIGITAL ENVIRONMENTS

“Integrating cutting-edge sound systems was where we started. Technologies progressed and so did we. We now design, manage, and integrate whole-home and business automation systems.”
–Cory Reistad, President, SAV Digital Environments

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Anyone who still believes that technology steers us away from a natural human experience is someone who has not spent much time with SAV Digital Environments. Guided by the goal of an unobtrusive integration of modern technology to enhance each moment of our daily lives is the underlining objective of the SAV approach.

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“Integrating cutting-edge sound systems was where we started. Technologies progressed and so did we. We now design, manage, and integrate whole-home and business automation systems,” explains Cory Reistad, President of SAV Digital Environments. SAV even has a whole division of their firm dedicated to high-end security and surveillance solutions, what they call SAV Alarm.

Integration is a word easy to overuse when describing SAV’s approach to a project. In their minds it’s not about simply serving up various interesting technology, but it’s also about bringing a space to life. It is about a more fundamentally complete sensory experience delivered through technology.

For a moment, imagine this scenario – you step through the front door and push the home button on the wall switch. Simultaneously, the lighting elegantly dims up, the shades quietly open, the music comes on in the background, and the climate adjusts to your automated comfort setting. While it may sound like a scene out of Ex Machina, it is not only a reality, but also one with a decidedly more pleasant outcome.

“Advancements in technology shouldn’t intimidate the end user,” states Scott Abel, Director of Quality & Customer. “SAV performs extensive R&D on all of our products so that we know everything we integrate is not only top-of-the-line, they’re intuitive and easy to operate.” With SAV’s client service division, called SAV Care, should an issue ever arise, they will do whatever it takes to resolve the matter promptly.

SAV starts with sound. Reistad says, “We can address any situation from background music emanating throughout the entire house to dedicated high-performance listening rooms and immersive home theaters.”

Innovative audio/video systems are a particular point of pride for SAV. “We are dedicated to delivering audio/visual experiences with the same level of intensity and passion regardless if you’re just simply listening to background music or being completely immersed in the latest blockbuster movie. We don’t accept anything less than exceptional performance for your home. This requires a level of depth and clarity that takes you out of the space and places you in the setting. We strive for that level of intensity across a wide range of listening and viewing situations.”

As technology continues to charge forward, its effect is on more than just the quality of sound, however. We have reached a place where technology is mature enough that it endeavors to be discreet instead of drawing attention to itself. This is a welcomed progression in terms of aesthetics. “Technology has traditionally been bulky and visually obtrusive. It often competed, or at the very least, distracted from the design vision. There are a lot of options on the market now that help preserve aesthetics. You can really do a much better job of maintaining the flow through the living space.”

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“We can start with ambient lighting. We can set things where they dim to calm the mood, but we can also adjust color temperature to create a sense of energy or to bring out the color in a piece of artwork. Light is a great source of drama.”

–Cory Reistad, President, SAV Digital Environments

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Flush and bezel-less speakers are a perfect example of this new dynamic. They combine true high-performance sound while maintaining the elegance and architectural elements of a space. No longer are the labors of creating a visually pleasing living space working against the delivery of a satisfying audio experience.

Perhaps we see the best results of creating a seamless audio experience with invisible speakers. Installed in the walls and ceilings and then finished over with the surrounding surface treatment, invisible speakers can deliver ambient music that seems to emanate from the very walls themselves and fills the space without the occupants being able to pinpoint their source.

Sound is just one side of the home sensory equation and it’s the integration and automation of the lighting elements that really advance the discussion. When we start to incorporate new lighting technologies into the mix, the experience is elevated. “We can start with ambient lighting. We can set things where they dim to calm the mood, but we can also adjust color temperature to create a sense of energy or to bring out the color in a piece of artwork. Light is a great source of drama. Putting it in the right spaces helps create a serene setting or highlight points of interest,” explains Reistad.

Today’s technology lets you have complete control. Maybe you want to highlight a pathway? Maybe you want to control things with your voice? Fully-integrated automation of your light both inside the house and out is now the norm. And at this point, automation can take on a life of its own. As Reistad says, “Something we’re really excited about is Human-Centric Lighting.”

This could be the high-bar in technology, reaching a point where it complements the human experience in an unexpected way. Research is finding that light addresses both visual and non-visual needs. In other words, light can do a lot more than just help you see. The core idea behind Human-Centric Lighting is to create a lighting profile that synchronizes with your circadian rhythms to support better health. Human-Centric Lighting can have profound effects on how you feel. Working with our body’s natural rhythm, it improves overall well-being by enhancing concentration while improving motivation and productivity. Human-Centric Lighting dynamically changes throughout the day to precisely mimic the color temperature and intensity of natural light outside. “Of course, you can also take control and adjust the mood yourself with a full range of color and dimming capabilities,” Reistad adds.

At this point, the possibilities that technology has created to make our lives more fulfilling seem endless. But rest assured, there will be more. And SAV Digital Environments will be one of the first to know everything there is to know about them. www.savinc.net