World’s largest catamaran takes to the seas with new AV, lighting, networking, and control systems designed using D-Tools System Integrator
The ability to produce professional proposals and to quickly revise those proposals as project parameters change attracts thousands of integrators across the world to the D-Tools’ on-premise System Integrator (SI) software solution. Liquid Automation of Auckland, New Zealand, relied on these capabilities when revamping the sound, video, lighting, and control systems on the world’s largest sailing catamaran.
Liquid Automation first encountered D-Tools at CEDIA Expo 2009 and, since adopted in 2012, it has largely replaced, Microsoft Excel, and MS Word, for creating the company’s proposals and documentation.
“We only had a very limited period to get a system designed and approved,” says Liquid Automation Director Stephan Goodhue. “We were able to produce revised proposals quickly through SI, which was essential in getting to a signed contract in the quickest time possible.”
The integrator had only five weeks from the contract getting signed to the installation, and then just six weeks to complete the installation. “The best bit?” Goodhue says. “The install was in Malta, over 18,000 km (11,000+ miles) away.”
The yacht uses America Mains power, which required sourcing products from the U.S. and shipping to Malta in time for installation. The technology requirements also presented some unique challenges for the integrator. “The project was a re-fit, and not a new build, so certain allowances had to be made,” Goodhue says.
For instance, all equipment had to fit into existing spaces aboard the vessel, since no new areas could be allocated for additional hardware. The new systems had to be installed using the existing cabling.
In addition, Goodhue says, “Everything we installed had to be reliable and discreet with a control interface that is intuitive and user-friendly.”
Utilizing D-Tools’ extensive library of leading suppliers’ product data, the team was able to easily layout the design to make sure all products were assigned and accurately installed.
Nine zones of audio and video entertainment are included, along with four audio-only zones. To accommodate this, the catamaran features a Crestron Digital Media system with nine wireless touchscreens and one wired 15-inch touchscreen for intuitive control. Lighting was updated and enhanced by way of a Lutron QS system.
By laying the groundwork with solid documentation, Liquid Automation was able to retrofit the vessel on time and within budget, going on to win a 2018 CEDIA Asia Pacific Award in the category of Best Auto, Marine & Aircraft.
“Our success in this industry has a lot to do with our documentation,” says Goodhue. “We usually allow four weeks to produce all the documentation for a project. By the time the design was finalized, we had less than the desired time left to produce the documentation. Thanks to a team effort, a streamlined process in D-Tools SI, and some overtime, the documentation was completed successfully and accurately.”
Designing and Installing Robust, Reliable, and Futureproof Systems
With the documentation done, the team was ready to get to work installing the AV, lighting, control and networking systems that would bring the vessel up to date. But first, the integrator had to address power requirements.
“As this yacht was a re-fit, rather than a new build, we had to organize a central Universal Power Supply (UPS) for the systems. The UPS also provides a seamless switch-over facility that keeps all the AV and control equipment online while the yacht switches over from generator power to the shore power supply. If this were not in place there would be instances when the yacht would have all systems go offline,” Goodhue explains. “We also calculated the power needs of the new system and ensured that this UPS was powerful enough to run the new system.”
The next step would be to create a robust wired and wireless network divided into five separate virtual local area networks (VLANs). “The network caters to services such as system control, streaming entertainment, CCTV, and guest and crew networks,” Goodhue says.
To ensure the network performed as required and could be re-booted if needed, regardless of the yacht’s location, Liquid Automation included Ihiji’s proactive remote network monitoring platform. “We can log in, address issues, and even address system updates should there be a need for that in the future,” Goodhue notes. “This was a key requirement for the client and one we were happy to accommodate.”
Leaving plenty of room for the systems to grow was an essential requirement throughout the project. The modular Crestron Digital Media system provides this capability, along with an intuitive and user-friendly interface. “We used the 4K HDCP2.2 cards and room receivers for maximum compatibility,” Goodhue says. “As the Digital Media matrix was also used for the navigation sources and stations, we have the future capability to utilize the USB KVM functionality that is available through the Digital Media system, allowing future control switching of each source.”
Given its critical importance in the navigation, security, and entertainment systems of the catamaran, Liquid Automation specified three redundant power supplies for the Crestron system.
Crestron temperature and humidity sensors monitor and log environmental data within the racks. “If a rack temperature rises to 40C, a visual alert will come up on the touch panels. Should it rise to 45C, the Crestron controller will shut down equipment in the rack, along with alerting crew and automatically emailing our support team,” Goodhue explains.
Ease-of-Use and Flexibility Achieved
Another benefit to the Crestron DM and touchscreens was the system’s ease-of-use. “Making the system easily accessible was the main aim when designing the touchscreens,” Goodhue says. “The interface was designed to guide the user through the process with the addition of simple questions and prompts. The design focused on ensuring ease of operation for the full-time crew and short-term guests, alike.”
Since the yacht is often chartered for private parties, flexible systems were especially important. For instance, the client wanted to give all locations on the yacht the ability to have either their own standalone Airplay device for Apple or to be able to access the central Chromecast for Android devices. “Should a charter guest come onboard with either an Apple or an Android device they can watch or listen to their content in any area,” Goodhue says.
The Liquid Automation team also upgraded the Kaleidescape server, which provides onboard movies, with a larger capacity server and high definition players.
Satellite TV decoders provide additional entertainment choices. Since the vessel travels worldwide, the decoders are designed to be swapped out as the vessel moves to new locations. “Our system is pre-programmed with five decoders from popular cruising grounds around the world,” Goodhue explains. “The engineer onboard can select a new region from the touchscreen in the Crew Mess, and this automatically changes the page that appears when a user selects Sat TV and changes the IR code set appropriately.”
As with other systems onboard the yacht, the satellite TV system has room to grow and can be accessed remotely by the Liquid Automation team. “If the crew encounters a new decoder, they send the remote control to us, we learn the codes, and remotely load the new program for them, getting them up and running within a very short time frame,” Goodhue says.
Finally, Liquid Automation upgraded the lighting systems, replacing halogen and incandescent light fitting with LED equivalents and transformers. The lighting scenes in the new Lutron QS system were configured to allow for LEDs and their dimming characteristics. The crew can easily edit lighting scenes from an iOS app.
Smooth Sailing with D-Tools
An efficient workflow was critical in this project since the old equipment had to be removed before the new systems were installed and Liquid Automation had to accurately estimate the labor hours and the number of workers required to keep the project on schedule.
“The biggest challenge was first designing, programming, drawing the schematics, organizing the equipment and shipping everything to Malta with only a five-week period from the contract getting signed to install. We then only had six weeks to do the actual install in Malta. We could not have accomplished this feat without our documentation process. It may mean extra work at the front end, but it guaranteed a smooth run once done — and a successful result,” Goodhue says.
One might even suggest that it was “smooth sailing” for Liquid Automation as the team finished the retrofit of the world’s largest sailing catamaran.
“As our company grew we needed to produce quotes faster, and this project is an excellent example of that,” Goodhue says. “D-Tools is a great product and has helped streamline our proposals, enabling proposals to be produced quickly. Since we implemented it, we have been using D-Tools for all our quoted projects.”
Customer satisfaction: According to Liquid Automation, feedback received from clients suggests they like the proposals as presented, noting the presentation provides ample and effective detail
Internal user satisfaction: Users are able to complete proposals with ease and with the addition of custom reports are able to present tailored proposals to each client.
What has been your overall experience working with D-Tools? Efficiency. D-Tools allows Liquid Automation to be put together a well-presented proposal in a short timeframe.
Would you recommend D-Tools System Integrator to other companies? Yes, we would. Once one masters the process, D-Tools reduces the time it takes to prepare a proposal and allows our team to spend time on other tasks.
Additional information on the D-Tools’ on-premises System Integrator software can be obtained by signing up for a free personal tour by visiting https://d-tools.com/live-demo-webinar/ or a free 30-day trial, which can be downloaded by visiting https://d-tools.com/hosted-free-trial-signup/.