Written by Ben Ellison on Nov 14, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub
Whoever buys or charters Island Heiress will get an amazing audio video system. The 1996 Cheoy Lee has gone through a massive refit -- notice how much the satellite domes have changed from the original configuration -- including a $250,000 $500,000 custom entertainment system put together by Unlimited Marine Services Inc. (UMSI). You can be at any one of eight large Samsung LED HDTV screens using an iPad to choose from DirectTV, Apple TV, boat cameras, navigation screens, and the world's first install of a KVH IP MobileCast superyacht package. In Fort Lauderdale I got to see some of the phenomenal complexity behind the AV goodness and even picked up some equipment tips possibly relevant to more modest vessels...
Here's the iPad dedicated to controlling the speakers and TV in the sky lounge of Island Heiress. The security keypad is covering up some of the Crestron interface, but you can see the main video source categories along the top. During the demo this remote looked easy to use and switching sources was lightning fast. I was impressed with the LaunchPort case and mount system. Magnets in the case secure the iPad firmly to the mount where it is also charged inductively, and UMSI president James Porreca confirmed that it's a complete winner on a boat.
What a rack! Actually the massive hardware complexity behind the simple iPad screens is housed in two racks, and I was glad to see them in the final install stage before the temporary tracks were stowed and veneer panels obscure goodies, like that Crestron 32x32 DigitalMedia Switcher showing eight of its cooling fans at lower left. Compare the backside of the switch shown on the Crestron page with your own AV system and be awed at what the UMSI install team had to do.
The DM-MD32X32 switch, able to manage 32 AV inputs and outputs of most any type, is arguably the heart of the system, as suggested in this diagram (even if the larger image you can click to see is still only 25% of the original). Now contemplate some of the inputs...
Seen in the left rack are 11 DirectTV USA receivers, 11 more for the same company's Galaxy Latin America service plus 11 KVH IP MultiCast players and 6 Apple TVs. At top right are the controllers for the KVH Tracvision HD7 that's bringing in the DirectTV and the matching KVH mini-VSAT TracPhone V7-IP antenna that supplies the boat with MultiCast content as well as high-speed internet and phone service. Next down is the KVH Media Server that automatically collects content when the VSAT connection isn't otherwise in use -- that's the bandwidth efficiency behind MultiCast -- and then a bunch more Crestron gear like a PRO3 Control and a Digital Graphics Engine. There are also 30 Crestron Aspire speakers now built into the yacht, plus some amps and an elaborate iPod dock that allows tunes to be searched on any of the iPad remotes.
James Porreca is proud that UMSI has an expert Crestron programmer on staff and also about how neatly his team runs wires. Consider, for instance, how many little IR remote extenders are hidden away in these racks so that no conventional remote ever has to be pointed at any of those media players. In the photo above we're just seeing the major Ethernet, HDMI, coax and power cabling, though it also shows the neat hinging feature that goes with the rack roll-out track system.
Here's a matrix of Island Heiress onboard cameras showing on the sky lounge TV (like what Raymarine's new quad view aspires to on a much smaller scale). The install is not yet finished -- more cameras and maybe position labels are coming -- but you can see little yellow "running man" icons indicating that some of the video streams have motion detection turned on. It's like the security system in a large institution, only available anywhere on the boat.
But the big AV system is mostly about content from shore and this IP MultiCast screen suggests how specific that can be. Besides offering fairly new movies and TV programs from around the world, there's also TV and print news in several languages. And remember that MultiCast is going to work in places where DirectTV doesn't and will still serve stored programming even when you lose mini VSAT coverage. But I'm told that there are restrictions on who can use MultiCast due to the content licensing -- the yacht has to be set up as a commercial charter operation, I think. Inmarsat, incidentally, now has a Fleet Media service that similarly uses waste bandwidth to stock a media server, but it's definitely oriented to commercial vessels, and I think it only streams to tablets and phones (which MultiCast can also do).
Finally, I got a peek at the Island Heiress bridge where the four 23-inch Hatteland displays were showing the output of a FLIR thermal camera and a Furuno NavNet 3D blackbox, plus the onboard camera matrix and a MuliCast movie. When finished, one of the touchscreens will also serve as the controller for TSAT -- another UMSI/Crestron specialty I've written about -- so the crew can arrange radar, plotter, camera and entertainment windows by flicking them around the bridge displays. Most of us will never consider an AV or navigation system like what's on Island Heiress, but if you're setting up a truly high-end WiFi network you might consider the Packedge routers and Ruckus access point system that UMSI favors. These guys seem to know their stuff.