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Solutions: bespoke Crestron system integrated onboard superyacht

A superyacht offering a super-prime living experience, MY Madame Kate features a high degree of integration, encompassing not just entertainment and environmental controls, but also IT and bridge systems.

Power, flexibility and elegance were just three demands for marine AV installation specialist Harris Grant in its integration brief for the magnificent 60m superyacht MY Madame Kate. Built in the Netherlands by yachtbuilder AMELS for a South American client, Madame Kate boasts all the hallmarks of a world-class superyacht – superb interior design, uncompromised style and flawless attention to detail.

“Every superyacht owner is different, with their own clear vision about what they want an installation to achieve,” says Harris Grant managing director Neil Grant. “The strength of our technical approach means we can build, refine and instantly reconfigure a system to deliver exactly the functionality that our client requires through an elegant, natural interface. This bespoke Crestron-based solution provides Madame Kate’s owner with the same living experience enjoyed by the super-prime resident, with effortless access to audiovisual entertainment and environmental controls.”

The integrator had to skilfully negotiate a relative lack of on-board space and limited access during the build and installation, while minimising visual impact on the vessel’s stunning interior features. The completed project was formally handed over in April 2015, just ahead of Madame Kate’s first season at sea.

At the heart of the yacht’s AV, communication and environmental systems is a Crestron-controlled DigitalMedia and AV installation which stretches from bow to stern. A DM 32 x 32 matrix switcher provides the foundation for the entire Crestron system, handling 4K UHD signal routing, ultra-fast switching and lossless distribution of HDMI and other signals to all devices. “All of the decoders, the video server, camera and navionics feeds are routed through the 32 x 32 matrix,” explains Grant.

Entertainment sources on board include satellite TV, Blu-ray/DVD players and a Kaleidescape movie server. Audio distribution is via BSS Soundweb, of which Harris Grant is a long-term user: “It is extraordinarily robust, and we have pioneered the use of the various generations of the system on superyachts,” says Grant. “We have a substantial code base, and experience in interfacing not only with Crestron, but all of the other elements in the network and distribution. It gives us all of the grouping, switching, frequency and time domain tools we need in a complex installation.”

In addition, there is a vertical vessel-wide KNX installation, integrated with the Crestron system through the company’s EIB interface. On the vessel, KNX runs blinds and drapes, and switching, dimming, colour selection and grouping within the lighting system.

Crestron also integrates with the VSAT (satellite communications), TVRO (satellite TV receiver) and bridge systems. Regarding the last of these, Grant explains: “The bridge systems are run on a wheelhouse computer which provides a secondary video feed to us. We buffer this, and convert it into an HDMI feed, which is routed on our network to a DigitalMedia input card. It is then available for selection as a source from any of the luxury destinations.”

Lack of space is always an issue in marine installations. Grant explains how his company’s approach to ‘packaging’ the on-board technology helps to optimise space usage: “The heart of the system is the MEC – main equipment centre. There is then intermediate routing, deck by deck, through a BEC – branch equipment centre. At each destination there is an LEC – local equipment centre – with such hardware as is needed to terminate the network feed, and route, amplify and then deliver local feeds to the room hardware. At each point space is limited, and we use both front and rear rails in the racks to carry stacked hardware, power and network cabling, and all local routing. Equipment within the rack is generally densely packed.”

Every rack is buffered with a UPS and a PDU to allocate power. “We model the current draw and the heat output so that the yard can provide precisely the correct cooling at each location. All racks can be drawn out of their housings on rails or swivels, and we use the landing space adjacent to dress and terminate the ship-run cabling so as to minimise the space required within the racks themselves.”

Harris Grant worked with award-winning graphic designer Crab to create a bespoke control interface that gives Madame Kate’s owner, guests and crew fingertip control over audiovisual entertainment and environmental systems from their personal iPad minis. An additional intuitive touch interface controls the TV, audio and video servers, lighting dimmers and scenes, blinds/drapes, aircon and fan speed. For flexibility, the Crestron-based system is highly configurable, and control software can be quickly rewritten to suit the clients’ changing requirements.

Grant explains how his company worked with Crab: “We wanted not only a complete set of components in all their various states (selected, pressed, shadowed, etc) but also a ‘map’ of screen real estate which provided rules that could be used in developing and extending our interfaces. This ended with a joint programme of collaboration between ourselves and Crab, the end result of which was a standard set of the more common interfaces, and a complete set of components and a rule base that allows the quick and accurate development of compatible ‘pages’ as required for new projects.”

Second engineer Sébastien Filippi, one of the system’s key users, says of the finished install: “It’s incredible – AV, IT and control systems have all been in use 24/7, ever since the owner and his family boarded the vessel on the day of delivery. We’ve just completed our first season at sea with no issues or interruptions. It’s been a total success.”

This aesthetic and technical tour de force was the winner in the ‘Best User Experience’ category in the Crestron Integration Awards 2016. Neil Grant concludes: “The AMELS LE199 series are brilliantly engineered vessels, and we have worked closely with the yard since the design inception of this series to integrate our network and installed systems as neatly and elegantly as practicable. Madame Kate was the second in the series, and we are now in the middle of the installation on the third vessel in the series.”