The long awaited High Definition (HD) video experience is finally here. It has radically changed the home theater landscape, and we all want to get in on the action. HDTV sets provide stunning picture quality and have dropped significantly in price. New cable, satellite and off-air HD channels are being broadcast every day.
A theater presentation with 1080i video and 7.1 audio instills a child like experience of amazement and wonder. It will take your breath away ? every time. Today consumers can lean back on their couches and make the HD home theater come alive with a single button press. That?s what I?m talking about. One touch and Bamm!! BIG PICTURE, BIG SOUND. Here?s a reality check ? big picture / little sound can be found at the drive-in on the outskirts of town. Little pictures / big sound is a portable DVD player and a decent headphone set. Take the best of both and Scotty will beam you right out of your living room to the far reaches of the universe.
So, here?s the question: How will the products you buy deliver this experience throughout the house? Will you be able to enjoy the high quality A/V content available today as well as what?s coming in the near future on all your HDTVs? We are now in the 21st Century, you are a tech savvy person with some disposable income. You want that theater experience in the master bedroom, home gym and kid?s playroom. The video display part is easy. Hang a plasma TV on each wall; but what about distributing the HD goods?
Many people are tempted to buy lower cost ?networked? solutions for distributed A/V without fully understanding the limitations. HDTVs by their very nature demand high quality A/V content. Right now the ?entertainment distribution? part of a home network offers an incomplete solution carried on the winds of convergence blown by PC oriented manufacturers towards a ?down-resolution? place that people really don?t want to go. Ironically this is happening just as the Movie Studios and CE Equipment Manufacturers are ramping up HD content and source gear. It?s not about content management network solutions; it?s all about that big picture / big sound experience. Conflicting digital rights management (DRM) and FCC mandated network broadcast flags limit digital file sharing between networked devices. Networking, encoding, encryption, data storage and compression standards are changing annually. Don?t get me wrong, every home should have a home network interconnecting computers, printers, cable modems etc. Today?s networks are just not ready for prime time when it comes to the bandwidth demands of HD video distribution.
What about DVI and HDMI solutions? Both digital interfaces provide HD content and untangle the wires between TVs and source equipment. However CE products don?t always list if they are DVI-I or DVI-D formatted. Some DVI ?compatible? products are HDCP compliant, some are not. (Meaning some will play nice together and some will not). Many CE source equipment manufacturers are moving towards the HDMI standard, however display device manufacturers are divided 50 /50 between the use of DVI and HDMI inputs. Unfortunately those formats do not easily facilitate whole house A/V distribution either. The DVI extenders, amplifiers and switchers were born from the needs of the computer industry. They are commercial product solutions that have just recently migrated into the residential markets.
True 1080i digital video signals cannot be DVIed or HDMIed very far from the living room without distribution amplifiers and in line fiber optic extenders. Network solutions do not have the bandwidth or processing power for multiple streams of HD over any sort of WiFied, Firewired or hardwired Ethernet. Digital convergence was supposed to make life easier for the consumer, but so far all it has succeeded in doing is confusing the public and limiting their fair use rights. Yes, digital portability has its price.
It shouldn?t have to be this hard. You just want to watch the contents of your DVD changer in the master bedroom. You want whole house access to the HD NFL channels on the cable box. You can?t live without your TIVO and you MUST have it everywhere. And oh by the way, CE manufacturers will be releasing Blue Ray and HD DVD machines by the end of the year. HD titles will be available for purchase by Christmas and the flood gates will open to a new era of picture quality. Do you buy a stack of source equipment for each TV? Do you want your monthly service subscriptions to equal that of a new car payment?
While the digital dust is settling, consider taking a component video switching approach. Three discrete, HD analog RGB signals can be run down some high quality coax for little more than the cost of the wire. (3 runs of coax to each room to be exact). Bite the bullet ? pull the wire! Swept tested quad shield RG-6 will have minimal impact on HD signal quality even out to 300 foot runs. Only fiber optics has a higher bandwidth capacity. Want to use CAT-5 on the shorter runs? For a bit more money you can buy send / receive component video wall plates. You will need one pair for each TV set. These are the only solutions that are affordable, cross platform compatible and universally support all video resolution and aspect ratio formats. A variety of HD video switch matrices can provide 5×5 or 8×8 routings.
Future-proof your entertainment distribution system to ensure compatibility with today and tomorrow?s A/V content. It may be okay to replace your computer every couple of years, but traditionally your home entertainment system has lasted a little longer. How do you ensure that it will? Visit a custom installer.
Tell him you want to distribute all (not some) of the sources listed above throughout the house.
Tell him you want HDMI AND Component Video RGB outputs on all your source gear.
Tell him you want HDMI AND component RGB inputs on your native 1080i HDTVs.
Tell him you want a home theater receiver that has multiple HDMI inputs for ease of interconnect.
Tell him you want a HD analog A/V switch matrix for whole house signal routing. Make sure the video bandwidth of the switcher is at least 150MHZ.
Use the Custom Installer?s expertise to help you make the right equipment choices during these times of rapidly changing technologies. Alternatively you risk buying equipment that may become obsolete before the year is up.
ELAN Home Systems is a leading manufacturer of innovative, award-winning distributed audio/video and home automation systems. Based in Lexington, KY, the company?s systems were the first to integrate audio, video, phones and third-party products to create a seamless, easy-to-use ?whole house? experience. The company?s unique products provide complete lifestyle, feature-rich solutions, yet can be configured to fit the specific needs of every homeowner. ELAN products are distributed through a comprehensive channel of select Dealers and Distributors throughout the United States, Canada and 58 countries worldwide. To learn more, visit www.elanhomesystems.com .