There are two major video watching possibilities in the house. We have a whole-house video setup that drives the TVs in the house. And then there is the Theater. The Theater has its own area on this web site, so this section will focus on the whole-house video.
There are 4 video sources: 2 Dish Network PVRs (a 721 and a 921), the video out from the home automation computer, and a DVD player.
We almost exclusively watch the two PVRs. The computer channel is just to do simple stuff on the home automation computer. The video of the computer looks awful on a TV, but you can do simple tasks. For more complex stuff we use Remote Desktop from one of our laptops.
We never watch DVDs on the regular TVs; that’s what the theater is for. I use the DVD to adjust the picture quality of the TVs using the AVIA DVD.
The Dish 921 PVR is an HDTV PVR that can downcast high definition (HD) signals to standard definition (SD) or upcast SD signals to HD. We have the composite output of this PVR going to the whole-house system and the component output going to the Theater’s A/V receiver. Unfortunately, it will not output on both the composite and component connections at the same time. But there are macros on the home automation controller that setup the Theater for “HDTV mode” that do all the switching for us.
This PVR can also receive over-the-air HDTV signals from an antenna. We have both a UHF and a VHF antenna connected to it. The antenna signals first go through their respective signal amps then the signals are combined to a single cable which feeds the PVR’s OTA input. We live quite far from most of the TV stations so we need very directional antennae with signal amps.
Of course the PVR’s and DVD player can be controlled from any room via the house IR network.
We do whole-house video distribution via RF signals on RG6 cable. There are RG6 drops with F-connector terminations in all major rooms of the house. All of the sources feed into a Channel Vision video modulator that turns the composite video signal into RF signals on four consecutive TV channels. The output of the modulator goes to an 8-way splitter which then patches into the whole-house RG6 cable. Currently there are 4 TVs in the house. On each TV you can select the appropriate channel to watch one of the four sources.
We have found the modulated RF signal from the Channel Vision box to be very good. Of course this is not your typical cheap modulator. I highly recommend these Channel Vision boxes. This particular model allows you to select any TV channel on a very large range for each of the four sources. This lets you work them around any local broadcast or cable channels you may have. We have no cable or normal broadcast channels to worry about.
Each of the TVs with the house has an RF sensor that is used for the home controller to know if the TV is on or off. This allows the controller to do things with the TVs. For example, when a phone call comes in it mutes all TVs that are on.
One of our dogs has a problem with separation anxiety. The vet said that sometimes leaving a TV on helps. This is especially true for this dog because it loves to watch TV. The dogs stay in a kennel in the basement while we are gone so there is a TV there and it stays on and tuned to Animal Planet. Of course why should we have to remember to turn this TV on? The home controller does that for us. We put a door closure sensor on the kennel door. When the door closes the home controller assumes the dogs are in their kennel. It turns on their TV, turns on the satellite receiver and tunes to Animal Planet. When the kennel door opens, it turns off the TV and satellite receiver.