DVD Video Switching

Discuss with other members how to distribute and setup whole house audio and video. Let everyone know what combination of products you are using to accomplish this.
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DVD Video Switching

Postby bogart » Thu Jan 04, 2007 10:50 pm

I hope this isn't too much of a lame question, but I figure it's better to man up and get the question answered :)

When people are using TheaterTek or other PC-based video playback solutions, how are you connecting them to your switching? VGA out adapted to component to switcher? I haven't seen this discussed specifically, so forgive me if I could have found this answer with more digging.

TIA!
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Postby DavidL » Thu Jan 04, 2007 11:17 pm

This is going to have a lot of variety in the answers as no two installations are the same.

Many use a HTPC connected directly to their display hardware (like a front projector or LCD / Plasma). In this case, it would be HDMI / DVI / VGA / Component in order of quality (best to worse).

You can use an ATI video card for component out which can go to a switcher, which can route the component video to multiple display locations.

There are DVI and VGA switchers too. But, both of those have less distance without loss issues.

For best quality, direct path (no switcher) is best.

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Postby bogart » Sun Jan 07, 2007 4:02 pm

This is interesting information. Ideally, I'd like to avoid having multiple cable runs to each display destination. In my mind (and please correct me if this is wrong!), this forces me to use the common video-type across all devices. So, xbox360, computer for dvd's, and DVR all have component and digital audio outputs.

The solution this suggests would be a central rack with DVR, xbox360, and video PC run into a switcher along with their constituent audio. Then I'd wire directly to the nearby living room PC and stereo, and balun my way to the second floor room where I wanted output, carrying component and audio on the balun line.

It seems like the major limiting factors is distributing the xbox 360 (no HDMI/DVI), and the huge crazy high expense of DVI baluns. I could potentially go without the xbox distributed (no big deal), but then I get into mixing video types for one room and changing sources on the TV. Thoughts?

I'm really stuck on how I'm going to proceed until I crack this video distribution problem... I look forward to someone enabling my habits :)

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Postby srgny » Mon Jan 08, 2007 7:47 pm

When I originally wired my house, I (naively) anticipated that I would use DVI for video distribution. To this end, I had fiber optic cable installed in all the rooms. Alas, I found out that DVI matrix switches (and now HDMI matrix switches) cost thousands of dollars. Similarly, DVI over fiber senders cost thousands of dollars. HDMI over CAT 5e costs about $600 per pair of sender/reveivers. So, my fiber sits unused in the walls.

Instead, I settled on component video for distribution. I have four sources: two HDTV cable box DVRs, TheaterTek/DVDLobby on an audio/video server (ATI video card DVI out to component via converter) and a progressive DVD player. These sources go to four video amps (Inday, 1 in 4 out), then two Impact matrix switches (2 in 4 out). This allows matrix HDTV distribution (any source/any zone via complonent) to four zones. The main room plasma has a direct 3 wire connection to the sources. The picture is realy spectacular. I have the option for HDMI in the main room, but really couldn't tell the difference on a 55" plasma, so I stuck with the component set-up.

In the three other rooms, the signal is sent via balun over one CAT5e. In those rooms, the picture is good, but not great. The reason for this may be cheap baluns (Muxlab, $120 the pair, now more expensive). ML via Global Cache controls the IR ports on the Impact switches. Audio is separately distributed via a B&K 6 zone amp. Works great.

HDMI baluns have come down in price since the inception of my project, and I am THINKING about changing, but haven't gotten there yet.

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Postby bogart » Tue Jan 09, 2007 1:01 pm

Thanks for your input. The setup you ended up with sounds a lot like what I'm anticipating I would implement within the year. Still, $550 for HDMI baluns seems a bit steep to me...

...however: What about HDCP? If we're using computers to do video playback, and analog output resolution over component/vga will be downgraded by the OS in Vista, should we all be targeting HDCP-compliant video distribution methods? It seems like if we're successfully ripping video from next-gen discs to keep on our petabyte arrays for convenient playback, HDCP could be rendered moot by some convenient software workaround, etc., but should we safeguard against it anyway?

From a cost perspective, it's a completely different ballgame distributing DVI/HDMI digital HD signals through a house vs. component analog HD signals. From switching equipment to cable-runs, it looks like it's an order of magnitude more expensive to do this as digital.

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Postby mcascio » Tue Jan 09, 2007 2:48 pm

I currently have a balun setup and am distributing component signals to all displays from a centralized rack in the basement through a component matrix switcher. We absolutely love the setup.

This has worked great. IR is handled through Russound keypads to equipment in the Rack and also controlled via UMPC tablets.

I ran extra cat5/cat6 cables in anticipation of eventually moving to HDMI/DVI baluns in the future that will most likely require two cat5 cables.

You can never run enough cat5 cable.
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http://www.cinemaronline.com

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Postby srgny » Tue Jan 09, 2007 6:20 pm

It is my understanding that HDCP is a non-issue with regard to analog signals. I have no HDCP issues with my current component set-up. Conversely, I did have issues with an attempt at HDMI.

Specifically, I have a Denon 4306 which allows 3 in 1 out HDMI switching. I have two Scientific Atlanta set-top cable boxes with (enabled) HDMI out. I have a Bravo D2 DVD with DVI out. Finally, I have a Fujitsu plasma screen with HDMI in. All of these are SUPPOSED to be HTCP compliant. That said, running either of the SA boxes directly to the screen via HDMI yeilds a great picture (but not better than component, in my opinion). However, running the same STB via the Denon to the screen more often than not causes display of a message stating that there is an HDCP issue. No picture is displayed. This message does NOT appear every time, but often enough to be truly annoying. No similar message with the DVD player. I think the issue is with the Denon which is supposed to be compliant, but appears to be not. It is also possible that the HDCP signal is not making it from the STB to the screen because of some signal alteration in the Denon (upscaling possibly).

Finally, you are right in stating that digital switching/matrix/sending is a huge order of magnitude more expensive than a similar arrangement with component analog. There are certainly many more choices for HDMI distribution today then there were in 2004 when I started this project. Prices have come down, but to nowhere near the levels available for analog. In view of the iffy HTCP issues and the tremendous cost differential, I am not yet ready to take the HDMI plunge

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Postby bhiga » Tue Jan 09, 2007 6:53 pm

HDCP is a non-issue WRT to analog signals, but it seems that with Vista, unless both your digital display and video card are HDCP-compliant, then video playback will be limited. I assume this is yet another attempt to curb piracy that doesn't exist yet.

Sucks for us folks with non- or only semi-HDCP compliant devices.

In theory, a HDCP-compliant scaler will be fine, as all devices "along the chain" are HDCP-compliant.

If the Denon is doing any signal alteration and it not HDCP-compliant, then there will be an HDCP issue. If the Denon has a "pass through" mode where it doesn't mess with the HDMI signal, then it should pass OK to the display.

Maybe someone else knows the answer to this question:
Is HDCP handshaking done just between two devices, or is connected device information repeated down the chain?

For example
A --> B --> C
If A and B are both HDCP compliant, but C is not, does B still have a valid signal that it could display (assuming it was a display)?

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Postby bhiga » Tue Jan 09, 2007 7:11 pm

Answering my own question after reading
http://www.edn.com/article/CA209091.html

It seems the HDCP spec does allow for learning about all the connected devices, so it would seem all devices in the chain must be HDCP-compliant, if the source is HDCP-protected and it checks for compliance on all devices.

So maybe the Denon is somehow reporting non-compliance?

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