Central Source Distribution
All of the house-wide source components reside in the common headend. These systems normally consist of two HD Sat Receivers or HD Cable Boxes, a Sony CDP-CX 777es 400-Disk DVD Changer, a single-disk DVD Player (possibly HDCD) for Netflix or Blockbuster rentals, a MP3 server (which is already built inside the Control 4 Media Controller), and possibly an AM/FM radio. Other additional components could include a third or fourth HD Sat receiver or HD Cable Box, a lesser-cost Satellite Receiver for Satellite Music channels, or a Surveillance DVR.
The heart of the system is an HDTV Matrix Switch. We normally use AutoPatch products, and they have an affordable line called “Precis.” These HDTV switchers can switch HD Component Video from a number of sources to a number of rooms. The most affordable is their 4-input/4-output switcher, which is $1299. This matrix switch will allow any of four sources to play on any of four HD displays anywhere Cat-5 or RGB wiring is run from the headend. AutoPatch has a larger 8-input/8-output, which is $2499. This matrix switch will allow any of eight sources to play on any of eight HD Displays anywhere Cat-5 or RGB wiring is run from the headend. AutoPatch makes even larger matrix switchers that can distribute 255 sources to 255 displays, which is one huge house.
The matrix switch is controlled via RS-232 serial control, which is provided by a Control 4 System. The Control 4 Media Controller, which is the “brains” to the system, has a number of RS-232 ports on it, along with IR ports to control sources at the headend. Also included with the Media Controller are a number of contact sensors, relays, video sensors, zigbee server, and 80GB MP3 storage drive for digital music files. The Media Controller is $1495.
Each display throughout the house is equipped with a Control 4 HTC mini controller. These mini controllers cost $599 each, and they come with a 2-way zigbee wi-fi remote and video output for the local display. These HTCs can be placed in the headend or locally in the rooms. If the house does not have RGB video cables, we often use RGB baluns that allow for HD Video and Digital Audio to transmit up to 500’ over a single Cat-5 wire. Cost of the RGB baluns is $250/pair.
The result of this design is a clean and logical “source distribution” of HD and Audio signals to all of the various rooms throughout the house. Since core components, such as HD Satellite or Cable TV, DVD, MP3 Audio, and AM/FM Radio, would be distributed house-wide, these components become “People-Specific” rather than “Place Specific.” For example, each DVR Satellite Receiver or DVR Cable Box can be named with “Dad’s Sat” or “Mom’s Sat”. Recorded shows and programs can be viewed on any television throughout the house, since they are shared on the distributed AV backbone. The same works with MP3 Audio and DVDs. You could start a movie in the Family Room and finish it in the Master Bedroom.
Not only are there distribution benefits to this system, but there are also aesthetic advantages. Most wives simply can’t stand to see electronic components everywhere. By centrally locating a common headend with a core of source components, each room can have a display and flush-mounted speakers. That’s pretty much all that’s needed in most circumstances. The result is a very clean, clutter-free environment where plants, furniture, and artwork can take the place of ugly electronics.
By adding a robust and intuitive control system, family members can access sources through the local displays or via wired or wireless touch screens throughout the house. Mom can turn on her satellite and watch the show she recorded last week on her private HD DVR satellite in the Kitchen. Dad can check ESPN HD Sports Center in the Family Room, and the kids can select a movie from the Sony 777es DVD changer via the onscreen list of movie cover art titles that the Control 4 Media Controller automatically generated from the RS-232 connection to the DVD Changer and the Internet.
The possibilities expand from here. Control 4 makes an affordable range of zigbee wi-fi dimmers and light switches, each under a hundred dollars. They also make a wireless thermostat to monitor and control HVAC Systems. Other tasks, such as gate control, pool/spa control, and landscape irrigation are controllable through Control 4. Scheduling and remote monitoring further enhance its capabilities, making Control 4 a true “home automation” product. The idea is to integrate and share as many central sources as possible to create a broad palette of media.