The art of television watching has fundamentally changed. Where once the whole family gathered around a single screen to watch terrestrial channels, homeowners now want their viewing experience to take place across the house via multiple content sources.
As viewing habits have become more diverse, so the integration process is now more complex. Achieving a perfect multi-room video set-up requires careful consideration at the initial planning stages of a building or renovation project.
First things first
To know what type of system will be optimum for your property, you first need to ascertain exactly what the entertainment needs are for the entire household. Does there need to be a television in the master bedroom for late-night movie watching, or a screen in the kitchen to keep the kids entertained while dinner is being prepared? Will all of the displays be used for watching satellite or cable content, and will they also need to stream video-on-demand services such as Netflix or handle a top-end gaming system?
In each room that video will be streamed, the distance between the video source and the screen must be calculated, as this will affect what types of cables will be required. In the event of a retrofit, the existing wiring might not be sufficient to meet the demands of the new system, in which case new cables will need to be laid.
A comprehensive needs analysis will give a connected home expert the information that they require in order to design the most effective solution for delivering the desired functionality.
Prepare your equipment arsenal
Once the basic requirements have been defined, a connected home expert can create a set of technical specifications outlining in detail the most suitable equipment for delivering the aims of the project. As well as suggesting appropriate display types, mounts and other accessories, this is likely to include source devices (Sky box, Blu-ray player etc.), AV receivers and other devices such as splitters, matrix switchers and baluns (which are used to transmit or receive video signals).
This technical advice will also explain the cabling requirements of the proposed solution and recommend how each room should be wired to ensure consistent content delivery around the property, as well as any additional internet or phone lines that will need to be implemented to support any online gaming, video streaming and Smart TV functions that might be needed.
Draw before you install
Having a full set of technical drawings prepared beforehand will make it much more likely that the system will work flawlessly once installed. Such a document will contain several illustrative elements that enable an installation to be completed quickly and easily.
A detailed floor plan and elevation drawings will indicate not only the exact location of all video sources and displays within the building, but will also specify exactly where these devices should sit relative to the walls or ceilings – as well as how they should be mounted. A signal flow diagram allows the installation team to understand exactly how a video signal will need to travel around the property, while a full schematic will clearly state the inputs, outputs and connectivity required for each element in the video distribution system. These should ideally be created using CEDIA-recommended symbols in order to avoid misunderstandings during the installation process.
Look to the future
Out of all of the technology that makes up a connected home, video equipment is among that which is evolving the fastest. With new products incorporating OLED and 8K on the horizon and new models released every few months, it is worth taking the time to prepare your systems so they will be able to adapt to the next generation of systems.
Completely future-proofing technology is – unfortunately – impossible to guarantee; that said, if a system has been built with the idea that it will be upgraded at some point, there will be far less pain involved in the event that a systems overhaul is required.
Further design considerations
Several projects become unstuck due to issues that are unrelated to the technology being integrated. Any wall-mounted devices will need to be attached to a surface that is strong enough to support it, so plasterboard walls will need further reinforcement. When displays or projectors are being hidden out of sight – using motorised lifts, for example – the ceiling or floor space will need to be constructed with enough depth to accommodate the entire system.
Likewise, provision must be made to ensure that the distance between the screen and the nearest surface offers sufficient clearance to allow any cables or baluns that need to be included. There is nothing worse than finding out midway through the installation that the AV sockets clash with the screen bracket, making it either difficult to wire up the screen or forcing a complete refit. This happens all too often in our experience – and it only requires a bit of forethought to avoid.
Remember to ventilate
This often goes largely ignored during the initial property, but it is vital is ensuring that devices receive the correct level of ventilation to keep them working smoothly. For projectors and other elements that are often hidden out of sight (such as AVRs and video sources), ensuring that there is an acceptable flow of air will keep your system from breaking down unnecessarily and prolong their effective working lifetime.
Many concepts for interiors require televisions to be placed in inaccessible of difficult-to-reach locations. If this is the case, the addition of an easily-accessible fused spur means that the display can be rebooted or the power supply cut without difficulties. Additionally, if the homeowner expects machinery such as Blu-ray players or consoles to be hidden from sight, it might be necessary to consider bespoke panelling or a robotic system for inserting and removing discs.
If the design requires baluns for transmitting video, you need to check whether the units specified will require a local power supply. There are several ways of powering different balun models – including local power supply units, remote power and USB ports in the TVs themselves – so check with your connected home expert to make sure what accommodations need to be made for any such devices.
A system that plays well with others
As well as designing an effective video distribution plan that delivers the right video sources to the right locations, provision should also be made so that it works seamlessly alongside other systems in the house. The low-voltage wiring of a multi-room video set-up can be affected by mains power lines unless they are run a certain distance apart (see our article on the wiring AV systems for more details).
If your video set-up includes a projector, then steps must be taken to ensure the best possible viewing experience. This means that the ambient light must be carefully managed through the likes of black-out shades and door treatment to prevent unwanted natural light from seeping into the room.