A Fantasy Football Home Theater Paradise
Sports-lover watches nine football games at once on this plasma video wall.
Sports-lover simultaneously watches nine football games on plasma video wall.
If you spend enough time looking, you’re bound to find a good deal on a flat-panel TV. Just ask Bob Footitt Jr., of Moorhead, Minn.
He spent months scouring sale flyers and the Internet for a bargain. When he found it at a nearby big-box retailer, he jumped at the chance and bought, not one, but nine generously sized TVs.
Prior to purchasing the TVs, Footitt hired Arctic Audio of Fargo, N.D. to design and install a multiscreen video wall in his renovated basement. As part of the deal, explains Arctic Audio owner Rod Shafer, “he had to buy exactly the make and model of TVs we recommended.” Had he not, he could have been disappointed with the outcome.
Manufacturers will often strip a TV of important circuitry in order to meet the bargain demands of big-box retailers, Shafer explains. So while two TVs of the same brand and size may look alike, the differences in performance can be huge.
Taking the pro’s advice, Footitt financed $10,500 for three years, no interest, and arranged to have the retailer deliver the plasmas to his gutted basement.
“My wife was not pleased with what I spent, at all,” he recalls. So instead of dipping into their bank account to pay for his video passion, Footitt began donating his plasma twice a week. “I call it my ‘plasma for plasma’ program,” he says. “Every Wednesday and Friday I get up at around 5:30 a.m. for my appointment at the Moorhead Biolife Plasma Services Center.”
His twice weekly visits bring in about $280 a month, so he expects to have his debt paid off in about three years.
Designing the System
With the TVs still in boxes, Arctic Audio started designing the system. Cardboard templates cut to the exact dimensions of each of the nine screens were used to experiment with the placement on the wall. Naturally, the biggest screen, a 63-inch Samsung 1080p plasma, would go in the center.
Above it, Arctic Audio placed two 42-inch Samsung 720p plasmas, and below it two 42-inch Panasonic 1080p plasmas. The remaining Samsung units were mounted to the left and right of the 63-incher.
Each screen would be connected to its own high-def satellite receiver, which would allow the Footitts to watch a different program on each TV simultaneously. It’s the ideal sports-watching setup, says Shafer, though it’s just as accommodating of movies and video games.
For instance, while Footitt and his friends are watching football, two people can pair off to play a PS3 game of Madden NFL on any two displays.
During NFL weeks 13-17, there are 11 games on at noon. In order to watch them all, Footitt takes the two 25-inch TVs and satellite receivers he has upstairs and brings them down to video wall in the basement. He plugs them into the two jacks Arctic Audio installed below the 63-inch Panasonic high-def plasma TV.
With so much video in one spot, having a simple, unified means of controlling the TVs was essential. Footitt was no stranger to the inherent difficulties of operating a multiscreen setup, but he wasn’t about to deal with a pile of remotes again.
Using dual RTI RP6 processors, Arctic Audio programmed the system so that from one remote, Footitt would be able to choose a program for every screen. Touching the icon “Game Day!!” brings up a layout of the video wall. Choosing tv1 turns on that TV and opens a new control page of favorite satellite sports stations.
Footitt simply touches which one he wants and it’s displayed. The same steps are repeated for each TV, or Footitt can hit the boom button to have every screen activate and tune each to a separate predetermined channel to start Sunday’s football lineup. Another button press changes all of the TVs to the same channel.
“To keep the system simple and affordable, only the audio from the 63-inch Samsung is played through the 7.1 surround-sound system,” Shafer says. Footitt can always swap that video for something on a smaller set with a few finger taps on the remote.
Arctic Audio’s design of the RTI remote was definitely key to the functionality of the video wall, but it also turned out to be a great way for Footitt to express his personality. During an Internet search, the tech-savvy homeowner found a site where he could purchase a user interface graphics program to create a unique, colorful look for the screen of the remote.
“The best way to describe it is ‘Styx’s Paradise Theater,’” says Shafer. Footitt spent $400 for the graphics package, and handed it over to Arctic Audio to tweak the labeling and layout of the buttons.
All that’s left to do, now, says Footitt, is to keep collecting sports memorabilia — and, of course, donate his twice-weekly ration of plasma.
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