What could be better for an avid football fan than watching his favorite team in glorious, big-screen high-definition? How about watching eight football games at once?
Yes, this Florida homeowner went for the ultimate trick play of home sports entertainment: the multi-screen media room. Unless your name is Buffalo Wild Wings, these adrenaline-fired sports arrays are usually restricted to four or five screens. This guy has eight—and that’s just on one wall.
There’s another flat-panel display in the back, and when it’s time for even bigger-screen viewing, a 133-inch Da-Lite projection screen rolls down in front of the TV wall and is fed eye candy by a Digital Projection M-Vision projector. You can also count six more TVs in other locations, all of which are connected to the system.
Yellow flag on the field: The home team is being penalized for excessive video action. And yes, there will be lots and lots of video replay.
Would you believe it if we told you that going into this project this football fanatic envisioned only a sunken media room with maybe one screen? The game changed when he told custom electronics professional Joe Nelson of Connected Technology in Melbourne, Fla., that he wanted multiple satellite receivers.
Nelson designed the 15-foot-wide front wall with its walnut cabinetry to house eight Samsung LED HDTVs. A 65-inch UN65ES6500 is the centerpiece, with four 32-inchers flanking it and three 40-inchers on top. The 32-inch TVs display 720p resolution, compared to 1080p for the rest of the lineup, but Nelson says this is no problem because most TV programming is still in 720p or 1080i. And at the time, 720p was all he could get in a 32-inch model.
“We started off with plasma for the main image, but they don’t blend very well on the wall with LED TVs,” says Nelson. And the main screen’s LED display with a 120Hz refresh rate does a good job with fast-action motion, so it was best to go all LED. The homeowners’ 64-inch plasma display, which was originally planned for the center, was moved to the garage.
In designing the wall system, Nelson was sure to leave plenty of space for ventilation and to tell the cabinetmakers that the front of the unit had to come off for servicing the flat-panel displays.
In the rear by a pool table is a 59-inch Samsung plasma—with no LED TVs next to it. This display receives the same signal as the main TV in the front.
(View images of this media room here)
Now you might be asking yourself: How do you regulate the audio for all of these TVs? The programming on the main screen of the front wall or the projector gets the audio. That’s it. If the owner wants audio from another TV, he uses his iPad to go to a layout of the TV wall on the customized Elan g! control system app, selects the TV and changes the channel or selects another source. When the system turns on, each TV is served by a separate DirecTV box with preset channels. Then the owner can switch sources on several of the displays (see sidebar), if he wishes.
“He’s got a quite a lot of flexibility with control,” Nelson says.
Then there’s the really big screen, in the form of the 133-incher that descends from its hiding spot in the woodwork and receives a 1080p image from a Digital Projection 5,500-lumen M-Vision Cine 400 single-chip DLP projector. When the front projection system is selected, the other TVs turn off and the audio switches to the projection system. The M-Vision projector drops down from the ceiling via a motorized lift.
The 7.1-channel surround-sound system features Bay Audio PTM/One speakers in the front behind grille cloths and four Bay Audio Pc8s in the ceiling. They’re all powered by an Integra DTR-40 surround processor. A 1,000-watt Sunfire HRS-10 subwoofer produces the necessary oomph for big football hits from its housing in the lower left part of the front cabinet.
The mid-level Bay Audio, Integra and Elan gear were excellent choices to deliver high quality A/V to this space without going megabucks wild. “He was not interested in going really high end, and that did put some constraints on the level of gear, but he wanted to do as much as he could with the budget we had,” Nelson says.
The homeowner controls the system through Elan’s iPad app, where he can call up iTunes and movies from a MacMini and Apple TV. “He wanted something very intuitive to work with an iPad and iPhone, and he’s become extremely fluent in calling up stuff with it,” Nelson says. A 7-inch Elan TS7 touchscreen for the house-wide system is in the kitchen upstairs.
Switch My Heart
At the heart of a good multiscreen system is a matrix switcher—so named because it can switch each of its connected video sources to each of the connected video displays. The Intelix Digi-HD-8x8 HDMI switcher in this media room has eight HDMI inputs and eight outputs, as well as eight Ethernet outputs. Electronic systems firm Connected Technology of Melbourne, Fla., connected six of the eight DirecTV receivers, a Mac mini and camera DVR to the switcher— while the other two satellite receivers are connected directly to two TVs. One of the outputs of the switcher goes to the Integra DTR-40 home theater receiver, which sends the video signal to the main LED TV and projector, while providing those displays with access to all of the video sources connected to the switcher. The switcher is also used to route video via Category 5e Ethernet cabling to the six remote TVs, via extenders, or baluns. If you look closely, you’ll see the eight DirecTV receivers stacked vertically at the bottom of the left equipment rack.
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Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates