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#1 dementeddigital

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Posted 06 January 2016 - 02:06 PM

I'd like to keep two cable boxes, Blueray player, Roku, HT PC, and camera DVR in one central location and have the ability to send video and audio to 4 TVs, possibly expanding to 6 TVs.  Ideally, I'd like to be able to control this with my HAI Omni Pro II, so that If the driveway sensor trips or someone presses the doorbell, the TVs will switch to the cameras.

 

I see 4x4 HDMI matrix switches starting at about $200 and going up to many thousands of dollars.  I'm inexperienced in this area.  What do I need to know about them?  How far can an HDMI signal be sent without running into hiccups?  What about audio?  IR distribution?  I have an original HAI HiFi audio system yet to install, but I don't know if there is one device which would be a better solution.

 

Thanks for your input and guidance!



#2 jon102034050

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Posted 07 January 2016 - 06:10 PM

subscribing to see what the experts have to say.



#3 wkearney99

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Posted 08 January 2016 - 09:16 AM

Yeah, matrix switches always seem like a cool idea until you get into the details.  The single biggest problem is HDMI is a handshaking protocol.  ALL of your display devices connected to the matrix must communicate with the source devices in order to determine the correct video and audio quality (along with HDCP copy protection).  This is fine if EVERY SINGLE DISPLAY IS EXACTLY THE SAME.  For a place like a bar or other commercial establishment that's not likely to be a problem.  But for a residential setting it makes for headaches.  

 

The problem boils down to the source devices have to deliver a signal that the 'least capable' device can handle.  This means that 720p 20" TV in a guest room with just stereo speakers will force the source to use low res, left/right stereo only.  This means the 4k projector and Dolby Atmos-capable AVR in the theater won't get the higher-quality source material that the sources might be capable of providing.  This leads to host of possible work-arounds including using various HDMI dongles, EDID hacks and assorted converters.  Trouble is most of them don't work as effectively as you actually need (or think they should).

 

It ends up being a lot less trouble to just use a small network streaming box behind each TV.  This way you only have to run regular Ethernet to it and can handle controlling it locally with a regular remote.  Then you're just pulling media from sources in a digital format and the streaming device handles transcoding it accordingly.

 

Now, if you know about the handshaking limitations going in, and you're prepared to not try to share all sources with all displays then you might be able to use a matrix switch.  As in, anything with better quality gets it's own sources.  No one cable box shared between the theater and the bedroom, for example.  

 

The difficulty is you run afoul of the WAF (wife acceptance factor).  All too often the spouses don't want to understand why all these gizmos have these limitations and you look like an idiot for trying to make her jump through these hoops.  Whereas 'one box in each room', that they get.


Edited by wkearney99, 08 January 2016 - 09:17 AM.


#4 jon102034050

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Posted 08 January 2016 - 09:24 AM

Yeah, matrix switches always seem like a cool idea until you get into the details.  The single biggest problem is HDMI is a handshaking protocol.  ALL of your display devices connected to the matrix must communicate with the source devices in order to determine the correct video and audio quality (along with HDCP copy protection).  This is fine if EVERY SINGLE DISPLAY IS EXACTLY THE SAME.  For a place like a bar or other commercial establishment that's not likely to be a problem.  But for a residential setting it makes for headaches.  

 

The problem boils down to the source devices have to deliver a signal that the 'least capable' device can handle.  This means that 720p 20" TV in a guest room with just stereo speakers will force the source to use low res, left/right stereo only.  This means the 4k projector and Dolby Atmos-capable AVR in the theater won't get the higher-quality source material that the sources might be capable of providing.  This leads to host of possible work-arounds including using various HDMI dongles, EDID hacks and assorted converters.  Trouble is most of them don't work as effectively as you actually need (or think they should).

 

It ends up being a lot less trouble to just use a small network streaming box behind each TV.  This way you only have to run regular Ethernet to it and can handle controlling it locally with a regular remote.  Then you're just pulling media from sources in a digital format and the streaming device handles transcoding it accordingly.

 

Now, if you know about the handshaking limitations going in, and you're prepared to not try to share all sources with all displays then you might be able to use a matrix switch.  As in, anything with better quality gets it's own sources.  No one cable box shared between the theater and the bedroom, for example.  

 

The difficulty is you run afoul of the WAF (wife acceptance factor).  All too often the spouses don't want to understand why all these gizmos have these limitations and you look like an idiot for trying to make her jump through these hoops.  Whereas 'one box in each room', that they get.

 

This was the answer I feared we were going to get :/  Thanks for the lengthy response and good information



#5 wkearney99

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Posted 08 January 2016 - 09:39 AM

Glad to help.  

 

I really don't want to seem like a naysayer, and higher-end devices like those from Atlona and Geffen have a lot of features that do justify their higher prices.  

 

But it does still boil down to the mis-matching of formats and this is an inherent limitation of how HDMI and source devices work.  While a media player (DVD, BD, etc) might be capable of doing everything from 720p and 4k, with analog 2-channel to 11 channel Atmos, most (all?) can only pick ONE format for output at a given time.  So sharing a source immediately runs into the least-common-denominator problem of handshaking.

 

Otherwise you start wandering down a winding road of hacks and work-arounds.  Like using a player that purports to handle multiple output formats, so you "could" send higher-end audio out HDMI and meanwhile use 2-channel analog out others. Then you'd have to re-convert than audio back into a stream just for that one particularly limited display device.  Goooooood f'ing luck trying to make that work and have it STAY working over time.  Or other nonsense like small amps or converters that sit in-between the distributed wiring and the TV, down-converting the source to 2-channel.  But then you're jammed up when you discover the TV doesn't really handle splitting input from HDMI and analog at the same time.  Or it does so in a way that can't be readily controlled via IR... and then you're down the rabbit hole of programmable remotes.

 

Meanwhile the WAF rears it's ugly head and you're in the dog house.



#6 johnboy

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Posted 08 January 2016 - 11:35 AM

As an intermediate approach you may want to take advantage of multi-room AVRs. I have two Yamaha aventage 2030s and between the two of them I service 5 zones and 3 TVs. A major limitation of these particular AVRs are only 2 zones on each are true HDMI/HD, so that is something to watch out for when purchasing. But combined with RF remotes and using the apps provided I have achieved extremely high WAF as she is able to use her smart phone to control the appropriate AVR in the appropriate room, and the kids can use the remote.

 

It does require doubling up on devices such as cable boxes and ROKU boxes, but in a family situation the chances are you are going to want to view different content on different screens simultaneously anyway so it is IMO a necessity regardless of shared infrastructure.



#7 mdesmarais

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Posted 08 January 2016 - 11:58 AM

Haven't used HDMI matrix switches... would this limitation apply all the time, or only if you were trying to source the two different displays at the same time?

 

But it does still boil down to the mis-matching of formats and this is an inherent limitation of how HDMI and source devices work.  While a media player (DVD, BD, etc) might be capable of doing everything from 720p and 4k, with analog 2-channel to 11 channel Atmos, most (all?) can only pick ONE format for output at a given time.  So sharing a source immediately runs into the least-common-denominator problem of handshaking.



#8 wkearney99

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Posted 08 January 2016 - 12:02 PM

As an intermediate approach you may want to take advantage of multi-room AVRs. 

 

I'm glad you're having luck with that.  It's been my experience that most AVRs do a horrible job of supporting zones.  At least not in WAF-compatible ways.  Way too much jumping through hoops to get things working.  

 

This being a close tie with unreliable Airplay support.



#9 wkearney99

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Posted 08 January 2016 - 12:08 PM

Haven't used HDMI matrix switches... would this limitation apply all the time, or only if you were trying to source the two different displays at the same time?

 

If the source can 'see' the display then it's potentially a factor.  Some won't appear if they're "off" but others aren't ever truly "off".   That and some sources won't properly renegotiate if the display status changes.  As in, won't return to higher quality resolutions/formats when a lower-quality device 'goes away'.  Like you've the matrix connected to input 2 on a TV.  But when you switch to a different input on the TV itself, this causes the switch and source to try and renegotiate and sometimes they get it wrong.  Or this causes other TVs using that source device to lose the picture momentarily while things renegotiate.  It can be maddening trying to figure out which device is causing troubles or getting confused.

 

This is where Atlona and other high-end switches have clever options for attempting to work around these problems.  They can be configured to step in-between the devices and try to tame the negotiations.  But you pay the price both for the gear and for the know-how to configure them.  

 

This is why I've basically given up on trying to bother with matrix switches for whole-house video.  There's just too many variables involved and too little pay-back for the hassle.


Edited by wkearney99, 08 January 2016 - 12:11 PM.


#10 mdesmarais

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Posted 08 January 2016 - 01:52 PM

Too much SW in the HDMI handshake.... they always find ways to mess it up! I used a straight up 4:1 switch for a long time- that worked well. Once in a while would still need to disconnect/reconnect to get it right. That was years ago though. Hoped they had improved things.

 

IF the user did not want to simultaneously output to multiple devices, I would think that a dumb switch could be made. Would not address the re-negotiate issues though.

 

The other issue is the length limits of HDMI cables. This can also crimp distribution plans!



#11 wkearney99

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Posted 08 January 2016 - 02:15 PM

HDMI over CAT5E is a pretty well implemented technique these days.  Many HDMI switches integrate the sending end right in the switch, requiring only a receiver unit at the display.  But then you're introducing yet another element into the handshaking process.



#12 dementeddigital

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Posted 08 January 2016 - 02:55 PM

Wow - thanks for the thoughtful responses to this topic.

 

Now that I'm completely scared of the HDIM matrix switch, what is the best way to handle this?  I would envision something like a SiliconDust HD Homerun Prime with a cable card for cable, a NAS for DVR storage and storage of movies (ripped DVDs), and Roku boxes (or something similar) at each TV.  I think that I also need a PC with Win7 MCE, is that true?

 

That would get cable (with extra movie channels), DVR'd shows, and movies - as well as content from the Internet.  I don't know how it would deal with the camera DVR, which has VGA and composite video out.  (I thought that it had HDMI, too, but I was wrong.)  Just split and run composite video to each TV?

 

The DVD player would stay anchored to the TV in the living room, unless there is a way to provide a video stream from it.  (Is there?)



#13 wkearney99

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Posted 08 January 2016 - 06:01 PM

There's a good forum for AV stuff: http://www.avsforum....forum/index.php

 

You're asking for trouble wandering down the Homerun Prime path and a NAS-driven DVR.  A smart man knows not to ignore the WAF when it comes to making program viewing more complicated than one's spouse is prepared to tolerate.  Don't say you weren't warned...

 

 

Me, I've run all manner of crap over the years, including MCE (which is no longer supported), SiliconDust tuners, XBMC (now Kodi), Plex, MediaCenter (since, like, version 3) and likely damn near everything else anyone's likely to have ever seen.  I have found it just all around less tedious to use Tivo DVRs for all daily program viewing.  They're set-and-forget and bring no configuration or maintenance woes.  I have pyTivo running on a QNAP NAS and that handles providing whatever other videos we've got.  I've flirted with Plex off and on and have yet to find it fully WAF compliant .  The upside is Tivo handles Netflix and Amazon video, as do various tablets. 



#14 dementeddigital

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Posted 08 January 2016 - 07:33 PM

So you have a Tivo at each TV?

#15 wkearney99

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Posted 08 January 2016 - 09:35 PM

So you have a Tivo at each TV?


Yep, bit the bullet and got Lifetime subscriptions on them.  1 Roamio Pro, 2 Roamio Plus, 1 Premiere and 2 Tivo Mini (which include Lifetime and slave off any of the other Roamio units). 

 

Of all the tech gadgets I've had, these have been the absolute least problematic BY A WIDE MARGIN. They really do "just work".

 

Yes, I'm still on the hook for renting cablecards (1 each for all but the Minis).  But that's still less than what Verizon would gouge me for their gawd-awful DVR.






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