HD Video Distribution

I never thought that I would be doing so much research into Digital HD TV as I have been. What first got me going with it was when I decided to get rid of our Dish Network bill. We bought and antenna for the attic and got two DTV converter boxes (SpeedStream, Like'em). I was amazed at the picture quality and I think that it is better than the signal I got from Dish!

So, that is the back story. Now my church (The Chapel) has been making the move to recording and showing our services in HD. In the past we would just throw the video and audio into an RF modulator on some unused channel like 66 and all would be well. The problem is that we have wide screen HD TVs everywhere now and an RF modulated signal looks horrible!

So after looking at several pricey options of HDMI and Component extenders I came to the conclusion that it would be quite expensive. I was about to make the recommendation that we just make the largest TV in the lobby HD by using a Component extender box (about $300 - $500) when I started wondering if we could make our own DTV channel. All of out new TVs have DTV QAM tuners in them so I thought it could be a great solution.

The first company that came up in my searches was from http://www.computermodules.com/ but at about $10,000 was way out of my price range. I almost gave up but last night after some more searching I found the Zv100 from http://www.zeevee.com/. For $500 I can get one of the first consumer level VGA to QAM modulators! This may be just what I need to get HD video to all 7 of our HD TVs in the building. That is only $72 per TV and we can use our existing cable! It would cost me way more to buy and install extenders and I don't think that I would get as good of a signal.

So, next week I plan to give them a call and see if there are any down sides that I'm not seeing at the moment. One of my main concerns is delay between the input and the output. Because these are in the lobby, you will hear audio from the auditorium as well and I don't want there to be a noticeable delay. The other downside that I hope I can work around is the fact that this unit is designed to be connected to a computer and uses USB for control and for audio. So, I can connect this unit to the video system easy enough, but it will be more difficult to get audio to it. I'm thinking an old Dell with a good audio card to take the house audio in and then send it out to the Zv100 via USB.

Some other notable new video devices that I came across while researching are:
  • WD TV HD media player - I saw this at Best Buy and it got me thinking about using it for HD streaming or digital signage. It is designed to work with external storage such as WD's "My Passport" external hard drives but will work with any external hard drive or USB flash drive. It boasts HD up to 1080p and has HDMI connectivity with Digital Audio as well as composite video and stereo outputs. The menu looks slick too. The down sides? Well, there is now Ethernet so you can't steam anything or manage it remotely. Beyond that it's not bad for $130 and is even available at Best Buy.

  • SlingCatcher - I know SlingBox has been around for a while but they didn't impress me too much. I was looking for HD and the SlingCatcher only provides 640 x 480 resolution at this time which is weird because the PC client supports 1024 x 768. It is packaged nicely in a shiny black enclosure. Seams over priced for $300.

  • Hava Platinum HD - Not bad for $150. It provides much of what a SlingBox would do plus it also has DVR features if you add an external hard drive. The downsides are that they don't have a device like the SlingCatcher to receive streams. You can only send to phones and other computers at this time.

I'll let you know what I think of ZeeVee if we get one!

If any of you are sending HD to lobby TVs, post some comments! I would love to hear!


Comcast for Mundelein

Can you believe that only one of our four sites can get Comcast? Turns out it is our Mundelein campus so we jumped on the option. Initially Comcast told us that they would have to trench from the back of our property to the building across our new parking lot. I was hoping that would not be the case.

I met the installer out there on Friday to discuss what we were going to do to get the service to the building. He said that it was already there. Confused I had him show me and sure enough there was a green pill shaped junction box right next to our power transformer! I had assumed that it was a phone junction!

So, after a quick install we now have 16 Mbps down and 2Mbps up Internet for about $100 a month! After some speed tests I found that it was about 14 Mbps down and 8 Mbps up! This is going to help our Internet needs tremendously once our Opt-E-Man fiber network is in place. Going to test with the 5 port SMC modem/router they provided but then need to look for a better firewall. Looking at SonicWall this time.