Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Living Room Project

Ellen, Mervin and I spend much of our time right now in the living room watching TV, playing video games, reading or even napping.  This spot is where we have our best equipment for watching media. However, in the future this is going to change once the basement project is complete.  This will become an area for family events and convenient moderate quality media consumption.

The Current Setup

The TV is the focal point of this operation.  We have a Samsung 46" (60hz, 1080p) mounted above the fireplace.  All exterior components are connected to the TV for operation.

  • A Roku3 gives us access to all our streaming services in full 1080p glory.
  • The Tivo Roamio captures and records our shows off the terrestrial antenna. 
  • A Xbox One + Kinect let's me play awesome video games and watch blu-ray movies.
  • An old DirecTV Sat-Go, that my father-in-law does not use anymore, gets us all the sports we can handle (college basketball, and football).
  • All sound runs through an old home theater in a box receiver.
We can watch just about anything here.  Everything is controlled via a HarmonyOne remote.  This is also where the our internet router / access point sits.

The Problems

While you may be able to view anything here, it is a quagmire of cables and components all over the place.  There is so much wrong with this disaster, a home theater expert should be ashamed.  The wife acceptance factor is in the basement.  Here is a whole list of issues with this room:
  • The shelf below the TV is cluttered with wires, speakers and components with reduces the amount of trinkets, pictures and dudads that Ellen can put up.
  • The cables are not well hidden.  Not only that but they pool into a couple of rats nests on the left shelf and in the cabinet.
  • The components are all out in the open on the left shelf, looking ugly and taking up precious space for more pictures.
  • The internet router is in the middle of the cable rats nest in the left cabinet where the wifi signal is getting smothered to the point of lack of signal in the upstairs bedrooms.
  • The receiver is going on 10 years old.  It often breaks connection on the optical input with the TV, resulting in explosions of static and high pitched screeching. 
  • The sound output from the 3 of 5 remaining speakers is low quality and volume low/inconsistent between different components.
  • The upgraded HD antenna is currently located in the basement.  This was due to our house being on sale and not wanting to put it outside.  The signal gathering is subpar in the basement.
As you can see, there is a lot of room for improvement.

Phase 1 Projects

This room is going to get split into 2 phases: Pre-basement finish (Phase 1) and Post-basement finish (Phase 2).  Phase 1 is really just to tighten up the room until we get to Phase 2.  Here are the changes we are going to make in Phase 1:
  1. Antenna Move - The HD antenna is going to get moved from the basement to an outside position that allows us to capture all of the channels, even the lowest UHF ones.
  2. Internet/AP Router Move - Since I have all the network connections terminating in the basement now, I can move the router to a spot that better covers the house with wifi, a spot that is not in the middle of a cable cloud.
  3. Components Move - The Roku3, Tivo, DTV and Xbox One are all going to move down into the left-hand cabinet.  I have an IR repeater/blaster that works well with the HarmonyOne remote.  The Kinect is going to head off to E-Bay.  I don't ever use it and I don't play any games that require it.  The cable is short so it won't reach if the Xbox is in the cabinet.
  4. Receiver Replacement - The old 5 DVD disc receiver is out and will get replaced with a bluetooth enabled soundbar.

Phase 2 Projects

Phase 2 projects are going to be the real upgrades.  This phase will happen in a couple of years when UHD will be more widely accepted and we will likely go crawling back to DirecTV.
  1. TV Replacement - The old 46"-er will get replaced with a 55" (120hz, UHD, HDMI 2.1) TV
  2. DirecTV Upgrade - The Tivo has really done a great job, but we will swap that and the Sat-Go for a Mini-DirecTV receiver.  It will be slave connected to a DirecTV Genie in the basement media closet.
  3. Xbox One Move - The Xbox will be moved down to the basement where the best media consumption experience will be.
These projects will happen at various points over the next 2 years.  Technologies and budgets will change of course, so the scope and timeline will change at some point.  Ask projects get accomplished and I write up blog posts, the words highlighted in red will turn to links to those respective blog posts.

Peace out girl scout.

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