Real quick, to make sure we’re all on the same page, Video Distribution (sometimes called Media Distribution) happens when we centralize all the Video Sources for the entire home (Blu-rays, Apple TV’s, Satellite Receivers) into one location.
Then the Smart Home system manages the Video Content, and sends it out to different TV’s all over the home.
How We Do It
Our preferred approach for prewiring Video Distribution is (3) Cat5e, and (1) Coax. But at a minimum we want (2) Cat5e and (1) Coax. You can substitute Cat6 for all or some of the Cat5e, and it’s recommended to use Cat6 for 4k Video Content.
A lot of people are surprised to hear we still pull the Coax if we’re just going to put the Satellite and Cable receivers somewhere else anyway. It’s just a best practice. It’s surprising how often a customer decides to put a receiver behind the TV. It’s a lot easier and cheaper to put the wire there in the beginning than it is to retro it in after the fact.
Lets TalkAbout (3) Cat5e & Cat6 And What They’re For
- Controlling the TV. There are three methods for controlling the TV. IR, IP, and Serial. Whichever method you choose for your application, the Cat5e can be terminated and used for any one of these methods. So you’re covered.
- Hardwiring the TV into the Network. We cover this in our Wireless Vs. Hardwired post, but you really should hardwire your TV into the network. If you are using a TV that supports IP, than this hardwired connection works for both the network, and your IP control. So it saves you a wire.
- Video Distribution – If your new to the space, it probably seems weird to send Video over Cat5e, but Cat5e is a wonder wire. You can convert it into just about any wire you want it to be. In this case we want it to be an HDMI cable, so we take the Cat5e, and we put a small box on each end of the Cat5e called a HDMI balun. That balun, converts the Cat5e into an HDMI, so you can send Video content over the Cat5e and out to the TV.
A Couple Questions About The Prewire That Usually Come Up
- Why wouldn’t I just use an HDMI cable?
- HDMI Cables are expensive, especially in long runs. So you aren’t saving yourself any money.
- HDMI Cables go bad over time. So if you have HDMI in your walls and the ends go bad, there’s no way to run a new HDMI cable out to the TV. HDMI Baluns take this problem out of the equation.
- Should I use Cat6, and if so how often?
- The recommendation for 4k Content is to use shielded Cat6 cable.
- Now that doesn’t mean that all of your cables behind the TV need to be Cat6. Just the one(s) you want to be used as an HDMI cable later.
- Consider – there’s a chance a sub contractor is going to inadvertently send a nail or screw through your Cat6 during construction. So it may be a good idea to do all of the wires as Cat6 so that you have a back up if one gets damaged.
One More Thing
Now there’s one other little trick I want you to know about Video Distribution. Usually your rack is going to be in the Basement, or at least in a room and location that’s a good distance away from where you watch your TV. You don’t want to have to walk all the way over there to load in your 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray that you just rented. Take your Master Bedroom for example. Rather than walking all the way to your Media rack, you hide a Blu-ray player in the Master Bedroom Closet. You run (2) Cat5e or Cat6 from your Blu-ray player to your Media Rack, and now it works on your system. You can enjoy your Blu-ray discs without having to walk all the way back to the house.
Everyone Loves Video Distribution
Most the time when we design a system for a client, they’re more excited about the Whole House Audio, or the home theater. But on a regular basis, when we fire up the system for the first time, it’s the Video Distribution that they’re most excited about. Be sure to plan for this in your prewire design.
Matt is a co-founder and lead systems designer for TYM LLC. His smart home and audio/visual designs have won three “Home of the Year Awards” from Electronic House & CE Pro magazine, and two awards from the Consumer Technology Association, including "Home Theater of the Year", and "Custom Smart Home of the Year".
Matt is a golden State fan.