February 25, 2008
This is a follow-up to my ‘How to Wall-Mount a LCD or Plasma’ article from 2006, I never really expected that piece to generate the kind of response it did and I certainly never expected so many follow-up questions. What I want to tackle today was one of the most asked questions after the original article, simply put: Now that we’ve wall-mounted our flatscreen, where does the cable box go? Innocuous enough question but the answer could spiral into a lengthy conversation and I wanted to give the topic its own space, apart from the original post.
So in a nutshell (yes the photo above is a giveaway) nine times out of ten my answer to this question is in the closet. It could be any closet, one nearby or on the other side of the house, the only real determining factor here is how easy/hard hard is it to conceal the audio/video cabling between the display and cable box (this applies to any video source, not just cable boxes). Remember our best method of concealing cables is to go “down” into an unfinished crawlspace or basement and then “up” to the display (through the wall).
Alternatively if there’s no unfinished space below the desired location, “up”’ i.e. into the attic and back down is another alternative (obviously easier in a one floor dwelling). From there we get into hiding the cables under and behind baseboards but that’s quite a bit beyond the scope of what I wanted to cover here today, just keep in mind that closets, cubbies and other out of the way concealed locations are where we hide our cable boxes for flat-panel installations.
Now all this tucking the cable box out of site is fine and dandy, that is until you try to change the channel. The majority of cable boxes (and many satellite receivers) use infra-red as their transmission protocol and IR means line of sight to the box. Not to fear, there are several different ways around this problem as well.
Controlling the Cable Box: Ok so now we need a way to control this cable box, DVD player, HTPC or insert-device-here that we’ve tucked away in a nearby closet. The easiest way is to use a universal remote with a RF base-station, these remotes can be set to transmit IR locally as well as “talk” to the base station (in the closet). It’s all a lot simpler in practice than it sounds by description. Several different companies offer universal remotes with RF base stations but the one that comes to mind first would have to be Universal Remote Control. Another solution would be Terk’s “Leap Frog” line of IR repeater systems, this is more of an add-on solution but for our purposes it should suffice in most cases. In essence the Leap Frog system(s) consists of a base-unit that receives IR commands and a second unit that can “transmit the code to the desired device. This isn’t quite as refined as the IR/RF remote with a base-station solution but it should get the job done in most cases.
The last solution involves pulling another wire along with the audio/video cables you pulled to the nearby closet and in many cases offers the most reliable means of controlling a remote device, (cable box in a closet) especially if you don’t want to replace your existing universal remote. An infra-red (IR) repeater system consists of a wired receiver that transmits your IR code to a connected blaster or emitter, a connecting block and a power supply, this essentially turns your IR code into an electrical signal that travels between the receiver and emitter. These systems are fast reliable and fall mid-ways in expense (often in the $200 range for a complete kit) between an all new RF remote and the leap frog systems.
Summary: So there you have it, is this little project for everyone? probably not but if you managed to wall-mount your flat-screen without outside assistance this might be right up your alley. Should you need any tips I’ll try my best to answer any questions here in the post. Oh, about the new commenting system, I really didn’t want to go to a login only comment system but somewhere after the millionth Russian bride, spam comment and right before the ten millionth link-drop spam I gave in. I know there are some glitches with the current system, it’s only a temporary solution however.
Posted by Bryan Greenway | | Filed Under Home Theater How-to