Other Geeks: Home Theater – Introduction
I swear I wrote about this, but I guess not, so that allows me to present to you a set of of posts organized around a theme, specifically home theater.
Now, I am not a handy man. I’ve changed some light switches, patched some holes in walls, and have updated light fixtures (even installed a ceiling fan!), but beyond that the idea of purposefully deconstructing something (like my house) that I am not confident I could repair is something that I tend to shy away from.
This does not stop me from coming up with plans, though, and one of those plans is to convert part of the basement into an actual home theater. The term “home theater” is often used to denote a space dedicated to watching movies and tends to encompass a few key elements such as:
- An obscenely large TV
- A deafening audio system with surround sound
- Seating that makes you wonder why you sleep in a bed like a savage
I’ve got a TV, but am lacking the audio and seating. I had a receiver, but it’s insanely old…like, phonograph-era old. And we have a sectional couch, but it’s been claimed by the dog, who…I’ll spare you the CSI level visuals, and leave it at “no one wants to sit there or anywhere near it any more”.
In a twist of fate, I was able to secure a really excellent short-throw “gaming” projector this year for Father’s Day. My friends and I had been looking at projectors for some time, but this one got stellar reviews, and was half off it’s insane original price.
That it was tagged as a “gaming projector” threw me off initially: I’ve seen similarly named projectors for sale at places you’d never expect to find quality things of this type, like Kohls or Wal Mart, so I was dubious that “gaming projector” was a thing that denoted a feature I’d want. What it means in the case of this device, though, is that it has a decent refresh rate. Since it’s not as “close to the metal” as a TV or monitor is, refresh rates for projectors are of a concern if you’re planning on connecting the console. For movies, it’s not such a big deal.
The real key, though, is “short throw” which is not porn lingo. It’s got a wider projection cone than a lot of other devices, which allows it to be situated closer to the projection surface while still giving you a large picture. The trade off is that the light isn’t as powerful, since it doesn’t need to be as bright as projectors which are designed to sit further away. Don’t get me wrong: you can totally use this in a well lit room and still have a perfect picture.
Right now, the projector is sitting on a TV stand about four feet from a large, blank wall. The XB1 and PS4 are sitting underneath and both are connected to the projector via HDMI cables. My cable box, however, is S.O.L. because with all of these devices, it’s a cabling nightmare, and I don’t have a coax cable long enough to reach over to the wall jack (the cable box runs through the XB1, so I don’t need another HDMI port on the projector to use it).
So what’s the plan?
Ideally, I’d be able to move the projector to a ceiling mount, but let’s enumerate the challenges:
- I don’t have a drop ceiling in this part of the basement. It’s a plaster affair, which causes all kinds of headaches because as stated above, I’m not good at carpentry and all that. Punching holes in the ceiling, setting up a mount, and other stuff scares me.
- I don’t have a way to power the thing once it’s secured to the ceiling. I’ve been told that the nearby instance of our whole-home smoke detector could provide the sequence needed to add an outlet nearby, but now we’re talking elec-fucking-tricity, the force of nature that kills people and burns down houses. I’d rather put a hole in the ceiling than mess with live wiring.
- All those cables. Although the projector has only two HDMI ports, it has a power cable as well. That means I’ll need to get the power cable connected to something (a nearby outlet, natch), and then have two HDMI cables snaking out of the projector and running…somewhere? At minimum, I’d need another plate nearby with HDMI ports, and then run HDMI cables through the ceiling to another plate somewhere where I can jack in the devices. Yes, I know I could expose the cables and encapsulate them using plastic runners so not holes need to be made anywhere, but let’s face it: that looks like shit. And to be honest, as much as I fear messing up the house, there’s some element of challenge that I feel needs to be accepted.
A Wild Solution Appears!
Last night I was chatting with a friend about projectors, since I’d carted mine to his house the previous night so we could watch movies. It got him thinking again about buying a projector for his own house, and when I went to look up my device on Amazon, I learned about wireless HDMI.
The idea, of course, is that you have two endpoints: one plugs into your projector (or TV), and the other sits near your components for their connectivity. Then, though electrical sorcery, the signals are thrown through the air and voila! Wireless signal!
“Hold up,” you’re probably saying while stroking the rim of your fedora. “I’m skeptical that this works well enough to be worth it”. I share your concern, neckbeard. However, the devices I looked at on Amazon have a large number of reviews (some over 1000) and decent star counts (like, 4/5, which is pretty OK in my book). For movies, I’d be pretty comfortable using something like this because the lag would only be between the movie running on the device, and what I see, and I don’t really care if there’s a delay, so long as the audio is in sync (audio would be local to the component side of the equation, and not the projection side). Gaming, however, would be the real test. Some reviews on these devices which mention gaming say that it works OK. I don’t do multiplayer, so it would only come down to the round-trip time: action on the controller to the console, and results back to the projector.
So my goal is this:
- Figure out how to install an outlet in the ceiling, running from the power that’s currently running to the smoke detector.
- Figure out the best way to mount the projector to the ceiling.
- Acquire a wireless HDMI unit that I can afford, and which has reviews good enough to make me feel comfortable doing so.
- Put it all together and see what happens.
If I can manage that much and be pleased, then I’ll be 95% of the way there. After that, it’ll be a matter of organizing the general area of the basement according to the plan I have in my head, which may or may not involve additional house destruction. Stay tuned!