A/V Distribution

General | TV & Video Dist | Video Cameras | Modulators | Music Only | Remote Control | Equipment Location | Prewire


Most of us have seen basic A/V distribution - cable TV or antenna signals are split to serve several rooms or are "distributed" to several rooms. The more complex systems we often install may distribute multiple sources, such as DVD players, Video Cameras or multiple Cameras, Satellite Receivers etc., to any or all TVs in your home. If you have a DVD player in the great room for example, you can watch the DVD movie on any TV
in your home. With remote control extenders you can control the source device (DVD player in this example) from the remote room. The image from a video camera at the front door (for example) can be handled the same way, and viewed on any TV. Music only distribution systems are also very popular.


There are several methods of TV / Video distribution - simple splitters and single coax cable, dual coax cables can carry 2 source signals to all locations, modulators can be installed to carry multiple sources over a single coax cable. A combination of dual coax cable and modulators allow the ultimate in system flexibility, any source from any room can be seen on any TV / Display.


Built in video cameras can provide convenience, as well as safety, and be almost invisible in most cases. Nursery, pool and front door are common locations for cameras. Any or all camera images can be seen on all of the TVs in the system. Cameras with built in microphones are also available, so sound and image can be distributed.


A modulator takes a signal from a source (this could be any AV source - camera, DVD, Satellite Sys, etc.), and puts that signal onto an unused standard TV channel (the modulators are adjustable, so you can pick a channel that is not in use in your installation). The modulator is a transmitter, confined to only your TV system, allowing you to broadcast on any channel you choose. Multiple input modulators are available that allow off air antenna, satellite receiver and a DVD player (or anything else) to be combined on one coax cable, and viewed on any TV in the system. This is how cable TV systems are constructed.


These systems are installed so music is available in any, or all rooms. The speakers are often built in (flush mounted). Typically a volume control, keypad or remote control receiver is installed in each room to allow local control - the music can be turned up or down, and with a keypad or remote receiver the system can be totally controlled from each location. Flush ceiling speakers can offer very reasonable sound quality and be almost invisible. Flush wall mounted speakers usually sound somewhat better, but are slightly more noticeable. Outdoor speakers are also available, generally mounted under an overhang, to serve decks, pools etc.

A major consideration for music systems is the number of sources needed. With 2 rooms next to each other such as kitchen and dining room, one source is usually fine, no one wants to hear different music in competition. Bedrooms can be a different story totally, the occupants of each room might well have different ideas about what music is appropriate.


One problem with the equipment located away (remote) from the viewing and/or listening room, is that a method is needed to control the system from the distant room. There are several choices:

Volume Controls -
These controls are inexpensive and work reasonably well in many cases; they do however, have some drawbacks - The system power can not be controlled and the source (DVD, CD, or FM station) can not be changed or controlled.

Handheld Remote Extenders -
These controls offer a good deal more flexibility. A small IR (infrared) receiver is placed in the remote room. The receiver converts the IR signal, from a handheld remote, to an electrical signal and sends it through wires to an emitter located at the equipment. The emitter reconverts the electrical signal back to IR and "flashes" the signal to the equipment. The remote works in the distant room as if the (remote) equipment were located in that (distant) room.

Wall Mounted Keypads -
Most of these systems generate IR commands to control the equipment. Similar to the handheld remote extender, the IR commands are programmed into a keypad system. They don't require additional handheld remotes, however the more advanced systems will transmit the IR signal, allowing a handheld remote to be used, if desired. Newer keypad or touch screen systems, send the control data to a dedicated processor / controller over Category 5 data cable. The controller the implements the received instructions.


A location for the distribution equipment must be chosen. If a theater system is installed, this can be a logical location, is space is available. If no theater is installed, a convenient, accessible location is needed, often a basement closet or storage area works well. A project may have specific requirements that dictate the location.


Often on new projects, a customer is unsure of how the system will evolve in time. The cost of installing wiring in the walls during construction is fairly low. To install wiring after the fact can cost many times more, in some locations it can be almost impossible. In these cases it is prudent to install wiring to cover all the bases (during construction), leaving it unused until the final configuration is determined