More HDMI Madness

HDMI with HDCP (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection) has proven to be a very difficult to maintain. Not just for the installer but even more so for those who pay for these systems and then, it does not work. Here is my case in point.
I recently worked on a system which was put into a new house and sold and installed by the recommended group to do the Low Voltage. This system is now a year old out of manufacturer’s warranty out of the installers warranty and I was asked to work on it. Only one TV was working. There is so much detail to the explanation of the problems, but here is some of the detail. The client wanted a hidden system which they decided to locate in a hall closet perhaps 50 feet from the main Family room area which has a 7.1 surround system. The word on the street was you cannot run HDMI 50 feet, without using video baluns which convert the signal to cat 5/Ethernet and reconverting it to HDMI on the TV end. First let me say that I have run HDMI 131 feet and had no problems with the connection. Instead what you end up with is an active balun device (converts HDMI to Cat and Cat to HDMI on both ends) plus 2 HDMI Cables. Here is what you have done – taken a connection which would have been a single HDMI, which is not a simple cable, they have more than 10 connections in every wire, doubled it by using 2 HDMI wires one on each end and adding two active baluns to the mix which now have also a cat 5/6 jacks on each end (16 more connections) plus female connections. Now there are complications with connections on top of the already existing issues I have previously described when using HDMI. Did I mention the extra cat 5 wire in this chain which was the interconnect between the wall plate and the Balun… on both ends! When you turn on the lights in a adjacent room, the system stumbles and the picture glitches or breaks up. I assume the reason for that is the instantaneous influence of the magnetic field produced on the Romex wires which may be running close to the cat 5. So nothing works. The system also used TIVO based system which was supposed to be able to share the DVR among all locations which have a DVR (all DVR’s in this case are located in one closet and distributed with these same balun HDMI to cat adaptors. When I got to the job only one TV had a picture. Here are the problems, you cannot change the menu on the TIVO to adjust the resolution (which can influence the connection) because you cannot get a picture, the TIVO units have multiple failures and will not work no matter what. Cannot get the pictures to pass to the TV’s because of multiple failures with the HDMI baluns or connection. So you cannot control nor see the picture from 3 out of 4 TV’s on a one year old system.
Here are a couple things to note:
Only locate gear in a closet if you are a savvy sort of operator, when you cannot see what is happening on a picture and the control does not work it all becomes very difficult.
Do not use TIVO it is yesterday’s system, and seems to be very unreliable.
I worked on this system again and we took out all of the TIVO based product and had DirecTV’s new system installed by DirecTV which has a main DVR server and which can record 5 programs at a time, with 3 standard HD DirecTV receivers. After one day of rework we were able to make the entire system work correctly. I relocated 2 of the DirecTV receivers directly behind the TV’s in the MBR and Mbath, thus making the equipment cabinet much more manageable. The client is now happy using the DirecTV remote to control the volume of the main surround system, the menu of the Blu-ray player which has all of the applications they use, and controls the channel of the main DVR/server.
My recommendations are, use HDMI cables pre-made right up to 131 feet.