Last week, we looked at the new lighting and audio equipment that we installed in our new kids and students rooms. This time around, we’ll consider the video gear. Actually, the video needs were pretty simple. They needed a Mac for ProPresenter, and it was requested we install AppleTVs so they could screen share and stream audio and video content. I plan to put a DVD player in at least two of the rooms as well, just so they can play back DVDs easily if needed (I know, no one uses DVDs anymore; except kids ministry…)
So here’s what we went with:
I had originally spec’d Extron IN1508’s for this install, but when the request came through for AppleTVs, I had to rethink things a little bit. The only video output on an AppleTV is HDMI and the 1508 doesn’t do HDMI in. I had to look around a little bit for a switcher/scaler that had one or two HDMI inputs and component output.
Now some of you might wonder why I want component output. Call me old school, call me out of touch, but I’ve just had way more good results with good old analog component video than I have with HDMI or DVI, especially when the cable lengths exceed about 15 feet. It’s a lot easier to pull component cable through conduit than HDMI as well.
Yes, it’s a bit of a pain to terminate the mini-RGB cable that I used, but once we got the stripper calibrated, the crimp on RCAs I used (CRCA-13’s from ADC) went on fairly quickly and were 100% reliable. We have two displays per room, which meant we needed a DA. Kramer makes a simple 1×2 YPbPr DA (the VM-2C) that is pretty inexpensive, and we mounted that up in the ceiling near our branch point for the cable.
I could have used HDMI over Category cable, or SDI, but both methods add several hundred dollars per TV to the budget in converters, and I just didn’t have the funds. Some people think you can’t do high definition over analog component, but that’s not accurate; we’re doing 1080i right now, and could do 1080p if we wanted to. The displays look great; there is no degradation at all in the signal. Our longest runs are well over 100’ from FOH to display, which would be really tough to do with HDMI.
The VP728 is a basic 9 input switcher/scaler that will take a variety of VGA, UXGA, HDMI and component signals in, scale them to whatever output format we decide, then spit them out via HDMI or YPbPr (incidentally, YUV is the standard def component video, YPbPr is high def component video). It has a pretty deep menu structure that allows you to do pretty much whatever you want with the signal.
We had two issues when we first configured the switcher. First, the TVs won’t read any component signal coming in in RGB colorspace, and that’s the default output of the switch. Of course, you can change it, but you need to see the menu to do so. We ended up hooking up a computer monitor to it so we could set it up properly.
The other issue was with the AppleTV. My friend Isaiah told me that he tried to use an AppleTV into a VP728 and HDCP kept blacking out the image when going out the component outputs. There is a menu setting to turn HDCP off on the two HDMI inputs, however; and once we turned it off, it’s working fine. I haven’t tried to stream a movie from the iTunes store yet, but right now, it’s working great.
I had ordered four HDMI to VGA converters from Monoprice, but I think we’re going to return them as we don’t need them. Speaking of the AppleTV, we also learned that you can put a password on the AirPlay feature so we don’t have random Jr. High students jacking the AirPlay feed.
The screens were a suggestion from my dealer, David McClain at CCI Solutions. I had been looking at some NEC commercial units, but he suggested these. These were pretty affordable and come from LG’s commercial line, so they have network control ports as well as RS232. I’m not sure if we’ll end up using those or not, mainly because they have a great feature that shuts them off automatically after 5 minutes of no signal. So if someone forgets to turn the displays off after shutting down the rack, we won’t have TVs on for a week. And that’s why we went with commercial displays, and didn’t buy them at Costco.
We also used Chief TV mounts for all the rooms. I’ve been a huge fan of Chief products since my multi-image days, and they just make solid stuff.
The computers are new Apple iMacs; 21.5”, 2.5 GHz, 4 Gigs of RAM, 500 Gig HDs. I’ve found these to be more than adequate for ProPresenter, Keynote or PowerPoint. We use MiniDisplayPort to HDMI adapters from Monoprice to convert to HDMI into the switcher. I had hoped to be able to send audio over the HDMI, but so far, we’ve not made that work. It works from my MacBook Air, but none of the iMacs seem to want to cooperate. I’ll be spending some time troubleshooting that when I get back.
That’s it for video. It’s a pretty simple set up, but highly effective. We’ll also be dropping a VGA cable on the desk so if anyone shows up with a laptop, they can plug in easily. We also may end up putting in an optical digital to RCA converter (also from Monoprice) in with the AppleTVs so we can stream audio for walk in while running a ProPresenter loop. But we’ll cross that bridge in a few weeks.