Set-up for basement media room
July 9, 2022 2:51 PM   Subscribe

We just completed a full basement renovation, part of which included a new media room with wall outlets for a TV (we are planning to buy a new TV). The contractor ran 2 HDMI cables from the wall outlet to a utility closet. The utility closet has the Verizon box (FiOS) and our modem. But I'm not 100% sure what to do with the HDMI cables? And how to best set this up so we can access a variety of media on whatever TV we get.

I'm assuming the reason the cables go to the utility closet is a) keep the new media room streamlined and free of wires dangling and b) to connect to some device that would serve media to the TV? But I'm not sure what the best setup would be. We have and have had in the past a variety of different Roku or old Apple TV devices, but I feel like usually you need line-of-sight for the remotes? Are there newer devices that can be controlled from another room (assuming that whatever we get can connect to the wifi or ethernet to the modem).

I also have an old iMac (late 2013, quad-core i7, running Catalina) which is only used as a media storage device (mostly video). It would be great to repurpose this somehow, and also be able to watch content from the iMac on the TV (with the iMac in the utility room?). We also have a quadrillion DVDs and I'd like to be able to also watch a DVD without having a separate player if possible (we can also just rip those to the iMac if that's more expedient). We have multiple iOS devices that we can use to control the system if that's an option.

Not averse to purchasing something, but not sure what the best option is. I don't use (nor do I want to use) iCloud, or any of the Google or Amazon stuff.
posted by DiscourseMarker to Technology (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Many game systems and streaming devices and media players no longer need "line of sight" for the remote or game controller, so you can indeed hide them away in a cabinet or closet if HDMI has been discreetly run. There are also remote control replacements (such as Harmony universal remotes) available as well, which can also make legacy line-of-sight devices (like Blu-ray/DVD players, or cable boxes) work behind a closet door.

You could absolutely connect the iMac in the utility closet and then use it on the TV with a wireless keyboard and trackpad without having to touch the iMac itself.

Newer TVs come with a full slate of streaming features built right in, so it's not likely that you'll need to connect something to those HDMI cables, but there's any number of devices like a Playstation or cable box or disc player or media server that you might want to use those cables with at some point. You can have all those devices out in the open with the TV, too - the installer was just giving you an option in case you want to go for a clean look. (It's cheap to add a run of hidden HDMI cables during a remodel that might or might not be used, but pricy and disruptive to add them in a discreet way once they close up the walls at the end of the remodel.)
posted by eschatfische at 3:24 PM on July 9, 2022

Best answer: There are devices that will extend your remote into a closed cabinet or closet. Look for things called "IR extender" or "remote extender." I have a Logitech one that works pretty well. The only issue is that it will not work if the door to my media cabinet is open. If both the actual device I am controlling AND the extender both see the signal from my remote it gets confused or something.

I'm on my 3rd Apple TV and as far as I'm concerned there is no better device for streaming. There was a time when you could stream media from iTunes on your Mac computer to your Apple TV though a) it was a coin toss as to whether or not it would work and b) I'm not sure ATV still has that feature.
posted by bondcliff at 3:27 PM on July 9, 2022

We have and have had in the past a variety of different Roku or old Apple TV devices, but I feel like usually you need line-of-sight for the remotes? Are there newer devices that can be controlled from another room (assuming that whatever we get can connect to the wifi or ethernet to the modem).

With regards to your Apple TV devices, the newer versions of the remote communicate with the paired Apple TV via Bluetooth so you do not need line-of-sight between the remote and the Apple TV box (they control the actual TV via IR, so they do need line-of-sight to the TV).
posted by RichardP at 3:28 PM on July 9, 2022

Similarly, the higher-end Roku devices have Bluetooth remotes, and even the lower-end ones support control via a phone app. Line-of-sight shouldn’t be an issue.
posted by parm at 4:25 PM on July 9, 2022 [1 favorite]

Don't you need at least one HDMI cable to connect your FIOS cable box to your TV? The other can be for a DVD player or whatever if you choose to add one later.
posted by The_Vegetables at 7:03 PM on July 9, 2022 [1 favorite]

Google devices also have radio remotes, as do firetvs. That said, they're tiny and quite capable of hiding discreetly behind a wall mount TV, so it isn't absolutely necessary to put them in a distant cupboard.

If it were me I would use HDMI for the opposite purpose - you can use it to feed audio to an amplifier or receiver from the TV, when it's not the port that's providing the TV's video signal (also called ARC, 'audio return channel', and it's usually enabled on one specific HDMI port on your TV). The audio is all digital, so (unless you buy into the marketing hype) the type and length of HDMI cable should have no effect on quality. You typically still need cables to your speakers from the amp.
posted by How much is that froggie in the window at 7:06 PM on July 9, 2022

While things like “platinum coated connectors with small grains of ultrarare Bolivian sand and hairs from the uncontacted tribes of Madagascar” (only partially joking) don’t matter—nor does the Monster brand name—bandwidth and feature support does. Older/very cheap cables may not have enough bandwidth to support all features between a streaming device/TV and a receiver.

Monoprice is a good source for trustworthy cables.

Apple TV (the hardware device) is fantastic and supports just about every streaming service you can think of. My concern with an iMac of that vintage would be supporting things like 4K playback, which if you’re buying a new TV it will almost certainly be 4K unless it’s very small.
posted by tubedogg at 7:26 AM on July 12, 2022

Response by poster: In the spirit of this MeTa I am posting a follow-up. We did end up getting a new Apple TV and so far it’s working very well. We can mirror to the ATV from the iMac and my even older 2011 MacbookPro with no issues, and the remote is working fine. We did try plugging our Switch into the 2nd hdmi cable coming from the tv, but the Switch controller didn’t work as well being separated by a cinder block wall, so we ended up moving that back up to our 2nd tv.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 8:39 AM on August 13, 2022 [1 favorite]

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