Avi Greengart is the Research Director for Consumer Devices at Current Analysis (Mobile Phones, Connected Devices, and Digital Home). He also regularly writes for Slashgear, sporadically blogs at Home Theater View and Tweets far too often as @greengartAvi's expertise lies in understanding consumer electronics marketing, consumer behavior, and technology adoption patterns: where new technologies meet the mass market. 



Avi Greengart is an expert on the convergence of technology and entertainment: video, audio, computing, and wireless, how these are coming together, and what's likely to survive long enough to make a difference in your life.

Column #27 (04/09/02)

Projector/TV Connection Dilemma: One Set Of Components, More Than One Display


My father asked me a question. He wants to be able to transform his current study/TV room into a theater, from time to time, on the cheap. He's got a desk behind the sofa on which he'd like to place a projector, on a stand (he'll use the one from the office). He'll bring in a portable screen, and is willing to hang some speakers on the wall, so that takes care of the physical side.

What's puzzling me is the cabling/components. I want to be able to use the components that currently function on his TV to watch on the projector.  So, I guess I need some sort of switch between the components and the TV that we can use to route video to the projector.

Is there any chance that his TV has a video-out port? Once we actually get the video fee, cabling is easy since the room is over an unfinished basement. Is an AV receiver the answer to these problems?  There is a chance that the TV has a video out jack, but that won't necessarily re-route the incoming video from VCRs, DVD players, and satellite dishes.  (For example, my TV has a composite video out jack, but it's for the tuner only.)

AskAvi replies:

Your question is something I've had to deal with in my own theater - I have both a 53" analog TV we use most of the time, and a digital projector we use primarily for DVDs.  (Details on my setup are outlined at the end of this column.)  I discussed using business projectors for home theater in Column 15; depending on the projector, your father should be able to get a pleasing (if not perfect) picture.

If a DVD player was the only component you wanted to hook up to both the TV and the projector, then the solution would be simple: use the DVD player's S-video out jack for your TV, and use the component video jack for the projector.*  Most DVD players have both outputs active at the same time. 

But in your case, keeping multiple components hooked up to multiple displays is a bit more complicated.  As you've guessed, the simplest solution to your connection dilemma is to use the video switching capabilities built into most A/V receivers.  Make sure that the receiver can output to two monitors simultaneously - many mid-range (~$1000) receivers include this, or can reconfigure one of their outputs to do so (many times they suggest using a video out jack intended for recording).

Another consideration is to ensure that all your source types match your output types.  In other words, with most receivers, the switching capabilities only work for a single type of input - all composite in to composite out, all S-video in to S-video out, all component in to component out.  If you need to convert from one to the other, you have two choices:


a receiver with video conversion built in (Kenwood was the first manufacturer to include this feature on some of their better models; some of their competitors have started announcing that they will be adding this in as well), or


a converter box from Extron (a company mostly geared to broadcast professionals), Entech (a division of Monster, the cable people), or several others.  If you decide to go the add-on route, it may make sense to skip the expensive (~$600+) switch boxes, and instead standardize on S-video and just convert all your remaining composite sources using inexpensive converters (~$129 each).

Once you have everything properly connected, the signal should be going out to both the TV and the projector all the time.  Simply turn on whichever one you want to watch, and enjoy.



Avi's Connection Mess:


The composite signal from my VCR is routed through the receiver on to the TV.  We do not currently have any VCR-to-projector connectivity (haven't needed to hook it up).


The S-video from my DVD player and RePlay go to my receiver.  The receiver sends the S-video signal on two outputs: the monitor output goes to the TV, and a second configurable output goes to the projector for when we want to watch TV on the big(ger) screen.  This is so rare (the Super Bowl, mostly) that the S-Video cable is rarely physically connected to the projector, and usually remains coiled up on top of the receiver.


The component video from my DVD player goes directly to the projector for the best quality picture.  Note that I'm using both the S-Video and component video outputs from the DVD player; most - but not all - players have all video outputs active at the same time.

A complete description of my home theater (room, gear, accessories) is posted here.

* The only problem: not all business projectors have component video in jacks.  If your TV and your projector both lack component video jacks, you do need separate switching capabilities, and should go with a receiver.

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