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The Whole-House Audio/Video system

The digital system starting from the 2010s

The original analog system is here

The concept of whole house video is simple. Instead of using manual switches to select video sources, this distribution method modulates the particular video source onto unused TV channels. This way anyone can see any source by simply tuning into its TV channel.  In our home, I placed the following source onto unused TV channels (updated 2020):
    • The VCR and DVD player from the main A/V area
    • The DVR player from the main A/V area
    • The screen of my home automation PC
    • The CCTV system with the external cameras
    • The cable tuner box
Thus to see any of these screens anywhere in the house, we just need to select its channel on the TV. In addition, due to the IR relay system, I can control the viewed VCR/DVD/DVR as well.

Starting in early 2018, we switched from the analog NTSC based video system that allowed us to see the exterior of the house to digital cameras from HIKVISION.  They are 4 Megapixel each and have a wide 2.8mm lens.  These cameras also have a large IR emitter for great night time viewing but have no audio capability.  I briefly used a unit with pan-tilt motors, but then decided against it as it was much larger and would 'home' to a unuseful location every time there was a power cycle.  
CC camera
Camera used was the HIKVISION 4 Mpixel cameras.

HIKVISION NVR
Back panel of the Network Video Recorder (NVR) DS-7604


The back of the NVR shows how this interfaces.  The cameras plug into the four 100BaseT Power-over-Ethernet POE jacks.  A mouse for the GUI plugs in next to it and the two high-definition outputs are adjacent to that.  The audio jacks don't do anything useful.  Lastly, I also plugged into my home LAN, but to view the cameras on a PC, you need to load an outdated applet that is not compatible with recent Windows/Mac versions.

Front
Blue oval highlights the camera for the front of the
house and the pink one is for the front door.

phone version
Phone and iPad versions of the user
interface of the NVR work quite well.
Sample images from the App store.

Overall, the NVR has the features you would expect, such as mobile support and settable motion sensor zones.  You can view one or four channels at a time, and in landscape mode you can fill the whole screen with the camera image.

Initially, I used a VGA to video converter, and that signal was then modulated with an analog modulator to channel 24.  This image was always a bit grainy and noisy.   For many years, I was looking for a good deal on digital (ATSC) modulators, and they were initially quite large and expensive (about $2k), probably used in professional setups.  Finally in 2020, the price went below $400, and I decided to try to use one and convert one of the channels to digital.

VeCOAX modulator
The digital (ATSC) modulator.  Purchased
used for about $220 on Ebay.

As part of this project, I learned a bit about these digital modulators.  To start with, there are several modulation standards for the digital signal.  The broadcast standard in the USA is 'ATSC', while the US cable distribution format is 'QAM' aka J.83B.  In Europe, the standard is DVB-T or DVB-C, while in South America it is ISDB.  Finally, China and Asia uses DTMB.  At some point, I almost purchased an inexpensive modulator that was built in Portugal (Edision unit for $160), but that would not have worked with my TV.

In addition, it is important to note that the physical (RF) channel may differ from the logical (virtual) one, and of course it is important to know both so that you stay away from them.  I used to have a TV that displayed the physical channel (in a hidden menu) so I could take a listing, but now I just try it and if there is interference, I know to move to another one.

Video on Master Bath TV
TV in the bathroom (and several other places
around the house) allows me to monitor what
is around the house in crisp high def 1080P.


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