Operation Media Center

Some before, during, and after shots

In an attempt to finish off the decor in my new apartment I finally jumped into one of my favourite, but most trying tasks.
Setting up the media center.

I knew that this would end up being a somewhat monumental project due to the simple fact that I did not own a television and I have very specific ways that I desire to watch my media that would require figuring out a few things.  My original goal was to do away completely with Comcast cable.  I don’t believe in having to spend $150 a month on shitty basic cable.  But at the end of the day, I didn’t quite succeed and gave in to the evils of cable with a Tivo DVR.  The reason behind this is that I can’t get all of my TV shows through Internet services (yet).

My first requirement was a television that would fit on a wall that is 54″.  I wanted a large flatscreen, but I didn’t want it to be too overpowering or ridiculous.  I ended up going with a Samsung 46″ LCD from Amazon Warehouse Deals ($700).  I am a big fan of the Samsung brand, so this fit in nicely with my wants.

My second requirement was to be able to watch television with Boxee, Hulu Desktop and Netflix.  I also have over 300 DVDs (Region 2) that I wanted to be able to catalogue and watch as well.  I gave up my mission to digitize all of these DVDs out of pure terror at the time suck that would be.  I also wanted to get rid of all my DVD cases which were taking up an entire wall of my apartment.

My third requirement was that it look good, sound good and all the wires and components were semi-hidden.

The solution to all these requirements?

1) Operation Get Rid of DVD Cases – I bought a giant DVD case from Best Buy (330 discs).  I got a copy of Delicious Library and scanned every single DVD.  I then pulled them all out of their cases and put them in alphabetical order into the case.  Then I published the Delicious Library in html to my Dropbox so I can access it from wherever.  I also catalogued all of my books, Kindle books, gadgets and digital media into Delicious Library.

2) Set up Mac Mini – Set up with Mac with Hulu Desktop and Boxee.  Added 2 external harddrives – a 500GB & a 1.5 TB.  Also attached a Skype headset so I can take calls in the living room.

3) Media center furniture – I needed something, again, that would fit on a 54″ wall.  I wanted it to be Danish Modern style.  This is a tough one.  Most credenza’s are 72″ and thereby useless.  I ended up finding a really nice dresser that would fit.  But then what to do with hiding all the components?  I came up with a scheme to make this happen.  We removed the center drawer and took off the track.  Then I ordered smoked glass to fit inside the former drawer and smoked glass for the top of the dresser to give it a more polished look.

4) Mount TV on the wall – Ordered a tilted wall mount for $35 on Amazon and had some guys install it.  Also had to use a molded cable cover to hide those unsightly wires.

5) Wiring – This was somewhat tricky.   I will attempt to document below.

6) Remote control – I purchased a Harmony 880 refurbished remote from Amazon.  I programmed it to do a variety of things, like Sing Karaoke and Watch Hulu.

7) Hook up sound – I am still in the process of doing this, but have a Sony AV 7.1 Receiver to channel everything through.  It has 4 HDMI Inputs so I should be more than covered even after I add the blu-ray player.  I had Bose Acustimass 5 speakers which are 2 tiny speakers and a subwoofer.  I added onto this with a Bose center channel and 2 Bose bookshelves for optimum surround sound experience.

8) Hide all the wires – I purchased a 12 plug Belkin surge powerstrip and consolidated all plugs onto it.  I still have to hide all of this under / behind the center.

9) Turn on TV and eat popcorn – Nearly all finished and it will be RAD!

More details on the setup:

Samsung 46″ LCD television
Sony 7:1 Receiver
Sony Blu-ray player (HDMI)
Mac Mini (HDMI)
Cable box (aux)
Apple TV (HDMI)
Karaoke (audio only)

2 Bose small speakers – front channel
2 Bose medium speakers – back channel
1 Bose center speaker – center channel
1 Bose subwoofer
Harmony 880

TV -> Receiver
Optical cable
HDMI TV IN 1 – Receiver Out
MacMini -> Receiver
Toslink to Optical -> Receiver (Digital optical SAT IN)
Mac Mini Video -> Receiver
DVI to HDMI connector + SAT HDMI 3
Apple TV -> Receiver
Cable -> Receiver (SOUND ONLY)
Component cable (SAT AUDIO IN)
Aux cable to TV
Karaoke -> Receiver

Cables needed
HDMI x 3
Toslink to Optical
Optical to Optical
Component cable x 2
Component cable to headphone (for visiting iPods)

I have also added Touchpad iPad app to control the MacMini.  Much better than using the bluetooth keyboard and mouse on the sofa.