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Inside guide to multiroom video

The signal is then converted back at the other end where the second display is located. Importantly, while three of the four pairs of wires are used for video and audio (unlike co-axial cable Cat-5 can carry digital surround sound tracks), the fourth is used to carry control information.

This means you can point a remote control to a plasma located anywhere in the house and change channels on a Sky box located some distance away.

Complete control

Although best known for their touchscreen control systems, both AMX and Crestron also provide video distribution equipment, either via cable or Cat-5. For example, Crestron's CNX-PVID8X4 is a video switcher that can handle up to 64 separate video sources in 32 rooms.

It accepts component, S-Video and composite sources and distributes them via a Cat-5 network. The switcher then interfaces with digital AV processors for complete control. Of course, such a set-up doesn't come cheap (a typical eight room system will cost around £90,000).

However, if it's a high quality, flexible video distribution solution you're after then it's definitely worth considering - budget pemitting.

Top Tips

1. Decide which sources (ie, DVD and Sky, etc) you want to watch and where you want to watch them.

2. Use the highest quality co-axial cable possible. Generally speaking, the thicker a cable is and the more shielding it has the better.

3. Never lay co-axial cable near your mains power leads as it will cause picture noise.

4. Use wireless as an additional solution rather than the main solution for video distribution. Wireless technologies can be unstable and don't always offer the necessary bandwidth for video applications.

5. If you need to split the video signal for sending to other rooms, always do so at the source and ensure you use an additional amplifier.

6. If possible use higher quality cables (such as S-Video and RGB) rather than RF or composite leads. This is especially important if you are viewing images on large LCD or plasma displays.

7. Decide how you want to control your video sources, either via IR/radio remote controls or, if budget allows, using touchscreen displays.