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Home Media / AV Configuration (2013)

From time to time, friends and family will ask me how I configure the devices in my house for media.  Since I just got this question again last week, I thought I’d take a moment to document it here.  In the past, I’ve documented my storage & backup solution, my time machine setup, as well the configuration of my old wireless network.

Basic Assumptions

Since there are an incredible number of technology and service choices that can affect a home media solution, it’s best I put some of the basic decisions that my household currently has made around media technology:

    Comcast HD is our HD television service

  • iTunes HD is our standard movie purchase format
  • Netflix is used for movie rental
  • Tivo is our DVR of choice

Of all of these choices, the ones that are most material are the choice of Comcast HD / Tivo, as Comcast is the best HD service for modern Tivo DVRs, and the standardization on iTunes HD, not Blu-Ray, for HD movie purchases.

Office Configuration

Our home media solution is grounded in the home office, but really has become fairly distributed between the cloud and local devices. In fact, at this point, the home office solution is really used more for backup and legacy purposes.

Home Office Media

The key elements of the configuration are as follows:

  • The iMac is really the “source of truth” for the media library in the house
  • The media library is large (each HD movie is about 4GB), so it sits on its own 4TB USB HD
  • The iMac backups up to the Synology box via Time Machine
  • Wireless devices (laptops, iPads, iPhones) connect via 802.11N
  • The Gigabit Ethernet switch is connected to the central home network

Living Room Configuration

The consumption solution in any room with a television is largely the same.  Here is a diagram of it’s fundamental components:

Living Room Media

The key elements of the configuration are as follows:

  • The Gigabit Ethernet switch connects all the devices to the central home network
  • The AppleTV is used to watch purchased HD movies from iTunes, Netflix for streaming, and access the home media library on the iMac
  • The Tivo is used to watch live / recorded television (from Comcast)
  • The Blu-Ray is there theoretically if we wanted to watch a Blu Ray, which almost never happens

A Few Caveats

This solution currently has the notable sub-optimal elements:

    • I didn’t include an A/V receiver or surround sound solution in the above description, because that actually varies room to room.  In some rooms we have an AV receiver, in others we utilize a surround sound bar or just use TV audio.

Input switching.  We almost never use the Blu-Ray, but this solution does require switching inputs between AppleTV & Tivo, which is a bit annoying since the Tivo remote can’t control the AppleTV and vice-versa.

While I’m sure this solution will not impress any cinephile out there, hopefully it will be useful to a few of you thinking through how to setup or reconfigure your home media solution.

I’ll try to do a follow up post with what I’m hoping to see in 2013 to make this even better.

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Hey Adam,

    How do you deal with the iTunes/Home Sharing reset? I find that it is offline about once a week requiring a reboot of the Mac Mini.

    iTunes is the canonical source on the MacMini. But Home Sharing resets weekly which is frustrating.
    Mac Mini
    Airport Extreme
    Time Capsule
    Airport Express
    Each of the TVs is connected to AppleTV.
    Netflix for streaming
    Unblock-Us for DNS re-routing
    XBox 360 connected to main tv for DVD functionality only
    MacBook Air with BBC iPlayer and AirParrot for AirPlay to AppleTV
    Antenna for OTA local news content

    I have started purchasing more and more TV content from iTunes, mostly out of convenience. Having videos/TV available online (iCloud or iTunes Match) has been changing my consumption.

    Biggest thing missing is sports. But this means that I get to do other things (supposedly).

    March 25, 2013
    • I haven’t had the problem since I upgraded to iTunes 11 & most recent AppleTV update. Previously, I would quit & restart iTunes when that happened.

      Truth be told, we almost always use iCloud streaming now for watching purchased movies & TV. So much easier, and performance / quality is great.

      March 25, 2013

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