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I'm working on increasing the quality of video sent through the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis' in-house video distribution system (right now they use passive composite video connections over Cat5 cabling, and video is very blurry with lots of ghosting), and I thought I'd briefly share my findings in this area.
I've decided to go with an 'active' (powered) video send/receive unit, from Knoll Systems:
The basic principle is this: To get high-quality video from point A to point B, you need a good signal. The longer the distance of the cable, the weaker the signal will be.
While it's possible to run three individual coaxial or RCA-type cables over a 100'+ distance, this would be a hassle, and would be prohibitively expensive. Rather, most wiring projects these days involve Cat5e and Cat6 networking cables, which can be used for a variety of purposes, especially since the use of Baluns has increased.
(Another example of sending non-data/network traffic over Cat5e cabling is detailed in my article elsewhere: XLR over Cat5 - Balanced XLR Mic-Level & Line-Level Audio over Cat5 & Cat5e Cabling).
Send High-Definition Video Over Long Distances
The basic plan for a project like this involves:
- Run Cat5e or Cat6 network cable from point A to point B (use cable grease, gloves, and get dirty!). Run an extra cable or two if you think you'll need it. (Pick up some bulk Cat5e cable from Amazon for a good price).
- Terminate both ends of the cable in RJ-45 connectors (you'll need a RJ-45 crimp tool to finish off the cables).
- Buy a send and a receive video balun (see links at top of this page), and wire everything together.
Once you're done with the wiring, you should have a relatively clean (up to) 1080p signal. It's a lot cheaper (and easier to run over long distances) than pre-made HDMI or component video cables.
Review of Knoll Systems Component Video Baluns
These baluns definitely look good on paper: They use a 12V power supply (sold separately - order links above), so they give a stronger signal over longer distances than traditional/cheaper 'passive' baluns. Additionally, the Knoll Systems components can distribute video to more than one device with the use of one of their hubs (or any non-switching 'dumb' network hub).
I will post a full review of these baluns when they arrive (I just ordered them!).
You can, of course, use one of the many unpowered baluns (which are usually anywhere from $40-60), or opt out of high definition (especially if your TV/projection system doesn't support HD!), but if you want to go higher quality than this, you'll have to look into digital systems (TV over IP), which cost a bit more.
I'm also building a new site, Everything Over Cat5, to compile my different projects/experiences with Category 5 copper cabling. It's awesome—check it out!
Any questions? Any better ideas or experiences with other baluns?