If you own a Personal Video Recorder (PVR) like TiVo, you have probably come to love the enhanced viewing experience that it creates. However, it one major limitation: a TiVo can only be connected to one TV. If you want to use it in more than one room, you have to buy additional TiVos, each requiring another monthly fee. I have a different solution to this problem which will let you use your TiVo in every room of your house. This solution can also be applied to “extend” any media device (DVD player, VCR, digital cable, satellite TV, even a game console) to your entire house.
TiVo and Windows Media Center have their own ways to extend their media to another room. As I mentioned, TiVo requires you to get another TiVo unit. If you want to share media between the two devices, you have to connect them via your home network, either wired or wireless. If you don’t have a home network already, you have to buy and set one up. Windows Media Center has devices called Media Center Extenders, which don’t record additional media as the additional TiVos do, but provide full access to all recorded media and even live television, also through your home network.
Instead of relying on a home network, which you may not have, my solution utilizes a “network” that everyone has already – your cable television wiring. The trick is to use an RF modulator to take the output of your TiVo (or other device) and put it onto a television channel. Then, in order to control your device remotely, use an infrared (IR) extender. The end result is that you can all you have to do to “tune in” to your TiVo is change your TV channel to whatever channel you have chosen (more on this later), and you can use your remote (via the IR extender) just like it was connected to the TV in front of you.
I have used this functionality in several different ways. Not only can you watch TiVo on 1 TV remotely, you can have it on all your TVs simultaneously. If you connect it to a CD or DVD player, you can use this to play music or a movie throughout your house (great for parties!). When we have family over, we often watch DVDs in two rooms simultaneously, since we don’t have enough seats in one room for everyone. You can even use wireless controllers with your game console, and play a game on multiple TVs in your house.
Here is the equipment that I use in order to implement this:
Description Part Number Approx. Price
1 Channel Vision Micro Modulator E1200 $75
1 Channel Vision Low Pass Filter 3102-78 $35
2 Channel Vision 3-Way Splitter/Combiner HS-3 $7 ea. ($14)
1 Powermid IR Transmitter/Receiver PEX01 $50
– – – – – – – – – – – – – (may need depending on resulting signal quality) – – – – – – – – – – –
1 Channel Vision RF Amplifier CVT-15PIA $90
If you want be able to control the TiVo from more than 1 location, you need additional Powermid IR Transmitters (PEX02) for each location ($25 ea.). If you have more than 3 TVs, you need to get a 4 or 5 way splitter (or whatever you need) instead of 1 of the 3-way splitters (you still need the other 3-way splitter). You can find all the parts by doing a search on Froogle.
The reason you need to use RF Splitter/Combiners instead of normal splitters is because the signal from the TiVo will be combined with your normal cable signal, and then fed to all of your TVs. So the “splitters” need to work both ways.
See the inset picture for how I connected everything together. The RF filter is connected right at the main cable input to your house. If you have cable internet or digital cable, you’ll want to split that off before the filter, as it would filter those signals as well. I chose the 3102-78 because the highest analog channel I received was 74. It filters out all the channels above 78, including noise. You can choose different filters if you have a different amount of channels. Then you use the RF modulator to put the TiVo signal on a noise-free channel above this.
The RF modulator comes with a 10 dB attenuator attached to it with a little bit of glue. When I spoke with Channel Vision about this, they basically said they had to put it on in order to get it approved with someone or other. Take it off. Although it is possible to provide the TV with a signal that is too high, it is very unlikely. You can always put it back on later if you need to.
To choose a channel, manually tune your TV (by entering in the channel and enter) to various channels above 78 (or whatever filter you have), and find one that has very even static. This is easiest when a TV does not automatically blue-screen when it doesn’t have reception (on some TVs you can disable this). Then (assuming you have everything hooked up already) keeping the TV on and set to that channel, adjust the RF modulator (hold down the “select” button until the light flashes, then press the channel up button repeatedly) until you see the signal from your TiVo on your TV. If it is clear, you are done. If there is any static, try another channel on your TV and the RF modulator.
Assuming that you are testing on the TV connected to the same splitter as your TiVo, you should not need the RF amplifier in order to get a good signal. However, if after getting an acceptable signal on the TV near the TiVo, you find that the signal on the other TVs is not strong enough (has some static), you probably need an RF modulator (or you can continue trying other channels). I needed an RF modulator to get a good signal on all the TVs (only 3) in my house.
The last part is hooking up the IR extender. There are 2 pieces: a transmitter and a receiver. The transmitter goes near the remote TV. I set my on top of the TV, so I don’t have to aim the remote at someplace other than the TV. The receiver (the one with the antenna on it), should be placed in front of your TiVo, where it can “see” it. I put mine across the room from my entertainment center.
Alternatively, you can get an IR blaster ($10), a wire which goes directly out of the receiver and attaches over the IR input on your TiVo. Then you can place the receiver wherever you want. However, this limits you to only controlling your TiVo. Which brings me to my next enhancement to this setup: a remote-controlled AV-switch (from Radio Shack $70 – 4 in 2 out learning A/V switchbox). I connect my TiVo, a DVD player, a VCR, and my stereo to the 4 inputs, and I connect the output to the RF modulator as well as a wireless audio transmitter for my Advent wireless speakers. Since I have the IR receiver in full “view” of all these units, I can switch between them (I have the switch trained to the same signals as my audio receiver) and control them all remotely.
The last piece of equipment I’d recommend for the ideal setup is a universal remote (I use the Theater Master MX-500, $100) which I take with me to whatever room I go, and it allows me to control every TV in my house, my Tivo, and all the devices in my entertainment system (remotely or directly in front of it) without having 10 separate remotes.
The cost of all this equipment adds up, and some would say it could justify the purchase of another TiVo, but remember that you also have to have a home network in place for a 2nd TiVo to communicate with the first, and there is also the additional subscription fee. And there are certainly many things you can do with this setup that a 2nd TiVo can’t offer.