Starting a home theater from scratch, what do I need?

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by RavenZwei, Mar 17, 2012.

  1. RavenZwei macrumors newbie

    Sep 26, 2011
    We are currently in the planning phase of building our first home and I've been in discussions with the builder regarding integrating Apple products in to our home theater. But the words "home theater" are a bit misleading, because it seems like much more than that to me. Through our discussions, he's stated that while he knows how to build a standard home theater system, he doesn't have much experience integrating Apple products. So I figured I would turn to you guys for help.

    What I currently have:

    Macbook Pro - with a Apple display and keyboard and mouse for stationary desk work
    27" Mac
    iPad 2
    iPhone 4
    iPod Touch

    Granted some of these things may change by the time the house is built (iPad 2 changed to iPad 3, new iPhone, etc) but this is what we currently have.

    What I want:

    In our living room, we will have built in speakers connected to a the necessary in the closet. There will also be speakers built into the outside backyard patio. What I would like to do is not have cable, but be able to watch Hulu, Netflix, etc, on my living room TV as well as the bedroom TVs. I would also like to take all of my DVDs, burn them onto a HDD and be able to access those from any room in the house. I would also like to be able to use our iOS devices as remotes as well. Finally I would like to be able to stream music separately to both the living room and the patio.

    I know I probably didn't explain what I would like well, but I did the best I could. We are starting pretty much from scratch, so I just need to know what equipment I need to buy and the best way to network it all to accomplish what I want.

    Thank you for your time.
  2. Soura2112 macrumors 6502

    Jun 26, 2008
    Kinda hard

    Since you already have speakers in the walls, and a place to hide a receiver, blu ray, cable or Satalite box, etc your pretty much set. I have a set up very similar, just no speakers outside. I love everything hidden cause it saves room and not as expensive as I thought it would be.
    From what I read I guess all you still need is an Applr airport extreme, or any good wifi (bet you have it), an apple tv, large hard drive depending on how many DVDs you have, handbreak on your Mac, that's pretty much everything. Except if you may need an infered remote for the receiver, blu ray, sat/cable etc, which also depends on the brand. Most receivers have an app though.
    You will need some serious time to get your DVD library on your hard drive, again depends on time. I wanted to do this but time and hard drive space is difficult with all my DVDs.
  3. Demosthenes X macrumors 68000

    Demosthenes X

    Oct 21, 2008
    My suggestion would be this:

    Install a Mac mini in the closet, and connect it to a receiver (which in turn is connected to the TV, and both sets of speakers as zone a and b). Then you can play audio selectively in the living room and outside, or one zone. The only difficulty I foresee here is if you wanted to watch TV inside while playing music outside... there might be a solution involving an Airport Express and streaming music that way, but I'm not sure if that would work. So keep in mind if you think people are likely to want to do both.

    You can use your iOS devices as a remote for the mini. I would also buy a wireless keyboard/trackpad.

    Plug your hard drive(s) into the Mac mini to store your movies. You can use your iMac or MBP to do the conversion, so no worries about the mini not having an optical drive.

    (You could, of course, use your existing iMac for all of this, but I think you'd really appreciate having a dedicated HTPC for your situation).

    For the other TVs, you have a couple of options: the cheaper and easier solution is to use Apple TVs. They'll be able to access your stored media, watch Netflix, and via Airplay in Mountain Lion, be able to watch Hulu or anything else you want by mirroring your computer screen. If the mini is in use and you want to watch Hulu on another TV, you can always use Airplay from the MBP/iPad/etc.

    The harder/more expensive option is to plug more Mac minis into your other TVs, which would be a more robust solution, albeit significantly more expensive. I think Apple TVs would probably suit your needs.

    I'm sure others will be along with other/better ideas, but I think that's the basics...
  4. khollister macrumors 6502a


    Feb 1, 2003
    Orlando, FL
    First thing is to have your builder run CAT 6 gigabit ethernet cable to every room/location you might want a TV, and home run all of those back to wherever you plan to have your internet connection, router and Mac to act as your iTunes server. Forget depending on wifi if you are doing new construction.

    While Apple TV's make good set-top devices at each TV to stream iTunes content (including BD's or DVD's you rip into m4v files), they are rather short on internet TV stuff except for Netflix, MLB and NHL. A Roku XS 2 is a great little streamer for Netflix, Amazon, Hulu Plus, etc. but a not so good streamer of content you own and host. Short of a HTPC at each TV, there isn't really a perfect one box solution. You could put a Mini at each location running Plex or XBMC, but that gets expensive.

    Do you have a budget for this (and a number of TV's you want to serve content to)?

    The other option is to jailbreak the ATV's and put Plex or XBMC on those. Much cheaper than a Mini, but you are in unsupported territory. Might be worth it given the cost difference.
  5. RavenZwei thread starter macrumors newbie

    Sep 26, 2011
    Thanks for all the info. A lot to shift through with a bunch of different options. I hadn't thought of using a Mac Mini at all.

    As far as how many TVs, there would be a total of four, one in each bedroom and one in the living room. A budget hasn't been completely hashed out for this, but I would like to save money where I can. And thanks for the tip about running the cable, would definitely like that instead of relying on wifi.

    As far as ATV and XBMC go, is it a pretty simple thing to set up? I've used XBMC before, back when it was first released on the Xbox, but haven't touched it in years. While not supported by Apple, I'm sure there's a dedicated community that could help me out if I run into trouble, right? Also, how easy is it to reverse the jailbreak on an ATV? Say I ran into a hardware issue with one, would I just be able to reverse the jailbreak and have it serviced at the Apple store?

    Again, thanks for all the info, going to do some research tonight and tomorrow and I may come back with more questions, lol.

    ***EDIT*** Quick question. If I did have the builder run CAT 6 cable through out the house, would you be able to use the iPad/iPhone/etc as a remote still? Or is that something that only works if they are on the same wifi connection?
  6. itsmrjon macrumors regular

    Jun 11, 2011
    I basically have the setup you are looking for.

    I have CAT5e running through my home, I use one pair for phone, the other I wired for 100Mbps. In the bedrooms I placed ATV2's running XBMC, and in my living room I have a full home theater setup. I opted to use a mac mini in the living room, which limits me on the netflix (unless you choose to use Plex), but my samsung has netflix built in so it wasn't a great worry.

    I use a harmony to control my entire home, from the lights to the atvs, to the imac. Some really nifty apps if you want to do this with your iOS devices are rowmote and XBMC commander (if you choose to use XBMC).
  7. khollister macrumors 6502a


    Feb 1, 2003
    Orlando, FL
    Not a problem with the remotes being on wifi and the other stuff on wired.

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