I wired my whole house to a media closet about 5 yrs ago using RG6 and CAT5. Now I am looking to use HDMI outputs from a PC and DVD to distibute to LCD and Plasma tvs. Is there a reasonably cost effective way to do this? I have seen CAT5 to HDMI converter for $500, but that is way to expensive in my opinion. I have 2 RG6 and 1 CAT5 to work with.
What are people using these days for whole house video?
HDMI is good for up to 10 meters. Beyond that you may need an amplifier or repeater. It is not the cable of choice for whole-house distribution.
There is at least one company offering a whole-home audio/video distribution system that carries HD and audio over CAT5 cable. I have not tested their system (it was at the prototype stage when I saw it at the EH Expo) so I can't attest to its quality. Also, it is outside the range of your stated budget.
The simplest approach (if you ran 2 x CAT5e) would be to use baluns at each end. Knoll System and Audio Control both offer baluns for the purpose.
HDMI interfaces are two way and allow for device control so that a TV can be activated when it "sees" a signal coming from the DVD player and so on. It also supports DRM. Extending it is expensive for those reasons, among others. There are varying HDMI specs, as well, and interconnecting HDMI equipment from different manufacturers tends to be the same old crap shoot evolving standards always seem to imply.
Dan L. turned me on to a device that allows for streaming 2 different channels of HDTV through standard PC networks called HDHomeRun.
It looks quite interesting. I bought a device called the OnAir HDTV GT,
a little USB device that requires no additional power supply and plugs into your (very high powered!) laptop to give you OTA and CATV HDTV but for whole house work, I think the HDHomeRun would be the ticket. The OnAir device needs more HP than my 3.0 Sempron Acer laptop could give and the images had a peculiar time lag as well as lip synch problems that had REALLY low SAF.
The cost dilemma you're facing is just the tip of the iceberg as consumers now pick up the tab for expensive and troublesome digital rights mangement. IMNSHO, it really should be "enforcement" not "management" because the latter implies some sort of consent. To mangle Monty Python: "I didn't vote to make you king (or for DRM, either!)"
That may be the way to go. Can you use multiple SlingBoxes from one PC at the same time? I would need to be able to stream 2 different programs to 2 different tvs.
I am waiting for Media Extenders for Vista to come out. I know for XP they did support multiple on one network. That would allow access to video on the PC as well as live TV (with enough tuners for each TV fed to).