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Extending Your Sphere of (Remote) Control

Brent Young

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Let's face it, Presenters are control freaks. It's in our nature. If we didn't secretly want to control the world, we clearly would have gone into another line of work. This is one of the reasons why projectors can drive us crazy. It seems like there is some ancient voodoo involved in getting the remote control in the exact right position so that the projector responds to our frantic button mashing, and even then, once we get it right, we can never replicate that perfect combination of position and prayer again. This is compounded by the addition of two, three, even four projectors in your room; now, you not only have to get the position perfect, but you have to pick up the correct remote.

Not to worry, help is on the way. You can bring that unruly projector under submission. One way or another.

This assumes that your are in a situation where you are using infrared to control your projectors; a wired option is not available. If you can wire your remote, then stop reading right now and go wire it. (I should have been a motivational speaker)

We begin with the obvious.

Do you know where the IR receiver on your projector is? I know, it sounds silly, but you'd be surprised how well it can be hidden. Is it on the front or back? Is it obstructed by anything? Some projectors have their IR receivers mounted in the front. If you know where it is, it will make aiming the remote a whole lot easier.

Make sure your remote has fresh batteries. I know, obvious, right? When you change the batteries, make sure they are fitting snug and tight. These remotes can take some abuse (sheepish grin) and the batteries can come dislodged and make intermittent contact.

Now you know where the IR eye is and your remote has fresh batteries. Next question, does your remote have a laser pointer? Many of them do. If it does, you are in luck. In addition to their many annoying uses, a laser pointer is a fantastic way of knowing where your remote is pointing. Just like the terminator, use the laser to point directly at the eye of the projector and. . . voila it will respond to your beck and call. If it doesn't have a laser pointer or if it is just sadly underpowered to reach the projector, don't despair, there are more ideas coming.

If your projector is unreachable by IR because of sight lines or underpowered remotes, we'll have to move on to plan B. You'll need to convert your IR signal to radio waves. There are several of these devices on the market. Your first step here is to resist that voice that just whispered in your ear that it's time for a trip to Radio Shack. You don't want to add a frustration to your solution. I'd suggest one of the K10 units, a quick search on amazon will bring up a plethora of choices.

There are a few features you will want to pay attention to.

  1. Make sure the receiving unit has a wired connector to extend to the devices you are controlling.
  2. Check out the frequency that it uses. You'll want the most reliable.
  3. It will be nice if it has a normal plug and not some giant wall wart that takes up your whole power strip.

You simply put a transmitter(s) wherever you want your source(s) and you mount a receiver wherever your equipment is. The good ones have a hard wired IR the plugs into the receiver that you can mount directly near the eye on your projectors. There are also splitters and distribution units to help you extend the receiver IR to multiple pieces of equipment.

I'd suggest running hard wire IR extenders to every piece of equipment you want to control. You want to eliminate as many variables as possible, not introduce new ones.

If you are in a situation where you are using your remote to change the projector settings in the middle of an event, then your best solution will involve rethinking your whole system. A Scaler/Switcher will eliminate the remote from the equation all together. This isn't an inexpensive solution, by any means but, it is the only way you're going to get the seamless transitions you are dreaming of. (If, in fact you are dreaming at night of seamless transitions, a vacation is definitely in order) Depending on the options and quality, you can easily spend $1K to $2K.

A Scaler/Switcher will take your multiple inputs: video, dvd, computer, etc. and upscale and convert everything so that it all goes to the same input on your projector. This way switching between computer and dvd is handled at the source and not the projector. Thus bypassing the remote control.

If you are investigating a scaler, you'll need to contact a trusted installation pro who can help you through the options. There are many options for input and output. You'll need to make sure that what you buy fits your inputs and wiring. (You don't want to end up rewiring your whole system)


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