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Within the next few months, I'm attempting to pull the plug on cable. I've been trying to figure out HD antennas and streaming OTA (over-the-air) and it seems that the path isn't very clear on how to do it. There's HD antennas, and PVR/DVR solutions but nothing that seems to bridge the gap or at least I'm not aware of a lot of different solutions that people have devised.

For example, here's a great lifehacker reference to making an HD antenna. Making an antenna vs. buying isn't a real issue to me. All of this information is great, but bridging the gap between the OTA signal to the HTPCs that display the signal is a bit unclear or murky to me.

My questions are:

  1. HD Antenna - DIY or buy? Which performs better/worse/same? Placement? On top of the roof of my house (2 floors) or is my attic adequate? Should I have more than one antenna if I'm planning to have 3-4 tvs receive OTA signal simultaneously? Can I have more than one antenna? (Note: I've already checked with antennaweb.org and I'm in range of HD signal)

  2. Streaming the signal - HDHomeRun appears to me to be the simplest/easiest of solutions. Are there any alternative methods/products for streaming? I know a TV tuner in an HTPC is probably just as capable, but if anyone else has any other ideas to streaming, please enlighten me!

  3. Recording the signal - This really ties into streaming but between AppleTV, Roku, XBMC, Boxee and DIY HTPC, it's difficult to know which is ideal for me at this point. I know these units (excluding the HTPC) aren't capable of recording, but having a simple recording mechanism would be really great.

  4. Misc - Performance? If I have one antenna and 3 TVs that are trying to access that antenna, will the quality and performance of that signal degrade? Would having more antennas resolve that possible performance issue?


Hypothetical scenario

My current plan involves one HD antenna (either on my roof or attic). The coax from the antenna feeding into an HDHomeRun tuner which has an ethernet port connected to my gigabit switch.

From there, I'd have one HTPC recording whatever channels I wanted (no direct TV attached). Then for each TV, I could have an AppleTV with XBMC loaded on it and stream live TV via the gigabit network. From what I understand (I'm not 100% sure), XBMC can use MediaPortal to watch streaming TV. I haven't read all the documentation so I'm not sure this is feasible or not.

I'm not sure if this will all work. Money isn't a major factor but just something that is easy and just works is more important. Please feel free to point out any flaws or possible headaches. Again, I'm not very sure that this would work.

Note: all the rooms in my house are wired with CAT6 and RG6 so wiring is not a problem. I prefer wired rather than wireless anyway so wireless is not an issue.

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1 Answer

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Before getting an antenna you should get a TV reception analysis/prediction from www.tvfool.com and/or www.antennaweb.org. You can get predicted signal strength and direction for all TV channels in your vicinity. Then you'll know if you can simplify your antenna choice (i.e. just UHF or both VHF + UHF) or if a rotor or multiple antennae might be needed.

For a TV antenna, building or buying is your choice. The Grey Hoverman antenna is a good choice for building, with typically better results than bowties.

The general rule for an antenna is higher is better, so outside on the roof is optimal. However many people have installed TV antennae in their attic, so long as adequate signal reception can still be achived. YMWV; every situation is different.

The TV antenna can receive all channels in its frequency band (e.g. UHF or VHF or combined) at the location it is installed. It's the attached tuner that selects the individual channel out of the received spectrum. Hence you can use more than one tuner with just one antenna. The signal from one antenna can be split to multiple tuners, although an amplifier might be needed if the signal gets too weak. Another antenna is usually not necessary, although I did install a 2nd antenna because the cost of the antenna was less than a distribution amp and running more coax.

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I should have noted that I've already checked with antennaweb.org and I am within range. Thanks for advice on the antenna! –  osij2is Aug 20 '11 at 16:27
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