Saturday, April 11, 2009

Playing Nintendo Wii at the Home Theater

Tito Ben gave us a Nintendo Wii earlier this year as his house-warming gift for our house blessing. I connected it to our Samsung Series 5 LCD TV using regular RCA connection. The display looks pretty good. Its probably because games have very bright colors and do not need much depth in skin tone unlike regular movies.

The main differentiator of the Wii vs. other consoles like the PlayStation or XBox is its unique motion-based game controllers. You navigate the onscreen pointer/mouse or game character by moving your arms on air as if you were inside the game. A thin, horizontal motion sensor has to be placed in front of you (below the TV) to detect the motion of the controller.

The sensor has a limited distance, of course. My estimate is its only good for about 3 meters. Beyond that and it cannot detect your motions anymore. That kinda sucks since if I sit all the way back by head board of our bed, I would be about 6 meters away from the TV. So I have to move to the foot board of the bed before I can navigate the menus. Strangely though, the other functions work quite well even from that distance. For example, playing Mario's Cart by using the controller to simulate a steering wheel works fine even at 6 meters. I don't know why this is so while other motions are limited by distance.

Anyway, I've been wondering what it would be like to play the Wii at our home theater using my Mitsubishi data projector and Harman Kardon A/V receiver with JBL speakers. It must be an awesome experience to be immersed in a home theater environment while playing. When I tried to connect the Wii to the A/V receiver, I realized I had a problem. The video output of the Wii is the standard yellow RCA plug, wheras the data projector is connected to the receiver via component video.

It seems that the Harman Kardon can only send component video output if its input is also via component video. It cannot "switch" a composite RCA video signal and convert it to component video format as output. All the while, I thought that any input video signal will be automatically converted by the receiver and sent out as component video so I only provisioned for 3 wires between the receiver and the projector -- just enough for the component video signals of Y/Pb/Pr. The cables run through a conduit in the home theater wall and up above the ceiling, and further down into the ceiling mounting kit leading to the projector. So its not trivial to add another cable for RCA-style composite video.

The Mitsubishi projector has support for 3 video sources actually -- computer, S-Video and composite video. Using a cable adapter, the component video connects to the computer video input port. In hindsight, I should have provisioned another cable connecting the composite video input into the composite video output of the Harman Kardon. That way, I can connect any input source to the receiver and just have it switch the output to the projector. So even my VHS player or camcorder can connect to the receiver and have its output sent to the big projector screen.

For now, the only workarounds are either: 1. to connect the composite video output to the Philips DVD3455H player's CAM1 input port and specify it as the source (since the Philips player is, in turn, connected to the receiver via component video already); 2. connect the composite video output to one of the composite video inputs of the receiver, and then physically transfer one of the 3 component video cables (eg. the "Y") to the composite video output/input at both ends (the receiver and the projector). The latter is actually better since it does not require the Philips to be turned on. But it involves physically moving around some cables. Maybe when the electrician comes back for some odd job, I'll ask him to layout a fourth cable between the projector and receiver to be permanently used for composite video.

While I was able to send the Wii output to the projector, I still have to contend with the distance problem of the motion sensor. If I put it on top of my center speaker, which is mounted on the wall below the projector screen, and I sit by the sofa (which is over 3 meters away from the sensor), I cannot do certain motions. I have to sit down on the edge of the home theater elevated platform before it can my game controller.

1 comment:

Thomas said...

There is a bit of Star Wars everywhere in this house, from the doorsteps till the home theatre room. A little paradise for all Star Wars fans!