A TV. On wheels. A step-by-step 'How To' guide.

By Bill Kenney

If you’ve been hiding in a cave for the past couple months, you may have missed our obsessive Tweetstagrams on the evolution of our new office.

One of our big-deal, new features is a 65” LED TV that rolls along the back wall of our conference room/playroom. Since this has easily been the most asked-about feature, let me give you a rundown on the reasoning behind it and how we pulled it off.

Idea Drop

Priority #1 for the new office was to build a creative work environment with serious personality and cool factor. The 18 ft back wall of the conference area presented a great staging area for video conferencing with clients, speaking events, video game central, movie night, sporting events, etc. (photo 1) Being a testosterone-fueled office, we started off thinking about installing two televisions. Because the placement of the conference tables demanded a screen mounted on the wall’s far left, the positioning of another TV to the right would visually balance the two, not to mention allow for dual-screen activities. But two is a lot of TV. It might look tacky. And, most of all, adding a second screen isn’t a very creative solution for a company that prides itself on creativity.

Photo 1

I don’t remember where the idea came from, but eventually we were discussing how to install a single flat screen television that could somehow span the entire wall and allow for a variety of uses. Boom. It didn’t take long for the idea to completely take over our collective brain and we got to work on how the heck to make it happen.

You See Me Rollin’

We faced two hurdles: how to make the TV roll and how to hide the plethora of wires necessary to run to this beast — seven 50 ft cables to be exact (photo 2). We realized this would be a trial-and-error process with no definable plan to start from. With that in mind, we brainstormed how to suspend a functioning, rolling television.

Photo 2

I saw us using some type of barn door rolling contraption from the start but had zero idea of specs, how to get barn doors, or if this would even work. I spent days scavenging antique stores for meat pulleys, old barn door wheels, and all types of Tetanus-risky appliances (photo 3). It was a helpful experience in that talking with antique store peeps helped me flesh out the problem and, therein, the solution. Online, we found a great little company called NW Artisan Hardware that manufactures awesome raw steels barn door track systems. It was the exact old world material, style, and functionality that we were look for in a perfectly-sized 16 ft track. Better yet, it didn’t have to be restored; it was fresh and clean and ready for action (photo 4).

Photo 3

Photo 4

Operation Mount

Procuring the track was a big win, but we still had to figure out the engineering of hanging and rolling the TV. After all, this system was designed to hang a 200 lb door, not a 30 lb flat screen LED TV. The rig that came to pass was a super slim flush mount for the TV affixed to a sturdy cedar board (photo 5). The board acts as the bridge from the legs of the rollers and holds the flush mount for the TV. The beauty in this is that the TV can be independently removed from the mounting configuration without having to remove the whole system. Or, we can upgrade to a larger TV at a later time and use the same rigging. Note: the cedar board was cut so as to hide behind the TV and allow maximum access to all electronic ports.

Photo 5

One unanticipated issue we ran into was the hanging angle of the TV. Again, the track was weighted and leveled for an extremely heavy door and wasn’t equipped to flush-hang a TV mounted well forward of the track wheels. On first hang, we realized that the TV was dipping in at the bottom and potentially going to rub the wall. Troubleshooting, we added two 2" fixed casters to the bottom of the cedar plywood that control the backward swing of the TV and also allow for easier access to the wiring behind the TV (photo 6).

Taking it a step further, we added a handle to each side of the plywood in the back so users can easily push and pull the TV across the wall without having to touch the screen (photo 6).

Photo 6

Wires? What Wires?

Spoiler alert: this was the hardest part. Honestly, we didn’t figure it out until the final leg of the project. It’s overdue for me to mention that we worked with a Superman-status builder on the new space and he fully adopted the rolling TV idea. Each week, we talked about how and what we thought would work every week, spitting out crazy ideas and quickly scrapping them, and starting over. Don (Superman) came in one Monday with a new idea. He’d just returned from a family vacation and, while his kids were swimming, he found himself thinking about the rolling TV. Devotion to the cause!

Don’s tube-in-a-tube idea started with two pieces of PVC pipe, one with a diameter of 1.5" and one measuring 2". The idea was that the one would fit inside the other, which it did — perfectly. The larger tube would be affixed to the wall, stationary, and the smaller would attach to the sliding TV and would slide in and out of the larger, which it also did — perfectly. After a quick hug and heel kick we dove in to hiding the wires. For this to work, we were going to have to make sure we could fit seven 50 ft cables into the smallest of the two pipes. No dice. These cables are husky and, to make matters worse, we have a power cord with a huge plug at the end that was never going to feed through. Enter Erik, who jumped in and dropped some magic with the wisdom that we could cut a channel in the back side of the smallest PVC which would ultimately face the wall and be unseen. This channel allowed us to place all the cords inside systematically and not have to worry about forcing all the individual ends down the small pipe. They fit perfectly on the first stress test and we knew we were ready to rock (photo 7-8).

Photo 7

Photo 8

We then successfully mounted and installed the system. There was a good amount of measurement and testing to make sure that both PVC pipes were the appropriate length to allow for maximum travel. There was a bit more strategy on how the pipes were spaced and mounted but, ultimately, we have a “trombone” system that contains all of the complex wiring, allowing the TV to roll 16 ft while hiding all the unsightly cables. No cables, zero (photo 9-10).

Photo 9

Photo 10

Slack Line

It’s basic mathematics. If the TV rolls a span of 16 ft, that means that there is 16.5 ft of slack in the wiring to account for. Where does all that go?

We buried the end of the mounting PVC pipe into a 2" diameter hole that we cut at the end of the right side wall (photo 11). That pipe comes out into an enclosed space that serves as our food pantry/IT room. So, the slack and excess cord lives in that room. But one final hurdle still needed to be jumped: The TV was rollin’, the cords were piped and hidden, but we needed to control the nasty snake of wires. Specifically, how they were spilling into the pantry and, most importantly, how to ensure they would gently pull back into the pipe. This was way complicated. When you bundle seven 50 ft cables tightly together they don’t necessarily want to make a 90 degree turn when leaving/entering a 2" PVC pipe.

Photo 11

Introduce a third feat of butt-kicking engineering: the wheelbarrow rim. It was clear that the cabling needed a guide, a helping hand (photo 12). The wheelbarrow rim helped properly align the bundled cables with the entry to the PVC pipe, allowing for a fluid transition in and out of the pipe and controlling the way the cords feed back into the IT room to collect downward towards the floor. But then, because of the volume and length of cord, the tension from the weight of that length of cords made it hard to pull the TV. Solution? We defined the exact amount of slack necessary to reach maximum rolling potential, the rest we eliminated by running the bundle over a water pipe to hold the extra weight. It worked like a charm and was made even better by the finishing touch, the Dribbble sticker (photo 12b).

Photo 12

Notice the cables and how they are bundled (photo 13). That is simply a double wrap of black electrical tape about every 1.5 feet. This was really helpful in controlling the cables and keeping them uniform and untangled as they came into the closet.

Photo 13

Roll, Baby, Roll

We are overjoyed with the final outcome. It captured exactly what we were after and it was actually a fun problem-solving exercise. At the moment, a camera, Apple TV, and a Mac-mini connect to the TV. Success! We’ve already had two speaking events where it’s been used for presentations, multiple video calls with clients, and a couple movies (wink wink).

We have to give props and “thanks” to all who were involved. Should you choose to embark on a similar engineering endeavor, please let us know if you have any questions.

We would love to hear from you and see how you implement this in your own space.