I don't think the cable is too long. You can move your system closer to the projector and try shorter cables just to be sure. It sounds like a configuration problem to me.
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Tom, you have unfortunately entered the terrible world of HDMI. 35' is a long run by HDMI standards. What brand of HDMI cable do you have? In this case, brand does matter!
You'll need to spend some time debugging this and here's the cleanest way to do it:
1) At 35' you need either an active cable or a Certified HDMI cable so you can be 100% sure it works. Your best options are: www.futurereadysolutions.com and getting a KORDZ cable, which is THX-certified for 4k/UHD 18gbps. You can pretty much be 100% sure when using this cable. 2) Go with a BlueJeansCable.com cable. Again, BlueJeans is excellent. 3) Get a RedMere cable from www.monoprice.com. RedMere is an active technology that is made for passing the signals over longer distances. Don't believe any other crap about HDMI cables and plating, etc. It's all marketing garbage and hype. If I were you I'd go with the Kordz cable. A bit more $$$ but you can be sure it's been put through more high bandwidth, real-world tests by an independent tester (THX) and passed those tests than any other cable.
2) To test your setup, connect your equipment using a 6' cable. A 6' cable is ideal in the HDMI world. If the signal passes at 6' you can then assume that the longer cable is your problem.
3) To your question about AppleTV to projector works but not directly from Cable Box may be a bazillion reasons. You cannot apply analog logic debugging to HDMI. It's a completely different beast and will drive you nuts.
4) You may also have a problem with the compatibility of your cable box and your projector. For HDMI to work, they need to 'handshake'. That handshake takes a few seconds and several items need to pass during that handshake process including any HDCP copy protection and EDID information (what the display is, what resolution it can support, etc). All this happens in the background from source to display. If anything is not passed properly you'll get nothing, a blank screen, just as you are seeing. When you have a cable failingand that may simply mean it can't handle the bandwidth supplied in the signal or distance issues, you get sparkliesthat look like fireworks or snow across your screen.
The reason why putting the receiver in the middle causes everything to fail indicates to me that you may also have a loss of EDID information in the signal chain. A Kordz cable may fix that. If it doesn't then you need to invest in an EDID-based solution like Dr. HDMI. Check out these articles for more info: http://www.pooraudiophile.com/2013/12/the-fix-for-hdmi-woes.html and http://www.pooraudiophile.com/2013/12/the-fix-for-appletv-hdmi-woes-and-hdmi.html The second link specifically talks about the AppleTV
All in all, you have a bit of a tough debugging road ahead that will just take time.
HDMI cables are not analog. There's no such thing as a degradation in quality. You get sparklies or nothing at all.
Unfortunately, HDMI troubleshooting doesn't follow the same logic as we've been used to in the analog world. It can be maddening at times and defy logic, but that's the new reality with HDMI. It's an entirely different beast because there's much more back and forth communication happening along the signal chain as opposed to simply passing the signal. In other words, analog troubleshooting and analog indicators don't carry over necessarily to HDMI networks.
As Cerrot says the handshake is vital. Also make sure all your resolution settings are the same on each component in the signal chain. Whether it be 720p or 1080p, everything needs to be the same to help in that "handshake" with HDMI. In my experience also, make sure you give the time required when switching. In my system sometimes I get picture and no sound and find that switching source inputs on the processor can trigger that handshake between the two, but also sometimes it can take two or three minutes to get results. In short HDMI sucks but we are stuck with it.
You can argue cable brands and quality here all day long, but my finding has been that matching the brands helps. This all my opinion based on research, seminars and frustration/experience. Good Luck!
Thank you to everyone. So I'm going to start working through these issues. I have blue rigger HDMI cables for the long runs. I first started with CAT 5/6 to HDMI converter from monoprice but the converter blew within a week. I though it safest to accomplish my hookup by using 35' HDMI cable which I snaked through the wall. Actually I snaked 3 cables for redundancy.
What about using an HDMI BaseT over CAT instead of HDMI?
To answer a question I do get normal 9.2 Audio from my cable box through a marantz 7008 receiver but no picture.
I will also likely try the EDID solution someone mentioned as it's simple enough to try (and return if unsuccessful)
The Monoprice HDMI extenders do not all work and are finicky. Never use passive extenders and there is only one monoprice extender I've found that works.
I'm using an active monoprice HDMI extender to take care of a nearly 90 foot run. I'm only passing 1080p and I'm using dual Cat5e cables. It's for a 2nd TV and not that important for me but it's been solid. I would suggest running the THX-certified able to future-proof you for 18gbps. Note that you must home-run the cables to each transceiver. You cannot go through a patch panel. Both wire runs also need to be the exact same length or you'll have issues.