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HDMI 1.4 and Through the Ages

by September 03, 2009
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HDMI - Potential or Epic Fail?

HDMI - Potential or Epic Fail?

Key Digital had an interesting newsletter that got sent out this week. In it they had a table which went through the various iterations of HDMI, from version 1.0 through the newest 1.4. We thought it was a good chart, though we disagreed (slightly) with some of their assessments on the importance of each of the versions. I've also included their summary on HDMI 1.4 below. It's a great and informative newsletter and I recommend you sign up if you are in the industry.

As I hinted at in my article on The Twelve Biggest Industry Mistakes of the Digital Age I believe that HDMI is really more of a stop-gap interface whereas it could have been a new standard. Instead, we have a largely "stupid" new cable system that merely carries data. While HDMI will argue that its CEC system is cable of providing a platform for some of the negotiations mentioned above, CEC was pretty much an afterthought and is NOT standardized across platforms and manufacturers. It is also very simplistic and not nearly sophisticated enough to handle the type of communication users will soon expect.

HDMI Version 1.0 1.1 1.2/
1.2a
1.3 1.3a
1.3b
1.3b1
1.3c
1.4 Importance
1 - Not; 5 - Very
sRGB Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes 4
YCbCr Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes 5
8 channel LPCM/192 kHz/24-bit audio capability Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes 5
1080p video at full resolution Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes 5
Consumer Electronic Control (CEC) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes 1 (no standard)
DVD Audio support No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes 2 (little consumer support)
Super Audio CD (DSD) support No No Yes Yes Yes Yes 2 (little consumer support)
Deep Color No No No Yes Yes Yes 1 (no titles)
xvYCC No No No Yes Yes Yes 1 (no titles)
Auto lip-sync No No No Yes Yes Yes 1 (largely unused)
Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD
bitstream capable
No No No Yes Yes Yes 3 (LPCM nearly as good)
Ethernet Channel No No No No No Yes 3 (no hardware, but promising)
Digital Audio Return Channel No No No No No Yes 3 (no hardware, but promising)
3D Over HDMI – no standard
No No No No No Yes 1 (no standard)
4K Resolution No No No No No Yes 1 (no titles/hardware)
 Expanded Support for Color Spaces
 No No
No
No
No
Yes
1 (not supported yet for cameras)
 Micro HDMI Connector
 No No
No
No
No
Yes
 1 (smaller HDMI connector, do we really need that?)
 Automotive Connection System
 No  No  No  No  No  Yes  2 (more rigid connector standard for automotive)

In a general sense, it seems like HDMI is continuing to add features in a bid to stay relevant and possibly to maintain some kind of "lead" over rival DisplayPort (which has yet to make any inroads into the CE market beyond Macs and PCs). It is apparent that for the mainstream consumer, HDMI v1.0 was sufficient for everything in mainstream use today. 1080p, 8-channel PCM audio (taken from Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD sources) and the unstandardized and largely useless CEC were all present in v1.0. Improvements since then have been mostly an effort to assuage audiophile and videophile consumers' dreams of world domination - with no real practical application for the masses. 

While I can tell you without a doubt that most of my associates and friends understand (loosely) the concept of 1080p, none of them (not ONE) understand (or use) x.v.YCC, Deep Color, DVD-A, or SACD. They have no idea what CEC is and they do not use the lip sync function designed into the HDMI specification. They could care less about bitstreaming Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD because their HDMI-equipped A/V receivers do just fine with the multi-channel PCM output from their Blu-ray players (if they even have Blu-ray yet). 

Thoughts of Ethernet and digital audio return channels, while convenient to those of us in the know, are as far off as the hardware that will support these features - none of which (to our knowledge) have been manufactured yet. And 3D technology, while a nifty thought, is a long standard away from being a reality for consumers at home. And let's not even go into the physical form factor. Insertion loss aside, the friction-lock HDMI connection is a general nightmare in terms of falling out. Couple this with the many HDMI-over-Cat-5x and new HDMI-over-coax solutions and you wonder why we needed to go to this new bulky, glitch-prone, difficult to terminate and manufacture topology to begin with.

Overall, HDMI doesn't seem to be getting us where we need to be, and thus it is destined to eventually go extinct, to be replaced by a "smarter" standard. The potential for devices to work easily together and do more has been retarded as a result. The only hope for HDMI is a standardization of the CEC protocol into something that is actually USEFUL, instead of the vague guidelines present now. This seems almost impossible since so many manufacturers have developed their own proprietary systems. When manufacturers can commit to a single set of standards for interfacing devices and sharing data across all of them we will have arrived at something truly great. Until then, these incremental updates from HDMI Licensing are largely a waste of everyone's time and a source of great pain for manufacturers and custom installers alike. 

Further info on HDMI 1.4

  • Ethernet Channel - This is the latest installment of the ever increasing HDMI capabilities with ever decreasing usefulness in the marketplace… Let’s assume that the TV is getting Internet access through a Blu Ray player using this input. What happens when you switch the HDMI input to a Satellite STB that may not have Internet access? What happens when you switch the input to a cable STB with Internet access? What happens to your internet session during the transition between input sources? Why would you rely on Internet access from HDMI if your TV may have uninterrupted Internet access through a wireless Wi-Fi signal or a simple RJ45 hardwired connection? Why should the HDMI source be your TVs gate to the Internet? There are many questions surrounding the wisdom of that connection.

  • Audio Return Channel - Once the TV switches to the desired HDMI input, this channel makes digital audio available for display on an external A/V receiver like product, but does not feature input switching capability. Of course, you can use a regular A/V receiver for input switching, but the receiver already switches HDMI inputs and already has an audio stream available for the display. So what is the advantage here? In theory, you can take away the input switching responsibilities from the A/V receiver, and system integration can be easier by needing to only control your TV. However, you still need to make adjustments to the A/V receiver’s audio volume. Therefore, your TV remote would need to have IR codes for the Audio receiver or you would need to program a universal remote for control over the TV and the Audio receiver. I am not sure that we see any savings in programming. The cost reduction for an A/V receiver without switching capabilities is very small because most of the hardware in these products is responsible for audio decoding and amplification. The overall chance for future use is minimal in my opinion.

  • 3D over HDMI - At this moment there is no 3D stereoscopic standard for TV displays yet. This feature is basically a place holder for such standards to emerge. It may or may not be compatible with what the industry will embrace as a 3D standard. Therefore, there are no displays or content yet developed. The structure of 3D will be embedded in TMDS (video/audio) portion of the HDMI stream. In principle, any HDMI cable should be able to pass this format. The discussion of implementing stereoscopic 3D for TV is ongoing and its future use in the HDMI cable is still pending the standardization process.

  • 4Kx2K/24 display format - This format has 4 times the resolution of 1080p. It may be of interest to the content production community. Presently, only DVI digital interface offers this capability. However, the copy protection aspect of HDMI is of no use to the production community. It is not clear if HDMI will comp7ete with DVI or Display Port in this market. I think it will take a significant amount of time, if ever, for 1080p resolution to be “not enough” for use in the consumer and commercial markets. An additional hurtle is that the camera, telecine, and the TV all need to be at this resolution to take advantage. It will take 4 times the encoded bandwidth data rate to transmit 4Kx2K/24 compare to 1080p/24. That means to transmit one 4Kx2K it will take the space of four current HDTV channels or 24 current SDTV channels. That is a big obstacle in bandwidth for the limited Cable, Satellite, and especially Internet delivery systems.

  • Expanded Support For Color Spaces
    HDMI technology now supports color spaces designed specifically for digital still cameras. By supporting sYCC601, Adobe RGB and AdobeYCC601, HDMI-enabled display devices will be capable of reproducing more accurate life-like colors when connected to a digital still camera.

  • Micro HDMI Connector
    The Micro HDMI Connector is a significantly smaller 19-pin connector that supports up to 1080p resolutions for portable devices. This new connector is approximately 50% smaller than the size of the existing HDMI Mini Connector.

  • Automotive Connection System
    The Automotive Connection System is a cabling specification designed to be used as the basis for in-vehicle HD content distribution. The HDMI 1.4 specification will provide a solution designed to meet the rigors and environmental issues commonly found in automobiles, such as heat, vibration and noise. Using the Automotive Connection System, automobile manufactures will now have a viable solution for distributing HD content within the car.

 

About the author:
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Clint Deboer was terminated from Audioholics for misconduct on April 4th, 2014. He no longer represents Audioholics in any fashion.

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Recent Forum Posts:

fresno1232001 posts on December 23, 2010 17:37
Preposterous discussion!

All of this is utterly preposterous to be on a msg board for CONSUMERS or even professionals like custom installers. This should all be discussed by industry insiders AND, very importantly, government regulators. It is obvious that the industry cannot or will not police itself here- and revealing that is the real value of this discussion. The federal government, or some consortium of federal governments, like the US, Japanese, and European Union governments, should have study groups of real experts, such as people from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, hash all this out. Then legislation governing what enters the market place can be written and enacted and agreed to by treaties.

Have you consumers ever been deeply involved in designing your next antibiotic? Of course you have not been, and to have you involved in this discussion makes just as much sense. It is obvious that all the chaos in the market place is the result of stupidity and greed. Greed because if the standards keep changing, billions of dollars of consumer electronics can keep being made obsolete so more can be sold. The major governments need to step up and get this done right. Did they let 30 different broadcast standards for FM or TV enter the market place? No. But of course HDMI standards are not broadcast standards, so the governments can say they are not in their jusisdiction. Let the consumers hang.

What the manufacturers never realize is that when the standards keep changing, only rich people can afford to play the game. 90% of the population just spends its money on something else other than consumer electronics. That sounds extreme? No, that's how it is. Now that HD tvs have fallen to a fifth their price in 2005, more people are buying them, but most people still won't bite. How utterly sweet it is that when the manufacturers will not get their governments to police the standards mess, they lose countless billions in profits every year as a result. Knowing that is sweet revenge for the consumers.
jared555 posts on November 04, 2009 00:53
In regards to the no titles/hardware bit of the article in relation to 4K.

Don't at least some/many movie theaters project at 2K/4K (although the interface is of course different) so are the titles actually that resolution or are they upscaling the film?

Wasn't nvidia promoting a technology using computer monitors at this resolution? (Even if they haven't reached manufacturing, it is better to have a ‘cheap’ cable available and no screens than a very expensive screen and no cables to hook it up with)

Edit:
And in response to audiophile1882 it would actually be pretty cool if they could find a way to dynamically adjust the resolution/frame rate being sent to the screen so that slower paced scenes where you want a lot of detail you can have the higher resolution and with high action scenes you could drop the resolution a bit so you don't have a blur effect.

The major issue I could see with this are 1) Transitioning between resolutions without either poor internal filters to get it to native resolution or 2) Jumping between 2k and 4k without sudden changes in the picture. The second option could be taken care of by an instant resolution change in the scene change or even between camera angles.

Edit2:
Sorry, I just realized this was a month old, I saw it on the front page and figured it was a newer post.
audiophile1882 posts on October 01, 2009 13:14
Biggiesized, post: 627975
Are you saying that this cannot be done or that it requires a bit rate of 160 Mb/s (since 2160p is four times the frame size)?

The way they are going to be able to offer 4k x 2k without increasing the bandwidth is by cutting the refresh rate way down. Max 120hz at 1080p, but with 4k x 2k resolution you are looking at a max of 24hz! O well, not that huge of a deal, but it might make watching a really fast paced, rapid camera movement action flick better in 1080p then in 4k x 2k
audiophile1882 posts on October 01, 2009 13:07
Yo!

I think you are confused, an audio channel and all of the new functions of v1.4 are largely a chipset upgrade! There is only going to be a very small change to the HDMI cable between 1.3 and 1.4. Two previously untwisted wires are now going to be twisted allowing for a transmission of an Ethernet signal (HEC) over a measurable distance. So, pretty much all of the 1.4 features, even the audio return channel, are going to be supported by v1.3 cat2 cables and there will be no firmware update for your previous version HDMI products. If you want to utilize HEC with your devices, you will need to buy a new one…

At least you can keep your same cable, that is unless you cant be bothered to run a cat5e or cat6 cable to your devices….
Biggiesized posts on September 25, 2009 01:44
dgreenstein55, post: 618603
Biggie - The point of stating that 4K resolution will take 4 times the amount of data space is that using the current standards of encoding/compression MPEG4, it would take 4 times the bandwidth to display 4 times the picture!

Do you have any 4K source material? Would you like to run a test between 2160p50 and 1080p50? We can set the test parameters as follows:

1080p50 content is allowed a peak bitrate of 40 Mb/s.
2160p50 content is allowed a peak bitrate of 80 Mb/s. (that's only DOUBLE the encoded bit rate)

Are you saying that this cannot be done or that it requires a bit rate of 160 Mb/s (since 2160p is four times the frame size)?

If you're game, download the Crowd Run source files from Xiph:

http://media.xiph.org/svt/2160p50_CgrLevels_Master_SVTdec05_/
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