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2010: The Year AACS and HDMI Kill Off Component Video

by February 17, 2010
Bye bye component video

Bye bye component video

Digital HD (high definition), like that enabled through HDMI and Blu-ray, is awesome. It offers amazing picture and audio quality. It allows you to conveniently connect one single cable to provide both picture and sound. It is royally going to screw up a lot of homes next year. Wait, what was that last part?

After December 31, 2010, manufacturers will not be "allowed" introduce new hardware with component video outputs supplying more than an SD resolution (480i or 576i). If the manufacturer has existing models in its line-up, it will be able to continue selling that model until the end of 2013.

The AACS licensing authority, in its "Final Adopter Agreement," plans to enforce a provision that forces consumer electronics companies that make Blu-ray players (and any other AACS devices) to eliminate analog video. This has been referred to as the “Analog Sunset,” where the analog ports on Blu-ray players will be phased out entirely. Should this go through as planned, it's going to disable or throw a wrench in a lot of existing custom installations as soon as the end of this year. To say that this is going to wreak havoc on the installation market is an understatement.

Lest you think that this won't affect existing players, note that after January 1, 2011, the manufacturers of Blu-ray discs will be able (at their option) to insert an Image Constraint Token into any Blu-ray disc. This is a sort of "digital flag" that will turn off the high-definition component video output in the player (effectively turning it into a low-resoluton 480i/576i output). The goal is to make sure that all high-definition video will only be made possible through "secure" digital connections like HDMI. 

AACS is really hosing the legitimate consumer with this change. They will turn upside down those users who have earlier pre-HDMI custom installations, forcing them into alternative (and expensive) connectivity options or causing them other costs that they would otherwise have not needed to incur - just to get them back to where they were in 2010. Add to this the complete conundrum companies like Kaleidescape will face as they continue their MPAA-thwarted attempts to expand their business model. We've even read stories about Hollywood-based mastering engineers having to use Slysoft AnyDVD HD software in order to circumvent AACS and BD+ restrictions just to get their work done.

In short, the studios in Hollywood don't care about you, logic, or making money. Well, actually they care a LOT about making money, however they are too thick to read the signs presented by the music industry and therefore are missing some of the greatest opportunities to encourage actual sales of DVDs and Blu-ray discs. People want to be able to copy and stream their home movies legally. The trouble is, when a company like RealDVD comes along to present a solution, the studios pull out the lawyers and kill it. 

Well, congratulations for at least keeping a perfect record... of short-sighted, poorly thought out business decisions.

Decoding the Actual AACS Provisions

The actual AACS provisions are fairly clear and understandable, leaving little wriggle room for those manufacturers facing these upcoming dates. The first (below) sets the end of 2010 as the final time period for producing (manufacturing) a player that has analogue outputs above interlaced standard definition. This isn't even 480p, they actually specified interlaced SD output.

2.2.2.1 Analog Sunset – 2010. With the exception of Existing Models, any Licensed Player manufactured after December 31, 2010 shall limit analog video outputs for Decrypted AACS Content to SD Interlace Modes [composite video, s-video, 480i component video and 576i video] only.

The next provision is incrementally worse, since it completely does away with analogue outputs entirely.

2.2.2.2 Analog Sunset – 2013. No Licensed Player that passes Decrypted AACS Content to analog video outputs may be manufactured or sold by Adopter after December 31, 2013.

We spoke with several manufacturers, who had differing opinions on what they would do when this sunset hit. One popular Blu-ray player manufacturer had this to say: 

"We have not planned anything for the AACS sunset rules yet.  Our current product development projects still have all analog video outputs - component, composite and S-Video.  In case any new products do not make [it] into production in 2010, we will revise based on the then-current AACS rules.  There are some rumors floating around that the deadline will be extended, but we are not betting on it. If the deadline stays, we probably will omit analog video altogether instead of limiting to SD interlaced.  If all analog video outputs are omitted, at least we save the trouble and cost for analog copy protection."

What to Do If This Happens to You

For those who aren't using component video at all, this won't be a big deal. But if I were you I wouldn't sit on my laurels and laugh at those who are going to suffer this mandatory "upgrade". After all, they are ultimately keeping you, through similar restrictions, from legally copying content onto your portable devices except for the sanctioned procedures and files provided by some studios. Want to know why you can't (legally) rip and stream your Blu-ray discs over Sling? AACS and DRM are why.

In particular this is going to cause some serious growing pains for installers whose clients' systems are going to stop looking good overnight. And they'll hear about it - in spades. Many installers have, in the past, avoided HDMI because of technical issues associated with the format. It's unruly, more expensive to use, and downright clunky in terms of the speed of switching inputs and its reliability. If the installer did not take into account the possibility of a change in format, they may be facing a very unpleasant backlash from clients. Even those who did provide for HDMI will have to deal with clients who have been using the redundant component video connections simply because they were there.

If you are a consumer, or a custom installer who is dealing with a component-only wiring schema, you have several solutions at your disposal:

  • Deploy a set of baluns, which use one or two Category 5e or 6 cables to carry HDMI over longer distances. These devices are typically capped by stand-alone boxes or wall plates  which require power and convert to and from HDMI.
  • As much as we hate to admit it, wireless HDMI may be a solution, if you can afford it, have no traffic going between the transmitter and receiver and the distance supports the limitations of the system. You're taking your life into your hands with these systems, but under controlled circumstances they can do just fine.
  • Gefen, among other companies, also offers a system that uses coaxial cables and a hardware device on each end (baluns) to convert cable to and from coax. This can be done over a single coax (up to 1080i resolution) or over 5 coax cables for full resolution HDMI.

Keep your eyes peeled as manufacturers are trying very hard to combat the limitations of HDMI with solutions over power lines, coaxial cable, and even standard wireless networks. These may also provide solutions that will help alleviate a short-sighted or pre-HDMI installation.

Why This Sucks

We make no bones about calling out Hollywood studios on their ignorance, anti-market practices and general thick-headedness. These AACS rules are especially frustrating because they, like those FBI and anti-piracy warnings on discs, only affect users intending to legally copy software to a local hard drive. The AACS rules will have absolutely zero effect on actual piracy since the Blu-ray Disc's AACS/BD+ system has already been broken and spread far and wide across the Internet. 

Anyone can copy a BD disc and play it back over analogue outputs.

You just can't do it legally. And there's the rub.

About the author:

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:

BMXTRIX posts on July 24, 2012 11:53
JKah, post: 896903
We need to send some Hollywood Executives who came up with this idea to jail for 5 years and fine them $250,000,000, then they will learn to stop this ridiculous insulting of their customers. Other laws need to be passed to prevent Hollywood from forcing people to sit through the 5-year jail notice, the FBI notice, or the Interpol notice. Hollywood should be fined for any infringement, and should be required to replace all existing discs with free new ones that do not have these impediments to enjoying entertainment, which hasn't existed since the days of VHS and LaserDisc.

Quite the necrobump!

If you want to use component, then get a Oppo BDP-93 or an older BD player. My PS3 still uses component video outputs, and you can buy media players and use cable boxes which support it as well.

For the ‘typical’ user, HDMI is a no-brainer that works extremely well. I'm not in agreement with the decisions by corporations to drop analog support, but there is enough product out there which continues to support analog that I am not feeling overly encumbered by such restrictions even two years later.

I figure in another couple of years HDMI matrix switchers will be in line with price where I need them to be and I will be ready to go that route for my home A/V distribution.
JKah posts on July 24, 2012 10:25
Give them their own medicine

We need to send some Hollywood Executives who came up with this idea to jail for 5 years and fine them $250,000,000, then they will learn to stop this ridiculous insulting of their customers. Other laws need to be passed to prevent Hollywood from forcing people to sit through the 5-year jail notice, the FBI notice, or the Interpol notice. Hollywood should be fined for any infringement, and should be required to replace all existing discs with free new ones that do not have these impediments to enjoying entertainment, which hasn't existed since the days of VHS and LaserDisc.
panzeroceania posts on February 28, 2010 03:21
it's not just about copying media either. I'm a bit of a purist and like my content raw from the source without any post processing or extra things going on that are going to alter the content or slow it down.

I'm not sad to lose component but I realy dislike the idea of all HDMI.

if I can at all help it, I watch my content over RGBHV, or DVI. They provide good quality, they are pure, unadulterated, fast enough.

HDTVs already have enough post processing going on in the background, please don't force me to use HDMI only!
ronnie 1.8 posts on February 23, 2010 14:09
Clint DeBoer, post: 689882
The goal is to make sure that all high-definition video will only be made possible through “secure” digital connections like HDMI.

It was mentioned earlier that, at this time, only Blu-ray and HD-DVD players will be effected. The above paragraph from the original article states that the goal is for “all high-definition video…”. The original article also states the effected devices are “Blu-ray players (and any other AACS devices)”.

What exactly are the effected devices? One of the most common components folks have in their systems are set-top boxes, i.e., cable DVRs, satellite DVRs, etc. I don't know if these are AACS devices, but they certainly output HD video over component, so I presume these are effected, too?
DavidW posts on February 23, 2010 12:11
Clint DeBoer, post: 689882
Foot… mouth… repeat.

Clint,

Hollywood will fight the future to the bitter end, just as the recording industry has.

It bears mentioning that this move is effectively plan B by Hollywood after last years attempt to once again get the FCC to allow SOC.

Because the FCC has denied them this feature as they like to call it over the years, they are attempting to just end round the issue by not letting anyone build new gear with analog HD out.

Perhaps it would be worthwhile for readers to send complaints to the FCC pointing out that through AACS, the movie industry is attempting to bypass the stance that the agency took in saying no to SOC and should perhaps investigate if this new move violates the current regulations for consumer protection in the matter of disabling consumer gear. The end result is the same, if not as direct as turning off existing analog gear, as parts of an analog based system fail and have to be replaced, thus crippling the rest of the system without a full upgrade to all of the other gear as well.

The MPAA will say and do anything to take control of your TV and force you to have to buy the same content again and again on different types of shinny discs.

David
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