Is Your HDTV Doomed To 480p Downconversion In 2009? 
Home Theater News Video Processors-Switchers News
Written by Jerry Del Colliano   
Thursday, 26 January 2006

The date for the official switch from analog TV to a completely digital system has been pushed back from 2006 to a more reasonable 2009 time frame. In the mean time consumers are snatching up HDTV sets at a never before seen pace as prices for large, flat and stunning looking TVs drop like a dotcom stock price in 2001. Everything seems perfect. HDTV is driving people into retailers to buy their first new televisions in years and hopefully for retailers they also buy all of the attachment products (speakers, receivers, cables and accessories) while they are at it.

But all is not perfect in the booming world of HDTV. Published reports say there are up to 7,000,000 early HDTV sets that completely lack digital video inputs thus can not possibly have the soon to be all-important HDCP copy protection that studios are basically demanding before they open the floodgates of HDTV content. What is a consumer to do when his DVI digital video input won’t be able to make the “HDCP handshake” with components like an HD-DVD or Blu-ray player or the new versions of HD-DVRs? The handful of obscure products that can solve the problem are disappearing thanks to pressure from both chip makers and technology licensees who don’t want to see HDCP protection circumvented. On one level as an American citizen you can side with the studios who see their copywritten material stolen and on sale on the streets of Beijing within a day or two of any major DVD title release. With HD movie content on the line – you are dealing with digital copies of the master or a very close facsimile. At the same time, consumers who were early adopters to HDTV who invested the most money and championed the cause of HDTV from the earliest days of the campaign can be left hanging with sets that amazingly without HDCP handshakes will at best be able to get 480p video. And make no mistake 480p is no HDTV.

Things Get Even Worst For HDTV Users With Component Video Cables Connecting Their HD Sets To Their Tuners
Up until just recently digital video cables have been less than reliable over runs that extend more than two or three meters. Much like a cell phone, digital connections simply cut out when they are lost. This is exactly the reason why nearly all installations of HDTV receivers and DVRs use the analog output of the HD receiver device and connect to a set or a projector via component video cables. Simply put, they have been more reliable. New cables from Ultralink, PureLink and Accell along with a handful of others can make now run over longer distances without fear of dropouts. By 2009 the mandate is that you must have your set connected via a digital video format – currently HDMI complete with HDCP protection – but what do you do if you are still hooked up with analog cables?

Hollywood and Silicon Valley are suggesting that you will have all new gear by then. Perhaps they are right if video displays have the half-life of a personal computer but most people keep their TVs longer than just a few years.

Solutions
For the 7,000,000 HD sets with non HDCP VGA connections (check your spec sheets on your sets to be sure or ask a dealer) you might have a real problem on your hands depending on your situation. There are currently powerful lobbyist groups fighting for consumers against the current copy protection (but not all copy protection) schemes which would protect the seven million users with no digital video ins. If you are truly worried about being left out, considering selling your set and making an upgrade to a newer, complaint set might be a worthwhile strategy. Another thought is to enjoy the set and get as much value out of it as you can between now and any switch over. Who knows if 2009 will remain the actual date for the switch over. If it is 2011 then you might have the better part of 10 years on your first HD set thus amortizing much of its value over a more extended time period.

For the masses of consumers with analog connections going from your HD receiver to your TV or projector – the next time you get a chance to upgrade a component like your HD receiver be sure to make sure you get a digital connection setup to your HDTV so that when the switch over actually happens you are ready. With recent improvements in digital video cables it is now much more reasonable to get a cable that can run as long as 150 feet.

Perhaps the parties involved including the studios, the chip makers and the content providers (both cable and satellite) will have everything figured out by 2009 as how you will best get your HDTV but for now it might be in many user’s best interest to protect their investment in HDTV so their 720p. 1080i and or even 1080p doesn’t get automatically downconverted to non-HDTV 480p.







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