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HDCP “Handshake” A Big Problem For Many Legacy DVI-Based HDTVs  Print E-mail
Home Theater News Industry-Trade News
Written by Scott Selter   
Thursday, 10 November 2005

High-Bandwidth Digital Copy Protection (HDCP) is the protection that Hollywood movie studios are demanding that all new HDTV sources and displays have in order to broadcast the highest resolution HD images. With the chance at buying discs like HD-DVD and Blu-ray that can provide the highest resolution 1080p that makes even the best HDTV over-the-air broadcasts look a little dull, consumers are chomping at the bit to reinvest in new players, new movie discs and even new HDTVs. But all isn’t right in the world of HDTV.

One big problem for HDTV’s early adopters is the fact that DVI-based HDTVs or sets that only accept analog video inputs (including many early plasmas, LCDs, projectors and rear projection sets) simply do not have an HDMI input needed in many cases to make the HDCP “handshake” needed to pass high resolution HDTV content from a source to a monitor. There are adaptors made from companies like Dtrovision and Ultralink that can convert an HDMI signal to DVI. But what is missing is the HDCP handshake from HDMI displays. This means that HDTV sources that output HDCP content could and very likely will be forced to down-convert to the lower resolution 480p video that is found on upscaled DVDs. That level of video is nothing short of disappointing as compared to today’s HDTV at 720p and or 1080i. It pales in comparison to the 1080p that will be coming from your HD-DVD, Blu-ray, Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and ultimately from your digital cable and or satellite provider.

How big of a problem is the lack of an HDCP link for the legacy HDTVs in the market? According to Dtrovision’s founder, Minsoo Park, there could be as many as 6,000,000 sets that can’t pass the best HDTV content. And if Hollywood gets its way, there might not be any way to get HD output from your HD sources sticking early adopters with 480p HD from their Blu-ray or HD-DVD discs that could display amazing 1080p only if their sets had an HDMI input.

The question begs to be asked – should the HDCP movement be blocked to protect the interests of these early adopters? Consumers with a $25,000, two year old top-of-the-line plasma might say ‘yes.’ Worldwide there are over 400,000,000 installed TVs thus the number of sets currently in the marketplace that can’t meet today’s standards are relatively small when you consider the impact of scaring away Hollywood from releasing their movies in 1080p on Blu-ray or HD-DVD. Older DVI-based sets can take HDTV signals through analog inputs and can run high resolution computer images through their DVI inputs. Considering the price drops on flat HDTVs so far and how much lower they will be as HD discs hit the market at some point likely next year, it may be better not to fight.

The consumer with the 63 inch plasma that cost 25,000 and is now worth $6,000 (or less) understandably might not be happy but the hard reality of today’s home theater market is that the sources and displays are much more like computers than the audio gear of yesteryear. There are no guarantees as to the life span or the relevance of the technology one buys unless explicitly stated (which nobody does).

What top video companies should offer is aggressive trade-in programs designed to help the all-important early adopter minimize his or her loss when upgrading to their next set. If savvy video companies can inspire the guy with his old CRT projector to get a better-than-market value trade versus a new HDMI based product, perhaps many people would feel better about giving into copy protection.

Hollywood feels the need to protect their movies more so than ever when given the possibility of 1080p copies being rented at the local Blockbuster. The reality is that it isn’t Joe Schmoe with a Samsung rear projection DLP set at home who has the latest home video blockbuster available on the streets of Beijing the day after its release. More importantly, the people who do feel the need steal Hollywood’s movies will surely find a way around HDCP protection. The real issue comes from looking into HDCP’s protection power in terms of the Fair Use statutes. Coming to a court near you will be a battle to see if Hollywood is even entitled to implement such a protection scheme.

Sources: Widescreen Review, New York Times, DVDsite.org

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