I wanted to share a few thoughts with you about the ongoing transition to Ultra HD/4K.  In particular the situation with HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2 continue to mystify and will no doubt cause much installer and end user angst in the near future.  The more you know, the easier this transition will be. 

We’re genuinely excited about the emerging and exciting imaging technologies forthcoming in Home Theatre Land:  4K, 8K, HDR, Dolby Video, laser illumination, HFR, etc. etc.  We have an exciting future ahead of us, as two-piece projection systems will continue to offer tremendous value and performance for years to come.  Some of these technologies are really fantastic, and are not only confined to the projectors and processors themselves – just look at some of the new high-ambient light rejection screen surfaces from SI, Draper, Elite, Vutec, dnp, Seymore Screen Excellence and more.  We’re working in more and more non-traditional home theatre installations of late, successfully mated with these unique, highly-effective screen technologies. 

Yes, 4K is coming.  Watch closely as manufacturers dash off to make 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray players, new DLP and D-ILA 4K projector engines, new suitably-equipped AV receivers, 4K switches, 4K media streaming boxes and more.  But the problem and still the “elephant in the room” will continue to be connectivity.  I’m ever hopeful that one day we can get off the HDMI 2.X and HDCP 2.2 looming disaster bandwagon and identify a connector & cable that really works, especially over long distances.  We’re having problems now connecting higher bit rate 4K sources with 1 meter HDMI cables, much less 15 meters and beyond!!!   And I shudder to think how our mutual clients will feel when they buy that shiny new 4K Ultra HD BR player this coming year, and hook it up to one of the earlier generation 4K flat panels [… sold in the last few years, and expensive… ], and they get no picture!  That may happen frequently, and folks will howl mightily at you, at us on the manufacturing side, and at Hollywood for these unnecessary impediments to our video future. 

Probably the best thing going with today’s 4K displays and projectors [including our V4K™ three chip D-ILA light engines – models SDC-10XP ‘Special Edition’, SDC-12 ‘GrayWolf 4K’ and SDC-15/15XP ‘Special Edition’], is that they can up-convert today’s SD, HD and 4K content and make it look terrific.  This year other key imaging players will get “in the game,” with new solutions forthcoming from the DLP and D-ILA product camps.  So we’re at the very beginning of a ~20-year 4K gestation period:  there’s no rush to be the first out of the gate, and/or the first to become obsolete.

Jim McGall at Wolf Cinema was quoted to say, “I found yesterday’s article by Julie Jacobson in CE Pro to be especially interesting…  and timely”.


He’d also like to share a snippet from the latest SMPTE News-watch [3/30/15] entitled UHD Televisions Advance by Michael Goldman [with my italics added].  He highlights some of the looming challenges along the 4K/HDMI connectivity frontier:     

“About a year ago, broadcast industry analyst Pete Putman suggested to Newswatch that while the broadcast industry’s overall transition to a 4K Ultra High Definition (UHD) ecosystem would be a long and winding process, a foundational element was already well under way–the inexorable march by consumer display manufacturers toward phasing out large-screen, high-definition televisions and replacing them with Ultra HD panels (with a resolution of 3840 x 2160).

I always tell people [with Ultra HD displays], they shouldn’t obsess over resolution,” Putman says. “You should focus on the total number of pixels, the refresh rate, and therefore, the clock rate. What you have to remember is that, unless you are streaming and decoding in the TV, for any physical media coming from outside the TV, the weak link is the HDMI connection. Right now, the dominant version of HDMI, the current one-HDMI 1.3 or 1.4–has a maximum bit rate of 10.2 Gbits/sec. So, if you want to pass 4K Ultra HD content through that, you can, but you can only do it at 24 frames/sec and 30 frames/sec. You can’t do it at 60 frames/sec. That is why they launched HDMI 2.0 [in late 2013].

“That raises the clock rate high enough to be able to do Ultra HD at 60 Hz a second, albeit it is limited to 8-bit color. So you can already stream 4K content out of a set-top box through a legacy HDMI connection, get it onto a TV, and watch it. But if you want the higher frame rate stuff, the deeper color, then you will have a roadblock. If you are content to do 8-bit color at lower frame rates, then the existing infrastructure with TVs and set-top boxes will already support that. You just need to get the file into those boxes. The caveat there is that as people are getting to know Ultra HD acquisition, editing, and production better, and are also cognizant of things like high frame rates and high dynamic range and wider color gamuts, we are coming to the conclusion that we are probably going to see the sunset for 8-bit color. It won’t be adequate anymore. So we are going to go to 10-bit color as a minimum, and possibly to 12-bit color in some applications. One example is high-res gaming off a workstation going into a monitor. That is one sticky wicket that needs to be resolved. 

“HDMI 1.4 isn’t fast enough to transport Ultra HD signals at frame rates higher than 30 Hz, and HDMI 2.0 isn’t fast enough to handle a 60 Hz RGB format Ultra HD signal with anything beyond 8-bit color, as I said,” Putman notes. “But the thinking of SMPTE and other standards groups and many people that work in this area is that 8-bit color isn’t enough for Ultra HD. Since we need 10 bits to do colour, to do expanded colour gamut and higher dynamic range, and possibly might even, eventually [need] 12-bit colour, then we need a new format for the display interface that is faster than HDMI.”

He goes on to discuss the possible merits of migrating to DisplayPort or superMHL™ connectivity, the latter featuring a 32-pin symmetrical connector [similar in size to an HDMI head] that can deliver up to 36 Gbits/sec, much faster than HDMI 2.0 and even faster than DisplayPort 1.3 data rates.  Ultimately it will be the future content and need for imaging improvements that may force us to a new [and hopefully improved] method of 4K signal transmission and interconnectivity. 

So that’s your “HDMI food for thought” for today…  I hope you enjoyed the read.  Please send your comments or questions to sales@d2mk.ca and thanks for visiting our site.