Widgets Magazine

That Light In The Tunnel Might Kill You

Malissa Dillman of Kramer Electronics on the dangers of HDCP and integration of 4K displays. 
Have you ever seen that bright light at the end of the tunnel and thought “Wow we made it to daylight!” only to realize it’s not daylight but a freight train heading straight at you?  Ok, maybe this is just my personal nightmare, however you get the point.
The ongoing debate of ‘to 4K or not to 4K’ is raging throughout the industry.  It’s a fiercely contested discussion within most of my classes.  One side saying it will never come to fruition the other saying it is right around the proverbial corner with 8K and 16K looming.
While resolutions and pixel counts are something that we all certainly need to be cognizant of, the real headlight of the freight train may just be HDCP 2.2 and beyond.  Trust me it’s not daylight!
Let’s face it, the display industry has been seeking a new and sexy format for some time.  They thought it would be 3D and that by now all of us would be sitting around our living rooms wearing those super sexy glasses enveloped in the glow of 3D programming.  I’m not sitting in my living room with anything other than reading glasses these days.
Yet as a display manufacturer, they need a way to generate more revenue in a market that is content with the resolutions and displays that they have now.  Along comes 4K!  More colors, more pixels, more gradation and smoother motion.  Who doesn’t want that?  As a video snob, I’m always interested in viewing a clearer, brighter, truer color image.  So yes, I might consider the investment in a new device.
That’s the goal of the manufacturers; lure us into making a new purchase and thus generating a higher profit stream.  The catch that no one seems to be discussing is HDCP 2.2.  How an industry that is so quick to manage technological changes on almost a monthly cycle, and game changing innovations at least annually, could once again turn a blind eye to the HDCP protocols is mind boggling.
HDCP 2.2, and beyond, is once again about protecting the content.  What no one is talking about is the fact that it will undoubtedly be incorporated into the new 4K streaming signals, wireless signals, and content.
The headlight on the freight train is that HDCP 2.# will not be backwards compatible.  While HDMI 2.# is willing to play nice with it’s older siblings, HDCP 2.# has chosen not to.
So what does this mean?  If I have a beautiful new 4K display that supports HDCP 2.#, and I’m still using some perfectly fine legacy gear for processing or routing my signals, I will not be able to play content that has the HDCP 2.# encryption.
But wait, there’s more!  Not only will my older components not be HDCP compliant to the 2.# specification, it requires a hardware change in order to make them compliant.  That means no firmware upgrade will do the trick.  It’s a new chip set.
To add insult to injury, that new chip set is just now becoming available.  That means anyone who was an early adopter of 4K displays most likely do not have the HDCP 2.# compatibility given the manufacturer’s didn’t have the hardware to make their devices compatible.
What’s an early adopter to do?  Hopefully you purchased a device from a forward thinking manufacturer who has modular cards for such contingencies.  It will of course still cost time and money to remove the cards and to send them to the manufacturer for replacements, but it’s better than the alternative of replacing the entire display device.
Overall, my concern is what will we do for our future designs that will have 4K displays and will play 4K content with HDCP 2.# encryption?  Are we looking at replacing all of the components within the system to meet the new encryption issues?  Will someone devise a work around?  Do we revert to stripping?
I certainly hope not.  I spend a great deal of my energy in classes explaining how to properly manage HDCP.  By designing a system that manages it’s components you have no reason to revert to using devices as work arounds.
Granted all of this technology (4K and HDCP 2.#) are still in their infancy.  Keep in mind that they will soon become awkward teenagers wrecking our designs.  The good news is that once again you have the opportunity to don your cape and come to the rescue with yet another value added service and understanding of how to help your clients prepare for the future.
At the very least, the realities of HDCP 2.# are certainly something that you will want to keep yourself, your team, and your clients aware of and the impacts that encryption could have on their systems and budgets in the very near future.
As with most new developing technologies within the industry, this is a moving target.  It is up to you to stay informed, to educate yourself and to be able to decipher between the facts and the hype.  Be prepared for that light at the end of the tunnel!
Malissa Dillman is the Director of Education and Training for  Kramer Electronics. 
Photo used under Creative Commons Lic – credit: Nick Ares https://www.flickr.com/photos/aresauburnphotos/

About Author

No Comments

  1. (That Light In The Tunnel Might Kill You)
    It seems the world of technological advancement is in danger of becoming Over Technologized!.If you can call this a word! Or is it advancement just for the sake of the dollar bill?

  2. Pingback: DirecTV Brings You 4K…Kinda | AV Nation

Leave A Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.