Technology: Overcoming the Hurdles of New AV Standards

By Simon Buddle, Future Ready Homes. It’s an interesting and tricky time right now with the emergence of so many new standards; UHD is finally coming of age, 3D sound is gradually making its way in to the market place and, running alongside both of them, we have new HDMI and HDCP specifications. Many of us will remember, not so long ago, when we had to install video scalers in order to convert the analogue RGBHV, RGBS, RGB, component or even S Video signal in to digital for transmission out of the DVI or HDMI connector to our HD Ready 720p screen. These devices created as many technical issues as they resolved. What aspect ratio was the source transmitting versus the output aspect ratio of the scaler; did the scaler have the sources resolution in the long list of options. If it did stretch the picture what would that look like on the edges of our screen. They were, for the residential market at least, a bridging product between the old analogue world and the new digital video age. For the most part they made a pretty decent job of enabling us and our clients to watch all of the different sources that were available at the time, albeit with some slightly odd picture artefacts. We waited for the digital world to evolve and we stitched systems together as best we could. [caption id="attachment_8676" align="aligncenter" width="941"] The Tokyo Olympics in 2020 are set to be broadcast in 8K.[/caption] Video technology continues to move at a pace unrivalled by any other product set. News has already emerged that the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games will be broadcast in 8K resolution. I’ll wager that won’t be the last we hear of resolution increases. UHD Blu-ray players and discs are gradually making their way in to the market place; we have offerings from Sony, Panasonic and, at the high-end, Oppo have plans to make a UHD player but it may be late 2016/2017 before it appears. The choice in source components is small. This may be a reflection of the belief that film will become an over the top’ service and that the appetite for physical media is no longer growing. [caption id="attachment_8677" align="alignleft" width="941"] Denon AVR with 3D sound.[/caption] Surround-sound receivers are physically big—they need to be given the amount of badges they have to display now; DTS, Dolby, HDMI, Atmos, 3D, THX the list goes on. No wonder they are the size of a small main frame PC. And, have you seen the connectors on the back? The Arcam AV950 had a most impressive collection of badges and sounds really great too. It doesn’t currently have the 3D audio though and if it’s going to continue using balanced XLR connectors as outputs it’ll need to find room for another 14 . . . it’s going to be a tight squeeze. The TV market has been the most progressive in getting UHD out to the consumer with great looking sets from Samsung, LG, Panasonic, and Loewe now vying for top spot. The next hurdle to overcome is the introduction of the latest HDMI standard. We are not allowed to say a product is HDMI 2 compliant as this infers that it meets all of the specifications set out in the standard, and the truth is most manufacturers pick and choose the bits that are relevant to them. Added to this we have the thorny issue of HDCP. The new standards (HDCP v1,v2) were hacked before they were even released, which has led us to a position that HDCP2.2 is not backwards compatible. All devices in the system must be v2.2 compliant or you will get no signal at all, not just a lower grade signal but none, nish, nada; you’ll just get a black screen. Oh yes, and one more detail of note is that the handshake between devices must take place within 20ms or again the connection is killed. This is in an effort to ensure that the kit is all local’. How will that affect AV matrices? [caption id="attachment_8678" align="aligncenter" width="938"] HDAnywhere HDCP 2.2 compliant product logo.[/caption] So once again we are left somewhat in limbo whilst we wait for all of the manufacturers to catch up with all the new specifications. UHD is the least of our worries. To ensure a customer can watch new content in UHD possibly with 3D audio will require that the entire system has been carefully put together by someone who understands exactly how to pick their way through the myriad of options and specifications. Ensuring all of your ducks are, technically, in a row will enable you to make some money with the latest systems but be sure you’ve proved it before you sell it or you may have a few unhappy clients knocking at your day after the weekend. Simon Buddle is a consultant for Future Ready Homes, a specialist in BMS and ELV services system design. Simon is also a regular contributor to HiddenWires magazine, and the first winner of the CEDIA Region 1 Special Recognition Award.  

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