The Custom Integrator Show Installment 021

The Custom Integrator Show Installment 021 is live.  Ian and I continue our look at HDMI with this installment providing an overview of the new features in HDMI Version 1.4.  As usual, we try not to just list out the new features that you can read about on the web at http://www.hdmi.org/manufacturer/hdmi_1_4/index.aspx, but look more at the impact it has on the design and implementation of the systems you build for your clients (or potentially for yourself).  We also tend to make the assumption that you already are familiar with what has been in the press for a while now and are familiar with what it has to offer.  HDMI 1.4 builds on what the previous versions of HDMI have to offer and remains backwards compatible with them.  However, the newer features obviously are not available when using equipment based solely on HDMI Version 1.3.

[mp3]http://media.libsyn.com/media/iandixon/TDL_Custom_20091122_21.mp3[/mp3]

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A quick summary of the new features includes:

  • Real-Time Content Signaling
    • Game, graphics, photo, cinema
  • Support for 3-D Formats up to 1080p
  • Support for 2K x 4K
  • HDMI Ethernet Channel
  • Audio Return Channel
  • Support for Additional Color Spaces
  • New Micro HDMI Connector
  • High Definition Everywhere: Automotive Connection System

Although there is some great value with all of these features, I think the two that potentially could have the most impact on your current design strategies focus on support for 2K and 4K in additional to the performance requirements for the 3-D formats.  These features have a big influence on your in-wall HDMI cable selections and especially on the decision criteria you use for HDMI Extenders (which is covered in the next two Installments). 

Basically, these are the new options for HDMI 1.4 cable classification types

  • Standard HDMI Cable – Supports data rates up to 1080i/60
  • High Speed HDMI Cable – Supports data rates beyond 1080p including full Deep Color and all 3D formats of the new 1.4 specification
  • Standard HDMI Cable with Ethernet – Adds the additional 100 Mb/s Ethernet line to a Standard Speed cable
  • High Speed HDMI Cable with Ethernet – Adds the additional 100 Mb/s Ethernet line to a High Speed cable
  • Automotive HDMI Cable – Allows the connection of HDMI-enabled devices to an in-vehicle HDMI cabling infrastructure (includes latching cables for the wire runs embedded within the vehicle)

That is correct; you now need to consider portable devices that plug into a car’s entertainment infrastructure as part of your lifestyle assessments and long-term integration strategies.

The Ethernet channel within the cables also has some interesting implications once it starts showing up in the components used for the entertainment cluster that may be out at the viewing location (instead of just back in the rack).  If you can get Ethernet to the location, you then have the ability to connect all of the devices to the Internet or DLNA-based devices in the home without having to run additional Ethernet cables or installing an Ethernet switch out at that location.  It only is 100 Megabits per second (High Speed Ethernet), but that should be sufficient for most streaming applications embedded within the individual components themselves (or for firmware updates as they come out).  Once again, supporting the Ethernet channel through the HDMI extenders has some definite implications on your cabling product selections.

Although most of the press and presentation materials regarding the Audio Return Channel refer to being able to get audio from an OTA ATSC tuner configuration back into the receiver, I see an even more important application.  Many of the TVs and displays now have widgets and streaming features like Netflix built into them.  These applications will not have audio if your design assumes all audio is passed to the display from the receiver or network sources.  The Audio Return Channel allows you to distribute the audio from any source component to the rest of the system easily by just connecting a single HDMI cable to a 1.4 compliant architecture.

Anyhow, back to 3-D.  I am sure you figured out by now that I am a big proponent of planning for 3-D in all of your installations.  With it comes an array of new requirements for bandwidth to support the high frame rates and resolutions to do it well.  Unfortunately, it also implies the need for new equipment that has the HDMI 1.4 chip sets built into it.  I think we will see a lot of prototypes at CES, so it is not too far away.  What is important is that you assume the equipment is going to be upgraded in the not too distant future and that your HDMI cabling infrastructure is going to have to support the new feature sets of HDMI 1.4 without requiring a “rip and replace” of what you have embedded in the walls and racks.  We discuss this in more detail in the Podcast itself, but I want to emphasize it here once again because it think it is a key consideration moving forward.

What excites me the most about HDMI 1.4 is not the new standards or feature sets themselves.  It is what HDMI 1.4 enables for the ultimate viewing experience.  It is not just an interconnect platform.  The real value is in what it is going to enable and allow us to experience over the next year or two.  Plan for it.  Get it right.  That way you are ready for the future of A/V.

Now if I could just find an HDMI 1.4 video with audio card for a Windows Media Center PC….

  =D-