We spend a considerable amount of time in Installment 026 discussing the growth of HDMI and digital interconnects as the only high definition connectivity option available in about a year, especially for Blu-ray players.  Of course, current equipment still should play as it does now (unless it potentially gets a firmware update that changes that), but we, as integrators, need to design and implement for the future.


Direct Download  Subscribe via RSS  Subscribe via iTunes  Subscribe with Zune


The HDMI Licensing, LLC recently released the 3-D related parts of the HDMI 1.4a specifications to the public (http://www.hdmi.org/press/press_release.aspx?prid=119).  There are two key areas covered in this release.  One aspect defines the mandatory 3-D formats that a 1.4a sink device MUST support to be compliant:

  • For movie content:
    • Frame Packing
      • 1080p @ 23.98/24Hz
  • For game content:
    • Frame Packing
      • 720p @ 50 or 59.94/60Hz
  • For broadcast content:
    • Side-by-Side Horizontal
      • 1080i @ 50 or 59.94/60Hz
    • Top-and-Bottom
      • 720p @ 50 or 59.94/60Hz
      • 1080p @ 23.97/24Hz

I ran across this chart that I think graphically depicts these fairly well


Note that this focuses on guaranteeing interoperability from the sink (display) side of the chain.  For the source, it must support AT LEAST ONE of these formats.  This ensures the source device will be able to send a 3-D stream to the display and the display will be able to render it.

The last component of the equation defined in the specification relates to HDMI repeaters (receivers and HDMI Matrix Switchers).  They must pass the 3-D stream from the source to the sink and leave the 3-D parameters of the image intact.  Essentially, this means that HDMI 1.4a compliant components will be able to play 3-D content from broadcast, gaming, and physical media sources.  Potentially, HDMI 1.3 devices could be upgraded to provide or render the content too, but there is no guarantee.  Even if these upgrades do allow for 3-D, they may not support all formats.  Most of those announced so far are for source devices.  Very few companies have talked about upgrading their displays at all.  Some of the better HDMI Matrix Switchers may be transparent to the 3-D streams, but it is too early to tell.  Take the time to understand technically what the devices are capable of supporting before setting expectations for your clients.


What these formats really define at the “video level” are timing diagrams for how the video stream is to be generated and interpreted.  We often talk about bits being sent across the wire, but, from a video perspective, it really is about the timing of those bits in relation to how the video signal is displayed (think of the way that analog CRTs displayed video).

For a Side by Side (half resolution per eye image) 3D_Structure, the timing is defined as


Notice the familiar analog horizontal and vertical blanking intervals that a “normal” 2-D video stream would have.  This matches up to the way that DIRECTV has announced they are providing 3-D for their channels.

One of the other mandatory broadcast formats is Top/Bottom, whose video stream timing is defined as


Formats also are defined for formats like Frame Packing (progressive scan in this case), which changes the video timing considerably


In this figure, there is an area inserted between the two active video regions designated as “Active Space”.  This Active Space area is encoded the same as in the adjoining Active Video Regions.  However, during the Active Space, an HDMI source transmits a constant pixel value.  HDMI sinks ignore all of the data received during the Active Space.  There also is a non-interlaced definition for Frame Packing, but you get the idea by now.


There is another aspect of the HDMI 1.4a specification that is not talked about much.  It relates to the InfoFrames within the video stream itself that identifies the actual type of 3-D format being used for a specific piece of content.  To me, this is the real heart of 3-D interoperability and is key to understanding how the “3-D handshaking process” works.

Imagine that you are watching a show on a channel that uses Side by Side 3-D formatting and you then change to a channel that is encoded using the Top/Bottom format.  How does the sink (display) know how to render the video stream?  That is what InfoFrames provide.  It is a way to identify, within the video stream itself, how the 3-D content is to be rendered.  It is transmitted twice per video frame and potentially is dynamic (it may change when there is a commercial inserted into the stream).

InfoFrame 3D_Structure Values

  Value  Meaning

   0000  Frame packing
   0001  Field alternative
   0010  Line alternative
   0011  Side-by-Side (Full)
   0100  L + depth
   0101  L + depth + graphics + graphics-depth
   0110 ~ 0111  Reserved for future use.
   1000  Side-by-Side (Half)
   1001 ~ 1111  Reserved for future use.

These values are closely related to the CEA-861-B formats for the Vendor Specific Data Block (VSDB) defined in HDMI, but they actually are a proprietary format that the CEA allows HDMI to use within their specifications.  The inter-relationships of these standards is a little convoluted behind the scenes, but the bottom line is that the HDMI 1.4a specifications allow for true 3-D interoperability and functionality at the video stream level.

The ability to support 3-D formats is included in the EDID sent from the sink during the handshaking initialization process, but we will cover that aspect in Installment 028.  Stay tuned.

All of this is designed to be transparent to the users and should be transparent to the installers as well, but like everything else on this Podcast, we like to shed some light on how things work on the wire so that you can deliver better and more reliable solutions to your clients.



We do finally get back onto our topic of the Consumer Electronics Control (CEC) features of HDMI and wrap up the series on that.  We discuss the actual “byte code” command set of CEC and how that pertains to the usage scenarios covered previously.

These commands are sent to the specific devices using the CEC addressing scheme we outlined in our previous two Installments.

CEC COMMAND SET (Individual Commands)

Operation ID – User Operation Operation ID – User Operation Operation ID  – User Operation
0x00 Select 0x32 Previous Channel 0x50 Angle
0x01 Up 0x33 Sound Select 0x51 Sub picture
0x02 Down 0x34 Input Select 0x52 – 0x5F Reserved
0x03 Left 0x35 Display Information 0x60 Play Function
0x04 Right 0x36 Help 0x61 Pause-Play Function
0x05 Right-Up 0x37 Page Up 0x62 Record Function
0x06 Right-Down 0x38 Page Down 0x63 Pause-Record Function
0x07 Left-Up 0x39 – 0x3F Reserved 0x64 Stop Function
0x08 Left-Down 0x40 Power 0x65 Mute Function
0x09 Root Menu 0x41 Volume Up 0x66 Restore Volume Function
0x0A Setup Menu 0x42 Volume Down 0x67 Tune Function
0x0B Contents Menu 0x43 Mute 0x68 Select Disk Function
0x0C Favorite Menu 0x44 Play 0x69 Select A/V Input Function
0x0D Exit 0x45 Stop 0x6A Select Audio Input Function
0x0E – 0x1F Reserved 0x46 Pause 0x6B – 0x70 Reserved
0x20 – 0x29 Numbers 0-9 0x47 Record 0x71 F1 (Blue)
0x2A Dot 0x48 Rewind 0x72 F2 (Red)
0x2B Enter 0x49 Fast forward 0x73 F3 (Green)
0x2C Clear 0x4A Eject 0x74 F4 (Yellow)
0x2D – 0x2F Reserved 0x4B Forward 0x75 F5
0x30 Channel Up 0x4C Backward 0x76 – 0x7F Reserved
0x31 Channel Down 0x4D – 0x4F Reserved  

As you can see, there is quite a bit of flexibility afforded by the CEC infrastructure for the command and control of a wide variety of devices using a standardized language.  It appears to be so much simpler than what we have to deal with when using IR codes and RS-232 commands.  I really wish vendors would start leveraging CEC’s capabilities more because it is an awesome platform that already exists within the majority of HDMI products currently on the market.

I often wonder why, if these commands are standardized across products, vendors chose to only support CEC functionality on their own products.  Listen to the Podcast for some insights there.  Fortunately, that trend is changing and we should start being able to reap the benefits in the next wave of HDMI (and 3-D) based devices.

Hopefully, the pieces of the CEC puzzle now start to make sense.


Leave a Reply