6.0 Deep Color
1.0 What is HDMI?
High-definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) is the premier choice for connecting both audio and video sources. HDMI is beloved by Hollywood movie studios for its hefty HDCP copy protection, which affects the mandatory way HD disc players like Blu-ray (and the now defunct HD DVD format) send 1080p HD video, as well as the best in high-definition audio, via DTS Master Audio and or Dolby True HD.
Today's best receivers and AV preamps come with multiple HDMI inputs that can receive the latest format HDMI signals that include both HD audio and video.
2.0 Different HDMI Formats
HDMI, in an effort to stay current with technology and/or to confuse the heck out of consumers, electronics manufacturers and AV installers alike, has changed its format many times since it was released to consumers in 2003.
2.1 HDMI 1.0
HDMI 1.0 was the first version of the much-ballyhooed HDMI one-cable, copy-protected connection system that aimed to change the way HD content gets from AV sources to video displays and audio playback systems. HDMI 1.0's specifications boast a maximum TMDS bandwidth of 4.9 gigabits, supports up to 3.96 gigabits of video bandwidth (1080p video at 60 Hz or UXGA) and eight-channel LPCM/192 kHz-24-bit audio.
2.2 HDMI 1.1
HDMI 1.1 version of HDMI, released on May 20, 2004, contributed the ability to add support for the now-dead DVD-Audio format.
2.3 HDMI 1.2
HDMI 1.2 version of HDMI, released on August 8, 2005, added a number of elements to HDMI functionality, including:
• Support for DSD or one-bit SACD sources
• Type A connectors for computer (PC) sources
• Support for low-voltage devices
• Synchronization of home theater-oriented video with computer screens
2.4 HDMI 1.2a
HDMI 1.2a version of HDMI, released on December 14, 2005, added functionality for full Consumer Electronics Control (CEC) features and tests.
2.5 HDMI 1.3
HDMI 1.3 version of HDMI, released on June 22, 2006, added the following to HDMI functionality:
• Increased bandwidth to 340 MHz
• Support of Deep Color (optional) with 30-bit, 36-bit and 48-bit color, much increased over past standards
• Audio synch
• Optional support of Dolby True HD and DTS Master Audio decoding in external receivers and AV preamps.
• Approved use of type C mini-connector
2.6 HDMI 1.3a
HDMI 1.3a version of HDMI, released on November 10, 2006, added the following to HDMI functionality:
• Modifications to improve connectivity of the mini-connector (type c)
• Source termination guidance
• CEC capacitance limits modified
• SRGB video range clarified
• Greater selection of audio commands
• Compliance test specification
2.7 HDMI 1.3b
HDMI 1.3b version of HDMI, released on March 26, 2007, is much hyped, but adds only testing to the HDMI standard and, for the consumer, is basically the same connection as HDMI 1.3a.
3.0 HDMI Switchers
HDMI switchers were very important in the early days of HDMI functionality, as most AV preamps and receivers didn't have any HDMI inputs whatsoever. Switchers allowed systems to accept multiple HDMI inputs and switch them directly into a video display device. Early switchers were two-input and one-output units. Larger 4x2 units became popular.
Switchers are still used with legacy systems that have receivers and preamps without HDMI inputs. However, these switchers are not able to pass the audio formats on the same cable. For example, a Blu-ray player might output 1080p video via HDMI video, but will need to use the analog audio output of 5.1 or 7.1 PCM audio into an AV receiver or AV preamp. Most of the older legacy AV preamps do not have 7.1 analog inputs.
4.0 HDMI Cables
Not all HDMI cables are created equal. While a digital cable is by nature of higher quality, HDMI cables result in better connectivity, thus causing fewer "handshake" issues.
4.1 Copper HDMI Cables
Most audio/video cables are made of copper and HDMI is no different. HDMI is very stable at a length of up to three meters. Over longer lengths, copper HDMI cables don't work as well without amplification "blocks," except for the very finest quality copper cables.
4.2 Fiber Optic HDMI Cables
For very long runs of 1080p (or higher resolution) video information, it is important to look at fiber optic cable as a more expensive yet stable alternative. Fiber optic cable can handle much higher bandwidth data transfer than copper.
5.0 HDMI Handshake Issues
Nothing pisses off consumers and home theater installers more than the dreaded handshake issues found with HDMI. The overall design of HDMI has been a nightmare that should have resulted in some sort of public uprising due to the frequent software/firmware changes, the lack of communication between the developers and the AV companies and other negative issues.
In theory, HDMI should provide flawless, one-cable connection for all AV equipment that sends HD audio and video on affordable and high-performance cables. It should be so easy and reliable that every consumer and retailer/installer gladly accepts the fact that content sent via HDMI is more often than not copy-protected. In reality, AV equipment varies in its version of HDMI compatibility, so that an HDMI 1.1 first-generation Blu-ray player could be connected to an HDMI version 1.2 AV receiver and then plugged into a brand spanking new HDMI 1.3b video display device. The system might work on first try, but because of these copy-protection issues, you might find later that there are intermittent problems (or none at all). These are due to handshake issues.
Note: non-HDCP copy-protected components, like DVD-Video players with HDMI or Satellite receivers, rarely suffer from HDMI handshake issues. Newer copy-protected components are also better than the highly flawed first-generation players.
5.1 Solutions to HDMI Handshake Issues
1. Reboot the gear. Amazingly, this works. I hate to sound like the Indian guy at the call center for your cable company, but your home theater system is acting more and more like a computer, yet it doesn't get restarted as often. Sometimes a simple power cycle will solve your problems.
2. Update the firmware. Download new firmware for your gear, as HDMI compatibility issues keep AV manufacturers up late at night, cooking up solutions. One spin of a DVD you burned from your computer can make things work perfectly all of a sudden.
3. Not all cables are created equally. For long runs (longer than a meter or two), use only high-quality HDMI cables. Some connect better than others.
4. Keep your system simple. Adding switchers and extra junk into your HDMI-based system makes things more likely to fail. Run your audio and video via HDMI from your Blu-ray and other sources into HDMI inputs on your receiver and then from your receiver to your video display.
5. If you have a LONG run of HDMI cable between your receiver and your video display, use a fiber optic cable. It's the best solution for performance and bandwidth and often for some connectivity issues.
6.0 Deep Color For HDMI
Deep Color is a future technology built into the HDMI specification that, at HDMI 1.3b, can allow 32-bit and possibly as high as 48-bit video via HDMI cable. Note: no current HDTV sources yet support Deep Color.