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Why You Will Need DVI and HDMI

Digital connectors for all home video gear mandated by FCC By Alex Gibson

Technology expands at a tremendous rate and has been doing so for the last 50 years. On the cutting-edge of digital connectivity are DVI and its sleeker, more advanced companion, HDMI. Currently, there are just a few applications using DVI and even fewer using HDMI. However, within the next two years, many applications used today will not only use DVI and HDMI but will be required to.

HDTV seems to be the latest craze in the home theater market right now. People are buying bigger and better displays to view their favorite programs in high definition, along with HDTV set-top boxes and satellite receivers to receive the programming itself. Much of this technology does not come cheap and it is not uncommon for someone to spend thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars, to equip their homes with this technology.

For the last few years, the major output connection used by HDTV display manufacturers has been component video (YUV or YCbCr). Component video delivers high quality, and many DVD players use it for their "progressive scan" method of producing the highest quality picture available. Generally, component video supports all analog resolutions along with all three HD (480p, 720p, 1080i) output resolutions. With this in mind, HD display manufacturers currently build their displays with component video inputs for the best possible picture quality. 

As with almost everything in life, television is regulated by the government. The FCC regulates all broadcasts, including HDTV. In October 2003, the FCC released an update to its HDTV standards paper released in 1997. The paper further defined details on the Commission's ideas for the future of HDTV in the United States. Through its writings, the FCC makes a few key points about the future of HDTV and brings up many important issues. Among these is the fact that the FCC is planning to mandate that all set-top boxes for DTV be equipped with either DVI or HDMI by July 1, 2005, and that all HDTVs be equipped with the same technology by the middle of 2006. The idea is for the FCC to mandate an entirely digital system. So, as directed by the US government, we are in the process of a phase-out of the older analog OTA (over the air) antenna system currently in use by households and cable companies in the United States. Herein lies the problem.

As we have discussed, many people have already invested a lot of time and money in upgrading their entertainment systems to high definition. Along with phasing out the OTA system, the FCC has been pressured by the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) and other media organizations to downgrade the content input via component video in order to better protect the content (i.e. illegal copying). Using an analog-based component video setup, it is possible to copy and reproduce the broadcast signals leading to infringements on copyrights and the security of the content. These media organizations greatly support the FCC's mandating of DVI and HDMI since this content can be easily protected using a standard created by Intel called High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection, better known as HDCP.

This content protection is absolutely pointless if legacy systems using component video outputs can still be used. With component video, as stated above, it is possible to easily copy and reproduce the content. In order to discourage people from using the component video for the broadcast cable and satellite content, the FCC plans to downgrade (commonly called "down-converting") the resolution from the highest possible (1080i) to the lowest possible (480p). For some, this act would completely defeat the purpose of having the high definition display and set-top box in the first place. In so doing, the component connections used by many high definition displays will be obsolete for viewing the HDTV programming broadcast by the cable and satellite companies, rendering the legacy HDTV systems that these individuals spent so much time, money and effort putting together useless. For many, this is protection for the future as the new digital-based systems provide for not only a better quality viewing experience (as DVI and HDMI provide digital-to-digital viewing systems) but also protection from illegal copying and distribution of content. 

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Related Keywords:audio/visual industry, digital connectivity, DVI, HDMI, applications, home theater, digital, HD, satellite receivers, YUV, YCbCr, 720p, 1080i, 480p, HDTV, FCC, MPAA, OTA antenna


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