Leaf talks UHD and next generation HDCP 2.2

posted on Saturday, 6th September 2014 by David Slater

4K  Leaf 

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4K Ultra HD is the biggest talking point in the custom install industry, not least because it throws the spotlight back on premium performance. But it's not without complications and unique challenges, particularly the thorny subject of HDCP 2.2 copy protection. Dean Vaughan, CEO at AV switching and distribution specialist Leaf Audio, offers his thoughts on the issue. (The following was authored by Vaughan and edited into a Q&A format by Inside CI).

Just how significant is the advent of 4K and the resolution revolution?

Dean Vaughan: "4K gives us something new and positive to talk about with our customers. It's an opportunity for us to elevate their home cinema experience and to excite them again about what we, as an industry, can provide. There's a consumer appetite out there for the upgrade to 4K. A recent survey of 4,000 European consumers from research firm, Strategy Analytics' ConsumerMetrix revealed that 55 per cent of people were likely to invest in Ultra HD within the next two years."

Clearly anything which provides a more immersive viewing experience is a good thing…

Vaughan:"Ultra HD is a technology that can create good sales for custom installation businesses. But as with any new technology, it's perhaps not going to be quite as straightforward as we'd all, ideally, like it to be. One major challenge is HDCP 2.2, the latest evolution of the HDCP copy protection designed to create a secure connection between a source and a display."

Recently the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) revised Ultra High-Definition Display Characteristics V2 guidelines, and mandated that at least one UHD HDMI inputs on a display should support HDCP 2.2… 

Vaughan:"This endorsement is significant. But the difficulty for our industry is that HDCP 2.2 is set apart from other revisions in that it is not "backward compatible". If the source device is using an older version of HDCP then it can be connected to an HDCP 2.2 enabled display. So, a Blu-ray player can send 1080p to a 2.2-enabled receiver, or to a 4K TV, with no issues. The problem is that many new 4K devices don't even support HDCP 2.2. So it's eminently possible that a 4K screen acquired in the last 18 months will not be able to display 4K resolution studio content in the future. Since HDCP 2.2 is implemented at a hardware level and so there is no, and will not be, any firmware upgrade that will enable an HDCP 2.2 source product to work with a non-HDCP 2.2 screen."

Leaf Main CropThis potentially has big ramifications for the signal distribution industry…

Vaughan: "If, for example, a matrix Switch or an AV receiver is incorporated into the system and it is not HDCP 2.2 compliant, then regardless of the HDCP2.2 compatibility of the source device and screen there will be problems playing encrypted content. No image, an error message or some other low value content will be displayed instead. To solve these issues, Leaf has recently unveiled the world's first range of HDCP 2.2 compliant Ultra High-Definition LU matrices, pictured above (shipping January 2015). Our new LU range is fully HDCP 2.2 compatible with 4k 24, 30 and 60 formats to meet CI requirements."

Is the lack of 4K content likely to slow CI interest in 4k?

Vaughan: "It's holding back potential growth in Ultra HD. This issue is also inextricably linked to HDCP2.2 compliance. According to Steve Venuti, President of the HDMI Licensing standards licensing body: As with HDCP 1.X, the Hollywood studios look for adoption of the technology before releasing content that requires encryption. The studios are hesitant to release 4K content utilizing the 1.X HDCP technology, and are looking for enough adoption of HDCP 2.2 before releasing 4K content. We are now seeing many of the new devices that offer 4K/60 functionality adopting HDCP 2.2 in their products. We anticipate that once there are enough devices in the market with HDP 2.2, the market will begin to see a widespread release of 4K premium content.

So where are we now from an HDCP 2.2 point of view?

Vaughan: "The likes of Sony are already using HDCP 2.2 technology in their new FMP-X5 / FMP-X10 media players while Integra and Onkyo have both announced HDCP2.2 compliant AV Receivers. But, until more CE vendors have implemented HDCP 2.2, there's a risk that film studios are clearly not keen to popularise 4k content."

So what would your advise be the integrators migrating clients to 4K ecosystems now be?

Vaughan: "Make sure your customer is Ultra HD Ready by specifying screens, sources, receivers and matrices that are HDCP2.2 compatible.  The more HDCP2.2 devices are deployed, the more content the studios will produce - and we'll all be in a much better 4K space!"

For more on Leaf's range of AV signal distribution devices, visit our partner page here.

Also read:
Leaf to debut HDCP 2.2 4K UHD switches at CEDIA Expo

David Slater

David Slater started his writing career with SVI writing a
popular column, he has also guested on publications like Home Cinema Choice and
Living North

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