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CEA Mulls Spec for 1080p Over Component Video

Even video purists often opt for component video over HDMI. Yet there is no spec for 1080p over analog, even though it can be done. CEA may change that.

It's not such a dirty little secret that many home systems integrators prefer component video over HDMI, particularly for installations that include multiple high-def components.

Yet there is no official standard for delivering 1080p over analog, even though it can be done. The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) may change that.

How often does your company encounter a customer that is asking for 8 displays throughout their home, a front projection home theater with a next-gen optical disc player, two gaming consoles, an HD cable DVR, and a network media player for playing MP3s, all of which can be shared on all the other displays in the home?

And one more thing: They tell you it has to be all 1080p using HDMI.

The Benefits of Analog

This request seems to come all the time from customers led to believe that digital is better and HDMI is digital, so HDMI it must be.

Seasoned HDMI veterans know, however, that making an all digital system is not as easy, reliable, or cheap as it should be.

The unfortunate thing is that this is a case of the tail wagging the dog. The customer has placed some specific design requirements on the integrator without fully understanding the state of the technology. Many customers are going to ask for what they perceive as being the best -- usually HDMI.

What they don't tell you -- because it seems so obvious -- is that they also want a reliable system, one that is easy to use by all household members, and in most cases, one that is cost effective.

To achieve this set of goals, most of the experienced integrators I speak with will design an analog component-video distribution system.

But what about 1080p? While it can be achieved through component video connections, there is no official standard for it.

High definition analog component video is defined by the CEA specification, CEA-770.3-rev C. The spec was last revised five years ago, and defines 720p and 1080i, but not 1080p.

Even in the absence of a standard, however, 1080p component video has made its way into a surprising amount of consumer devices. Several display manufacturers support 1080p over component video, either across the line such as Samsung, or as an undocumented feature on certain models such as Syntax/Brillian's.

Many networked media players, such as those from PixelMagic Systems and Ziova, will output 1080p via component, as will Media Center PCs.

However, the most significant source devices are the major gaming consoles, with both the Playstation 3 and the Xbox 360 supporting 1080p analog.

The game consoles have a restriction: They will limit the analog ouput to 1080i for AACS protected movie playback as found on HD DVD and Blu-ray discs. There is a technical side to that story though.

HD DVD and Blu-ray movies are typically encoded in 1080p/24 Hz. In order to output the film over 1080i/60 Hz, the content is staggered into the 3:2 pulldown sequence to make up for the frame rate difference, and interlaced to 60 fields/sec.

In this process, all of the pixel information is intact, and nothing should be thrown away. For whatever reason, the AACS license is OK with this information traveling over the analog component video interface as 1080i/60Hz, unprotected from those pesky pirates.

Inside a typical 1080p flat panel display, a video processor receives this, and goes about the job of de-interlacing and reverse 3:2 pulldown, where 100% of the original pixels can be recovered (in the higher quality displays, cheaper ones tend to mess this up).

Good luck trying to explain that to your customer as a reason why they might not really need 1080p.

CEA Evaluates 1080p Analog Standard

A question that may have crossed your mind is: Why doesn't the CEA define 1080p analog?

I thought of the same question, so I became involved by joining the working group for revising CEA-770.3. The spec was in the process of having a five-year review, so now is the perfect time to add support for 1080p.

As of this writing, a proposal to add 1080p at 24, 30, and 60 Hz has been submitted, technical analysis of cable and connectors has been completed, and market demand has been identified. Next comes the comment and review periods, committee approval, and if all of that goes smoothly, publishing of CEA-770.3 rev D.

Just adding it to the spec, of course, does not change the AACS license requirements for an analog limit of 1080i on next-gen discs. Nor does it change many minds in Hollywood on the "analog hole," so don't expect 1080p analog out of a disc player just yet.

What you will be able to do, though, is to confidently tell your customer that you can get all the pixels from the disc to the display, and their whole house is 1080p-ready in anticipation of an industry-supported open standard, all while ensuring system compatibility and reliability. That's money in the bank.

Home theater enthusiast Bill Paul is the CEO of Neothings, a developer of high-performance audio and video switchers and distribution systems.

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4 Comments (displayed in order by date/time)

Posted by Videography  on  08/14  at  12:41 PM

Any reading of the original entire 1080 specification will reveal that they made provision for 1080 30p which allows full resolution progressive formatting at 30fps and half the bandwidth of 1080p. We suggest that widespread use of this format is a practical way to getting to manageable high definition.

Posted by John Dawson  on  08/14  at  01:01 PM

I don’t know if the CEA spec covers this, but the IEC versions would have to - you need to add 25Hz and 50Hz to this proposal. Remember 80% to 90% of the planet runs on 50Hz; in this sense 60Hz is a minority format grin

And yes I am aware that we often speed up movies 4% in PAL land, which is not nice though few people notice. Equally, major producers like the BBC make their original HD content at 50Hz, (50i eventually going to 50p) so this needs to be allowed for.

John Dawson
(President, ARCAM)

Posted by Videography  on  08/14  at  02:00 PM

the same specification that covers 1080 30p
also covers 1080 24p 1080 25p etc.

Videography Labs contends that 1080 30p is superior globally for several reasons.

1.  It is easily upscaled to the inevitable 1080p in five years or so considering the bantering for dominance in the UGC PFC worlds.

2.  It is the highest quality signal (most frames at progressive 1920 x 1080) resolution.

3.  It is easily deployable and there are workflows (which we are currently publishing) at Videography Labs, that provide easy to use techniques for managing user generated video and still data. In addition we are publishing a paper on content generation for videographers worldwide.

These papers will be used as base material for a wide variety of publishings from “living green” to “coping with the ‘cut & paste’ world” to “Air-Stream Hacienda for the 21st Century”.

All that aside, I believe your concern has already been answered by and the future is still uncertain. We provide this contextual information as evidence that we are all now living in “the Age of Videography” (Miller Freeman 1996) and that a democratic process leading to standardization, is a good thing.

Bob Kiger
Videography Labs - Oceanside, CA

Posted by Videography  on  08/14  at  02:06 PM

Just after I posted the above I got this:

Even the “Wall Street Journal” get it. Duh

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