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Analog Sunset: CE Pros Weigh in

How concerned should integrators and consumers be about restrictions on component video outputs affecting Blu-ray players?

Tom LeBlanc · July 7, 2010

The impending so-called “analog sunset” has been touted as the next big thing affecting the custom electronics industry.

Whether or not that’s hyperbole, it’s certain that there are things integrators need to know about restrictions being imposed by the Advanced Access Content System (AACS) licensing agreement — especially in regards to Blu-ray playback.

If savvy clients haven’t already begun asking questions about whether or not they should throw out their component cables, they soon will. Integrators need to know what to tell them and how to react.

Right now integrators can allow clients to view content off Blu-ray discs using an analog component video output on a Blu-ray player. But according to the AACS licensing agreement, after Dec. 31, 2010, no new designs may be introduced with hot HD component outputs; existing designs can be manufactured and sold through Dec. 31, 2011. No Blu-ray players with hot HD component outputs may be manufactured or sold after that date, but they can still output SD resolutions through 2013.

That doesn’t mean that you can’t use Blu-ray players made before Dec. 31, 2010, for viewing content off Blu-ray discs using an analog component video output. Meanwhile, in-stock models made before Dec. 31, 2010, with component inputs capable of HD output can continue to be sold through 2013.

“I recently heard a competitor state that they were going to purchase as many older [Blu-ray] players as they could afford to put off dealing with the changes for as long as possible,” says CEDIA chairman Ken Erdmann, owner of Springville, Utah-based Erdmann Electric. “That will not solve the problem and is rather shortsighted.”

Indeed, after January 1, 2011, Blu-ray disc makers can include an “Image Constraint Token” (ICT) that disables HD over component video down-converting the HD capable input to SD while that particular disc is in the drive. Existing discs in a customer’s collection without the ICT, however, will continue to provide HD component output with no change. The token is only disc-based, so discs with no ICT will operate the same as always (allowing 1080i component out).

Erdmann speculates that Blu-ray titles released years earlier could even “include ICT for those titles manufactured after the 2011 implementation date. A client could be very unhappy if they were used to watching a favorite title for years that when they replaced the worn or damaged disc with a newer version of that title it no longer looked as good or possibly would not play at all.”

Is Analog Fading to Black?

“Analog Sunset” is a term that is actually used in the AACS license agreement: ANALOG SUNSET – 2010. With the exception of Existing Models, any Licensed Player manufactured after December 31, 2010, shall limit analog video outputs for Decrypted AACS Content to SD Interlace Modes only. Existing Models may be manufactured and sold by Adopter up until December 31, 2011. ANALOG SUNSET – 2013. No Licensed Player that passes Decrypted AACS Content to analog video outputs may be manufactured or sold by Adopter after December 31, 2013.

Source: The AACS Final Adopter Agreement, available at http://www.aacsla.com.

At the very least, this legal language will leverage installers with some frustration, according to Fred Harding, who does sales and technical support for distributor Capitol Sales.

“It will cause stress for folks who are installing Blu-ray players over the next year who aren’t prepared. Worst case will be down the road, when manufacturers of other HDMI-equipped products stop putting analog outputs on their devices based on economic decisions. In that case, it will be the absence of connections rather than a mandate that hurts. I’d start planning if it were me.”

  About the Author

Tom has been covering consumer electronics for six years. Before that, he wrote for the sports department of the Boston Herald. Migrating to magazines, he was a staff editor for a golf publication and an outdoor sports publication. Now, as senior writer/technology editor of CE Pro magazine since 2003, he dabbles in all departments and offers expertise in marketing. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Tom at tom.leblanc@emeraldexpo.com

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  Article Topics

News · Analog Sunset · Digital Rights · All Topics
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