Home Theater

HDCP 2.2: The Good, the Bad, the Surprises, the Relevance to 4K Content

Claiming the first HDCP 2.2-compliant matrix switches, Leaf (aka Leaf Audio) explains the significance and the challenges of creating an end-to-end 4K Ultra HD environment.

We are getting closer and closer to an end-to-end 4K Ultra HD ecosystem with HDCP 2.2 content protection. Pictured is the back of a compliant Onkyo receiver, and Leaf will introduced at CEDIA Expo its own Ultra HD matrix switchers with HDCP 2.2.
Julie Jacobson · September 6, 2014

CE Pro noticed in a press release by Leaf (now with Leaf Video) that the company would be the first to introduce HDCP 2.2-compliant A/V matrix switchers, to be demonstrated at CEDIA Expo 2014 this coming week. We asked Leaf CEO Dean Vaughan to provide additional insights into the new copy-protection spec for end-to-end 4K Ultra HD video distribution. Here Vaughan explains the significance of 2.2 across the entire chain of video components, not just in terms of creating reliable and secure Ultra HD connections, but also for encouraging the development of more 4K content. The piece is authored by Vaughan and edited by CE Pro - JJ

Ultra HD is the talk of the CI industry, and rightly so.

It’s a resolution upgrade that brings our focus back to one of custom installers’ core fundamentals for existence, and that’s providing our customers with premium quality.

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 is certainly 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% of people were likely to invest in Ultra HD within the next two years (58% in the U.S.).

If we can tap into this demand and deliver the premium, immersive experience that our customers are looking for, then, Ultra HD is a technology that can create good sales for custom installation businesses. 

But as with any new technology, it probably won’t be quite as straightforward as we’d all like.

Not Backward Compatible

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.

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) in its revised Ultra High-Definition Display Characteristics V2 guidelines, effective from September 2014, has specified that at least one of the 3840x2160 HDMI digital inputs on a display “shall support HDCP revision 2.2 or equivalent content protection” for it to be considered an Ultra HD installation.

This condition is significant, as “these updated attributes will help ensure consumers get the most out of this exciting new technology and will provide additional certainty in the marketplace,” says CEA president and CEO Gary Shapiro.

There is a pretty substantial problem, though: HDCP 2.2 is not backward compatible with legacy 4K displays.

The legacy source device can connect just fine without native HDCP 2.2 support, as long as the display is 2.2-compliant.

But don’t expect a 4K image if the TV lacks HDCP 2.2 support.

Unfortunately, early “4K Ultra HD” displays have already flooded the market and they cannot be “upgraded” to support 2.2. So it’s quite 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, 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.

Throwing More Components, More Complexity into the Mix

In custom integration, there are further complications.

If, for example, a matrix switch or an A/V receiver is incorporated into the system and it is not HDCP 2.2 compliant, then regardless of the HDCP 2.2 compatibility of the source device and screen there will be problems playing encrypted content.

Users might get no image, an error message or some other low-value content.

We’ll expect new products to emerge—from the source to the display and everything in between—to ensure protected 4K content displays beautifully and securely on an Ultra HD TV.

But Leaf is addressing the “everything in between” right now, with the world’s first range of HDCP 2.2-compliant Ultra HD matrices, shipping from January 2015.

The new Leaf Ultra (LU) switches are fully HDCP 2.2-compatible with 4k formats (24, 30 and 60 FPS).

The range comprises both HDBaseT Class A and Class B models with POH (power over HDBT).

Features also will include coaxial digital audio inputs, multizone variable line level audio outputs with full bass and treble control and variable audio delay for lip-sync correction.

Leaf will be building on this platform with full Dolby Digital 5.1 down-mixing models coming in Q2 2015.

Creating a full chain of HDCP 2.2-compliant devices from end-to-end is good for integrators and good for consumers, but in more ways than the obvious.

Studios want to see this development before they invest heavily in 4K content creation – a lack of which has limited the adoption of 4K displays and development around products for a 4K ecosystem.

Someone has to be the chicken … or the egg ….

“As with HDCP 1.X, the Hollywood studios look for adoption of the technology before releasing content that requires encryption,” says Steve Venuti, president of standards body HDMI Licensing. “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.”

Thankfully for the whole category, Venuti explains, “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.”

Now, the likes of Sony are already using HDCP 2.2 technology in their new media players, such as the FMP-X5 / FMP-X10 while Integra and Onkyo have both announced HDCP 2.2-compliant A/V receivers. But, until more CE vendors implement HDCP 2.2, there’s a risk that film studios will hold back on 4K content development.

In Sum

4K Ultra HD has terrific growth potential for custom integrators and HDCP2.2 compliance will be one of the secrets to the format’s success.

Integrators should make sure their customers are Ultra HD-ready by specifying displays, 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 place. 

Leaf is exhibiting at CEDIA Expo 2014, booth #412.

Editor’s note: Crestron has indicated that its DigitalMedia 4K Ultra HD switchers introduced earlier this year would be upgradeable to support HDCP 2.2.

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  About the Author

Julie Jacobson is founding editor of CE Pro, the leading media brand for the home-technology channel. She has covered the smart-home industry since 1994, long before there was much of an Internet, let alone an Internet of things. Currently she studies, speaks, writes and rabble-rouses in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V, wellness-related technology, biophilic design, and the business of home technology. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, and earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a recipient of the annual CTA TechHome Leadership Award, and a CEDIA Fellows honoree. A washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player, Julie currently resides in San Antonio, Texas and sometimes St. Paul, Minn. Follow on Twitter: @juliejacobson Email Julie at julie.jacobson@emeraldexpo.com

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  Article Topics

Home Theater · AV Receivers · News · CEDIA Expo · HDCP 2.2 · Leaf · Ultra HD · All Topics
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