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Today’s Show:

Bye bye HDMI?

There’s been a lot of activity on the Internet recently around the new HDBaseT Alliance.  Bottom line, they want to replace HDMI with standard Cat5e or Cat6 cables.  The group was launched in December 2009, but recently announced that LG Electronics, Samsung and Sony have thrown in their support. This, along with a finalized spec, have moved the HDBaseT idea to the forefront of home theater news.

Background

From the HDBaseT website:
HDBaseT Alliance was formed to promote and commercialize the HDBaseT™ technology, enabling a single LAN cable to replace multiple cables and connectors in the home entertainment environment, HDBaseT is optimized for video application and can connect all the entertainment devices at home by providing the 5Play convergence of uncompressed full HD digital video, audio, 100BaseT Ethernet, power over cable and various control signals.

The underlying technology is supplied by Valens Semiconductor.

What it is

Primarily, HDBaseT should replace HDMI cables between your home theater components.  In addition, it will allow Ethernet communication and, in some cases, even power.  That means one cable that can truly do everything.  Like HDMI, HDBaseT will support all the best audio and video.  Like traditional Cat 5e, HDBaseT will support 100 MB network connections.  The 4th part of the 5 play is power, up to 100 watts. And the 5th piece is similar to HDMI-CEC, control commands between components.

Similar to existing LAN cables, HDBaseT should allow all of these various pieces to be transmitted over very long distances without signal loss, reportedly up to 100 meters.  The spec also plans to allow for all the latest and greatest in home theater technology including, of course, HDTV, Blu-ray, and all the newest audio codecs, but also 3D and high resolution 2K x 4K (4096 by 2160) video.

Since the protocol is being built on standard cables and connectors, the industry alliance is predicting that companies will begin licensing it as soon as the second half of this year, with products hitting store shelves by the end of the year. We expect the earliest product to come from the member companies, but more widespread adoption should happen throughout 2011.

The first thing that jumps to mind when you hear about HDMI over Cat5 is that the new protocol will implement some sort of audio/video routing and distribution.  According to the spec, that should be possible as well.  Unlike HDMI, which is essentially a point to point data transmission.  HDBaseT will allow signals from sources like set-top boxes, Blu-ray players and computers to be routed to multiple displays without signal loss.

It would be great if the new protocol allowed you to intelligently route audio and video signals from a source to a display, or a source to a speaker, just like we do with data streams on a network.  That’s where our minds jumped immediately.  It’s tough to tell how much of this kind of functionality is supported in the 1.0 version of the spec.  But even if it isn’t in 1.0, it’s possible that an updated spec could arrive in the future to extend HDBaseT to include complex AV routing.  But that might require new hardware as well.

Conclusion

There are some detractors out there.  Some people think that this will just create more confusion.  Users will be plugging their routers into their TVs and their Blu-ray players into their computers.  At that point, all hell will break lose.  We see how there could be some confusion along those lines, but clearly marked jacks on the back of your devices should help with this.

Bottom line, HDMI is awesome.  One cable for Audio and Video has greatly simplified all our lives.  If we can get one cable that does audio, video, control, network and power, that’s even better.  On top of that, we can make our own cables.  A simple crimping tool for under $20 and you can crank out all the HDBaseT cables you need, at whatever size you need.  We only wish this would have come along years ago, so we could have skipped the HDMI phase altogether.

Download Episode #433


Posted by The HT Guys, July 8, 2010 10:02 PM

About The HT Guys

The HT Guys, Ara Derderian and Braden Russell, are Engineers who formerly worked for the Advanced Digital Systems Group (ADSG) of Sony Pictures Entertainment. ADSG was the R&D unit of the sound department producing products for movie theaters and movie studios.

Two of the products they worked on include the DCP-1000 and DADR-5000. The DCP is a digital cinema processor used in movie theaters around the world. The DADR-5000 is a disk-based audio dubber used on Hollywood sound stages.

ADSG was awarded a Technical Academy Award by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2000 for the development of the DADR-5000. Ara holds three patents for his development work in Digital Cinema and Digital Audio Recording.

Every week they put together a podcast about High Definition TV and Home Theater. Each episode brings news from the A/V world, helpful product reviews and insights and help in demystifying and simplifying HDTV and home theater.