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Oppo BDP-93 and BDP-93SE HDMI 1.4 (3D Ready)

Just when you thought there wasn’t a better Universal Blu-ray player on the market for under $500 than the legendary BDP-83 Universal Blu-ray Player, Oppo proves you wrong by unveiling a new successor model: the BDP-93.  Carrying the same retail price ($499), Oppo’s BDP-93 has upped the bar by adding new networking/streaming features, increased performance and improved build quality.

The Oppo BDP-93 will do virtually everything the BDP-83 BD player did, plus have some major feature upgrades as listed below:

Blu-ray 3D support
Netflix streaming support
CinemaNow support
Additional network streaming features will be announced once partners certify the player. Oppo has divulged several of their potential partners to us and users should not be disappointed.

Wireless-N networking
Dual HDMI outputs.  The two HDMI ports can be configured to support separate video and audio paths, or to support two displays at the same time.
Marvell KYOTO G2 chipset with Qdeo video processig(though prototypes were also built with the ABT2015)

eSATA port in addition to two USB ports
The new player is beautiful, with a brushed aluminum face plate and flush buttons. The tray even retracts so tightly into the front that it is virtually hidden when closed (note photos below). The connections on the back should look familiar, though Oppo has added a second HDMI that works off the circuitry powering the component video output – and it functions much in the same way, when it’s not being used as a dedicated audio output or mirrored HDMI out. This is an attractive player.

Physically, the Oppo BDP-93 is nearly identical to the BDP-83, with the same width and height, but about 1/2 less depth. It’s also got a little more heft to it. This player is brand new and, as such, there is little information that is known about it. Given that, we were very fortunate  to be able to have a non-formal interview with Oppo over breakfast this morning to acquire some more information.

What Network functionality will be supported (IE. Pandora, Netflix, AppleTV, etc)?

The new player has Netflix and CinemaNow and more partners are being brought on board as we speak. [Oppo] cannot formally announce content partners until certifications are done.  Based on customers inquires about networking features, Netflix has been the #1 request. Pandora is also in high demand. Apple TV is, of course, kind of exclusive so we will not be able to support it.

How do the dual HDMI outputs work?

The second HDMI output is, in functionality, very similar to how the component video output (still present) worked in the Oppo BDP-83. The difference is that you can use one HDMI for audio and one for video. You can also have dual outputs in parallel, and also you can specify a resolution for one of the outputs, which will engage the video processing on that output while leaving the other to output the native resolution of the disc. It’s incredibly flexible and the component video output can still mirror the HDMI output when resolution is set to 1080i or lower.

We noticed the lack of dedicated stereo outputs now – why is that?

Oppo realized that the intent of the player didn’t warrant the use of a dedicated stereo output anymore. For now, users can use the built-in bass management to fold the 7.1 analogue audio signal down to stereo for use in a Zone 2 setting, for example.

Do you have in mind a higher-end player like the BDP-83SE once this model ships?

Yes. We are working on a higher-end model that will, unlike the BDP-83SE, be built from the ground up for a higher quality analogue audio level of performance among other improvements and upgrades. This product isn’t yet scheduled for release, so it will be after the BDP-93 is well on the market.

Some common complaints about the BDP-83 were that the transport was “a bit flimsy and noisy”.  Have you made any updated/improvements to the transport mechanism on the BDP-93?

Regarding transport rigidity and mechanical noise reduction, yes there are significant upgrades.  The transport is a custom-built loader made by Tohei Group of Japan (http://www.tohei-hq.co.jp/cgi-bin/en/index.cgi).  The laser pickup is still Sony.  During the development of the transport we worked closely with Tohei to control and isolate the vibration caused by the high rotation speed and heavy motor parts of the Sony laser pickup.

Will the BD-93 offer HDBaseT support?

The new player will not support HDBaseT.  Since most of the users will connect to a display or AVR nearby, we do not want to include the cost of HDBaseT in every unit.  Installers who need to run long cables already have solutions for HDMI over fiber or Cat5.

Oppo didn’t announce a specific release date for the BDP-93, but they anticipate it will release as early as November, in time for the Christmas buying season. Oppo is running endless tests to ensure the product is right from the day it launches. This looks to be another winner and a product that is sure to keep Oppo in the lead with respect to dominating the price/performance zone for Blu-ray players.

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3D Blu-ray on the PS3: Working

                              

We’ve been waiting for 3D Blu-ray support to hit the PS3 for a good long while now, and Sony’s been promising it would happen for, well, exactly that same amount of time. Yesterday the company confirmed that the 3D-enabling 3.50 firmware update is less than a week away, dropping on September 21, and here’s proof that it works

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the new Cablesson Splitter only for £14.99

3D is going to be the jewel in the crown of WealthTV when they start broadcasting it 24/7 to their more than 10 million U.S. and Caribbean cable and telco viewers starting at the beginning of 2011.

Several of its series such as “Wealth on Wheels Classic” are already available on demand in 3D for Verizon’s FiOS TV subscribers. This may be an awkward economic climate in which to introduce such a venture, but WealthTV had a successful launch in HD (and SD) in June 2004, and all this year they have been running numerous tests in 3D over their existing 1080i HD infrastructure.

“WealthTV lets viewers travel all over the world and experience some of the finest things,” said Charles Herring, president of WealthTV, “but those are not limited to just material value. Our motto is ‘It’s your life…spend it well’ and our ratings have improved dramatically over the last year and a half despite the global economic situation.”

Ironically, Robert Herring, Sr., WealthTV’s founder and CEO grew up in a welfare family.

“In our mind, the term ‘WealthTV’ refers to an abundance of good,” Herring, Sr. said. “We’re trying to show the finer things in life regardless of our viewers’ economic status.”

RAMPING UP PRODUCTION

Currently, 95 percent of WealthTV’s HD programming is either produced in-house or by commissioned production partners although they also air major theatrical feature films. They have ramped up their foray into 3D production with a half dozen beam splitter camera rigs and one of the largest pre-purchase orders for Panasonic’s AG-3DA1 integrated twin-lens 3D camera/recorder due to be delivered by the end of August.

“We actually capture all our 3D in 1080p, but current bandwidth constraints limit us to sending out a 1080i side-by-side format,” Charles Herring said. “That means our source archives will be evergreen for the future, but today’s customers can record our shows with a conventional HD DVR. All the home 3DTV’s we’ve tested can display it with no problem.”

This is a similar path to 3D distribution that the British Sky Broadcasting Group has found so practical for their 3D launch in the UK and Ireland. All the home viewer needs is an HDMI 1.4 cable and a high definition 3D-ready TV.

3D LIBRARY

WealthTV has been preparing for its 24/7 3D launch from its 40,000 square-foot headquarters in San Diego since the beginning of this year by building a 3D library with production partners such as Randall Dark Productions, Al Caudullo Productions and Corkscrew Media. That arsenal includes travel series “WOW!”, automotive series “Wealth on Wheels,” a homes and estates show “Behind the Gates,” a new series called “Great Markets & Tastes,” and “3 Cities in 3D,” (see “A 3D Ode to the Smokies,” Aug. 4, 2010)

They have also produced 3D specials on “The Hearst Castle” and a “Doc Walker” concert on which 3D pioneer Tim Dashwood, creator of the Stereo3D Toolbox, was one of the videographers.

WealthTV has already upgraded all of its eight edit bays to 3D and plans to add two more soon. According to Senior Editor Allen Randolph, they all use Apple’s Final Cut Pro NLE software on 8-core Macintosh platforms augmented by the complete CS5 suite from Adobe Systems and Cineform’s Neo3D to help with 3D editing and mastering.

 
Chris Schickendanz (right), 3D stereographer for WealthTV, shooting Hearst Castle with a beam splitter 3D rig

“Neo3D lets us edit one eye only as we are accustomed to in 2D, and then go back to deal with 3D-specific matters such as convergence on the 40-inch Samsung 7000 model active 3D sets we have put in all the edit bays,” Randolph said. “That ensures that the editor is viewing the same image display that the consumer will see you can also use a HDMI Splitter for this job. Then we also use Stereo3D Toolbox’s alpha file support to properly position lower third graphics in 3D space.”

Randolph’s editors output their masters in side-by-side 1080i HD to Sony HDCAM tape for air. “It actually has turned out to be simpler than I had anticipated,” he said, “and we have the confidence that Neo3D will let us convert our shows to any other format the future may require. Some day we hope that will include the full 1080p sequential frame format as bandwidth becomes available.”

NO CONVERSION

Fulfilling a 24/7 3D broadcast schedule is going to be daunting, but WealthTV has decided not to invoke the 2D to 3D conversion technologies starting to come on the market.

“The automatic conversion systems we’ve tested are just not up the 3D quality we want to provide our viewers,” Charles Herring said, “and the more labor-intensive rotoscoping processes are simply not cost effective. So we are going to be relying on original 3D productions to fill our broadcast schedule for the foreseeable future.”

The question remains, however, will 3DTV will ever become a mainstream medium?

“We are convinced that if we can offer our customers a better, more realistic viewing experience, that technology will be successful,” said Charles Herring. “The question that remains to be seen is if 3D can deliver that goal without any limitation. If it does, 24/7 3D broadcasting is going to take off in a very big way.”

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Inch thick 1080p display – HP

After the 2310m comes the, erm, 2310e. HP has put its 1080p-resolving 23-inch monitor on a strict training regimen and returned with this new unit that checks in at under an inch in thickness. The 2310e brings as much gloss as a humanoid can handle, even going so far as to replace the usual buttons with touch-sensitive light-up controls. Speaking of light, the jumbo HP logo on the back blossoms in a lustrous white when you turn it on. If that doesn’t curb your enthusiasm for this cake slicer, you’ll want to know it has DVI-D, HDMI and DisplayPort inputs, 250 nits of brightness, a 5ms response time, and an admittedly meaningless 8,000,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio.

                                                                 

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Balanced vs. Unbalanced Interconnects

In discussing the characteristics and performance of various interconnect systems; two points should be kept in mind.

Balance is defined in terms of the impedance of the two signal conductors with respect to a reference, which is usually ground. If these impedances are equal and non-zero, the system is balanced. If the impedances are unequal the system is unbalanced. A signal conductor with a grounded return conductor is, therefore, an unbalanced (sometimes referred to as a single ended) system.

 A small, common-mode, 60 Hz noise, voltage can exist between the chassis of two AC powered devices regardless of whether they are safety grounded (use a three-wire plug) or not.

Unbalanced Interconnections

An unbalanced (single ended) interface uses only two conductors to carry the signal from one device to another, one conductor carries the signal and the other is the grounded return. In consumer audio systems this usually consists of a cable with a center conductor and a shield terminated in an RCA Phono plug.

RCA Phono Plug

 The ubiquitous “RCA Phono” plug was developed by RCA over fifty years ago to be used for short interconnections between a turntable and amplifier inside a phonograph, hence its name. This unbalanced interconnect system is simple and inexpensive, but as with many other connector systems has been adopted for uses other than originally intended and has become the de-facto connector for consumer audio/video equipment. Note, however, that the design was original intended only for short cable runs within the same piece of equipment. Being an unbalanced system it is susceptible to common-mode noise voltages.

A problem occurs when there is a ground voltage (common-mode voltage) between the two interconnected devices. Because of this voltage, a small current will flow down the cable shield between the devices (often referred to as common-mode current, or as a ground loop current). If the cable shield were ideal (zero impedance) this current would not cause a problem. However, since the shield has a finite resistance, a small noise voltage will appear across the length of the cable shield. The magnitude of this voltage will equal the common-mode current times the shield resistance. This voltage is in series with the signal voltage and will add directly to it at the receiver. In other words, an unbalanced interconnect system consisting of only two conductors (center conductor plus a shield) has no ability to reject common-mode noise voltages.

This coupling is referred to as common-impedance coupling , and is the result of the fact that in an unbalanced two-wire system the shield is performing two functions. It is a shield carrying the common-mode noise current, but it is also one of the signal conductors carrying the return signal current.

Example 1: Let’s consider a typical case of the interface between two grounded (3-prong AC plug) pieces of audio equipment. Some actual cases will be better than this example and some will be worse. The shield resistance of a fifteen-foot cable might be about 0.25 ohms. If the 60-Hertz shield current is 250 uA, the voltage developed across the shield will be 62.5 uV. For consumer audio products the reference signal level is about 300 mV (-10 dBV). The signal to noise ratio will therefore be 74 dB. For a high quality consumer audio system we would probably like the S/N ratio to be greater than 100 dB. Therefore, we would most likely be able to hear some 60-Hertz hum in quiet passages of the program material. 

You might conclude at this point that ungrounded equipment, those using a 2-prong AC plug, might solve this problem by eliminating the ground connections. This often helps, but does not necessarily eliminate the problem. For ungrounded equipment the common-mode ground current can still flow through the inter-winding capacitance of the power transformer. The impedance of the capacitor will normally reduce the magnitude of the current (typically less than 100 uA), and hence the noise voltage, but some noise will still exist. Since the impedance of the inter-winding capacitance is frequency dependent, more current will flow at high frequencies (harmonics of 60 Hz) than at the fundamental frequency (60 Hz). Therefore, the interference will more likely consist of a high frequency buzz instead of a 60 Hz hum. 

Despite its shortcomings, this unbalanced system works surprisingly well most of the time. In particular, in cases with short cable runs, and with very little, or no, 60 Hz voltage between the chassis of the interconnected devices.

Unbalanced Interface Cables

From the above discussion, we can conclude that for the case of an unbalanced interface, the only property of the cable that has any significant effect on the common-impedance noise coupling is the shield resistance. 

What can we do to minimize the possibility of problems when using this very common unbalanced interconnect system? First, we want to minimize the common-mode voltage difference between the interconnected devices. If possible, plug everything into the same AC power outlet, or power strip. If that is not possible plug the interconnected equipment into power outlets that are on the same branch circuit (same circuit breaker). Another possibility would be to run an additional heavy gauge (low resistance) ground wire between the chassis of the two devices to divert some of the common-mode cable shield current. 

Second, we want to minimize the resistance of the interconnecting cable shields. Use cables with a copper braid (or even spiral copper) shield instead of a foil shield. Use cables with the heaviest shield possible, or with double shields in order to minimize cable shield resistance. Do not use cables with aluminum foil shields, since their resistances are much higher. (Note: A foil-braid combination shield is fine, as long as the low resistance copper braid is present). Also keep cables as short as possible, since this will also reduce the total shield resistance. 

Thirdly, you can isolate or break the common-mode shield current path. Most people try to do this by removing or lifting grounds on the AC power cord. This can be very dangerous since it can lead to safety problems. The AC power cords and connections should be left alone, exactly as the manufacturer designed them. It is much better, and safer, to do the isolation on the interconnecting signal cables. 

This can easily be done by using high quality signal isolation transformers designed specifically for this application, such as the ISO-MAX® line of transformers manufactured by Jensen Transformer Corporation (www.jensentransformers.com). An isolation transformer allows the signal to pass through while at the same time breaking the ground connection and thereby eliminating the common-mode current. These transformers are available for audio signals, video signals as well as RF signals. Although quality isolation transformers are expensive (MSRP of $50 to $100) they work extremely well and their cost is usually negligible compared to the overall cost of a high quality audio system installation. Low quality, inexpensive isolation transformers are also available, however, they will seriously degrade the quality (frequency response) of the audio, video, or RF system.

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Cablesson offers New Powered 1 x 2 HDMI splitter

Cablesson has all sorts of gear for AV applications in the home and businesses. The latest product from the firm is a new powered 1×2 HDMI splitter. With 1×2 HDMI splitter you can display identical image on two(2) displays from one(1) source equipment with HDMI port. Connect One HDMI sources to up to two HDTV display devices maintaining 480i, 480p, 720p, 1080i and 1080p resolutions the highest HDMI single link video resolution and digital audio signal supporting HDCP compliant devices. HDMI or DVI-HDMI cables are used to connect to the input and splitter outputs.

With the 1×2 hdmi splitter active output channels are displayed on the front panel LED’s , which are automatically activated when a cable is connected to the corresponding output and can be connected in series with a Cablesson 1×2 HDMI splitter for connection of a single sources to multiple display devices. It can split multi-channel, high resolution audio formats such as PCM, Dolby Digital, and DTS 7.1.
(*)To ensure optimum performance, you should use Cablesson’s high quality cables with this product. The splitter can be purchased now on Amazon.uk for £19.99

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PS3 720p limitations – HDMI 1.4

There has been much talk on our forums about the Playstations 720p 3D gaming limitation. Many people have assumed that the issue is with the hardware but Sony have stated that it is actually the HDMI 1.4 standard which is the cause of the resolution limitation.

                                                                    

HDMI 1.4 is a standard which calls for the following restrictions – 720p 60fps, 720p 50fps, and 1080p 24fps. Sony have therefore taken the route of forcing all 3D game related content to 720p which means they can use the higher frame rates for a smoother gaming experience. Obviously this is not an ideal situation as the PC environment does allow for dual DVI configurations to achieve higher frame rates at 1080p but unfortunately this is not possible on a PS3.

The graphics hardware in the Playstation 3 is still quite capable, although its obviously looking rather outdated by PC standards so perhaps the HDMI 1.4 standard has worked in Sonys favour, especially when trying to power a modern gaming engine at high resolutions.

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amd brings out new cable

Waiting for us when we arrived at work this morning was AMD’s latest piece of hardware. It is something that the company is incredibly excited about, and that it believes will accelerate the uptake of its Eyefinity multi-display technology.

The product in question is this, a low cost Displayport to HDMI adaptor. The reason AMD is so excited about it is that it reduces the cost of entry for triple monitor setups.

To understand why, one needs to know a little bit about display connectors. HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) is designed to carry both video and audio signals. One of the reasons that it has enjoyed a rapid uptake on PCs is that the video component of HDMI Cable is the same as DVI. This makes adaptors feasible and is the reason that modern laptops have D-Sub VGA connectors and HDMI ones rather than having DVI connectors.

Of course, as we have encountered in the past, HDMI is subject to some pretty stringent licensing regulations. In order to put HDMI onto a device, its manufacturer needs to pay the HDMI licensing body, which it doesn’t have to do if it uses D-Sub, DVI or Displayport.

This lack of licensing requirements is one reason why AMD in particular has gone for DIsplayport to drive its multi-monitor cards. But there is also an electrical reason why Displayport is the preferred connector.

DVI (and HDMI) signals require an external clock generator. This is a piece of electronics that creates a timing signal, or ‘clock’, that is used to keep various integrated circuits in sync. Each display driven by HDMI or DVI needs a dedicated clock generator, and on the current range of AMD RADEONs there are two clock generators. This is enough for two displays, but in order to run more displays AMD runs into a problem to which it sees Displayport as the solution.

This is because Displayport generates its clock internally. By doing away with the need for external clock generators AMD is able to support a number of displays that is limited only by the space on the back of the card.

The problem is that while AMD is deeply in love with Displayport, monitor manufacturers aren’t. Actually finding a screen with Displayport is difficult enough, but there is the added insult of such monitors costing a premium over ones that just have DVI and HDMI.

Until now the only solution to the problem has been to use ‘Active’ Displayport to HDMI adaptors. These need to be powered in order to generate a clock signal, and all this extra hardware has made Displayport to HDMI adaptors prohibitively expensive. This in turn has stifled the uptake of AMD’s Eyefinity technology.

By releasing a new adaptor that doesn’t need to be powered AMD has managed to bring the cost down by a huge amount. Which is why the company is so excited over a bit of plastic coated wire with plugs on it. Whether or not this will be enough to get the masses using three or more monitors is a whole other question, but at least the solution is much, much cheaper than it was in the past.

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HDMI vs. DIV vs. Component Video — Do you know which is Better?

As DVI and HDMI connections become more and more widely used, we are often asked: which is better, DVI (or HDMI) or component video? The answer, as it happens, is not cut-and-dried.

First, to clear away one element that can be confusing: DVI and HDMI are exactly the same as one another, image-quality-wise. The principal differences are that HDMI carries audio as well as video, and uses a different type of connector, but both use the same encoding scheme, and that’s why a DVI source can be connected to an HDMI monitor, or vice versa, with a DVI/HDMI cable, with no intervening converter box.

The upshot of this article–in case you’re not inclined to read all the details–is that it’s very hard to predict whether a digital DVI or HDMI connection will produce a better or worse image than an analog component video connection. There will often be significant differences between the digital and the analog signals, but those differences are not inherent in the connection type and instead depend upon the characteristics of the source device (e.g., your DVD player) and the display device (e.g., your TV set). Why that is, however, requires a bit more discussion.

What are DVI, HDMI and Component Video?

DVI/HDMI and Component Video are all video standards which support a variety of resolutions, but which deliver the signal from the source to the display in very different ways. The principal important difference is that DVI/HDMI deliver the signal in a digital format, much the same way that a file is delivered from one computer to another along a network, while Component Video is an analog format, delivering the signal not as a bitstream, but as a set of continuously varying voltages representing (albeit indirectly, as we’ll get to in a moment) the red, green and blue components of the signal.

Both DVI/HDMI and Component Video deliver signals as discrete red, green, and blue color components, together with sync information which allows the display to determine when a new line, or a new frame, begins. The DVI/HDMI standard delivers these along three data channels in a format called T.M.D.S., which stands for “Transmission Minimized Differential Signaling.” Big words aside, the T.M.D.S. format basically involves a blue channel to which horizontal and vertical sync are added, and separate green and red channels.

Component Video is delivered, similarly, with the color information split up three ways. However, component video uses a “color-difference” type signal, which consists of Luminance (the “Y”, or “green,” channel, representing the total brightness of the image), Red Minus Luminance (the “Pr,” or “Red,” channel), and Blue Minus Luminance (the “Pb,” or “Blue,” channel). The sync pulses for both horizontal and vertical are delivered on the Y channel. The display calculates the values of red, green and blue from the Y, Pb, and Pr signals.

Both signal types, then, are fundamentally quite similar; they break up the image in similar ways, and deliver the same type of information to the display, albeit in different forms. How they differ, as we’ll see, will depend to a great extent upon the particular characteristics of the source and display devices, and can depend upon cabling as well.

Isn’t Digital Just Better?

It is often supposed by writers on this subject that “digital is better.” Digital signal transfer, it is assumed, is error-free, while analog signals are always subject to some amount of degradation and information loss. There is an element of truth to this argument, but it tends to fly in the face of real-world considerations. First, there is no reason why any perceptible degradation of an analog component video signal should occur even over rather substantial distances; the maximum runs in home theater installations do not present a challenge for analog cabling built to professional standards. Second, it is a flawed assumption to suppose that digital signal handling is always error-free. DVI and HDMI signals aren’t subject to error correction; once information is lost, it’s lost for good. That is not a consideration with well-made cable over short distances, but can easily become a factor at distance.

So What Does Determine Image Quality?

Video doesn’t just translate directly from source material to displays, for a variety of reasons. Very few displays operate at the native resolutions of common source material, so when you’re viewing material in 480p, 720p, or 1080i, there is, of necessity, some scaling going on. Meanwhile, the signals representing colors have to be accurately rendered, which is dependent on black level and “delta,” the relationship between signal level and actual as-rendered color level. Original signal formats don’t correspond well to display hardware; for example, DVD recordings have 480 lines, but non-square pixels. What all of this means is that there is signal processing to go on along the signal chain.

The argument often made for the DVI or HDMI signal formats is the “pure digital” argument–that by taking a digital recording, such as a DVD or a digital satellite signal, and rendering it straight into digital form as a DVI or HDMI signal, and then delivering that digital signal straight to the display, there is a sort of a perfect no-loss-and-no-alteration-of-information signal chain. If the display itself is a native digital display (e.g. an LCD or Plasma display), the argument goes, the signal never has to undergo digital-to-analog conversion and therefore is less altered along the way.

That might be true, were it not for the fact that digital signals are encoded in different ways and have to be converted, and that these signals have to be scaled and processed to be displayed. Consequently, there are always conversions going on, and these conversions aren’t always easy going. “Digital to digital” conversion is no more a guarantee of signal quality than “digital to analog,” and in practice may be substantially worse. Whether it’s better or worse will depend upon the circuitry involved–and that is something which isn’t usually practical to figure out. As a general rule, with consumer equipment, one simply doesn’t know how signals are processed, and one doesn’t know how that processing varies by input. Analog and digital inputs must either be scaled through separate circuits, or one must be converted to the other to use the same scaler. How is that done? In general, you won’t find an answer to that anywhere in your instruction manual, and even if you did, it’d be hard to judge which is the better scaler without viewing the actual video output. It’s fair to say, in general, that even in very high-end consumer gear, the quality of circuits for signal processing and scaling is quite variable.

Additionally, it’s not uncommon to find that the display characteristics of different inputs have been set up differently. Black level, for example, may vary considerably from the digital to the analog inputs, and depending on how sophisticated your setup options on your display are, that may not be an easy thing to recalibrate.

The Role of Cable and Connection Quality

Cable quality, in general, should not be a significant factor in the DVI/HDMI versus Component Video comparison, as long as the cables in question are of high quality. There are, however, ways in which cable quality issues can come into play.

Analog component video is an extremely robust signal type; we have had our customers run analog component, without any need for boosters, relays or other special equipment, up to 200 feet without any signal quality issues at all. However, at long lengths, cable quality can be a consideration–in particular, impedance needs to be strictly controlled to a tight tolerance (ideally, 75 +/- 1.5 ohms) to prevent problems with signal reflection which can cause ghosting or ringing.

DVI and HDMI, unfortunately, are not so robust. The problem here is the same as the virtue of analog component: tight control over impedance. When the professional video industry went to digital signals, it settled upon a standard–SDI, serial digital video–which was designed to be run in coaxial cables, where impedance can be controlled very tightly, and consequently, uncompressed, full-blown HD signals can be run hundreds of feet with no loss of information in SDI. For reasons known only to the designers of the DVI and HDMI standards, this very sound design principle was ignored; instead of coaxial cable, the DVI and HDMI signals are run balanced, through twisted-pair cable. The best twisted pair cables control impedance to about +/- 10%. When a digital signal is run through a cable, the edges of the bits (represented by sudden transitions in voltage) round off, and the rounding increases dramatically with distance. Meanwhile, poor control over impedance results in signal reflections–portions of the signal bounce off of the display end of the line, propagate back down the cable, and return, interfering with later information in the same bitstream. At some point, the data become unrecoverable, and with no error correction available, there’s no way to restore the lost information.

DVI and HDMI connections, for this reason, are subject to the “digital cliff” phenomenon. Up to some length, a DVI or HDMI cable will perform just fine; the rounding and reflections will not compromise the ability of the display device to reconstruct the original bitstream, and no information will be lost. As we make the cable longer and longer, the difficulty of reconstructing the bitstream increases. At some point, unrecoverable bit errors start to occur; these are colloquially described in the home theater community as “sparklies,” because the bit errors manifest themselves as pixel dropouts which make the image sparkle. If we make the cable just a bit longer, so much information is lost that the display becomes unable to reconstitute enough information to even render an image; the bitstream has fallen off the digital cliff, so called because of the abruptness of the failure. A cable design that works perfectly at 20 feet may get “sparkly” at 25, and stop working entirely at 30.

In practice, it’s very hard to say when a DVI or HDMI signal will fail. We have found well-made DVI cables to be quite reliable up to 50 feet, but HDMI cable, with its smaller profile, is a bit more of a puzzle. Because the ability to reconstitute the bitstream varies depending on the quality of the circuitry in the source and display devices, it’s not uncommon for a cable to work fine at 30, 40, or 50 feet on one source/display combination, and not work at all on another.

The Upshot: It Depends

So, which is better, DVI or component? HDMI or component? The answer–unsatisfying, perhaps, but true–is that it depends. It depends upon your source and display devices, and there’s no good way, in principle, to say in advance whether the digital or the analog connection will render a better picture. You may even find, say, that your DVD player looks better through its DVI or HDMI output, while your satellite or cable box looks better through its component output, on the same display. In this case, there’s no real substitute for simply plugging it in and giving it a try both ways.

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Component Video Cable vs. HDMI Cable

While both cable formats present a picture as essentially a mosaic of red, green and blue color components, the way they do this is based on two completely different processes. For component video cable, three individual inputs are needed; the signal is usually referred to as YPbPr. The “Y” component focuses on the brightness of the image as the “green” channel, the “Pb” component is the blue channel, and the “Pr” component presents the red part of the picture. All three signals are then put together to create the final picture.HDMI Cable, on the other hand, uses a standard called Transmission Minimized Differential Signaling (TMDS). What this basically does is incorporate three different channels for each color set, allowing one cable to sync all the channels together in a straight-to-digital format. Component cables typically take a digital signal, convert it to analog for internal conversion processes, and then convert it back to digital for output to the TV.  The resting assumption is that, because of the digital-to-analog-to-digital mechanism involved with component cables, there’s always a bigger loss of picture quality. That sentiment is ridden with naivety, though, because HDMI suffers similar issues. Even though it’s a digital format, it’s hardly a universal conversion from every single output source. HDMI cables also need to convert signals to their own format. The only difference is that it’s just messing around with conversions between different digital signals instead of digital and analog. In other words, the stuff that’s going on inside these crazy cables is whacked, no matter what kind of cable you’re using. While it’s an easy cop out to just assume a more antiquated analog format will have more trouble reproducing a purely HD image, that statement lacks thorough consideration. HDMI has also been panned because it’s much easier for the signal to degrade over time. Long-range HDMI cables are also known to lose quality because of a less-than-perfect set of standards for the format. Analog cables, on the other hand, can last decades and stretch for dozens of feet without any sort of automatic degradation. Because of its universality with one single input for audio and sound, HDMI has become the much preferred standard for HDTV hook-ups. That doesn’t mean it necessarily has a huge leaps-and-bounds advantage over component, though. Component video provides a more reliable picture, carries a more robust set of standards and generally works better for long-range professional-type set-ups. It should be noted that the other major high definition video standard, DVI, runs with the exact same technology as HDMI, except it does not carry audio. Your HDTV may have DVI inputs instead of HDMI, and everything written here about HDMI video is the same for your video signal.  

Conclusion 

The real point is that there’s not really a winner: the argument to be made is that both formats function just fine. HDMI is nice because it incorporates both audio and video, and that’s a very nice extra feature. However, if your cable company’s HD converter box only supports component output, that’s not a reason to jump to another service provider. Analog technologies date back decades upon decades and are built on a long-standing tradition. And while digital formats are supposed to deliver more fulfilling standards, they’re often under-utilized in favor of making cheaper products.

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