Home Toys Interview
- December 2007 -
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The most tangible and immediate way that HDMI changes the way we interface with our components is in the set-up. One cable replaces up to 11 analog cables, highly simplifying the setting up of a home theater as well as supporting the aesthetics of new component design with cable simplification.

Steve Venuti
Vice President of Marketing, HDMI Licensing, LLC


As Vice President of Marketing, Steve is responsible for all outbound HDMI programs with Adopters, retailers, home theater installers as well consumers. Steve joined HDMI Licensing LLC in 2002 to help launch HDMI in the marketplace at CES 2003 in Las Vegas.

Previously, Steve was the President of a marketing and advertising company: LVL Communications. At LVL, Steve helped many well-known technology companies launch their products, including Acer Computer, Fujitsu, Netgear, Palm, and DirecTV. Steve also established LVL Interactive to bring new media capabilities to technology companies, including the development of many landmark e-commerce sites (Egghead.com launch in 1995 and Cisco Systems' initial eCommerce effort), as well as online marketing programs for many global 1000 companies (Disney, Oracle, Netscape, HP, Sears, AIG and others).

Steve received his bachelor's degree from the University of California at Santa Cruz and his master's degree from the University of California at Berkeley.

General HDMI Questions:

1. What is HDMI?

HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) is the first and only industry-supported, uncompressed, all-digital audio/video interface. By delivering crystal-clear, all-digital audio and video via a single cable, HDMI dramatically simplifies cabling and helps provide consumers with the highest-quality home theater experience. HDMI provides an interface between any audio/video source, such as a set-top box, DVD player, or A/V receiver and an audio and/or video monitor, such as a digital television (DTV), over a single cable.

HDMI supports standard, enhanced, or high-definition video, plus multi-channel digital audio on a single cable. It transmits all ATSC HDTV standards and supports 8-channel, 192kHz, uncompressed digital audio and all currently-available compressed formats (such as Dolby Digital and DTS), HDMI 1.3 adds additional support for new lossless digital audio formats Dolby® TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio™ with bandwidth to spare to accommodate future enhancements and requirements.

  • HDMI is the de facto standard digital interface for HD and the consumer electronics market: More than 700 companies have become adopters, and nearly 200 million devices featuring HDMI are expected to ship in 2008, with an installed based of nearly one billion HDMI devices by 2010 (conservative estimates by In-Stat).

  • Convergence - HDMI is the interface for convergence of PC and consumer electronics devices: HDMI enables PCs to deliver premium media content including high definition movies and multi-channel audio formats. HDMI is the only interface enabling connections to both HDTVs and digital PC monitors implementing the DVI and HDMI standards.

  • Evolving standard - HDMI is continually evolving to meet the needs of the market: Products implementing new versions of the HDMI specification will continue to be fully backward compatible with earlier HDMI products.

2. Why has HDMI seen such great adoption in the market?

HDMI has become so successful, so quickly, because it meets the needs of all facets of the Consumer Electronics and PC ecosystem. Manufacturers now have an all digital pipeline from the source material to the display; content providers have an interface that protects their intellectual property; and consumers have and easy-to-use, high quality, plug-and-play interface for their home entertainment environment. The following are key benefits for the consumer:

Quality: HDMI maintains the audio in its pure digital form all the way to the amplifier. Analog audio connections are more prone to losses depending on the cabling and other electronics of the audio rendering device. Compared to SPDIF connections, HDMI has significantly more bandwidth, allowing it to support the latest lossless audio formats such as Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HS Master Audio. These formats can not be supported over SPDIF connections due to their very high data rate requirements that exceed the capabilities of SPDIF. Please also see section on HDMI 1.3 for further details on Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio formats.

Ease of Use: HDMI combines video and multi-channel audio into a single cable, eliminating the cost, complexity, and confusion of multiple cables currently used in A/V systems. This is particularly beneficial when equipment is being upgraded or added.

Intelligence: HDMI supports two-way communication between the audio source (such as a DVD player) and the audio rendering device (such as an A/V receiver), enabling new functionality such as automatic configuration and one-touch play. By using HDMI, devices automatically deliver the most effective format (e.g. Dolby Digital vs. 2-channel PCM) for the A/V receiver that it is connected to - eliminating the need for the consumer to scroll through all the audio format options to guess what is best and properly supported.

3. Why should consumers care about a new interface?

With the advent of high-definition content, analog interfaces were becoming increasingly limited in their ability to deliver the highest quality, high-definition content.

  • No conversion or compression of signals
    • With the delivery of 1080p content, analog interfaces are nearing the end of their ability to deliver high-definition content without highly compressing the signal, which can result in loss of data and signal quality. HDMI has the bandwidth to send uncompressed video so there is no loss of data or signal quality
  • Content Protection allows access to HD content
    • Content providers, including all the major movie studios, have been clear that much of the studio content will not be released in high-definition over unprotected analog interfaces. They have designated HDMI and/or DVI as the only interfaces that will be allowed to carry this new HD content.
  • Digital allows two-way communication
    • HDMI supports two-way communication between the video source (such as a DVD player) and the DTV, enabling new functionality such as automatic configuration and one-touch play. By using HDMI, devices automatically deliver the most effective format (e.g. 480p vs. 720p, 16:9 vs. 4:3) for the display that it is connected to - eliminating the need for the consumer to scroll through all the format options to guess what looks best.

4. How will HDMI change the way we interface with our entertainment systems?

The most tangible and immediate way that HDMI changes the way we interface with our components is in the set-up. One cable replaces up to 11 analog cables, highly simplifying the setting up of a home theater as well as supporting the aesthetics of new component design with cable simplification.

Next, when the consumer turns on the HDMI-connected system, the video is of higher quality since the signal has been neither compressed nor converted from digital to analog and back.

Lastly, because of the two-way communication capabilities of HDMI, components that are connected via HDMI constantly talk to each other in the background, exchanging key profile information so that content is sent in the best format without the user having to scroll through set-up menus. The HDMI specification also includes the option for manufacturers to include CEC functionality (Consumer Electronics Control), a set of commands that utilizes HDMI's two-way communication to allow for single remote control of any CEC-enabled devices connected with HDMI. For example, CEC includes one-touch play, so that one touch of play on the DVD will trigger the necessary commands over HDMI for the entire system to power on and auto-configure itself to respond to the command. CEC has a variety of common commands as part of its command set, and manufacturers who implement CEC must do so in a way that ensures that these common command sets interoperate amongst all devices, regardless of manufacturer.

CEC is an optional feature, however, so consumer interested in this functionality must look for CEC in the product feature list. Also, it is important to know that some manufacturers are creating their own proprietary names for their implementation of the CEC command set.

5. What are the HDMI-related questions consumers should ask when shopping for a new CE or PC device?

Several questions are key to evaluating HDMI on a CE component.

  • How many inputs/outputs do I need?
    • We are seeing more and more inputs and outputs on components as more and more people are connecting with HDMI. It is common to wee 3 and 4 inputs on an HDTV - many time with one input on the side or front for connecting to game consoles or other portable devices such as digital still cameras or camcorders. Always think about the number of sources and displays (or projectors) that could become part of your home theater system, and make sure the device you are evaluating has the number of inputs and outp0uts to support your needs over the near and long term.
    • For those who have existing systems with one or two inputs, and are finding they need more, there are HDMI switches in the market that switch from multiple inputs (sources) to one output (to your display).
  • Think features rather than HDMI version number.
    • HDMI is constantly evolving to meet the needs of the marketplace. The standard is constantly adding more and more features that manufacturers can implement if they desire. But HDMI does not require manufacturers to implement everything that HDMI can do. HDMI provides a menu of capabilities and allows the manufacturer to choose which of those features make sense for its product line.

      As a result, HDMI strongly recommends that consumers look for products with the features they want, rather than the version number of the HDMI components. Version numbers reflect capabilities, but do not correspond to product features. For example, if you want the new video features called Deep Color, look for Deep Color in the feature set rather than HDMI 1.3, the version of the specification that enabled Deep Color. Why? Because the version of the specification that enables Deep Color (1.3) does not mandate that Deep Color functionality be implemented.

      However, it is important to also note that all HDMI versions are backwards compatible, so not matter what version of HDMI is in the component, all HDMI-enabled components will work together at the highest level of shared functionality.

6. As more and more devices converge, is HDMI an interface that can accommodate convergence between the PC and CE?

Absolutely. HDMI was developed using the same technology as DVI (Digital Visual Interface), the digital connection standard for the PC environment. So, HDMI is fully compatible with all DVI-enabled PCs (since HDMI offers both audio and video over one cable, and DVI carried only video, DVI-HDMI connectivity requires a separate audio cable).

HDMI enables PCs to deliver premium media content including high definition movies and multi-channel audio formats. HDMI is the only interface enabling connections to both HDTVs and digital PC monitors implementing the DVI and HDMI standards - fully compatible with the hundreds of millions of DVI displays already in the market.

PC-centric questions:

7. Are we seeing any adoption of HDMI in the PC space?

In 2007, the market started to see HDMI in many PC and PC-related devices. Major display manufacturers (like Samsung, BenQ, Viewsonic) have started to market PC displays with HDMI. Every major graphics card manufacturer (nVIDIA, ATI/AMD, Intel) has HDMI-enabled graphics cards on the market, as major PC manufacturers, including Samsung, Sony, HP, Dell and others have PCs on the market that have HDMI outputs.

  • What is causing the sudden surge in PCs with HDMI?
    • Notebooks, especially, have been quick to include the HDMI interface. With the advent of next generation DVD players in many notebooks, manufacturers need to accommodate the desire of many consumers to connect their new notebook to HDTVs to watch HD movies.
       
    • The pervasiveness of HDMI - with HDMI as the digital connection of choice in all categories of CE devices, any and all PCs and PC-related products that may want to connect to the home theater environment must have HDMI in order to interconnect seamlessly.
       
    • The HDMI connector is much smaller than DVI - making it a much more desirable connector, especially on a notebook where the size of a connector can be critical.

8. Are there any compromises in using HDMI as a replacement for DVI?

Not only are there no compromises, but HDMI provides much more than DVI. Both HDMI and DVI are able to transmit uncompressed, HD video signals. However, HDMI also transmits audio so that both audio and video signals are transmitted over a single cable. HDMI also offers devices CEC functionality (Consumer Electronics Control), the optional command set that allows users to control devices with a single remote.

9. What is the cost of upgrading a PC system from DVI to HDMI?

There are several options. The lowest cost would be to add a basic PCI Express HDMI Graphics card for approximately US$100. Higher end graphics cards, however, can offer better performance in certain applications. For example, for around $US400, manufacturers are offering a high-end graphics card with built-in processing power so that as the user watches a movie, for example, he or she can also use the processing power of the computer to do other work. The processor on the graphics card is doing the required processing to play the movie, leaving the PC's CPU free to perform other applications. As well, some graphics cards have their own audio controller and do not require an external S/PDIF input.

If you intend to use your PC to render video on a large TV, make sure your HDMI graphics cards incorporates high-quality video processing. ATI Avivo™ or nVIDIA's PureVideo™ HD2 technology are two such offerings from these companies.

10. What can a PC with HDMI do that cannot be done with DVI?

HDMI offers both audio and video over one single cable making set-up and cabling much simpler. With this convergence interface, HDMI offers a simple way for PCs to connect to a TV.

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