HDCP stands for High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection, a copy protection
scheme to eliminate the possibility of intercepting digital data midstream
between the source to the display. The format designed by Intel and licensed by
Digital Content Protection, LLC using an authentication and key exchange
procedure before video and audio is presented. Products compatible with the
HDCP scheme such as DVD players, satellite and cable HDTV set-top-boxes, as well
as few entertainment PCs requires a secure connection to a compliant display,
the process often described as the handshake. Due to the increase in
manufacturers employing HDCP in their equipment, it is highly recommended that
any HDTV you purchase is compatible. Although most video devices support
high-definition video over component output, analog connections are scheduled to
phase out in the future or possibly forced to limited resolutions output.
Why is it important to me?
Although manufacturers are still
making most products with at least component HD output, new generation of
products like HD-DVD and Blu-Ray devices will limit the analog output resolution
(Analog defined as Component or RGBHV). The highest resolutions these devices
can output (720p/1080i/1080p) will be available on via the digital (DVI or HDMI)
connections that employ HDCP encryption. Any new HDTV purchase should have a
digital HDCP compatible input.
It is important to note that HDCP is
currently not a standard used in PC monitors, and almost none of these displays
have Component inputs. Although PC monitors are HDTV capable, HDCP encryption
limits this type of use. If you use an HTPC and want to ensure dual use of your
new flat panel display, look for HDCP compatibility.
How does it
A simple answer is that an HDCP session will result in the exchange
of keys between the source and display device. The source device will query the
display to make sure that the equipment is HDCP compliant before video is
shown. Non-HDCP devices such as PC's and older model DVI products will work
with any DVI compliant display, but the HDCP compliant boxes will show an image
only on HDCP compliant display.
Other products affected by HDCP are
scalers, switchers, and splitters (distribution amps). While these devices do
no authentication for key exchange, they must be able to transmit the presence
of HDCP if the video is handled (processed) in any way. Due to the two
different formats of digital connections, occasional inability for proper
communications may result in loss of interoperability. The newer format, HDMI
was designed to be backwards compatible with DVI and in most instances, the two
signal types are easily adaptable, but older devices may not always work well
with in-line devices like scalers or switchers. These problems can sometimes be
fixed in "firmware' although that is not always the case. Incompatibility is
often displays on-screen as a snowy image or an error message.
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