The New HDMI 1.4 Standard and 3D Projectors

HDMI 1.4 for projectors

The majority of the pre-CES buzz has been about the emergence of 3D into the home. So, while we don’t have a lot of information on 3D projectors just yet, we can take this opportunity to discuss the new HDMI 1.4 standard which will be the most common method of delivery for a 3D display. CES will undoubtedly deliver more information about new 3D content and the displays that can show them and we will post more about those developments here. But in the meantime let’s start with the crucial component that is already ready for 3D – the HDMI 1.4 cable standard.

What’s New About HDMI 1.4?

Previously we posted information on the HDMI 1.4 standard that was probably a bit too pessimistic. Yes, there will be five different cables available for purchase, but for the purposes of home and business projection there will really only be two varieties of use to most home and business projector users – “Ethernet” equipped and “high speed” HDMI. There is also “standard speed” HDMI, which may do the job for some users, but it can’t deliver full 1080p resolution or a 120hz frame rate.

So what’s different from HDMI 1.3 to the new 1.4 standard? Per HDMI.org, any HDMI 1.4 cable has to have the bandwidth and shielding to perform the following functions:

HDMI 1.4 Standard Functions

  • HDMI Ethernet Channel
  • Audio Return Channel
  • 3D Over HDMI
  • 4K x 2K Resolution Support
  • Expanded Support For Color Spaces
  • Micro HDMI Connector
  • Automotive Connection System

(source : HDMI.org )

Note : Keep in mind, not every HDMI 1.4 cable will perform each of the functions mentioned above. There will be five different “versions” of the cable available. But only a couple will be related to home theater. The ‘micro HDMI’ connection, for example, looks like it will be offered on cameras, phones, and possibly pico projectors in the future. The new ‘micro’ cable is about half the size of the previous version – making it very easy to mistake for the smaller USB connector. The automotive standard is obviously designed for the auto industry. So there shouldn’t be too much confusion when you shop for an HDMI cable for your projector or TV.

Pro Cable Guys Have Been Ready for 1.4

In the cable business, a few manufacturers are well ahead of the game. Comprehensive Cables, for example, has had cables that meet the ‘high speed HDMI’ standard for several years now. So, if you have a professional grade Comprehensive HDMI 1.3 cable you bought a few years ago, from ProjectorPeople.com it should still work using your new 1.4 enabled 3D ready source and display.

This is because when Comprehensive designed their 1.3 cable, they exceeded the official requirements, perhaps in anticipation of the 120hz and native 1080p displays that came to market last year. Whatever their motivation, this is great for buyers of Comprehensive product. It also makes good business sense for them, because they have not had to retool their entire HDMI line to meet new 1.4 specifications. So, everyone’s a winner!

Some of the ultra cheap HDMI cables you’ll find were not designed to perform up to the new 1.4 standard – since they didn’t have to be. So if you bought a cheap cable and are wondering if it’s compatible with the new features mentioned above (and even 120hz) including 4k x 2k resolution, 3D, and 1080p support (required for only the ‘high speed’ HDMI 1.4 cables) as well as the audio return channel (for crisper audio) – you’ll have to check the specs. And if you need to buy a new HDMI cable, check the specs.

Just Say HDMI! (And Leave the Numbers Out of It)

HDMI manufacturers are no longer allowed to display the standard (i.e. 1.4 or 1.3b) on their packaging. In order to avoid confusion, they have been asked to address their cables in terms of performance and features. So, instead of promoting “HDMI 1.4” on their packaging, they will have to say something like “3D Ready” or “120hz Compatible.” This is to avoid confusion for the average customer who doesn’t want to do research, but who knows what they want. Since if you’re reading this you most likely to your research, be aware that 1.4 won’t (or shouldn’t by rule of HDMI.org) be on your HDMI cable literature.

3D Almost Ready for Prime Time… Almost

While some cable makers were ahead of the game on this one, manufacturers who make the sources and displays have had more challenges in making 3D affordable. It does appear that multiple manufacturers have worked out many of the kinks and will be making efforts to produce displays that can deliver 3D visuals.

The buzz at CES is that there will very soon be sources and displays at reasonable priced that can make 3D a reality in your home. In fact, ESPN has announced a 3D channel, as well as ABC and other affiliate stations. This is great news for sports enthusiasts who have been dying to have balls fly at their face in their own home. There may be other viewers who are not entirely ready for 3D, but for others, it’s a dimension whose time has come. Either way, it’s coming your way soon.

3D Projectors on the Horizon?

You bet they are! And there are even a few available now. However, thus far, most of the 3D love has been directed at learning and education tools market. But after CES, you will feel the love directed at you, the consumer. We promise to fill you in on what’s available in 3D as soon as we get the details. BenQ and LG are among a few who have already made announcements this week.

The Glasses Ceiling?

One issue some viewers will have with 3D technology of today is the need to wear special glasses. While this is probably no surprise since we’ve been wearing glasses at all our 3D movies in the theater, many people just prefer to be glasses free (as any Lasik provider will tell you). Also, with some of the current technology, the glasses can cost as much as $200 a pair. Why $200? Because in some cases the glasses actually generate the ultra-fast flickering movement that creates depth. In other technologies, the motion is created in the display, and the glasses serve as a filter alone. More on the types of 3D projector technology in a future post.

Ethernet over HDMI 1.4

The ultimate goal for the folks who designed the HDMI standard was to create a single cable that can carry audio, video, and data. While HD audio and video are covered, the data and controls have not yet been adopted by display manufacturers. It appears it is too costly to integrate the new technology just yet. Watch for more on this, and what it may mean for customers who want a fully integrated large scale projection system or home theater enthusiasts who use a home network.

As of yet, there aren’t any manufacturers who have implemented the new Ethernet over HDMI into their projectors. Comprehensive cable says that they expect to have a cable ready for Ethernet over HDMI soon, but there won’t be any displays that utilize it (affordably) till at least 2011.

Let Us Know What You Think!

HDMI 1.4 for projectors

There are still questions about the viability of 3D. At Cowboy stadium, for example, their giant display 3D experiment only lasted about 7 minutes before it was booed off the gargantuan moni-staur.

So we’d love to get your feedback if you’re in the mood to share. How do you feel about having 3D entertainment in your living room? Would you upgrade your display (TV or projector) to enjoy 3D content? Would you be willing to wear 3D glasses or do you prefer to wait till you can see 3D without glasses? Would you rather companies innovated with Smell-o-Vision and rumble seats?

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Projector People InfoComm 2009 Review – New Tiny Bright and 3D Projectors

InfoComm has come and gone once again. This year we don’t have any real earth shattering stories to report, but some progress has been made with some cool newer technologies. Here’s our quickie round up for projectors at InfoComm 2009.

LED Projector Light Sources

Micro portable projectors are now hot on the scene. Unfortunately, the projectors that slip easily into your pocket still have some maturing to do before they can replace their big brothers. The pocket projectors use LED technology, so they produce good color. They also require less energy to operate which means they can run on a battery for an hour or two. Their only real drawbacks are their limited connectivity, lower resolution, and their brightness – or rather dimness. They are just not realistically bright enough for many practical applications. Most hover at somewhere between 10 and 20 lumens.

However, the slightly-bigger-than-pocket palm sized LED projectors have reached more impressive lumen ranges of up to 100-150 lumens. Resolutions are also improved in the palm sized units. There are now XGA (1024×768) resolution products coming to market sometime this year.

[ Edited Oct. 2, 2009 ]

There are also clear intentions toward entering LED projection into the home theater market with a widescreen resolution optimized home theater LED projector. LED technology in home theater projectors is an exciting proposition because users would benefit from longer ‘lamp life’, lower power consumption, and a nice accurate color space.

LED home theater projectors look to be a few months out at least, and will probably have a significant asking price. Call it an early adopters tax.

3-D Projectors Coming Soon

3D Projectors

Speaking of early adoption, one of the big pushes at InfoComm this year was 3-D projection. Mitsubishi has released several TVs this past year with 3-D technology built in, and that technology is also coming to projectors.

So is your dream of 3-D becoming a reality? Maybe not just yet. For starters, the manufacturers seem to be targeting the Education market for this new technology. Probably because the technology isn’t quite mature enough for the demanding consumer. Additionally, buyers will need to purchase a set of 3-D glasses to enjoy the action. Not the kind you get free at the IMAX theater, or the kind you get from a cereal box (do they still put toys in cereal boxes?) but rather a special pair that will cost you somewhere between $125 to $300. That might be doable if you wanted to watch your 3-D alone, but of course you would have to multiply that by the number of people you like to get motion sickness with. Only kidding. The technology is really very cool, and 3-D might be to HDTV what color was to black and white. And it might also be a great tool for educators, particularly in the Arts and Sciences.

If you want to get yourself some 3-D, you shouldn’t have to wait too many more years. There were a number of manufacturers promoting the technology which should keep things progressing. We will be sure to get some 3-D projectors to review if we can so we can take some 2D video of it and share it with you!

Other Projector Stuff

There were a few other potentially exciting developments, but we still don’t have enough details to post anything yet. But we will keep you updated when we know more about new products coming out for fall – and on any other developments in home and business projection.

Fun Picture

Here’s a graphic that made us chuckle at InfoComm this year. We took a picture so you could take proper safety measures.

Projector Funny

Note that the graphic is placed directly next to the lens in small pictures. The message is not immediately evident, so you might expect people to lean in to figure out the message… which is telling you not to look into the lens.

Thanks for reading! As always, we are welcome to suggestions and comments!

More InfoComm 2009 Roundups

Projector Reviews

Art has sorted through some of the thumb drives he picked up at InfoComm and is sharing his perspective with you here.