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!
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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