High definition digital signals pose a large problem for movie studios. If movie studios allowed equipment manufacturers to output digital images from their video sources, anyone could make a perfect copy of a film — again and again — without degradation of the image. That is the nature of digital.
Manufacturers and studios developed a copy protection system to combat video piracy. In fact, they spent so much time developing it that the production of DVD recorders was actually delayed. When DVD players did hit the market, they lacked digital outputs and inputs, making the digital copying of DVDs impossible.
Today, all parties have agreed upon a standard — HDCP, and we’re now seeing digital cable and satellite set top boxes with digital outputs, DVD players with digital outputs/inputs, and digital inputs on high definition televisions/monitors.
What does this mean to you?
All digital sources must now encrypt signals before outputting them as digital signals. This also means that all video displays must be “HDCP enabled” to decode incoming digital signals, otherwise they can’t display the images. This is very important if you have purchased a video display. Even today, many front projectors aren’t HDCP compatible, which means that you can’t use their digital inputs to watch a digital video signal.
Can I still watch HDTV without a digital output and input?
Yes. For now, all HDTV set top boxes and other HDTV sources allow you to output an HDTV signal via the analog component output, just like a DVD player does. However, this is not guaranteed in the future. Although no set plan has been laid out, rumors claim that in the future, the only way to output a high definition signal will be from an HDCP encrypted digital output. And, according to rumors, all HDTV sources will be required to scale down HDTV signals to a widescreen 480i or 480p signal before outputting them as an analog signal.
This would mean that the only way to see a true HDTV signal would be to have an HDTV enabled television/monitor. But for now, this is not the case; we will have to wait and see how everything plays out in the future.
It is an issue to remain aware of as it would make most HDTV monitors/televisions manufactured before 2003 and 2004, and even some manufactured at later dates, useless for watching true HDTV.
If you don’t know if your television/monitor is HDCP enabled, consult your owner’s manual or call the manufacturer.