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HDMI 1.4 - Theatrical Entertainment in the Home

Don't look now, but the next generation of widescreen displays and home theater is looming on the horizon. You may have heard rumblings of new technologies like 3-D television and higher-definition digital video for movie theaters. And while these are not quite mass market yet, the foundation and infrastructure to support them is being readied, in the form of the recently-announced HDMI 1.4 specification.

HDMI is the High-Definition Multimedia Interface -- the one cable that will rule them all, replacing the clutter of cables from video devices to your HDTV with one single cable that carries all the video and audio information, in high-quality digital format.

The current HDMI format supports up to up to 1080i/60 video and 8-channel lossless digital audio. The new HDMI 1.4 supports 4K x 2K resolution (including 4096 x 2160 at 24 Hz) -- the same resolution as many digital theaters. So if you have a big enough room, someday we can think about theatrical-quality video in the home.

And HDMI 1.4 supports 3-D displays, with common 3-D formats and resolutions, up to dual-stream 1080p resolution. Put on your glasses -- the consumer electronics industry hopes that 3-D will be a big driver for new products, as the film industry continues to experiment with more movies in 3-D.

HDMI already supports two-way communication between devices, for example for automatic configuration of the best format, and one-touch play. HDMI 1.4 adds Ethernet networking, so devices can share the network for bi-directional 100 Mb/sec communications. Soon your toaster will be programming your set-top box, and vice versa.

For specific kinds of uses, HDMI 1.4 also adds an audio return channel from devices that input audio, to send audio upstream for processing and playback, and color space support for digital still cameras, for more accurate colors when displaying photos directly from a camera.

Plus, HDMI 1.4 broadens the format to more devices with a Micro HDMI connector for portable devices, supporting 1080p resolutions with a 19-pin connector that's half the size of the existing HDMI Mini connector, and an Automotive Connection System for in-vehicle HD distribution.

These enhancements will require corresponding special cables:
- Standard HDMI Cable (category 1) - Data rates up to 1080i/60 (75 Mhz)
- High Speed HDMI Cable (category 2) - Data rates beyond 1080p (340 Mhz)
- Standard HDMI Cable with Ethernet, High Speed HDMI Cable with Ethernet
- Automotive HDMI Cable - Connect external devices to in-vehicle HDMI devices

The next generation of home theater may be interesting indeed!

See my Home Digital Media Resources summary for more on home media interfaces.

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