2007-07-30

HDCP Hell

I should have known better... after all, I've blogged about the evils of DRM before, although not HDCP in particular (here's a nice intro). HDCP is basically DRM that "works" (as we'll see in a minute, I'm hesitant to say it works at all) over a digital hi-definition connection. All that BluRay/HD-DVD jazz works mainly with HDCP, supposedly to prevent unauthorized copying.

If you're trying to watch HDCP content, every component on the way has to support HDCP. A simple example would be a BluRay player hooked up to an HDTV. If the HDTV doesn't support HDCP, the BluRay player will refuse to play the disc (or it may reduce quality). For computers, it's much more complicated. In order to play an HD-DVD on your computer, your player software, operating system*, HD-DVD drive*, video card, and monitor must all support HDCP. Any one of those are not up to par, and your HD-DVD will again either not play, or play at relatively poor quality (* I'm not sure about these components). Certainly not the Hi Def you paid for.

And of course, my friends, this exact situation happened to me. I purchased a very fancy-shmancy LCD monitor with HDCP support advertised. Then, to take advantage of my purchase, I bought an upconverting DVD player. Soon I would be watching my old DVD's in high definition!

Well, no. My dvd player would simply not allow me to select a resolution higher than the minimum 480p, even though my monitor supports the much higher 1080p! Why not? Who can say? But I strongly suspect that one of the components is screwing up when it comes to the HDCP "handshake".

Here comes the kicker - neither company is particularly enthused about helping me out with this problem. The monitor people don't even seem to have a clue what HDCP is, even though it's a selling point of the monitor! I'm going to call the DVD people, but guess who they're going to blame.

My only recourse at this point, short of returning the DVD player, is to see if there are any 3rd party firmwares that disable HDCP on the DVD player.

Anyway, it's an ugly, anti-consumer situation. Caveat Emptor...

--YY

4 comments:

Mihai said...

Hi there... welcome to the wonderful world of HDTV :)

I had a similar problem with my HDTV and my cable box - they would refuse to play nice together. After a few days of trial and error, it suddenly started to work. It has been working ever since...

So what you can try is to turn off your devices, turn them on and connect/disconnect them. Try any combination of the above. The thing with HDMI/HDCP is that it needs to exchange cryptographic keys between devices and manufacturers are not always standard compliant.

Also, if your upconverting DVD player is an OPPO 900 series, I would probably blame the monitor :). OPPOs have a pretty solid reputation.

Mihai

YodaYid said...

I'm very strongly considering buying an OPPO. They seem to be beloved by all, and at least one of the models upconverts over component video (i.e. no HDCP to deal with, although it's apparently in violation of the DVD spec). The only catches are slightly higher price ($50 more in my case) and mail order only.

FYI, I have a Panasonic DVD player (S53) and a Gateway monitor.

p.s. I'm beyond turning stuff off and on and closer to taking apart my DVD player with a crowbar ;-)

YodaYid said...

Spoke too soon re OPPO's upscaling over component video:

"Up-converting over component output is only available for unencrypted DVD discs such as home video and consumer-created contents. Most commercially pressed DVD discs are CSS-encrypted and will be limited to 480i/480p output over component. HDMI output is protected with HDCP and has no such restriction."

(OPPO's Data_Sheet for the DV-980H [pdf])

Upconvert DVD said...

Did you consider a PS3 for upconversion? Reviews are pretty good.