Here comes HDMI 2.0a, a specification update for HDR support in 4K UHD content

by on April 10, 2015

Stephan Jukic – April 10, 2015

The HDMI Forum has very recently announced the specification for HDMI 2.0a and it’s designed to support the transmission of HDR video. Given that HDR is one of the pillars of the next generation 4K UHD content that is just on the verge of arriving to the 4K TVs also now being released with HDR compatibility, the advent of this new HDMI 2.0 modification is very timely and important for both the consumer and producer/manufacturer ends of the spectrum.

HDR, short for high dynamic range, is a new content enhancement formatting that greatly increases the possible contrast ratio on ultra HD content from broadcast, Blu-ray and streaming sources. The result is a much richer and sharper image that consumers notice for its quality even more easily than they notice the pure resolution provided by 4K.

For this reason, many content creators and broadcasters, as well as the major manufacturers of 4K TVs, are so interested in advancing HDR as quickly as they can to the consumer market. Its qualities are highly visible and could play an enormous part in making 4K content even more attractive than it is thanks to its resolution enhancements.

Arnold Brown, chairman of the HDMI Forum’s board of directors explained that, “By adding HDR, the HDMI Specification continues its history of supporting the latest formats and technologies planned for Hollywood content”.

Most of the current 4K UHD TVs on the market aren’t at all ready for HDR content delivery and while the newest TVs from Samsung and others, particularly Samsung’s already released SUHD 4K models, come with built-in HDR compatibility, the HDMI 2.0a specification update for HDR should make even ordinary 4K TVs with the proper firmware updates to their HDMI ports capable of managing high dynamic range in their content.

The data transmission differences between HDMI 2.0 and its predecessors

The data transmission differences between HDMI 2.0 and its predecessors

Robert Blanchard, President of the HDMI Forum also suggested that consumers won’t have to hurry out and buy themselves a new 4K TV just because it has DMI 2.0a ports.

This is because the Forum’s support for HDR enables their 800+ HDMI 2.0 adopters to develop useful products which also include HDR and will maintain interoperability across the entire HDI ecosystem.

However, once again, even for owners of existing 4K UHD TVs without built-in HDR compatibility, and no HDMI 2.0a, there will likely be available firmware updates or purchase options for external connection port boxes that incorporate the new HDMI standard and make HDR feasible in older 4K TVs.

Examples of these include Samsung’s UHD Evolution Kit and Sony’s FMP X5 box for the company’s newer and older 4K TVs.

Bottom line: consumers who want 4K content and HDR in the coming months should not jump at buying a new HDR-capable 4K TV. Instead, they should wait to see what sorts of more affordable and simpler update and compatibility options arrive on the market.

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