Were you looking forward to even better HDMI for 4K video? You might have to wait a bit longer

by on April 29, 2015

Stephan Jukic – April 29, 2015

As we’d recently covered, a new version of the 4K-ready HDMI 2.0 was slated for impending release and aimed at improving the user experience in transmitting UHD content between their 4K TV and a secondary device. Called HDMI 2.0a, the spec extension supports metadata for high dynamic range-encoded 4K ultra HD content that gets passed through HDMI connecters.

Unfortunately however, at least for some users, there may be a bit of waiting involved since the new HDMI 2.0a might not be as easily updatable as was expected for certain home theater components.

According to a recent report by the website HDGuru sourced from conversations they had with Jeff Park, a senior technical specifications manager for HDMI LLC, whether or not the new HDMI 2.0-capable A/V receivers, media players and HDR 4K TVs can be updated for HDMI 20a with a basic firmware download or something more complex like an actual hardware change is not the responsibility of HDMI itself but of each manufacturer in turn.

Thus, for specific 2.0 to 2.0a upgradeability status as it might apply to each of these above-mentioned devices, Park explained to HDGuru that they should speak to all specific manufacturers individually for determining their HDMI 2.0a implementation plans.

However, because HDMI 2.0a is such a very recent release, few manufacturers of media players and A/V receivers are really prepared to make any definite statements on how they’re dealing with it or how their products will work (if they work at all) with the new HDR-ready HDMI update.

For those of you who aren’t in the know about HDR quite yet, the acronym stands for High Dynamic Range and represents a new video content encoding standard that newer model 4K TVs, external devices (media players etc) and media cable systems (HDMI) are getting ready for as content makers start encoding HDR into their actual video streams.

HDR basically broadens the range of light for a TV video to display and creates extra brightness for the brighter areas of a picture while also creating a more clearly defined impression of darkness in obscure parts of display content.

HDR is a crucial next step in the evolution of 4K ultra HD content

HDR is a crucial next step in the evolution of 4K ultra HD content

The ideal way in which to deliver this broader HDR brightness range is by actually applying it to content itself during production and then encoding the HDR as metadata that’s sent out along with the video signal itself. With this in mind, HDR metadata is to be sent out over the new HDMI 2.0a connections that are coming out in the form of information added on top of the regular content that will be sent to HDR enabled TVs. The metadata will then tell these HDR 4K TVs to expand the dynamic range of the content it came with.

As far as HDR-capable TVs go, getting them to work with HDMI 2.0a will likely be as simple as getting a downloadable firmware update in most cases. However, for some TVs at least, a hardware module exchange might be what a user needs to go through. One example of this would be Samsung’s “Evolution Kit”, which lets owners of those specific 4K TV models buy a new external One-Connect box with the latest connectivity ports built into it.

However, the place in which many home entertainment system owners might have problems is when it comes to buying new A/V receivers, switchers and media players which are supposed to be “HDMI 2.0/HDCP 2.2 capable”. Many of these devices, at least for now, might now actually have any preparation for this latest extension of HDMI 2.0.

Thus, for all you home entertainment system-building buyers out there, carefully check the next A/V receiver, media player, switcher or preamp you buy and make sure HDMI 2.0a has been factored into it if you want to eventually enjoy the HDR of 4K content in its second generation form.

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