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My HDMI Conundrum

Columnist John Caldwell says HDMI is great in theory, but the technology isn't where it needs to be.

I really want to believe in High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI). I really do.

Uncompressed digital streams, unified component interoperability, and a reduction in the bird's nest of cables that make up A/V systems are all things that warm hearts of custom designers, installers and high performance enthusiasts. But based on my experience and the horror stories I hear everyday from countless custom installers around the world, all is not well.

The problems with HDMI are numerous and have to do primarily with technical factors revolving around Digital Rights Management (DRM), High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) specifications, and something you're going to be hearing a lot more about in the next few years: Image Constraint Tokens.

What prompted my rant this week is the simple act of taking the HDMI output from one HD DVD player and sending its video signal to two displays: in this case two high-def video projectors. This had me and a bunch of industry vets flummoxed last weekend while at the Electronic House Expo (Disclosure: EHX is run by's parent company, EH Publishing).

We tried using a couple of different HDMI splitters from Gefenone of the growing number of cottage industry suppliers making little black boxes for just such a common application. But alas, our plan for a really cool but simple side-by-side demo of 720p vs 1080p projectors went down in flames. Even the guys from Gefen couldn't figure it out. We could get one side of the splitter to work, but not the other simultaneously. We could reverse the whole set up and get the other side to work but not the first. Uff dah! So we resorted to using two identical sources with two of the same HD DVDs to do the comparison. The horror.

To read the rest of John's rant, check out