Understanding HDMI and HDCP

7 Likes Comments Comment
Like if this Guide is helpful

What this article does


This article will seek to cover HDMI versus HDCP specifically, solutions how to get rid of HDCP, and inform you of the versions of HDMI and why they matter. And I will try to keep it simple and in an understandable language.

Also note that eBay has a dumb policy that prevents me from using images of any sort, and prevent me from posting any non-eBay links.
The images apparently have to direct to eBay, but.. There is no way I can upload images to eBay without selling the product myself.
Therefore I will insert spaces in links, pardon the inconvenience :)

I have uncensored, undumbed versions of this article here:

blog.diablodoc.com/post/68376451035/understanding-hdmi-and-hdcp
blogs.cafeotaku.com/entry.php?32-Understanding-and-Solving-HDMI-and-HDCP-Part-1-2
blogs.cafeotaku.com/entry.php?33-Understanding-and-Solving-HDMI-and-HDCP-Part-2-2

(Click at your own risk, etc etc)
 

Introduction


Also note for beginners: The difference between an input and an output, is that an Input actually receives signals (Like your TV monitor receives signals from your PlayStation 3) and an Output sends signals to other devices (Like your Playstation 3 sends its signals to the TV).
Thus, your Playstation has an Output, that "sends" or "outputs" the signal to your TV monitor's Input).

HDMI is a high definition standard for video and audio transfer. Applied widely to modern devices, such as TVs, Tuners, Gaming Consoles and more, it is relevant for everyone to have at least some understanding of HDMI.

Saving the boring things for last, I'll later introduce you to the HDMI versions.
 

Our biggest annoyance: HDCP


For now, I'd like to talk a bit more about HDCP, the most annoying and bullshit feature of HDMI that we all wanna get rid of. And I might know ways to do so.

HDCP stands for High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection, and works like a DRM (Gamers know what this is), or a limiter on your use of HDMI.
Not all devices use HDCP, but a LOT of them do, such as TV tuners, gaming consoles and more.

HDCP is excused to prevent "pirating" of content and such, by not allowing you to intercept or interfere with a signal that is being sent, not record it or otherwise do things with it. Sounds great, doesn't it?
 

The problems


But the problem with HDCP is that it causes more problems than it solves. First of all, you can get around HDCP by using methods that aren't really that complex. So this method will only serve its purpose against users that can't be bothered to deal with HDCP. So what repercussions does it have?

First of all, HDCP will make a lot of devices purely incapable of showing HDMI signals at all, as they are uncertified or not modern enough to deal with it. HDCP will also render a lot of ways to handle the video/audio impossible, given how it very specifically limits the ways you can interact with it.

For my sake, I am a YouTuber, so that means that I wanna record my gameplay on my PlayStation 3 (Which, mind you, is perfectly legal. PlayStation 4 even comes with default features of uploading your gameplay to Facebook) and sometimes do this live without modifying the content, while other times just save the videos so I can add commentary or sound effects. Many YouTubers can gain revenue this way, and some make a living by making game reviews, multiplayer livestreams and the latter.
HDCP makes all of this this completely impossible.

HDCP is also possible to get around or remove, but that means additional cablework, which I really want to keep to a minimum. It's impractical and usually results in a slight loss of quality.
 

Can we fix it?


One of the things I've been wanting to find out, is how to efficiently get rid of HDCP without screwing with the video quality. I also wanted to avoid converting the signal into DVI and other formats. I want a pure HDMI signal to be the result, so I can just plug whatever tiny device to the HDMI cable, and plug another cable from the device and into my PC, TV or whatever else. A perfect solution.

I have actually found ways to do this. There are some devices that, despite not being designed or marketed as able to do this, they still are. These devices are mostly signal splitters, that allow you to output your signal into more devices.
But behold! Most splitters will not remove HDCP!
So for instance, you plug your PS3 HDMI cable into the Splitter, and then the splitter has 2 outputs. You can plug cables from one of them to your TV, and the other to whatever else (In my case, a Capture Card, so I can record it). And the Splitter just seems to remove HDCP, but have no other impact on the signal. Great, isn't it?

Most splitters that can remove HDCP as of now that I write this article, use HDMI version 1.3b. So you can not do this for the bigger 4K displays and all of that without losing some quality. But that's not a problem for most of us!

So here's what I'll do..

Firstly, I will mention another way to "bypass" HDCP (Not recommended as much).
Then, I will list the devices that might strip away HDCP (Best way to do it).
 

The bypass-method


As a gamer, I have a Capture Card in my computer. This is essentially a card that I purchased, that in my case, has HDMI input and outputs, as well as some additional input/outputs.

The Capture Card lets me view any signals that are received in a dedicated window, using its software. This allows me to plug a PlayStation 3 to my Capture Card via HDMI, and view the game on my monitor, from inside Windows, while I write this article.

However, because of HDCP, I can't record the signal or do anything with it. The Capture Card gives me an error, saying that HDCP is preventing it from doing anything.

However, if I use *another* recording software, separate from the Capture Card, I can use that software to capture the preview window for the capture card, itself. This may sound complicated, but is demonstrated ** here**.

By using that technique, you can actually record and manipulate the signal from HDMI, however it has its big backdraws. You can only capture the "view" of that window, so if you move another application over it you will record that instead. You may experience quality loss, and you will have to try and leave the window untouched.
 

The proper HDCP-removing methods


If, however, you do not want to use the above method of "bypassing" HDCP, and would rather avoid all the troubles and just strip away the HDCP normally, this part of the article is for you.

The complicated conversion-way

Most people who today remove HDCP, are doing it an awkward and complicated way. They're converting the signal using a HDMI to DVI converter (hardware), then receiving the signals through a DVI connection and AUX cables.

The simple Splitter-way

Others are running it through converters that are a little bit more practical; the converters also have HDMI outputs, meaning they can input HDMI into the converter, but also output it as HDMI, preserving it the way I wanted.
You can also convert it to other things than DVI, using other converters.

But, I wanted something that preferrably didn't convert the signal at all, in fear of loss of quality. Also, I do not want a big box for converting everything, but I'd rather like a smaller box. And if that box can output the HDMI through even more outputs, how great isn't that?

These boxes that I found, happen to be some specific Splitters, that for one reason or the other, don't seem to preserve the HDCP. Some may intentionally not, while others just had defective designs that only harmed HDCP.

Sewell 1x2 Splitter

The smallest and earliest Splitter I found, was an old box from Sewell. It's commonly known as the "Sewell 2 Port 1x2 HDMI Splitter V 1.3b", and as the title suggests, supports HDMI 1.3b.
This splitter in particular had a defect that would cause HDCP not to output.

However, they fixed this issue, and all the newer versions of this box (They look nearly identical) will now output HDCP normally. So unless you manage to find the old version, you risk getting the wrong item.
There has also been a lot of other boxes that were rumoured to strip away HDCP, but I can't tell for sure if they do.
A lot of splitters are identical-looking, save for their branding or text font.

Also note that I heard some splitters will be able to pretend to remove HDCP, if you connect one of the outputs to a valid monitor, making the other output then not have HDCP because you already validated it with the monitor. But this method is no good if you want to just purely capture the signal and not preview it on a valid HDCP-compliant monitor at the same time.

Here's the Sewell Splitter:

(Image:  ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/616-TH1zZdL._SL1500_.jpg

eBay Link
Amazon Link (remove spaces): amazon.com/gp/product/B003B4O7NS/ref=ox_ya_os_product

Note: If the box you receive the Sewell splitter in looks different, it's likely the updated version, 1.4, which does not strip HDCP. Mine was gray-colored instead of black, and looked slightly different. The manual in it also stated it supported v1.4, and I tested it finding out that it didn't strip HDCP.

I ordered the above item from Amazon, and received the 1.4 version, which was the wrong version. But because the item I received was not 1.3b as described in the title, I have sent a complaint. I demand to get what I order.

Another Splitter:

According to an article, this item seems to bypass HDCP. Here's a screenshot and quote, incase the links become invalid:

Link to uncut imagei.imgur.com/Dg80K7d.png
Article: forums.sonicretro.org/index.php?s=ec41a8c3a6dc05fde326edea2e28c502&showtopic=30646&view=findpost&p=726824
(Remove spaces in the links)
 
The user above sent a message to the seller on eBay, asking:
"Does this product remove the HDCP encryption on the output signal?"

The answer was: "Thank you for contacting us. This item is capable of removing/bypassing HDCP. Please do not hesitate to let us know if you have any other questions or if there is anything else we can help you with.
Sincerely,
- acepurchase"

So in other words, there is a high probability that the item above strips away HDCP.
 

Generic 4-Way HDMI Splitter (1x4)


One of the Splitters I think is safest to buy, and confirmed by most people to work, is this one.
Amazon Link:  amazon.com/gp/product/B0089DVCT8/ref=gno_cart_title_1?ie=UTF8&psc=1&smid=ATVPDKIKX0DER

It's a 1x4 Splitter, and people say it strips the HDCP.
Note that you must make sure the text font on the top of the product you buy, is identical to the one here, or it'll be the wrong 1x4 splitter.
Even confirmed by this article:  mercianmedia .wordpress. com/2013/08/13/how-to-send-hdcp-encrypted-signals-to-non-hdcp-devices/

The Splitter above should be ideal, and does not require you to use a monitor. It should simply strip HDCP.
However, it's a bit big for my taste, so if possible I'll try to get the Sewell splitter 1.3b version.

ViewHD 1x2 Splitter (Does it work?)

I checked out a splitter called ViewHD. As far as I could see from the comments and responses on Amazon, it didn’t seem likely to work, however a user named Deadcode informed me they have one, and that it actually seems to work.

He said he’s got a cable box (for TV) plugged into the splitter, and views + records this in a Blackmagic Intensity capture card.

On the Amazon page where you can buy it, comments responding to my query seem to be that you can make it work if you plug two of them in a row, and that plugging only one results in a defect signal in one of the outputs (If you have 2 HDTVs connected).

Another user just seems to say the device does not strip the HDCP for him.
It may be worth a shot if you can’t get a better option.

ViewHD link:
amazon.com/ViewHD-Port-Powered-Splitter-1080P/dp/B004F9LVXC/ref=cm_cd_al_qh_dp_t
 

HDMI Versions


HDMI comes in various different versions, and all of them have different capabilities for data transfer.
I will not go overly into detail about these versions, but you can read about them on Wikipedia.

If you do not understand the things I mention in the different HDMI versions, chances are you can ignore it unless you experience problems. As long as your devices support HDMI at all, it can't be too bad.

Also, all later HDMI versions tend to support earlier version stuff so far. But you get the best and full compatibility (so far) by using HDMI 1.4, which supports all earlier versions and is the latest one to be popularly used.

Here's some quick terminology:  1080p means the standard screen resolution of 1920x1080.
When I specify @ 60 or @ 30, I am specifying the framerate, aka Frames Per Second supported during that resolution in which HDMI can transfer.
FPS also means Frames Per Second, like 60 FPS.

2K or 4K and whatever number ending with "K" is thousand. So 4K is roughly 4 000. This term is standard and derived from "kilo", which also means thousand. Hence one Kilogram is a thousand grams.

Here's the pile of version information, feel free to skip it:
  • All of the HDMI versions (Aka 1.0 and up) support up to 1080p @ 60 and UXGA specifically (1920×1200), according to the wiki. This is very standard, and most people won't need more than 1080p @ 30. If you have a higher resolution than what is supported, you should utilize a higher version, or the resolution will become lower in the output and have a lower quality.
  • HDMI 1.1 supports DVD-Audio
  • HDMI 1.2 supports Super Audio CD audio, low voltage sources, ..
  • HDMI 1.3 is the king so far, supporting a higher bandwidth of data transfer (No, not internet/ethernet), Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio, audio-video sync, and deep color, with 30-bit, 36-bit and 48-bit xvYCC, sRGB, or YCbCr (compared to 24-bit sRGB or YCbCr in previous HDMI versions)..
    1.3 also has an "alternate" version with mini cable connectors for portable devices.
  • HDMI 1.3a comes up next with some limitation removals
  • HDMI 1.3b, 1.3b1 and 1.3c aren't important to talk about, and don't introduce anything in terms of features and such.
  • HDMI 1.4 is da bomb for high-tech needs. It adds the ability for Ethernet/Internet transfer at 100 Mbit/s so your connected devices can share an ethernet connection. It supports several Stereoscopic 3D formats, has an Audio Return Channel (Less cablework!), and a lot more.
    Its maximum resolution is 4K x 2K, aka 3840×2160 (4K Ultra HD) @ 24/25/30, or 4096×2160 @ 24.

  • HDMI 1.4 also lets cables that usually only supports 1.3, use all its features except for the Ethernet connection. So you can plug 2 HDMI devices of version 1.4 and use nearly everything via a 1.3 cable.
  • HDMI 1.4a adds more 3D formats and requirements for them..
  • HDMI 1.4b adds support for 3D 1080p @ 120
  • HDMI 2.0 can transfer a lot more data, supports 4K resolutions @ 60, improves 3D capabilities, supports 32 channels of audio and better audio qualities as well, supports HRE-AAC and DRA audio formats, dynamic auto lip-sync and more. You don't need this version unless you're going for the really big stuff, and I haven't even seen a cable specifically for this version, so I know little about it.

Sources (Remove spaces):

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HDMI#Versions
A different guide I randomly found:  https://www.ebay.com/gds/HDMI-Versions-Whats-the-difference-/10000000002148785/g.html?_trksid=p2047675.m2468
Explore more Guides