Analog Sunset? Not Really…

anasunsetThere’s been a lot of hype and misinformation concerning the so-called “Analog Sunset” for HD Component and VGA video. Many have been afraid that those ports won’t be available next year for QMOD HDTV and baseband video applications. Absolutely not true for set-top boxes – tuners, cable boxes, and satellite receivers.

I’ve heard that, soon, Component outputs will be “against the law”. Not true at all. In fact, the only law on the books requires that they stay on HD set-top boxes (cable boxes, satellite receivers, HD tuners), and run at full HD quality. Some time ago, the MPAA petitioned the FCC for SOC (Selectable Output Control) for set-top boxes, asking if they could turn of the HD analog ports at will. That was denied in 2008 by the FCC via regulation 47 CFR 76.1903:

76.1903 Interfaces
A covered entity shall not attach or embed data or information with audiovisual
content, or otherwise apply to, associate with, or allow such data to persist in
or remain associated with such content, so as to prevent its output through any
analog or digital output authorized or permitted under license, law or regulation
governing such covered product.

In 2010 the FCC allowed a trial period of two years where providers could turn off the analog ports for premium On Demand movies rented while the movie was still in the theater or not yet available on DVD. This move could affect movie theater business and home theater video rentals. However, the analog sun will still shine for set-tops in commercial RF and baseband video systems.

The term “Analog Sunset” was coined for the AACS (Advanced Access Content System) Blu-Ray playback protection scheme for players and PCs. Blu-Ray players and PCs made after 2010 will provide only SD Component or VGA (only if a Blu-Ray disk is playing), and turn off the Component /VGA outputs for AACS content after 2013. It is an issue for homeowners and home theaters, not commercial QMOD HDTV distribution or HD component video routing systems. Of course, PC manufacturers being lazy, they turn on the HDCP all time, even if you’re showing your own content.

If anything, the only “sunset” could be for Blu-Ray itself. One arm of the movie industry wants to cripple its playback options, while the other is planning On Demand services that will cripple Blu-Ray sales and rentals. Hint – studios get a cut of every streamed rental, they earn nothing from repeat DVD rentals.

More information and links on SOC and sunsets can be found in a Washington Post Faster Forward story, “Hollywood Drives Us into the Digital Sunset” from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the excellent “Analog Sunset Demystified” White Paper by Extron.