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Sunday, January 14, 2007

Everything the Eye Can See: 16-Bit Display Color

by Jim Witkowski

Having an interest in audio, I’ve been attending the Winter CES for several years. I rarely visit the "Zoo" floor, but since my companion was in the market for a video projector, we spend Thursday combing the circus at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

To get a free T-shirt, I voluntarily agreed to sit through a presentation sponsored by the HDMI consortium. Those are the people that set the standards for those cool little cables that go between your DVD player and your HDTV. At the show, they announced the new HDMI version 1.3 standards. Besides the higher transfer speeds there were a couple of items that should be of interest to every photographer working in color.

The first thing of interest is the standard’s support for up to 16 bits of color depth. That’s right, over a billion colors. That means that you’ll no longer have to put up with those moiré patterns that show up in images of the deep blue sky. It seems that the entertainment people have a problem with High Definition TVs displays exhibiting this behavior and wanted to fix it.

The other feature of interest in the new standard is a new color space with the unusual name of "xvYCC." This space covers the entire gamut of the human visible spectrum. Everything your eye can see will be shown in this color space. Traditional 8-bit RGB will be supported for backward compatibility, but to get the full advantage of xvYCC, all components in the display chain have to be HDMI 1.3 compliant.

Finally there's the agreement on a new mini-HDMI connector. Much like the small USB port used on cameras now, there is a small HDMI connector that can be plugged directly into cameras to take advantage of the new standards. There was a consumer point-and-shoot at the show that already had such a port.

Does this mean we need to run down and buy new video cards for our computers this afternoon? No. After checking in at several of the computer manufacture’s booths I learned that, at this point, none have monitors with HDMI ports. However, all have plans to incorporate HDMI into their equipment. If you’re in the market for a new monitor, try to hold out for a year or so. You’ll also have to wait for Microsoft and Apple to jump on board as well.

Better living through chemistry, eh?



Blogger Dan said...

Don't hold your breath.

HDMI isn't likely to become the next standard though it's competing for the job. There is also "Unified Display Interface" (Intel, Apple, etc) and "Display Port" (VESA, AMD/ATI) that are gunning for the role.

It won't matter much which wins as we will get super-high resolutions and 16bpc support either way. We'll just have to wait for another standards war first.

4:18 PM  
Blogger Just Plain Hugh said...

Keep in mind that HDMI brings along DRM restrictions on what you can do with your computer that you may not want if you are using the computer to create "content".

5:02 PM  

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