Analog Sunset? Not Really…

There’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.

Display Express TV Guide

This blog is dedicated to all those who use Display Express systems to control TVs. Here, we’ll summarize the “controllability” status of popular makes of TVs, and we will update new facts and gotchas as we discover them. For example, a few sets need to be set in in a special mode, or an energy-saving mode needs to be turned off for RS-232 commands to operate. You’ll notice there is some flux in control and features in the industry, so feel free to contact CR Support when you’re planning an install – we are happy to research makes and models.

LG

For many years, just about all LG sets had an RS-232 port. That’s changing. Almost no consumer sets have that port today; that feature has moved to Commercial Public Display sets. LG control code is one of the best, our current code can lock and unlock TVs, as well as select inputs. If you select an input, send a TV input command to return to the current channel – sending channel command won’t leave the input.

Presently, models include:

LCD TVs: LD450C (37,42,47), LD-452C (32, 37,42,47), 55LD520C
Plasma TVs: 50PV450C,  60PV450C, 40PT350C, 50PT350C

Also, there are many EZ-Sign TVs that have RS-232 control as well. Note that the signage player can’t be accessed via RS-232, the user must page through a few menus to find it.

Panasonic

The ICC1-IR can control Panasonic Viera-series TVs via IR, code support discrete power control. There are a few hospitality sets that have RS-232 control, but oddly, only provides channel up and down control, not direct channel access.

Samsung

For most Samsung TVs, use IR control, supports discrete power control. There are RS-232 options, but it’s a bit confusing. Commercial Monitors use the familiar MDC (Multiple Display Control) commands. Consumer TVs (not all) can feature Ex-Link RS-232 control, which is a different command set, the caveat being that the format can only tune up to channel 63, it does not support channels 64 and over.

Both use a stereo mini RS-232 connector, an inexpensive adapter cable AA39-00311A is available from www.SamsungParts.com that plugs right into the DB9 connector on the ICC1-232 and ICC2-ATSC+. There are older Samsung monitors that use a DB9 connector.

MDC Monitors:
ME40A ME46A ME55A
DE40A DE46A DE55A
UE46A UE55A

Ex-Link TVs
Not shown in specs, you have to dig through the manuals to find the feature. To activate, when the TV is off, send Mute, 1, 8, 2, power quickly for the special menu. Set RS232Jack to Hotel. Sets we’ve documented:

UN55D7000 UN55ES6100

Sharp

All Sharp TVs can be controlled by the ICC1-IR, with discrete power and input control. Sharp has been expanding the number of sets with RS-232 control and can use the ICC1-232, the latest command set allows DX-format input selects. For example, sending a channel command of 0-211 will select HDMI1, 0-200 will return the TV to the tuner.

The control code for tuning digital channels has been slightly erratic over the years, generally good, but there have been bugs. The “buggy” sets can’t tune in the first minor channel (NN-1), but does fine for others. In the Sharp code for the ICC1-232, you can send a command through DX or IC Send (H9,1) to a controller that has a TV with the tuning issue.

Note that some sets need to be set to Public Mode before RS-232 will work. The process is a bit confusing – ask CR Support for the Sharp Public Mode PDF. Models with this option include LC-52/60/70LE640U and C6400U. There are other features in this mode, and you can clone the TV settings for other TVs in the system. Contact  sryan@sharpsec.com for more info.

Sony

Most Sony sets are IR-controlled, and our Sony code features discrete on/off and input selects. There are commercial/hospitality sets that have RS-232 control and tuning, but the code is actually for an Enseo hotel tuner on the back of the TV. Those sets will be sent analog-style channel commands; and internal map in the tuner links the channel to an associated digital program.

Visio

We have a full set of IR commands for Visio TVs that includes discrete power and input commands. We’re not sure all Visio sets have discrete power, especially smaller sets.

Residential Market

Home is where the media is, be it on land, sea, or in the air. While large-scale residential applications have historically used extensive (and expensive) twisted-pair video routing systems, HD video distribution is shifting to HDTV RF – for a number of good reasons.

RF is simple to implement, easily scalable, and far less expensive to integrate. No expensive interfaces to install (and replace when new standards arise) – TVs have HDTV tuners on board, so reception is free. The coax “backbone” can be branched at any point to add new TV viewing locations. Most importantly, the RF infrastructure is often in place.

Contemporary Research leads the way to HDTV media distribution with its QMOD series HD modulators. Content from satellite and cable receivers are converted to open-access HD digital cable channels, while HD scaler modulators distribute channels from security camera servers and other PC-driven media.

HDTV media systems are also a popular choice for yachts, as RF coax can easily carry HD signals for very long distances to many locations. RF is a hand’s down choice for HD retrofits, re-deploying the existing analog RF infrastructure to HD.

 

 

 

 

Make Your Own Display Express PC

Display Express software requires a Windows7 Pro PC to run the application. Sometimes this is implemented on a client’s PC, other times the integrator needs to provide a computer. As a service, we offer a rack-mount PC, pre-installed with Display Express, and supplied with a fan speed controller, USB to RS-232 interface, mouse and keyboard. However, Windows 7 Pro makes it easy for integrators to purchase and set up a DX PC on their own.

DX can also be installed on XP Pro, but the process is a more involved than Win7 Pro. Win7 Pro has all the  elements you need built in, where in XP Pro you’ll likely need the original CDs, and downloading and installing .NET 2.0. By now, an XP Pro PC is likely dated in technology and on an existing unit, the hard drive may not have much life left in it. If a customer wants to use an XP Pro PC, we can send you the install info. The procedure is also in the DX manual.

Rack Mount PCs

There are a number of providers that offer inexpensive rack-mount PCs for this application. One source is www.abmx.com. There are two models we suggest (over time, model numbers and prices will vary, but the choices will be similar):

  • Mini-Rack Server # 114B25-2. This unit is very cost-effective, retailing at about $567 using the base model with Windows 7 Pro. You can use 32- or 64-bit versions. This unit is fine for rack installs where fan noise is not an issue – the fan is fairly loud. Presently, this server isn’t available until 6/1/2012.
  • 1U Sandy Bridge Mini-Server # 114SS9. This is a better, low-noise server, selling at $830, with the basic Celeron processor and hard drive. We also recommend adding the 30 GB SSD drive, which offers better long-term reliability than traditional hard drives.

Server 2003

Note that Display Express can be installed into Server 2003 by the client’s IT department, adding no PC cost and full IT support and backup. The unit would communicate with the iCE-HE Head End over Ethernet.

All-In-One PCs and Laptops

Where rack-mounting isn’t critical, another good choice is an all-in-one PC, providing processor, flat-panel screen, mouse and keyboard in one unit.  The HP Omni 120 series is good choice, retailing at about $570 with Windows 7 Pro. Laptops are all-in-one units as well.

These are just a few of the options. The key point is there are many good PC suppliers and many configurations to suit the client’s needs.  For integrators, using a new Win7 Pro PC is the best solution. DX will run on XP Pro, but there are more variables; do they have the original CDs to install IIS service, is .NET 2.0 installed, and reliability/age of the PC and hard drive.

Next Step: Install DX Software to a Win 7 Pro PC

Display Express PC Installation – Windows 7 Pro

Installing Display Express software into a Windows 7 Pro computer is a fairly simple process. This is far easier than Windows XP Pro, as all the tools you need are already present in Windows 7.

Enabling Internet Information Services

This group of services makes it possible to server Web pages from the computer.

Go to Control Panel > Programs and Features > Turn Windows Features On or Off.

A Windows Features Menu will appear, it will often take a bit of time to load.

Select Internet Information Services (turns to blue square)

  • Expand Internet Information Services
  • Click on Worldwide Web Services
  • Click on Application Development Features
  • Check ASP.NET
  • Click OK to install features

Install DX Software

Run the DX installer, there will be the usual Windows pop-up questions,  then an agree/disagree DX Installer popup, then:

Use the Local Subnet selection for typical installs. This means others on your network can access the DX Web pages, but not from outside your network. If you need to change the settings, run the DX installer again and the options will appear.

When the app is complete, you’ll see 2 DX Icons, one launches DX, the other brings up the Manual. Click the DX icon and see if the DX login screen appears.  Proceed if it does, if not, restart the PC.

COM Port

If you are using in a PC with an onboard COM port, or a USB to RS-232 adapter, this is a good time to define the port in Display Express.  In Win7, the number of the port is at Control Panel/Devices and Printers. Under Unspecified, you’ll see a device usually named USB UART. Click the icon, then the Hardware tab. You’ll see the COM port number there.

When you have that info, login to DX and go to Setup/Options. Enter the COM port # there.

If you are restoring an existing DX PC from Contemporary Research, contact CR Support for the installer for the USB to RS-232 adapter.

Power Options

Right-click the background screen, choose Personalize, then Screen Saver. Select Power Options and make sure the computer does not go into Sleep mode or stop drive operation.

Upgrades

Software updates to Display Express are free. Go to the www.crwww.com website, select Downloads, look for Display Express, then download the installer. The installer will also place the updated manual on your PC desktop as well.

Stadium and Arena Markets

Today’s sports facilities are becoming more and more media-intensive. HD displays are almost everywhere – hallways, entries, concessions, suites, even bathrooms. Typical content includes one or more HD live feeds, digital signage, and, in suites, popular cable channels.

The number of TVs at the site typically ranges from 300 to 1000, so control can be labor-intensive. Many facilities employ CR Display Express technology. Control networks over existing RF system, so no addition wiring is needed. TV integration, using a low-cost controller at each TV. Central control is largely managed by an event schedule created in Web-based software, with the option to respond to changes using a PC or wireless tablet.

Many venues also include sports bars, with channel arrays arranged manually or by scheduled presets.

Emergency Operations Center Market

Emergency Operation Centers deliver a media-rich environment to emergency response staff, allowing them immediate access to resources they need to make critical decisions. Resources include local and national news and weather channels, graphics from local PC apps and the Internet, fiber and IPTV feeds from traffic, helicopter, security, and “classified”  video sources, and radio stations.

A growing number of sites are using RF as a common carrier for information. A single coax cable can present over a hundred channels of video simultaneously, and all an operator needs to tune in is a standard flat-panel TV set. HDTV modulators ingest video from the wide array of sources.

RF-base EOC design is extremely scalable, suitable for small and large scale installations, and easily adaptable for adding new channels and viewing locations.