The trouble with High-Def (again)

I wrote a little about the production problems of high-definition a while ago; now the New York Times has done the commendably obvious story and talked to porn industry insiders about the problems they’re seeing. Sure enough, they’re resorting to clever post-production techniques to smooth skin. You have to register to read the article, but it’s worth it for the name ‘Stormy Daniels,’ which is clearly ‘name of first pet and mother’s maiden name’ or somesuch.

Anyway, there are reports that the ‘DRM in the cables’ HDCP-enabled HDMI schemes are (a.) completely baffling to anyone who isn’t forced to chant marketing pap every day at early-morning acronym school, and (b.) consequently likely to degrade high-def content played back on, for example, a Vista-based PC. This leads to the hilariously paradoxical situation where legitimate Hollywood-generated movies can look worse than cheap-and-cheerful home-made HDV. Like – er – porn, I guess.

One theory doing the rounds is that Microsoft is bending to the wishes of the movie industry in full knowledge that the whole edifice is fatally flawed, and that the utter collapse of the high-def DVD market will bring them to their senses. I don’t buy that (can you say ‘antitrust suit’?), but it’s an amusing possibility.

(Be sure to read Peter Gutmann’s article that restarted all this, by the way. It’s technical, opinionated, and refreshingly blunt. It’s also worth a read of Microsoft’s riposte to Gutmann, if only to marvel at them firstly not deigning to link to it directly, but also to wonder how things can be so messy that 1900 words are needed to explain the situation. Also, skim the comments there and tell me people support Microsoft and the media industry in this.)

[update, Tuesday 23rd: Gutmann responds to Microsoft’s response. Of particular note: he’s yet to receive word of anyone successfully playing HD content, on a PC, in HD. HDCP isn’t there yet. Also: The Inquirer’s take, Article with an interesting real-world example (scroll down: additional process sucking 10-20% CPU when playing mp3 files); Engadget article about the sort of HDCP-stripping DVI box that, if revoked, could suck loads of legitimate hardware with it. This is a mess. Likely not as much of a mess as people fear, but – put it this way: if you’re pissed off at not being able to suck songs off your iPod, this is going to be even more frustrating.]

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