Can Old HDTVs Play High Definition DVDs?
Just because you have an HD set doesn't mean you'll be able to watch high-definition DVDs.
June 01, 2006 by Steven Castle

What about that pesky issue of HDTVs without the latest connections possibly not showing HD resolution from these discs? To prevent unlawful copying, the studios have the option of using a technology called Image Constraint. This prevents the high-definition signals from passing over component video connections or those early DVI (digital visual interface) connections without HDCP (high-bandwidth digital copy protection), which is only available on later versions of DVI and the newer HDMI (high-definition multimedia interface) connections. As of this writing, most of studios were mum about whether they planned to use Image Constraint. But with the uproar that has ensued as people have found out about it, we expect to see most of the early releases making the high-definition images available to all. Sony, for one, says it has no plans to implement Image Constraint at this time.

“We’re confident there will be a large number of titles available to those with analog component inputs,” says Mark Knox, an adviser to the HD DVD Promotions Group.

One would think that with the millions of HDTVs out there with older connections, allowing the high-definition signal to pass to all HDTVs would be a competitive advantage, especially during times of format war. Or, as one of our sources explained, to use the Image Constraint and disenfranchise the vast majority of HDTV sets now available to play these new formats would be a public relations nightmare for a studio.

What we may see is some movies, especially new releases, having Image Constraint and the older catalog titles not having it. And don’t be surprised if the studios experiment with Image Constraint and utilize it more as time goes on. (Then again, we could be wrong.) If a studio does opt to limit the resolution passed to older sets, it must display an Image Constraint Token on the cover of the DVD. Prepare to be confused.

As for recording high-definition video to blank HD DVD and Blu-ray discs, that will be available in computer drives and perhaps later this year in more home-entertainment-friendly components. Then there’s the issue of what you can record, and that is still being discussed.

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Steven Castle - Contributing Writer
Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates.

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