Introduction

While we have had our hands on HDCP capable video cards for over a month, we haven't been able to really test our hardware with AACS protected content employing HDCP to secure the digital link between the system and the display. HD-DVD and Blu-Ray drives are both scarce and expensive, and a good variety of content is tough to find. Fortunately, NVIDIA and CyberLink are touring the world showing off what they can do when a PC with a PureVideo graphics card and an HD-DVD player get together with some Japanese imports for a little fun.

At this point, it is fair to say that no PC capable of playing back an HD-DVD or a BD at full resolution will be without a graphics card capable of accelerating some portion of the decode process. All of the graphics cards we have seen with real HDCP support (including the ROM and keys required) will feature NVIDIA's PureVideo HD or ATI's AVIVO. While this is, of course, a selling point from both NVIDIA and ATI's side, offloading processing from the CPU happens to be a necessity on lower end hardware. Our perspective on video decode acceleration for graphics cards that support HDCP has shifted to the point where we now feel CPU offloading is a requirement.

With DVDs, the debate over GPU acceleration had to do with lowering power consumption. At this point, with higher resolutions, processing requirements, and content protection, power isn't a priority yet. Our tests will show that PureVideo is more of a resource shift that draws the same amount of power rather than a feature that will enable mobility. It will still be some time before we see a notebook capable of playing an entire HD-DVD or BD movie at resolution on one charge.

All of the parts that made this demo work are still in beta, from the CyberLink player to the NVIDIA drivers used. While PureVideo HD is capable of accelerating high def video files, this new driver is the first that allows PureVideo HD to be used on HDCP protected content. These capabilities should be enabled in a ForceWare driver release sometime near the end of July or the beginning of August.

CyberLink should also start selling their HD-DVD player on store shelves in Q3. Curiously, player vendors seem to be releasing different versions of their software for HD-DVD and Blu-Ray. As both media formats are capable of holding data compressed with multiple (and overlapping) encoding schemes, there shouldn't be much difference in the players. Hopefully CyberLink, InterVideo, et al, will merge their player versions at some point in the future, but we aren't sure of the technical reasons that might have required this initial move.

We are taking a first look at HD-DVD playback on the PC with NVIDIA's PureVideo HD and CyberLink's player. The questions we want to answer are: what can early adopters of HD content expect in general, and what kind of performance does PureVideo HD offer? First, lets take a look at what exactly PureVideo HD does.

PureVideo HD and Video Playback
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  • yzkbug - Saturday, July 22, 2006 - link

    I have a $5K question (the cost of a new TV) unanswered by this article. Do you absolutely need an HDCP-enabled TV to watch HD movies on PC? The slide on page 2 shows that a monitor can be connected either via Analog (VGA or Component) or via Digital (DVI or HDMI with HDCP). So, does it mean that it is possible to watch HD over Analog without any PQ degradation? Also, does it mean that DVI without HDCP is a no-go? Reply
  • Bowsky - Saturday, July 22, 2006 - link

    HDCP is only required to view HD content is an Image Contrait Tokien (ICT, I think thats its name) is present on the disc. If it's not there the media can be played at full resolution over any connect such as nonHDCP-DVI, VGA, component, etc.

    To answer your $5,000 question, the movie companies have decided to wait until 2010 before using the ICT on any media. After that all media will be down-scaled if played over non-HDCP connections. So my answer to you is buy the HDCP television set. It won't be required immediately, but will unfortunately be required in the near future.

    Also, most new HDTVs on sale these days have HDCP so ther shouldn't be too much to worry about when buying.
    Reply
  • DerekWilson - Sunday, July 23, 2006 - link

    Our understanding of the situation is that any DIGITAL playback requires HDCP or no image will be displayed (under current PC video player technology -- downscaling may be possible in the future).

    Currently all titles will be able to play full resolution Analog (component, vga), but in the future this will not be allowed either.

    non-HDCP DVI and non-HDCP HDMI will never playback full resolution HD content distributed on HD media with HDCP protection enabled. This is essentially all titles.

    If you want digital playback of HDs or BDs, you can't do it without an HDCP television. If you don't mind analog playback, your fine for the next few years.
    Reply
  • Renoir - Sunday, July 23, 2006 - link

    Just so I understand you Derek are you saying that full resolution playback over a digital connection will not be allowed regardless of whether the image constraint token is used or not and that full res will only be allowed over analogue until the ICT is used? If so that sucks big time. Would then have to hook up my monitor via both vga and dvi depending on if I'm watching a hd disc or not (assuming of course I still have my current monitor by the time I watch hd discs off course). Reply
  • DerekWilson - Sunday, July 23, 2006 - link

    this is the way I understand it. Reply
  • Renoir - Monday, July 24, 2006 - link

    Bummer! Was hoping the lack of the ICT would allow me to use dvi at full res. I imagine it's because they're more worried about people getting a perfect digital copy rather than capturing the analogue at full res and then converting it to digital. However I'm not aware of any dvi capturing devices although there are plenty of component ones. Does anyone know of any hi res digital capturing devices as I'm curious now :-) Reply
  • DerekWilson - Monday, July 24, 2006 - link

    we wanted to build one to analyse video output of graphics cards without relying on screen capture utilities ... it shouldn't really be that difficult. Reply
  • Renoir - Monday, July 24, 2006 - link

    cool! Perhaps in terms of piracy they feel that it's less neccesary to protect the full res analogue video than a bit for bit accurate dvi feed. If so then they must be thinking that people would find pirated videos that were redigitised from component etc (albeit at full res) less compelling than one straight from dvi. What other reason/s do they have for allowing full res over analogue but not over digital? Reply
  • Renoir - Monday, July 24, 2006 - link

    Just realised I haven't taken any analogue copy protection such as macrovision into account. Any info on this aspect? If it's present then that would pretty much answer my last question. Reply
  • vhx500 - Saturday, July 22, 2006 - link

    On page 2, you mention plaing Riddick and Swordfish, but you are displaying a screenshot from The Bourne Supremacy? Reply

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