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HDMI 2.0 Spec Adds 4K and 21:9 Aspect Ratio Video, More Audio Channels

It’s been in the works for a long time, but there is finally have an official announcement of the HDMI 2.0 specification.

It’s been in the works for a long time, but there is finally have an official announcement of the HDMI 2.0 specification.

In advance of a press conference scheduled for September 6 at the IFA 2013 trade show in Berlin, HDMI Forum Inc. has released the initial details of the spec. Version 2.0 is the first iteration of the spec developed by the 88-member HDMI Forum organization’s Technical Working Group.

As expected, the new specification will accommodate the demands of 4K video (2160p) at frame rates up to 60Hz, which is a major improvement over the current standard’s limit of 4K/24p. To deliver this data-intensive signal package, the new spec increases bandwidth from 9Gbps to 18Gbps.

While the main consumer focus is likely to be on the ability to handle the high resolution/high frame rate video, the new standard has other new video attributes such as support for 21:9 aspect ratio program material and simultaneous delivery of dual video streams to multiple users on the same display screen.

Audio is not ignored in the new spec with support for up to 32 discrete audio channels for immersive formats, perhaps anticipating the requirements of some of the new options for cinema sound beyond the conventional 5.1 and 7.1. At the high end of the audio world, the new HDMI specification also provides support for audio sampling frequencies up to 1536 kHz

Gluing it all together there is dynamic synchronization of video and audio streams to improve and automate lip sync as well as extensions to the Consumer Electronic Control (CEC) specs to provide expanded command and control of HDMI equipped products.

Despite the improvements, the new specification is backward compatible and it does not define new cables or connectors. According to the information released by the Forum current High Speed (Category 2) cables are capable of carrying the increased bandwidth.

At this time it is premature to hazard a guess as to when the first products compliant with the new spec will be available. However, since the Compliance Test Specification (CTS) for the new format won’t be available until the end of 2013, it is highly unlikely that HDMI 2.0 products will be seen before CES.

Timing aside, this long awaited announcement fits another piece into the jigsaw puzzle required for 4K/UHDTV to become a widespread format with native 4K content being able to move from source to display at high frame rates. Expect to see more news about the new specification later this week from IFA and then at the end of September at CEDIA EXPO in Denver.

Sherman Oaks, CA-based editorial contributor Michael Heiss is a respected technology consultant and CEDIA Fellow. Follow him on Twitter @captnvid