HDCP Was Created By Satan

This is the story of how to waste an afternoon.

My housemate and I were trying to hook up his HTPC to our home theater system, as an internet search suggested that the PS3 couldn’t play MKV files, so it seemed streaming was out. The home theater is built into the wall (not my doing, we’re renting), and working on it is a tremendous pain in the ass. It already had an HD DVR and a PS3 connected to a 6.1 Onkyo receiver, which outputs to a TV. Both the receiver and the TV are 6+ years old and don’t have HDMI; heck, the TV is only 720P. However, the HTPC outputs via HDMI. We figured the only way to do this would be to swap in his newer HDMI-capable receiver for the old one. Then we hook up everything and output to the TV via component. What could go wrong?

I change out the receiver (again, huge PITA), and while I’m doing this, I decide to change the PS3 connection from component to HDMI. See, the PS3 will output HD through component, but won’t upconvert normal DVDs to HD unless you output via HDMI. HDMI requires HDCP, or high-bandwidth digital content protection. Apparently, they’re afraid you’re going to upconvert your legal/legit DVD of Spiderman to HD, then run it through an HD recorder/digitizer that has component inputs1, then… destroy all of Hollywood! Yes, it stops you from doing even fair use copying. And yes, you can pop that DVD into your computer and do the same thing, only way, way easier. So anyway, if you want your old SD DVDs nice and sharp on your HDTV, you gotta use the HDMI connector. No problem!

After all is hooked up, I test out the DVR – component in, component out – and it looks fine. I then try the PS3, and I’m getting no video. Audio yes, but no video. I connect it to a TV that has HDMI, verify it works, set HDMI to the default output, and hook it back up to the receiver. Still no dice. Perhaps the receiver is not HDCP compliant? The PS3 no likey da Onkyo? With a heavy heart, I read the manual for the receiver.

Turns out, the receiver is HDCP compliant. In fact, it’s so fucking compliant that it refuses to output video from an HDMI input to a component output! It’s essentially saying, “Your TV isn’t good enough to date my video signal.” Well my TV may not come from the best side of town, but your video signal is a whore! A filthy, corporate whore!

Sorry, where was I? Doesn’t matter. At this point, there appeared to be only two solutions:

  1. Replace the TV. There is some merit to this idea, but that would cost me $2,000 and it’s not even my TV.
  2. Buy an HDMI to component converter with an HDCP stripper. At first blush, this sounds great, due in no small part to the word stripper. It would make the PS3 think it was connected to an HDCP display, which is just what we need. Unfortunately, these cost $200-300, which is almost what I paid for the damn PS3. It’s also the cost of an actual stripper. Gotta think about that one.

Sadly, I went with Option C: go back to the all component setup and forgo dreams of sharper DVDs and HTPC goodness.2

Then, just for shits and giggles, my roommate downloads and configures TVersity on his desktop and shares a few MKV movies. We point the PS3 at his server and voila! the movies play! Now, they seem to be maxing out the wifi connection, so we may need to lower the quality to optimize for speed. And I’ve been hearing more good things about PS3 Media Server than TVersity, so perhaps we’ll give that a try. But the bottom line is, we never needed to swap anything out for this to work. And if I had just read the fucking Onkyo manual, I never would have bothered. But really, if Satan hadn’t invented HDCP, everything would have worked perfectly.

  1. Which are rare, but the Hauppauge HD-PVR looks interesting. []
  2. Note: since I had just set the PS3 to output via HDMI, I had to keep my finger on the power button for 5 seconds on startup to reset the display settings. Then reset them to match the TV, etc. []

7 thoughts on “HDCP Was Created By Satan”

  1. Mr. Angel,

    Yeah HDCP sux the big one. Actually even when your TV has HDMI and HDCP conencted to your HDCP/HDMI compliant amplifier /receiver which is then connected to your DVD/bluray player, the freakin TV has to be on for the Amplifier to pass the HDCP key to the DVD player, otherwise the DVD / BluRay player won’t play any high-definition audio (ie: SACD / DVD Audio / DTS-MA / Dolby True HD). Once again the corporate non-thinkers have made life tough for the honest consumer. I guess they never figured out that the people that want to copy their movies, can do it by spending 30 bucks online to buy slysoft’s software; and then just use their PC to do all the copying they want or like most people will just find it on the internet posted by people that pirated the $30 copy of the software and stole the disk from a vendor that was selling bootleg copies to begin with in some back alley in a 3rd world country. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t trust my HDMI or Component Connection to make copies of anything.

    Maybe one day they will wake up and realize that. Then again I’ve been waiting for Microsoft to realize that part of the reason Vista failed is that they made it so hard for people to copy!!!

    Here is to waiting for the corporate idiots to wizen up. I guess until then I’m going to enjoy the beautiful pictures that you’ve posted. 🙂

    PS: When are we running Ethernet to the TV? 😉

  2. yes onkyo is a big evil when it comes to friendliness to the consumer – i have a TX-SR573 and i wanted to have some speaks on my patio. Ran the B lines through the basement, connected B speakers up, and turned on the tuner – sounds great! woo hoo! so now i tried my Optical cable CD player — no sound – works great on the A, but not on the B. Read the manual – Apparently, to keep me from ripping digital signals on the B speaker outs, the B speakers only support analog sources! what a bunch of crap

  3. Are the B lines any different from the A? Are they digital? Otherwise, it doesn’t make any sense (like the HDMI/component BS).

    I wonder what brands are more open/less afraid of things that don’t happen.

  4. I would think No-Name chinese electronics = they don’t care if it happens

    Onkyo is the worst i’ve seen, followed by Sony (in receiver land, sony DRM is another story)

  5. I’m wondering how easy (meaning: cheap) it would be. Since HDCP is encryption, it *might* rely on the display device to decrypt and just act as a pass-through. The HDCP strippers cost almost as much as your average Onkyo receiver. The other problem is that they decrypt using keys, and those keys can be revoked. If you can’t update them, the next Blu-ray disc (which carry key revocation lists) you play could knock out your display. Hopefully some enterprising young hacker solves this for fair use – there are millions of non-HDCP HDTVs out there.

  6. Wanna hear my hell?

    AV equipment in a rack

    HDMI source connected to a 4×4 HDMI Matrix, connected to HDMI over CAT6 Wall plate… run through CAT6… Out the other HDMI wall plate, to a switch, then to a TV.

    WTF!!! Not sure what I was thinking. Manuals all say it will work, but HDCP makes it a living hell.

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