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What is HDMI 2.1a and why should you care?


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Photo: Adam Clark Estes / Gizmodo

The HDMI Licensing Officer has announced a new HDMI 2.1 update, appropriately It is called HDMI 2.1a, Designed to improve image quality when viewing content of varying quality.

I know I know: HDMI 2.1 It is already kind of mess. sowhey there More numbers and letters to find out? Don’t worry, though, we won’t go too deep into the technical weeds here. Let’s break down what all this means and how it can enhance your image.

What is HDMI 2.1a?

In short, it is An updated version of HDMI 2.1 centers around a feature called source-based tone mapping.

What is the tone layout based on the source?

Great question! First, let’s define the tone mapping. This is a technique used in image processing where digital signals match the appropriate lighting and color for the TV. This way, you can capture a high dynamic range image and present it on a limited dynamic range screen while preserving detail, contrast, and color.

With HDMI 2.1, part of the HDRM mapping can be performed by the source device, such as a set-top box, computer, or console, in addition to the mapping being made on the screen.

And why is this important?

a The source can send a video signal to a monitor that makes better use of that monitor’s HDR capabilities.

When you’re working with HDR videos and photos, the monitor will usually set so that the content matches its limited capabilities. Sometimes, though, certain content will have different levels of HDR. There may be an HDR element, an SDR image (Standard Dynamic Range), and a basic graphic. This is often the case when you are in Picture-in-Picture mode.

Usually, in this scenario, a fixed set of brightness and color ranges is selected for the monitor. Using source-based tone mapping, the source can adapt to the display by sending a video signal optimized for the panel’s HDR capabilities.

give me an example.

Certainly. So you might open a streaming app and see some video thumbnails that support HDR and some in SDR. The same page may also contain basic graphics. With HDMI 2.1, your streaming device can send a signal to your TV to make the most of its capabilities. The HDMI Forum says that HDMI 2.1a is also designed for computers and game consoles, and that it can improve image quality in a multi-window scenario where you have video playing on one side and text on the other.

I still do not understand.

I do not blame you. Allow me then to go to the HDMI Licensing Administrator website, which describes HDMI 2.1a in these terms:

SBTM is particularly useful in cases where HDR and SDR video or graphics are combined together into a single image, such as a picture-in-picture or a program guide with an integrated video window. The SBTM also enables computers and game consoles to automatically produce an optimized HDR signal in order to maximize the use of the display’s HDR capabilities without manual user configuring of the source device.”

Does my source and monitor need HDMI 2.1a support?

Yes, unfortunately, they do. The HDMI Forum says most TVs can get the feature through a firmware upgrade, but pushing one out is up to hardware manufacturers.

When will I see devices that support HDMI 2.1a?

So the HDMI Forum says it will continue to “refine and release” the HDMI 2.1a specification in 2022 and aims for a Q1 release. We should learn more about the specs in the coming weeks.



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