DRM on displays and projectors? Believe it. Apple, like many computer vendors, has added DRM to its new laptops in the form of HDCP (which, bizarrely, stands for “High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection”). This is doubly odd, because Apple cited technical restrictions of Blu-Ray as a reason for not including those drives on their machines – only to turn around and add restrictions to their own content on the iTunes store.

It might not be worth mentioning at all, but it serves to demonstrate yet another disconnect between vendors and the way people actually use video output features on laptops. You might think that you could connect a flat-panel computer display or projector to your new, pricey MacBook, and watch a show or movie you bought from iTunes, right? No can do. But that’s the reality: a lot of people aren’t hooking up video out to an HD TV. Heck, some of us still have old, tube TVs – only to discover a lot of laptops (not just Apple’s) no longer include a dedicated TV out.

More on the issue (thanks, Lublin!):

Apple brings HDCP to a new aluminum MacBook near you [Ars Technica]

Topic : iTunes movie purchases will not play on external display – HDCP auth error [Apple Discussions]

The good news is, there’s no direct implication for VJs and visualists. We’re still using content without DRM – content, very often, we made ourselves. But I still think there are some bumps to get over as far as how laptops output video to external hardware, so in that sense, this remains indirectly related.

Currently, most laptops on the PC side include VGA and (possibly) HDMI. They’re eliminating S-Video/composite, eliminating an option for analog output to hardware mixers and effects, and they often don’t include DVI for use with high-resolution desktop displays. The Apple side, even with this recent generation, is better: DisplayPort supports DVI, HDMI, and VGA, though again, not analog, and new copy protection could be annoying. My main gripe with Apple is that, by supporting their own connector for DisplayPort rather than the standard connector, they’ve missed an opportunity to help promote the format and retain interoperability with third-party accessories.

The dream scenario would be for laptop vendors to embrace DisplayPort using a standard connector, but find some way to support analog TV out (still supported by the GPUs, as far as I know) over that connector. That would provide maximum flexibility with minimal tradeoffs. We’ll see. Now, if you have a previous-generation MacBook / MacBook Pro that does all three, don’t you feel lucky?

  • visceralX

    i've been wondering about this from the PC side of things too. i found this device – effective? useful? dunno, but maybe worth a look…
    http://www.divineo.com/cgi-bin/div-us/zz-av-hdfur

  • http://www.quasimondo.com Mario Klingemann

    Oh nice, now I can say: "I told you so": http://createdigitalmotion.com/2008/10/29/farewel

  • http://www.vjculture.com VJ Culture

    This past weekend I was VJing the Beatport Stage for Miami Music Week. We were using the TVone 750 DVI mixer and encountered a HDCP problem. When using a newer MBP it couldn't talk to the LED wall due to the HDCP encryption handshake between the TVone and the LED wall (or even MBP to LED wall). My older Macbook Pro with a true DVI port wasn't a problem but it was for the newer MBP running 10.6.5 and higher. The only work around was to go VGA and strip the digital signal.

    Note: all content was original and being played out via Modul8

    The hopes of sending a DVI signal from laptop to displays are quickly vanishing.

    There are a few devices on ebay offering to strip HDCP and send it over DVI.