iTunes Store HD Movies Don’t Play on My Monitor: Solutions | iLounge Article

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iTunes Store HD Movies Don’t Play on My Monitor: Solutions

Yesterday, Apple announced that the iTunes Store was now selling $20 high-definition movies for viewing on a computer, as well as renting computer-ready versions for $4-$5 in the same way that it has been through the Apple TV. In an impressive, though space-consuming feat, Apple provides users with both a high-definition video for computer and Apple TV use, as well as one that’s lower-resolution and capable of being played on your iPod or iPhone. The test video we downloaded, Punisher: War Zone, came in a 3.09GB, 1280x532 file, as well as a DVD-quality 1.15GB, 853x354 version. Unfortunately, the HD version refused to play back from a current-model MacBook through a high-definition external monitor—even an Apple Cinema Display.

If you’re using a relatively new Mac, specifically one with a Mini DisplayPort connector, and trying to play iTunes Store HD movies through any external monitor other than Apple’s recently-released 24” LED Cinema Display, you’re most likely out of luck. Click on the video and iTunes will give you an error message: “This movie cannot be played because a display that is not authorized to play protected movies is connected. Try disconnecting any displays that are not HDCP authorized.” Try again to play it, and the video playback window will appear, completely black, and no audio will be present. But if you try to play the same video on the screen built into your Mac, or on Apple’s LED Cinema Display, it will work just as expected.

 

The reasons for this error message are simple: Apple has started to support HDCP, “high-bandwidth digital content protection,” an Intel-developed way to stop high-definition videos from being played on older, less secure receiving devices. Virtually all VGA- and DVI connector-equipped external computer monitors sold in the past are non-compliant, so users of Apple’s latest Mini DisplayPort-based Mac computers will need to either watch the HD videos on the screens built into their computers, buy new, HDCP-compliant monitors, or transfer their files to an iTunes-authorized computer without Mini DisplayPort.

 

That latter option is available because Apple does not appear to enforce HDCP protection on earlier computers. We tested the same HD video on an older, DVI connector-equipped Mac mini with the same prior-generation Cinema Display, and it played without incident—as soon as we installed iTunes 8.1. iTunes 8.0.2 refused to play the HD movie at all, suggesting that iTunes would not authorize the video for that computer.

 

Even though Apple includes both HD and SD versions of videos when you make an HD movie purchase, iTunes doesn’t currently handle external monitor playback in an especially bright way. The HDCP error message is basically a dead-end, offering no obvious solution or alternative for users who want to watch the videos they’ve just purchased on their external monitors. Thankfully, there is an option. Right click on the movie, and an option will appear in the list of choices: “Version.” By “Default,” iTunes selects HD. But by selecting “Standard Definition (SD),” iTunes will play that movie on an external monitor—at the standard-definition resolution. It doesn’t make the best use of the monitor’s capabilities, but at least users can watch part of what they’ve purchased.

 

Also note that HDCP isn’t required for all HD videos. High-definition TV shows purchased through the iTunes Store will generally play back on both a computer and an external monitor without a fuss—a reason that users most likely haven’t come across this error message up until now. And homemade HD videos created by high-definition camcorders also play back without any sort of issue.

In any case, iTunes needs to be fixed to deal more appropriately with HDCP-locked content. Assuming that Apple can’t let users play back all the videos they’ve purchased on all their other monitors, the company should warn users conspicuously before purchase that the HD videos may not be viewable on virtually any external display they may own. It should also transform its current error message box to offer an automatic “watch standard-definition version instead” option. Given that the company has been pitching the “MacBook Plus External Monitor” solution for some time now, and also offers desktop machines that will suffer the same blacked out video phenomenon with many external monitors, these simple if not entirely satisfying options will at least save users the hassle of trying to figure out how to watch the videos they’ve just purchased on the monitors they own.

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Comments

1

HDCP is not compatible with VGA or other analog connection. It is only available on digital interconnection (DVI/HDMI/DisplayPort).

You can play HDCP protected content on HDCP source connected to a HDCP display using a supported connection.

You’ll have to blame the content producer for imposing HDCP protection and Apple for not disclosing that HDCP content requires a complete HDCP chain and citing the only Apple products supporting this protection scheme (with a check box to not display this warning again).

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on March 20, 2009 at 12:25 PM (CDT)

1

So let me get this straight: if I have a first generation Macbook Pro (presumably lacking DisplayPort) connected via VGA to my Panasonic Projector, will a rented HD movie play?
- Rob

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on March 20, 2009 at 12:41 PM (CDT)

1

Correction: my first generation MacbookPro is connected via DVI to my Panasonic Projector. At any rate, will a rented ITunes HD movie play?
- Rob

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on March 20, 2009 at 12:46 PM (CDT)

1

The short answer is yes. See the article above, specifically the part where it says: “Apple does not appear to enforce HDCP protection on earlier computers.”

Basically, HDCP seems to only be enforced on mini-display port connections, which only came into existence last fall with the new MacBook lineup.  Older models use either DVI, mini-DVI or micro-DVI connections; none of which seem to enforce HDCP copy protection.  I’ve tested this on an MBP with both DVI 23” Cinema Display and a standard VGA connection.

This basically affects all of the current MacBook models (standard, Pro and Air). 

The new iMac is technically affected by this as well, although I seriously doubt that this would be an issue for most users, since you’d have to be using a secondary display connected via the DisplayPort as your primary monitor and not using the built-in iMac screen at all, which is a pretty odd configuration for an iMac. Note that the movie will play fine on the iMac screen, even with an external display connected, but it will fail if you try to send the movie to the external display in any manner, including using “mirroring” mode or dragging the iTunes movie playback window over to the other monitor.

The Mac Mini is a bit of a mystery at this point, since it includes both a mini DisplayPort and a mini-DVI connection.  HD movie playback might be available through the mini-DVI connection (which is what is used to drive DVI and VGA displays on the mini), but we haven’t yet been able to test this.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on March 20, 2009 at 1:10 PM (CDT)

1

DRM is a bag of hurt!

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on March 20, 2009 at 1:14 PM (CDT)

1

Yet another reason that I am glad that I got a last-gen MBP before they stopped making them! Matte 15” HDCP-less delight.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on March 20, 2009 at 2:19 PM (CDT)

1

Too bad on the studio side.
It only means that ppl will continue to get the HD version of P2P networks - since there are no such problem there..

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on March 21, 2009 at 2:33 AM (CDT)

1

Does this problem not exist on any Windows configuration? Is it just that there’s too many variables for Windows machine configs to do something this stupid? And, if so, what on Earth made Apple agree to enforce this ridiculous form of DRM on just their own hardware, and, better yet, only their currently selling hardware?

Talk about a way to guarantee I’ll never pay for such a product, not only do I have give a username and password just to play the movie back at all, eventually, I’ll be required to only view it on officially approved hardware. As the RIAA s-l-o-w-l-y starts to come around to some sort of sanity, the MPAA is losing it faster than ever (i.e. developing audio watermarking technology to pinpoint theater and approximate theater seat that cam screeners originate from).

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on March 21, 2009 at 1:10 PM (CDT)

1

I don’t think that I will be renting or buying any supposed “HD” movies from iTunes (unless I’m desperate to rent something) until they are actually “HD”; i.e. at least 720 vertical.  Since when is 1280x532 considered “HD”?  As it is, 532 is less than 1/2 true 1080(p or i) that Blue Ray outputs.  The difference must be obvious when viewing the same content side by side.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on March 21, 2009 at 1:49 PM (CDT)

1

To be fair, everything in HD is 720p, but what you actually get it’s largely dependent on the aspect ratio of the original movie…  Since many current theatrical releases are shot in a “Cinemascope” 2.35:1 or 2.4:1 aspect ratio, this means that these are hard letterboxed even in an HD presentation.

For instance, the same movies on a Blu-Ray 1080p disc are only going to be 1920x800, so you’re not getting “full 1080p HD” in that case either…  The black bars you see at the top and bottom of the frame are actually part of the presentation, since just about every widescreen television available is 16:9, and even if you had one of those rare 1080p 2.35:1 projectors, you’re still only projecting a 1920x800 image, since that’s all that’s on the disc to begin with.

In other words, if you’re using a 720p television set, you’re not losing anything in resolution unless you actually prefer to “zoom-in” on your TV and crop the left and right sides of the images off in order to remove the letterboxing.  There is some distinction on a 1080 television screen, but in our testing it’s not significant.

Note that if you purchase/rent a 16:9 movie from iTunes, you will be getting a full 1280x720 presentation (and the same 16:9 movie on Blu-ray would be full 1920x1080).

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on March 21, 2009 at 2:33 PM (CDT)

1

As Jesse David Hollington pointed out, despite the number in the term, 720p content may actually vary in vertical resolution due to the aspect ratio of the source content.  Apple could pad the top and bottom with black bars to fill 1280x720, but why bother? It would just bloat the file size with unnecessary visual data, increase download times and bandwidth expenses, and cover more of people’s displays when watching movies in windowed mode.  As long as nothing is being cropped off, you need not be alarmed.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on March 22, 2009 at 2:52 AM (CDT)

1

Let me add to this: I have a DisplayLink adapter (basically a USB-attached VGA adapter) which requires special drivers. The HD content doesn’t play on my unibody MacBook Pro at all, even on the internal display. I’m assuming that it’s detecting the DisplayLink drivers (and DisplayLink is definitely not HDCP certified) and refusing to display the video. I don’t get a warning message, however—it “plays” the movie, but it’s completely black.

As others have said, HDCP is a bag of hurt.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on March 23, 2009 at 8:11 AM (CDT)

1

OK guys, bad news for you… I have a first Gen Mac Pro hooked to a HDCP certified display (Samsung Syncmaster T240), connected via DVI (which, according to the docs on the monitor, supports HDCP), and I get the same error message.  Here is the kicker…. I get the error message on TV shows that I was watching last month on iTunes 8.0.2 just fine.  Now I am locked out.  How is that for progress?

Anyone else see this issue?  I have submitted a formal bug report on it, but I would like to see if anyone else has had this problem.  It may be a Mac Pro (tower) issue.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on March 23, 2009 at 10:39 AM (CDT)

1

The online vendors should provide a free downloadable DRM’d test videos that attempt to play on your existing hardware. If it plays, you are good, rent/buy with total abandon. If it doesn’t, you didn’t find out the hard way and aren’t out 20 bucks, and you can go buy new gear that’ll make DRM’d playback happen for you.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on March 23, 2009 at 6:59 PM (CDT)

1

Actually, I’d argue that Apple should go one step further and implement this kind of test directly within iTunes itself.

iTunes can obviously tell if you’re running HDCP compliant hardware, since it’s iTunes that gives you the error message in the first place.  There’s absolutely no reason that Apple should not implement some type of test in iTunes itself to identify whether you have HDCP compliant hardware or not.

This could be a status available to the user in the iTunes playback preferences combined with a warning when attempting to purchase HD content that your computer might not be properly equipped to play back said content.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on March 23, 2009 at 9:39 PM (CDT)

1

I am connected from a Mac Pro to a Apple 27 inch cinema display using DVI.  And it still complains.  This royally sucks.  This is utter and complete nonsense.  Apple will not dictate hardware terms to me especially when I am using its own hardware.  AFAIK Congress did not ok device restrictions at the display side of this kind.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on March 28, 2009 at 6:07 AM (CDT)

1

“The Mac Mini is a bit of a mystery at this point, since it includes both a mini DisplayPort and a mini-DVI connection.  HD movie playback might be available through the mini-DVI connection (which is what is used to drive DVI and VGA displays on the mini), but we haven’t yet been able to test this.”

Have you been able to test this now?

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on March 30, 2009 at 5:11 PM (CDT)

1

I am running a MacPro 2x2.66 dual core tower (circa 2006) with the original plastic bezel 23” Cinema display (circa 2003)...and still get the same message and problem with a TV show download.

itunes help folks referred to this page for a solution….ha! ha!

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on April 1, 2009 at 9:53 AM (CDT)

1

Solution is to stop buying from itunes until they fix the problem.  I’m not interested in guessing whether I will be able to play the movie I buy from them.  The whole AppleTV and itunes experience has been disappointing. Sad.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on April 14, 2009 at 5:30 PM (CDT)

1

The Mac Mini is a bit of a mystery at this point, since it includes both a mini DisplayPort and a mini-DVI connection.  HD movie playback might be available through the mini-DVI connection (which is what is used to drive DVI and VGA displays on the mini), but we haven’t yet been able to test this.

New (late 2009) Mac Mini with a mini-DVI -> VGA adapter fails to display HD content, too.  Just FYI, my old Dell PC laptop displays HD content via the VGA port just fine.

So glad I switched.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on December 10, 2009 at 11:50 AM (CST)

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