I’ve been playing with ambient light for my TV for a while now, as you can see in the “Ambient TV lighting with XBMC Boblight, OpenElec and WS2811/WS2812 LEDs“, to make colorful lights (LEDs) light up matching the video you’re seeing on your TV.
The downside of that project is that it only works for a dedicated HTPC running for example Kodi (XBMC).
But what if I’d like to see this with video from my XBox 360, XBox One, Wii, or … Blu-ray player or cable box?
Besides the fact that we need to grab this video, and all it’s technical complications, we will be running into a copy protection issue called HDCP, a HDMI feature nobody really asked for.
Please note that I’m not writing this article to promote pirating content! This article is solely aimed at using non-HDCP compliant equipment with equipment that seems to require HDCP. So I’m looking at older HDMI LCD/LED/Plasma TV’s, HDMI Projectors, Game Recording (PS3), taking screenshots for documentation and/or articles, and of course my own little project to generate ambient light behind my TV! Please keep this in mind.
HDMI and HDCP – Some background information
HDCP is a copy protection that was added to the HDMI standard, at a later time, by Intel.
The first HDMI versions did not include HDCP, but most modern HDMI capable devices support it.
The content, or content source (where the “output” comes from), determines if HDCP is needed, and is/was intended to prevent content to be displayed or recorded by unauthorized devices. See it as the digital counter part of MacroVision as was used with analog video way back in the day.
HDCP uses authorization and encryption – it verifies (authenticate) the receiving party (Destination or “input”) – i.e. The video sources asks for the secret code from the destination device, before it sends content, so the receiving party is authorized and can decrypt. Even though the master key for decryption has been compromised since 2010 and some smart folks assembled a device for demonstration purposes, HDCP is still in full use. Just like those idiotic region codes of DVD’s and BluRay’s. Non compliant devices, an old (HDMI) TV for example, will simply display a message that the content cannot be displayed or will display a blank screen.
Naturally a “HDCP remover” or “HDCP Stripper” device is not readily available to the public … or is it?
CAUTION: Not intended to promote illegal copying and/or piracy!
I cannot emphasize this enough! This article was not written with illegal copying, ripping or to promote piracy.
The sole purpose is to be able to use non-HDCP compliant equipment with HDCP video sources.
This can be you old TV or projector, or trying to record game playing (PS3), making screenshots, or … my little ambient light project.
Bypassing HDCP with the intend to copy/pirate content is MOST CERTAINLY ILLEGAL in most countries!
Methods to Remove HDCP from HDMI
Convert to Analog
One of the methods used, yet sometimes complicated and expensive, is by converting the signal for example to VGA, Component or Composite video. This conversion to an analog signal will result in a degraded picture quality, but the result might not be too bad.
Note that some converters do honor HDCP and might not work either.
For my Ambient Light project I’ve considered using this, since I only need a low resolution representation of the video – Ideally I’d prefer a video output of say 160 x 90 pixels . But more about that once I’ve finished that project.
Select a Different (Analog) Video Output
Some devices, like the PlayStation 3 for example, have Component (good for 1080p if your TV supports it!), S-Video or Composite video output as well. HDCP does not support analog connections and you should be able to view the video just fine on non-HDCP devices. The video quality may however be of a lower quality (Component Video is recommended – see also “Connect your PC to TV“) as well.
Some devices, like a PlayStation 4 console, offer the option to disable HDCP. The downside can be that some apps, which require HDCP, will not work when HDCP is disabled.
For more details “PlayStation 4 HDCP toggle must be off to record games, on to watch video apps“.
Note that quite a lot of devices, like the XBox One, XBox 360 and for example the Amazon Fire TV, dynamically set HDCP on their HDMI ports. This means that for example the navigation menu of the Amazon Fire TV and certain non-HDCP apps will work just fine. However, as soon as you play HDCP content (Amazon Video, Netflix, Hulu, etc), your screen will turn black.
The way to go is a cheap HDMI Splitter, if you find the right one
Another, much easier and cheaper method, is the use of a HDMI splitter.
A splitter in essence makes it possible to (for example) connect 2 TV’s to one HDMI source, not designed to strip the HDCP, but some actually do exactly that. The example below illustrates a 1×2 splitter.
HDMI Splitter – On source, Two (or more) Destinations
Some HDMI splitters (I have seen 1×2 and 1×4 splitters) by accident strip the HDCP encryption, and the funny part is that these are typically very cheap splitters. However, keep in mind: there is absolutely no guarantee that every HDMI splitter strips HDCP. Even the ones listed below might or might not do the trick.
Key with these splitters seems to be that they support up to HDMI 1.3b, which does not need to be a big problem unless you’re planning on blasting 4K or even 8K video over the HDMI cable. Another commonality seems to be that they appear cheap China products.
Another observation, by others, only with some other splitters, has been that only one of the two connect HDMI devices has to be HDCP compliant so that one of the connected devices already authenticates and “opens” by accident the digital video stream for the other output.
HDMI Splitters that have been reported to strip HDCP
These are NOT guaranteed to work!
Manufacturers change hardware all the time, so this “feature” might not work with newer models or revisions! HDMI 1.4 (and newer) devices will most likely not work! I highly recommend, definitely at Amazon, to read the most recent customer comments carefully!
Some splitters need to have the HDMI cables connected BEFORE you power them on!
Below a list with splitters that have been reported to actually strip HDCP.
If you find other models that work, or find out that a model is no longer supporting this, then please report this in the comments.
Testing HDCP removal
The way I tested my setup, is by using a non-HDCP device as the destination device, and my Amazon Fire TV playing Netflix or Amazon Video content. Finding such a device shouldn’t be a problem, otherwise you’d probably not be reading this article.
For those with a PlayStation 3 – it seems that the PS3 always has HDCP enabled, unless you have a developer device (unlikely), so that or a BluRay player would work well as a source too. For other devices, the general rule is that HDCP will be enabled when copyrighted content (eg. a movie) is being played.
First test the “failing” setup …
In my case I used a device to record game playing, specifically the Elgato Game Capture HD game capture device (homepage), which shows a black screen when playing HDCP content or an error message, as demonstrated below.
HDCP Error when using the Elgato Game Capture HD
Without the splitter, your video output (Amazon Fire TV in this example, when doing playback of content HDCP) might show a message like this:
HDCP Error Message (Amazon Fire TV)
Then test the setup with a HDMI splitter …
After installing the splitter, the HDCP seems to be stripped and video recording or making screenshots works just fine.
I’d like to point out, again, that this method:
- Might or might not work with the HDMI splitter of your choosing, even the ones listed above, …
- Do not use this method to copy and/or pirate copyrighted content! It is ILLEGAL in most countries, …
- This method is solely written with the intend to make screenshots and/or use non-HDCP compliant equipment.
With Splitter the Elgato Game Capture HD works just fine …
I didn’t think of all of this myself, just collected what I had learned and compiled if for Tweaking4All visitors.
Some of the information I did get from the following resources to remove HDCP from HDMI: