The whole HDMI thing is a blessing… and a curse. Yes, we admit it. We have been known to throw our hands up in frustration just like the rest of you. But with some sleuthing, there is usually a fix that does not involve a hammer and a credit card. Here’s our 5 cents of HDMI troubleshooting advice.
To start off with, we’ll quickly summarise: HDMI is the main way to connect multiple components in a home theatre setup, including TVs, home theatre projectors, Ultra HD and Blu-ray Disc players, receivers, media streamers, and even cable/satellite boxes.
So, where do you start when an HDMI connection goes wrong?
Copy-Protection and the HDMI Handshake
One of the noble reasons why HDMI came to life is to make it easier to connect all your components together by using one cable for both audio and video. On top of that, there is also copy-protection (known as HDCP and for 4K HDCP 2.2). This is where a lot of the HDMI headaches start: the copy protection standard requires that HDMI connected components are able to recognize and communicate with each other.
This ability to recognize and communicate is called the ‘HDMI handshake’. If the ‘handshake’ doesn’t work, the HDCP encryption that is embedded in the HDMI signal is not recognized properly by one, or more, of the connected components. The result? A blank screen (most of the time).
But before you pick up the phone and dial the Rapallo number, there are some things you can do yourself. Yes, you can!
HDMI Troubleshooting Tips
Here is a list of the key things you can do to correct HDMI connection problems before letting the panic set in.
- Check Your HDMI Cable Connections: HDMI connections don’t fit as tight as a component or composite video connections and can slip out sometimes with the slightest movement. Before you fire the cleaner, consider getting locks for your HDMI cables.
- Try A Different Turn-on Sequence For Your Components: I remember my younger sister throwing a massive tantrum at the kitchen table because she wanted her coffee in a particular way: first coffee, then milk , then sugar. In THAT order…only. Sometimes, AV components can be equally fussy. If you have a habit of turning on your TV first, then your Blu-ray Disc player, or other HDMI source component, try the reverse turn-on sequence and see if that works. If you find a sequence that works, remember it. Obviously, you have to make sure when everything is turned on, that you have selected the correct input on your TV.However, if changing the turn-on sequence of your TV and connected components doesn’t seem to do the trick, with both the TV and source component on, just try switching to another input on the TV and then switch back to HDMI and see if the signal locks incorrectly.Once you have determined the best turn-on sequence – write it down for future reference.
- Check Your Source Device’s Video Resolution Output Setting: If your Blu-ray Disc player or other HDMI source device has a video resolution output setting menu, check to see if it is set to AUTO. If so, reset it to match the native resolution of your TV or video projector (such as 1080p, or 4K, if you have 4K-capable TV or video projector) and see if that provides a more stable result.
- Use The Process Of Elimination: If you have a Blu-ray Disc player (or another HDMI source) connected to a home theatre receiver to a TV and you still don’t get anything to show up your TV screen regardless of the turn on the sequence you try, use the process of elimination. Connect the Blu-ray Disc (or another HDMI source) directly to the TV. This bypasses the home theatre receiver. See if that does the trick. If so, the home theatre receiver, or the HDMI source component/home theatre receiver combination is most likely the culprit. What you can do now is keep the Blu-ray player connected directly to your TV and then make a separate audio connection from the Blu-ray player to your home theatre receiver. This is not necessarily the most efficient connection method, but if it works it’s good to use for the time being.
- Scout the internet : Last but not least, if you find that none of the above solutions works or works consistently – check to see if there are any announced firmware updates for your HDMI source and home theatre receiver (or even your TV) that may resolve this issue. Also, it pays to check on forums if there have been complaints filed or posted by other users regarding HDMI handshake issues with your components.
The HDR Factor
But it’s not just the handshake that is capable of ruining your movie night. The implementation of HDR on an increasing number of 4K Ultra HD TVs may also cause connection glitches.
If you have an HDR-enabled source, such as a UHD Blu-ray Disc player or Media Streamer connected to an HDR-compatible TV/Video projector and you have compatible HDR-encoded content scheduled for tonight’s viewing, you may run into a situation where the TV/Video Projector may not recognize the HDR content. Hold the swearing!
When an HDR TV or Home theatre projector detects an incoming HDR signal, a brief confirmation indicator should appear on the top left or right corner of the screen. If you do not see this indicator, or see a displayed message by the TV or source component that tells you that you need to connect the HDR source to an HDR-compatible TV or that the incoming signal has been downgraded to 1080p due to the lack of proper HDR detection, there are ways that you may be able to correct the issue.
Here’s what you do:
- Make sure you are using Hi-Speed HDMI cables (at least 10.2 Gbps rated – with 18 Gbps preferred).
- If you have your HDR source routed through a home theatre receiver to a compatible TV/home theatre projector, make sure your home theatre receiver is also HDMI 2.0 compatible.
- Access your source device’s video resolution output settings and see it is set to AUTO. If it is, try twisting its arm by changing the resolution output setting to 4K (sometimes labelled 4K/2K) and see if that corrects the problem. The reason that this problem occurs is that the firmware of the TV/home theatre projector may not be reading the HDR signal correctly when the video resolution setting output is set to AUTO, so changing the source device’s setting to 4K may correct the problem. Again, check if your TV/home theatre projector has the most recent firmware update.
- If possible, upgrade all your HDMI cables to ones that support 18 Gbps transfer speed. This doesn’t make a difference with the handshake issue, but it does solve the problem with any new or future HDMI features you may need.
- After you have gone through all the above – changed your settings, and upgraded your cables – if your TV/home theatre projector is still not recognizing your HDR source, contact tech support for your TV/home theatre projector (or even your source device) and see if they can shed some light on the issue.
The Bottom Line
Love it or hate it, HDMI is the default interface used for connecting home theatre components together. Convenient as that is, due to the fact that both the source and display devices have to communicate and recognize each other and encoded content has to be properly detected, glitches can occur. Most of the time, following the above steps you should allow you to solve most HDMI connection issues. You’re welcome!