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Why does the Mac still deal with connected HDTV monitors haphazardly?

Open Letter to Apple AT2013.b, for the OS X development team

By Allan Tépper | February 20, 2013

It is good that OS X can now offer proper spatial resolution for HDTV monitors at 720p and 1080p on the Mac’s native GPU outputs. It is also good that OS X’s Display Control Panel allows setting the output for different framerates (i.e. 24, 50, or 60), according to the capabilities of the connected monitor. Unfortunately, non-integer framerates like 23.976, 29.97, and 59.94 are currently missing. Even home theatre forums have posts of people who play 23.976 films on a Mac to an HDTV set and have hiccups since once in a while the system stutters to catch up with the difference between 23.976 and 24.000. Ahead is my recipe to resolve this issue in an upcoming OS X update, including several other details.

The way it should be in some upcoming OS X version

  1. Apple should add the missing framerates to OS X to allow for all standard non-integer framerates (i.e. 23.976, 29.97, and 59.94) together with all of the standard integer framerates (24, 25, 30, 50, and 60), so that for HDMI or DisplayPort monitors, no other hardware will be necessary other than the appropriate cable itself. This improvement will be helpful way beyond FCP X, since all video apps will be able to take advantage. Apple should absolutely do this for all progressive framerates, and it should be GPU model-dependent for interlaced framerates. Doing this will still give companies like AJA, Blackmagic, Matrox, and MOTU a continuing opportunity to sell their products for those Macs (or GPUs) whose hardware doesn’t support interlaced outputs, together with the opportunity to sell their interfaces for analog video (composite, Y/C, and component), balanced analog audio, and SDI. When appropriate, these companies will also be able to boast their 10-bit (30-bit) output capability over HDMI, especially in those cases when the Apple output is limited to 8-bit (24-bit).
  2. Especially given the fact that (unfortunately) many HDTV sets in the U.S. are segregated, the Display Control Panel should default to show “recommended framerates” based upon EDID negotiation with the monitor, but have an override option to force a specific desired framerate from the Mac, so a user can at least attempt to use her/his desired framerate.
  3. Apple should publish an API (Application Programming Interface) or an SDK (Software Developer’s Kit) to allow all video apps who decide to support it (including some upcoming version of FCP X, an upcoming version of QuickTime Player, an upcoming version of DVD Player, and perhaps even an upcoming version of iMovie) to take control of both the spatial resolution and the framerate of a specified GPU output, l.e. as a remote access to the Display Control Panel described in item 2 above, and recall them from project settings (in the case of an editing app) or from a video file (in case of a simple video player app). There can be a checkbox in the Display Control Panel called Allow apps to override these settings.
  4. In the Display Control Panel in OSX’s System Preferences, there should be a setting to make a particular GPU always output RGB/4:4:4, to satisfy the special requirement of the DreamColor monitor’s DreamColor Engine.

Apple should consistently adopt 23.976 nomenclature instead of 23.98 nomenclature in all Apple video apps

In order to work properly within a workflow, the numbers must interchange properly. For example, when I mention that when shooting at 59.94p and then conforming the playback to 23.976p in post, we get natural 2.5 x slow motion, the numbers work. Go ahead: Divide 59.94 by 2.5 and you’ll get exactly 23.976, not 23.98. Of course, I know that even numbers like 23.976, 29.97, and 59.94 are not exact and are in themselves rounded versions of much longer numbers, but they are close enough to work properly within a workflow. That’s why Apple should consistently adopt 23.976 nomenclature instead of 23.98 nomenclature in all menus and Inspectors that make reference to this framerate. This applies to FCP X, QuickTime Player, OS X’s Display Control Panel (once Apple begins supporting 23.976 there), and iMovie. Yes, even iMovie should now distinguish between 23.976p (which is recorded by virtually any camera under US$10,000) and exact 24p, which is recorded by the GoPro camera after a recent firmware update, and optionally by the Blackmagic Cinema Camera.

Please see my other Open Letter to Apple

Please also see:
Open Letter to Apple AT2013.a: Why does FCP X still deal with pro i/o interfaces haphazardly?

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