Data format

In SD and ED applications, the serial data format is defined to 10 bits wide, whereas in HD applications, it is 20 bits wide, divided into two parallel 10-bit datastreams (known as Yand C). The SD datastream is arranged like this:

Cb Y Cr Y' Cb Y Cr Y'

whereas the HD datastreams are arranged like this:

Y Y' Y Y' Y Y' Y Y'
Cb Cr Cb Cr Cb Cr Cb Cr

For all serial digital interfaces (excluding the obsolete composite encodings), the native color encoding is 4:2:2 YCbCr format. The luminance channel (Y) is encoded at full bandwidth (13.5 MHz in 270 Mbit/s SD, ~75 MHz in HD), and the two chrominance channels (Cb and Cr) are subsampled horizontally, and encoded at half bandwidth (6.75 MHz or 37.5 MHz). The Y, Cr, and Cb samples are co-sited (acquired at the same instance in time), and the Y' sample is acquired at the time halfway between two adjacent Y samples.

In the above, Y refers to luminance samples, and C to chrominance samples. Cr and Cb further refer to the red and blue "color difference" channels; see Component Video for more information. This section only discusses the native color encoding of SDI; other color encodings are possible by treating the interface as a generic 10-bit data channel. The use of other colorimetry encodings, and the conversion to and from RGB colorspace, is discussed below.

Video payload (as well as ancillary data payload) may use any 10-bit word in the range 4 to 1,019 (00416 to 3FB16) inclusive; the values 0–3 and 1,020–1,023 (3FC16–3FF16) are reserved and may not appear anywhere in the payload. These reserved words have two purposes; they are used both for Synchronization packets and for Ancillary data headers.

Synchronization packets

A synchronization packet (commonly known as the timing reference signal or TRS) occurs immediately before the first active sample on every line, and immediately after the last active sample (and before the start of the horizontal blanking region). The synchronization packet consists of four 10-bit words, the first three words are always the same—0x3FF, 0, 0; the fourth consists of 3 flag bits, along with an error correcting code. As a result, there are 8 different synchronization packets possible.

In the HD-SDI and dual link interfaces, synchronization packets must occur simultaneously in both the Y and C datastreams. (Some delay between the two cables in a dual link interface is permissible; equipment which supports dual link is expected to buffer the leading link in order to allow the other link to catch up). In SD-SDI and enhanced definition interfaces, there is only one datastream, and thus only one synchronization packet at a time. Other than the issue of how many packets appear, their format is the same in all versions of the serial-digital interface.

The flags bits found in the fourth word (commonly known as the XYZ word) are known as H, F, and V. The H bit indicates the start of horizontal blank; and synchronization bits immediately preceding the horizontal blanking region must have H set to one. Such packets are commonly referred to as End of Active Video, or EAV packets. Likewise, the packet appearing immediately before the start of the active video has H set to 0; this is the Start of Active Video or SAV packet.

Likewise, the V bit is used to indicate the start of the vertical blanking region; an EAV packet with V=1 indicates the following line (lines are deemed to start at EAV) is part of thevertical interval, an EAV packet with V=0 indicates the following line is part of the active picture.

The F bit is used in interlaced and segmented-frame formats to indicate whether the line comes from the first or second field (or segment). In progressive scan formats, the F bit is always set to zero.

Line counter and CRC

In the high definition serial digital interface (and in dual-link HD), additional check words are provided to increase the robustness of the interface. In these formats, the four samples immediately following the EAV packets (but not the SAV packets) contain a cyclic redundancy check field, and a line count indicator. The CRC field provides a CRC of the preceding line (CRCs are computed independently for the Y and C streams), and can be used to detect bit errors in the interface. The line count field indicates the line number of the current line.

The CRC and line counts are not provided in the SD and ED interfaces. Instead, a special ancillary data packet known as an EDH packet may be optionally used to provide a CRC check on the data.

Line and sample numbering

Each sample within a given datastream is assigned a unique line and sample number. In all formats, the first sample immediately following the SAV packet is assigned sample number 0; the next sample is sample 1; all the way up to the XYZ word in the following SAV packet. In SD interfaces, where there is only one datastream, the 0th sample is a Cb sample; the 1st sample a Y sample, the 2nd sample a Cr sample, and the third sample is the Y' sample; the pattern repeats from there. In HD interfaces, each datastream has its own sample numbering—so the 0th sample of the Y datastream is the Y sample, the next sample the Y' sample, etc. Likewise, the first sample in the C datastream is Cb, followed by Cr, followed by Cb again.

Lines are numbered sequentially, starting from 1, up to the number of lines per frame of the indicated format (typically 525, 625, 750, or 1125 (Sony HDVS)). Determination of line 1 is somewhat arbitrary; however it is unambiguously specified by the relevant standards. In 525-line systems, the first line of vertical blank is line 1, whereas in other interlaced systems (625 and 1125-line), the first line after the F bit transitions to zero is line 1.

Note that lines are deemed to start at EAV, whereas sample zero is the sample following SAV. This produces the somewhat confusing result that the first sample in a given line of 1080i video is sample number 1920 (the first EAV sample in that format), and the line ends at the following sample 1919 (the last active sample in that format). Note that this behavior differs somewhat from analog video interfaces, where the line transition is deemed to occur at the sync pulse, which occurs roughly halfway through the horizontal blanking region.

Link numbering

Link numbering is only an issue in dual-link interfaces. The first link (the primary link), is assigned a link number of 1, subsequent links are assigned increasing link numbers; so the second (secondary) link in a dual-link system is link 2. The link number of a given interface is indicated by a VPID packet located in the vertical ancillary data space.

Note that the data layout in dual link is designed so that the primary link can be fed into a single-link interface, and still produce usable (though somewhat degraded) video. The secondary link generally contains things like additional LSBs (in 12-bit formats), non-cosited samples in 4:4:4 sampled video (so that the primary link is still valid 4:2:2), and alpha or data channels. If the second link of a 1080P dual link configuration is absent, the first link still contains a valid 1080i signal.

In the case of 1080p60, 59.94, or 50 Hz video over a dual link; each link contains a valid 1080i signal at the same field rate. The first link contains the 1st, 3rd, and 5th lines of odd fields and the 2nd, 4th, 6th, etc. lines of even fields, and the second link contains the even lines on the odd fields, and the odd lines on the even fields. When the two links are combined, the result is a progressive-scan picture at the higher frame rate.