Ultra HD Blu-ray is bringing high-res movies home soon

13 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Ultra HD Blu-ray Spec Completed, Consumer Products Expected Later This Year.

The Blu-ray Disc Association has completed an Ultra HD Blu-ray technical specification that will lead to the release of players and discs that support the new format. There will likely be more content available via streaming, but all streaming content is, by necessity, lower quality than what’s possible on a disc (check out Video Compression for more on that). The format supports Ultra HD 4K TV resolution (3840×2160), as well as enables high dynamic range (HDR), high frame rates and object-based immersive sound. Utilizing the HEVC (h.265) standard, this will certainly be enough storage capacity to deliver high quality ultra high-definition (UHD) video with mild compression.

The resolution of the content on the new discs is 3,840 x 2,160, the same as all current Ultra HD TVs, colloquially called “4K” and 4 times the resolution of your current TV. HDR—a wider range between the whitest whites and blackest blacks—could either be delivered using the BDA-developed “BD HDR” portion of the new spec or by using certain supported HDR formats such as Dolby Vision.

Note that an entirely unrelated 300-1000GB optical disc format for archival purposes was developed by Sony and Panasonic, and many sources misreported this as being a successor to Blu-ray, no doubt creating much confusion in the process. Although we wouldn’t say no to having that level of storage in a consumer format, we would almost certainly say no to the associated price tag, as would the mass market – this level of storage capacity would be overkill for consumer use. The roughly 100 BDA member companies include Panasonic, Dolby, DTS, Samsung, Sony Corp., Twentieth Centry Fox, Universal Studios The Walt Disney Studios and Warner Bros. In a nutshell, here’s what you can expect from the new standard: Wide Color Gamut support (up to Rec.2020, but it’s more likely movie studios will package the more easily achievable Digital Cinema style P3 content inside this larger container) The last feature on this list will be news to most, since Digital Bridge has been under wraps until today’s announcement. Currently, studios have had success by bundling a separate “Digital Copy” DVD-ROM disc as a pack-in with flagship Blu-ray titles, but the introduction of Digital Bridge offers a more elegant solution.

Perhaps the idea is that users will be able to hook their tablet, smartphone or laptop up to their UHD BD player, and the player will transcode the content onto the target device. We’re wondering how much adding encoding (rather than just decoding) features to players would up the price, but it seems like the only way of getting the job done that we can think of – doing the same via a computer would need a new UHD BD-ROM drive. While it sounds like a good idea for those consumers who want to enjoy movies on a very small screen, it remains to be seen how well manufacturers, and most importantly of all, content owners, will treat this feature and its users: it’s the sort of feature that could have its usefulness squashed by Hollywood digital rights paranoia.

The BDA’s news release also mentions that next-generation object-based sound formats (namely Dolby Atmos and DTS:X) will be delivered by the new standard, which is unsurprising given that the first Atmos-enabled discs on the current Blu-ray system have been trickling onto the market. “For years, Blu-ray Disc™ has set the standard for high definition picture and audio quality in the home. As compelling as the convenience brought by network delivery of content via services like Netflix 4K and Amazon Prime Instant Video can be, “unparalleled, consistent and repeatable” are three strengths better associated with physical media. While the content delivery landscape is diversifying with more ways than ever to watch content, physical media is still a bankable earner for studios. Last month at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) in Las Vegas, Scenarist LLC announced that they are far along in development of a new UHD-capable version of the Scenarist authoring software, which is currently used to create 1080p Blu-ray Disc movies.

And for concrete answers to those questions, we’ll have to wait a little longer – although manufacturers and studios will almost certainly be working around the clock to capitalize on the 2015 Holiday shopping season.

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