The Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA) will start licensing the Ultra HD Blu-ray format starting August 24th, and companies are expected to begin offering products, such as Ultra HD Blu-ray players and Ultra HD Blu-ray Discs by the end of 2015.
The next-generation disc format provides expanded color range, video resolution up to 3840 x 2160, and high frame rates up to 60fps. The format also allows for immersive, object-based sound formats.
In addition, Ultra HD Blu-ray will support a “digital bridge” specification that will allow consumers to view content across a wide range of devices.
The introduction of Ultra HD Blu-ray may help sales of 4k Ultra HD TVs, which have undoubtedly been held back by the lack of Ultra HD content available on television and online (in fact, most television has not even adopted 1080p (Full HD) programming due to lack of bandwidth).
At home, lack of enough bandwidth is also an obstacle. While some have said 4k/30fps can be streamed at 15Mbps, requirements are really upwards of 20-25Mbps for 4k/60fps. And, connected TVs must have H.265/HEVC decoding.
Critics have so far argued against the purchase of a 4k TV at this current time for those reasons.
But if Ultra HD resolution is available in a disc format, and titles are reformatted to the Ultra HD Blu-ray spec, lack of bandwidth and/or content will no longer be a reason not to buy a 4k TV.
Note that the BDA elected not use the term “4k” in their press release (see link below). While electronics manufacturers use the term 4k TV for marketing purposes, the term actually comes from film technology and is a slightly higher resolution than the Ultra HD specification (although hard to the average viewer to discern).
By its definition, Ultra HD holds a resolution of 3840 × 2160 pixels while 4k (as defined by Digital Cinema Initiatives), is 4096 x 2160 pixels.
The Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA) will commence licensing the Ultra HD Blu-ray™ format starting August 24, 2015. The format represents the work of global leaders from the consumer electronics, IT and content creation industries and will enable consistent and reliable delivery of Ultra HD content to the rapidly growing number of Ultra HD households, expected to grow from 11.7 million Ultra HD TVs in 2014 to 95.6 million in 2019.*
Ultra HD Blu-ray is a critical component of the expanding Ultra HD ecosystem that redefines in-home entertainment through advances in resolution, contrast, color and audio, providing a sensory experience that replicates the richness of life’s sight and sounds and more accurately reflects the content creator’s intent.
“Ultra HD is expected to ramp up quickly over the next few years as it grows in popularity, availability, and affordability within the market for TV sets,” according to Paul Erickson, senior analyst at IHS Technology. “The ability to consume Ultra HD content during this time, however, is a question mark due to variables such as Ultra HD broadcast offerings and household bandwidth for Ultra HD streaming. Ultra HD Blu-ray aids consumer adoption of Ultra HD by providing an immediate, tangible way to watch Ultra HD content that completely bypasses service provider and bandwidth-based variables.”
The Ultra HD Blu-ray format will deliver high dynamic range content that significantly expands the range between the brightest and darkest elements and gives the consumer a more life-like viewing experience. Additionally, the format provides expanded color range, high frame rate (up to 60fps) and up-to 3840×2160 resolution. The Ultra HD Blu-ray format will also deliver next-generation immersive, object-based sound formats. And, with the optional “digital bridge” feature, the specification enhances the value of content ownership by embracing the notion that a content purchase can enable the consumer to view their content across a wide range of in-home and mobile devices.
“Ultra HD Blu-ray enables the delivery of an unparalleled, consistent and repeatable experience that will set the standard for Ultra HD entertainment, the same way Blu-ray Disc did for high definition viewing,” said Victor Matsuda, chair, BDA Promotions Committee. “With the commencement of licensing we would anticipate product announcements from various companies as we approach the 2015 holiday season.”
Ultra HD Blu-ray players will also be required to play back current HD Blu-ray Discs. This requirement, coupled with the upscaling capabilities of players and TVs alike, gives consumers access to the vast library of more than 10,000 titles currently available on Blu-ray Disc.
With contributions from HD Report authors.
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