Blu-ray 4K Officially Named “Ultra HD Blu-ray”; Will Its Specs Be Enough to Revitalize Physical Media?

     January 7, 2015


I’m always circumspect when it comes to replacing my old DVDs with Blu-rays.  I weigh the price, the need for a high-quality image, special features, etc.  DVDs were the savior of studios in the 2000s, but the Blu-ray market hasn’t surged because people didn’t see the point of getting a new player and replacing their DVDs, and even though the Blu-ray market is steady, people are more interested in streaming and easy rentals online or at Redbox.

In the past couple of years, 4K Blu-rays have been released to take advantage of expensive new 4K televisions, and now the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA) tells The Digital Bits that 4K Blu-rays will officially be known as “Ultra HD Blu-ray”.  More importantly, a list of specs has been released for what these discs will provide, and what they will require.  Hit the jump for more.

uhd-tvHere are the specs for Ultra HD Blu-ray [via The Digital Bits]:

  • Will employ High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC – also known as H.265), which is the successor to H.264/MPEG-4 AVC and is considered the most efficient video compression standard available.
  • Ultra HD Blu-ray Discs will be produced in two configurations: 66GB dual-layer and 100GB triple-layer.
  • Higher video frame rates (up to 60p), 10-bit color, a wider color gamut (up to Rec.2020 or BT.2020), and High Dynamic Range (HDR).

The ultimate goal of Ultra HD is to future-proof the format, and give “filmmakers filmmakers and content producers a great deal of room to work, and lots of headroom to add image quality going forward, as display manufactures roll out future and ever more capable UHD displays.”

uhd-tv-1Additionally, BDA member studios such as Fox, Sony, Disney, and others are reportedly excited for Ultra HD, and are expected cooperate with the new rollout, which should provide plenty of content.  This is all with the obejective of getting people interested in physical media again by showing them how much better it can be than streaming platforms, which are also going to start moving into 4K.

But there are complications.  First, Ultra HD Blu-ray will require a new player.  We don’t know how much it will cost, nor do we know the price of the discs.  Additionally, image precision doesn’t seem to be a priority among average consumers.  Shows like The Wire are being “remastered for HD”, but they’re losing their original aspect ratio.  There’s more demand to fill a wide screen and avoid upsetting people who don’t understand a 4:3 ratio.  And anecdotally, I grit my teeth when I go over to someone’s home and their TV has motion smoothing that makes everything but live television and nature documentaries look like a soap opera.  They don’t seem to notice or mind.

These are the people we’re expecting to buy another player and replace their movies again?  And even if it’s just for a new movies rather than re-mastering old ones, this will compete with streaming unlimited content for a low monthly price?  I feel like we’re moving back to the age of Laserdisc where cinephiles will pay a premium for high-quality content, and everyone else will be satisfied with a cheaper, lower-quality product.

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