Blu-Ray Disc Association reaches agreement on 4K Blu-ray standards
Stephan Jukic – February 16, 2015
The Blu-Ray Disc Association has put together a more or less conclusive agreement on a batch of standards for the next generation of players and disc media called “Ultra HD Blu-ray”. The new 4K Blu-ray versions of these discs have been in the making since at least the middle of last year and are expected to be released towards the middle or end of 2015.
According to the latest news on the new, concreted standards from the BDA, the Ultra HD players will support an open standard High Dynamic Range technology, using 10-bit HEVC MPEG video encoding and based on SMPTE HDR signaling. The format will allow for optional layered solutions that include Dolby Vision and the HDR system that is being offered by Philips.
Also important is the fact that the new Blu-ray 4K disc specifications fit in with the “Recommendation 2020” protocol that has been put forth by the EBU and includes proposals for the much wider color gamuts that will come with HDR, frame rates of up to 60p and but also the highly important technology of “better pixels” that is being promised for much more refined ultra HD. The advantages of 10 bit encoding and wider color gamut will also enhance the presentation of existing Standard Dynamic Range (SDR) BT-709 color content as well, meaning in other words that the new ultra HD Blu-ray format isn’t going to be limited to only HDR.
Furthermore, According to the BDA, these combined specs for better pixels, HDR, wider color gamuts, higher frame rates and 10 bit encoding in 4K will be embraced by the Blu-ray Disc Association by the middle of the year.
The 4K Blu-ray discs themselves, and the media players that support them should both then start appearing later in 2015; though Panasonic has already unveiled a 4K Blu-ray media player at the International CES 2015 in January of this year.
We should also note that the industry expects 4K Blu-ray players to be backwards compatible and play existing Blu-ray/DVDs on most devices. However, current Blu-ray disc players will not be able to do the reverse of this, which is playing the new media. This is because these new formats will include HEVC encoding and capacities of 50, 66 and 100GB, all of which are outside the scope of existing Blu-ray players.
Beyond all of this, in a wider context of 4K media entertainment, the real question about the new 4K Blu-ray players isn’t so much about how well they’ll function. Instead, the more relevant consideration is whether or not they’ll even make much of a splash with consumers to begin with.
Given how most of the real growth in 4K entertainment is coming via streaming services and VoD offers that keep expanding their content selections, how many people will ultimately bother with hardware like the 4K discs and their specialized media players?
This question becomes particularly glaring as more households gain access to high-speed broadband internet connections and 4K streaming services find more efficient ways of optimizing and compressing their UHD video for easier transmission.
Story by 4k.com
Authors Note: We’d like to thank representatives of the Blu-ray Disc Association for pointing out a few technical description omissions in the original version of this article, they have now been corrected as of February 19th, 2015.