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Wednesday, January 7, 2015
4K Blu-ray Gets a Name: Ultra HD Blu-ray

Victor Matsuda, chairman of the Blu-ray Disc Association’s (BDA) global promotions group, confirmed at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) that new of the new Blu-ray disc format will be ULTRA HD BLU-RAY and not 4K Blu-ray.

This makes sense as the resolution of 3840×2160 is not the same as of Digital Cinema 4K (4096×2160).

However, Matsuda did not predict when UHD BLU-RAY will hit retail. Licensing of the new format is expected to start in mid-2015, and Matsuda expects to see the first 4K UHD Blu-ray discs to be produced by the end of the year.

At this year's CES we saw the launch of the cross-industry UHD Alliance consortium, the debut of new 4K TV sets and the unveiling of a prototype 4K Blu-ray Disc player from Panasonic.

However, as it typically happens when a new format debuts, content would be the driver behind 4K’s success or failure. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has already produced and distributed approximately 170 4K titles, 75 of those being feature films. Netflix has alredy shot its own "House of Cards" series in 4K and plans to produce all future original series in the high-def format. Comcast unveiled that the company has already experimented with not only 4K, but also 8K, broadcasts.

Here is what we know so far about the Ultra HD Blu-ray standard.

First of all, the new UHD Blu-ray discs will use the HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding) codec, aka H.265, and utilize a transfer rate of up to 100mbps to support the ultra-high definition picture quality with low levels of data loss.

Obviously, streaming services cannot compete support that high transfer rates yet. For instance, Netflix’s USA ISP Speed index reports that through the network of the fastest overall service provider, Verizon FIOS, it can only push a 3.27mbps from server to viewer, on average. In the UK,Virgin Media is rated at 3.49mbps.

Although not officially confirmed yet, the disc capacity will be 33GB per layer and we should expect both dual-layer (66GB) and triple-layer (100GB) discs.

In addition, Ultra HD Blu-ray will require a new player, but that these new players will be backwards compatible, able to play all current Blu-ray and DVD software.

The maximum allowable gamut will be the Rec.2020, which has proved to be unattainable on video displays so far. In the end, we should most probably see the Digital Cinema Initiatives P3 gamut to be used, but in any case, the UHD BD standard needs to be future-proof.

The video will be encoded at 10-bit precision, allowing for almost no visible banding artefacts.

UHD Blu-ray supports video at 3840×2160 (progresive) at up to 60 frames per second (progresive. This is an improvement over existing Blu-ray, which allows for 60fps content only at 720p (the 1920×1080 resolution supports 24fps as it’s maximum progressive frame rate).

But most importantly, the new standard supports High Dynamic Range video, which requires greater than 8-bit video anyway.

Ultra HD Blu-ray is also expected to include some optional but very interesting specifications. One of these will be "Digital Extension" or "Digital Bridge," which could allow consumers to securely move and copy movie content from the UHD-BD discs to their own hard drives and to mobile devices.

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