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Ultra HD Blu-ray: The official specs, when to expect it and who it benefits

05.13.2015

The jump from VHS to DVD was a no-brainer and a long time coming. Consumers could see the difference in quality right off the bat. The ease-of-use, as well as the space saved, were apparent just by looking at those beautiful little versatile discs in action. Blu-ray was a bit of a tougher sell, especially when it started out competing against HD-DVD (remember those days?). Hell, there's still plenty of folks out there who haven't jumped on the Blu-ray bandwagon, but for those of us who have, DVD is a bit of a muddy and dull mess in comparison. Blu-ray hasn't exactly toppled the market like DVD did, but it wasn't LaserDisc either. And seriously, if you own an HD TV (1080p) and don't own a Blu-ray player, what are you waiting for? I digress...

You may have heard some talk about Ultra HD Blu-ray, especially in the past few days. The Blu-ray Disc Association has just made an announcement regarding the follow-up to Blu-ray, as well as an official logo and some specifications.

Here's the official statement:

The Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA) today announced completion of the Ultra HD Blu-ray™ specification and released the new logo that will delineate Ultra HD Blu-ray products. The Ultra HD Blu-ray specification, which represents the work of global leaders from the consumer electronics, IT and content creation industries, will enable delivery of Ultra HD content via Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc to the rapidly growing number of UHD TV households.

“For years, Blu-ray Disc™ has set the standard for high definition picture and audio quality in the home. Ultra HD Blu-ray will do the same for UHD home entertainment," said Victor Matsuda, chair, BDA Promotions Committee. “The technical capabilities of Blu-ray Disc, in particular its significant storage capacity and high data transfer rates, will enable the delivery of an unparalleled, consistent and repeatable UHD experience."

The completed Ultra HD Blu-ray specification addresses a range of factors, beyond simply increasing resolution, that will significantly enhance the home entertainment experience for consumers. In addition to delivering content in up-to 3840x2160 resolution, the Ultra HD Blu-ray format enables delivery of a significantly expanded color range and allows for the delivery of high dynamic range (HDR) and high frame rate content. Next-generation immersive, object-based sound formats will also be delivered via the Ultra HD Blu-ray specification. Additionally, 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 the range of in-home and mobile devices.

The specification also mandates all new Ultra HD Blu-ray players be capable of playing back current Blu-ray Discs, giving consumers access to the vast library of more than 10,000 titles currently available on Blu-ray Disc.

Licensing of Ultra HD Blu-ray is scheduled to begin this Summer. The BDA is working closely with industry leaders in the authoring, testing, certification and replication industries to develop the tools and process needed to ensure interoperability between players and software and to facilitate the development of a robust ecosystem to support the hardware and title launch of Ultra HD Blu-ray.

Okay, so how does Ultra HD measure up to Blu-ray? Well, the big difference that most are likely to point out between Blu-ray and Ultra HD is the resolution. Blu-ray can output 1920x1080 pixels, while Ultra HD can do 3840x2160 (also known as 4K). It's worth nothing that the 4K you see in theaters is more likely to be 4096 x 2160, which is slightly greater than Ultra HD. With that said, you'll obviously need a 4K television in order to take advantage of Ultra HD, much like a person without an HDTV wouldn't be able to see the real differences between a DVD and a Blu-ray.

There's another argument brewing with 4K televisions and that's how close you actually have to sit to the TV in order to see the resolution difference. There are lots of charts floating around online and while they all vary, I've included the one above just for reference. As you can see, it appears that in order to really take advantage of 4K resolution, you'd either have to have a ridiculously large TV or sit ridiculously close. This brings us to our next spec on Ultra HD, which is color reproduction.

As you can imagine, the High Dynamic Range (HDR) of Ultra HD will to handle better contrast and color reproduction than Blu-ray. In order to illustrate this point more eloquently, I've pulled a quote from Bill Hunt from his website, The Digital Bits. The man has had plenty of eyes-on experience in the matter and also addresses the resolution argument.

Bill Hunt on High Dynamic Range:

Now, a lot of people have said that average consumers would have trouble distinguishing 4K from regular 1080p content at average home viewing distances. This is true. HOWEVER... the addition of High Dynamic Range as a key part of this spec changes that equation dramatically. Thanks to our friends at 20th Century Fox, I’ve personally seen a side by side demonstration of the same content playing in 1080p and 4K with HDR. Let me tell you, the difference is night and day clear, and EVERYONE (up to and including your Grandma Betty) will be able to see that difference and appreciate it. HDR greatly broadens the visible range of contrast in the image, so you get bright areas that look realistic and also truly dark blacks. But broadening that range also greatly broadens the color gamut, which means far more realistic color reproduction. Video images in properly-mastered 4K HDR have greatly increased depth and look almost photo real.

As you can see, even if the resolution isn't AS noticeable (depending on where you're sitting), the HDR will more than make up for it. You couple that with higher bit rates (82-128 megabits per second versus the 40 mbps of Blu-ray) and more immersive sound (like Dolby Atmos and DTS:X), and you have what's as much of an upgrade from Blu-ray as Blu-ray was from DVD.

We realistically can't expect to see Ultra HD on shelves until the first quarter of 2016 (MAYBE the holidays of this year), but whether or not this remains a niche format is hard to tell. Studios haven't exactly embraced Blu-ray as well as they should have, and with digital streaming and downloading becoming more popular, I'll be curious to see if Ultra HD even ends up on a blip on the layman's radar. Those of you who already own 4K TV or plan to pick one up in the next year may want to keep an eye out for the format, but I have a feeling a lot of us will be waiting to see how it all goes.

Do you have any interest in adopting Ultra HD Blu-ray when it streets?

Tags: blu-ray, DVD, Ultra HD

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9:33PM on 05/13/2015
So this new Ultra HD Blu Ray is mainly for 4K materials then. I have Sony 60 inches HD TV for about 6 years and it's still working great. I don't have a need to buy 4K TV and I'm happy with current Blu Ray discs' qualities. Even the new Xbox One works great with my TV. So yeah, I'll stick with normal Blu Ray. It might work with streaming movies in the future but I'm okay with current HD TV and Blu Ray discs now.
So this new Ultra HD Blu Ray is mainly for 4K materials then. I have Sony 60 inches HD TV for about 6 years and it's still working great. I don't have a need to buy 4K TV and I'm happy with current Blu Ray discs' qualities. Even the new Xbox One works great with my TV. So yeah, I'll stick with normal Blu Ray. It might work with streaming movies in the future but I'm okay with current HD TV and Blu Ray discs now.
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9:32PM on 05/13/2015
While I don't have a UHD tv yet, I'm excited for this format. Call me old fashioned but I love having physical media over streaming because I enjoy seeing and displaying my collection. Plus the Australian internet sucks for streaming HD content, let alone 4K.
While I don't have a UHD tv yet, I'm excited for this format. Call me old fashioned but I love having physical media over streaming because I enjoy seeing and displaying my collection. Plus the Australian internet sucks for streaming HD content, let alone 4K.
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9:35PM on 05/13/2015
I agree with you. I live in Thailand and streaming here sucks also. Most cable channels here boast Dolby 5.1 sound. I once watched the same movie over the said cable with Dolby 5.1 and compared it with my own copy of the said movie with DTS HD-MA 5.1. My disc sounds a whole lot better.
I agree with you. I live in Thailand and streaming here sucks also. Most cable channels here boast Dolby 5.1 sound. I once watched the same movie over the said cable with Dolby 5.1 and compared it with my own copy of the said movie with DTS HD-MA 5.1. My disc sounds a whole lot better.
7:58PM on 05/13/2015
Streaming media can keep up with physical. The basic home bandwidth servers may not be able to support 4k streaming, but google fiber can. Eventually 4K streaming will be widely available. Netflix is already experimenting with ultra HD streaming.

What will happen is we will hit our physical peak. A point where no matter how much higher quality something will be, our eyes and ears wont be able to differentiate. 4K is pretty close to that already. They may be able to make an 8K quality, but
Streaming media can keep up with physical. The basic home bandwidth servers may not be able to support 4k streaming, but google fiber can. Eventually 4K streaming will be widely available. Netflix is already experimenting with ultra HD streaming.

What will happen is we will hit our physical peak. A point where no matter how much higher quality something will be, our eyes and ears wont be able to differentiate. 4K is pretty close to that already. They may be able to make an 8K quality, but to our primitive eyes it'll look just like 6K (or something like that). Internet speeds are only getting faster. Digital Media will very likely match, if not supersede physical media.

The real issue here is are there people that want physical media and all it's flaws. Are there enough people to keep this industry alive? I hope so. I enjoy displaying my movies and hope i can always purchase a physical copy of my favorite movies.
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+0
7:34PM on 05/13/2015
With everything migrating away from physical media in favor of streaming; this seems pretty silly. But what's the point of having a 4K TV and nothing to utilize the new resolution? So I see their point. I just don't think it will be the next big thing.
With everything migrating away from physical media in favor of streaming; this seems pretty silly. But what's the point of having a 4K TV and nothing to utilize the new resolution? So I see their point. I just don't think it will be the next big thing.
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6:16PM on 05/13/2015
I've long said that Blu-Ray is good enough. Anything more than an HD TV and a Blu-Ray player is overkill. IMO. But I'm happy about this because this will drive down the cost of the Blu-Ray's and DVD's I buy.
I've long said that Blu-Ray is good enough. Anything more than an HD TV and a Blu-Ray player is overkill. IMO. But I'm happy about this because this will drive down the cost of the Blu-Ray's and DVD's I buy.
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6:13PM on 05/13/2015

Needs to be it for a while

I think for 15 to 20 years this needs to be it before the next change/upgrade. This is also why physical media will never die. You will never get true Ultra HD picture and sound over a streaming connection because the bandwidth needed would be insane. You'll get 4K over Netflix but it won't be the quality you'll get on the physical media.
I think for 15 to 20 years this needs to be it before the next change/upgrade. This is also why physical media will never die. You will never get true Ultra HD picture and sound over a streaming connection because the bandwidth needed would be insane. You'll get 4K over Netflix but it won't be the quality you'll get on the physical media.
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5:26PM on 05/13/2015

Eventually I will get it, but not now

I am more of an audio/video fiend than the average person. At the same time, I'm a fan of a good cost/benefit ratio. 4k TVs aren't all that bad in price considering, but I sit about 8' from a 65" plasma, and I have zero complaints. When I get a projector some day - and I have a 100+ inch screen - it will be 4k. I think I'll wait until the players are cheaper, though.
I am more of an audio/video fiend than the average person. At the same time, I'm a fan of a good cost/benefit ratio. 4k TVs aren't all that bad in price considering, but I sit about 8' from a 65" plasma, and I have zero complaints. When I get a projector some day - and I have a 100+ inch screen - it will be 4k. I think I'll wait until the players are cheaper, though.
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5:19PM on 05/13/2015

I haven't changed to Blu-ray for two reasons:

1) In my country, Hungary, a Blu-Ray is almost twice as expensive as a DVD.
2) I do have a Blu-Ray player (also, a full HD TV), and bought Tron Legacy, which has both the DVD and the Blu-Ray versions. I compared the two and couldn't see all that much of a difference.

BTW, ever since Blu-Ray got mainstream, the studios reduced the amount of special features. Sure, there are some exceptions (like big-budget Warner movies), but most Blu-Ray movies have even less extras than the old DVD
1) In my country, Hungary, a Blu-Ray is almost twice as expensive as a DVD.
2) I do have a Blu-Ray player (also, a full HD TV), and bought Tron Legacy, which has both the DVD and the Blu-Ray versions. I compared the two and couldn't see all that much of a difference.

BTW, ever since Blu-Ray got mainstream, the studios reduced the amount of special features. Sure, there are some exceptions (like big-budget Warner movies), but most Blu-Ray movies have even less extras than the old DVD versions.
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5:08PM on 05/13/2015
The real question here is how fast do we really need to integrate our lives with this technology. It is coming. Eventually all physical media will be Ultra HD, all tvs will be 4k capable. Do they even make none HD tvs anymore. You may not need to rush out and buy one now, but in 10 years time this will probably be the only thing available.

One of the nice things about Blu-ray is that all your old dvds work on a Bluray player. There is no need to replace your entire collection. That will be
The real question here is how fast do we really need to integrate our lives with this technology. It is coming. Eventually all physical media will be Ultra HD, all tvs will be 4k capable. Do they even make none HD tvs anymore. You may not need to rush out and buy one now, but in 10 years time this will probably be the only thing available.

One of the nice things about Blu-ray is that all your old dvds work on a Bluray player. There is no need to replace your entire collection. That will be the same thing here. There is no need to replace your bluray collection, or even your dvd collection still. It'll just be when you buy a new movie, like Jaws 19, it'll probably be on Ultra Blu Ray and not Bluray.

That is, of course, we assume that physical media still exists at all in the next few years. Digital media is crushing physical media in sales and the convenience is undoubtedly better with digital media. I personal wish to never see the end of physical movies. While my digital movie collection (aarg) may be bigger than my dvd/bluray collection (a modestly impressive ~200) i am very proud of my physical collection. I like showing off all my favorite movies on a shelf in my living room. I like begin able to have the box on the coffee table and a dvd menu with options. I hope physical media never goes away, it's just a good feeling to have with your favorite movies.
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4:56PM on 05/13/2015

UHD Blu-ray is a waste

Even with the increased color gamut, most people don't have/won't buy UHD TVs. Most programming isn't worth the extra $$ for improved definition and color range, very few homes have proper viewing spaces set up and almost nobody bothers with surround sound systems, especially high resolution, properly set up systems.
Even the sales people at BB don't recommend 4K for most of their customers because 1080p doesn't upscale to a 4K set well - a 1080p screen looks better with a conventional HD
Even with the increased color gamut, most people don't have/won't buy UHD TVs. Most programming isn't worth the extra $$ for improved definition and color range, very few homes have proper viewing spaces set up and almost nobody bothers with surround sound systems, especially high resolution, properly set up systems.
Even the sales people at BB don't recommend 4K for most of their customers because 1080p doesn't upscale to a 4K set well - a 1080p screen looks better with a conventional HD feed in comparison.
Also, remember the roaring non-success that SACD became in the audio marketplace in comparison to CD? This will be much the same; SD and HD video will be remastered to be resold as UHD and people won't be suckered into buying the same software yet again.
Asia is the only market that will buy this in any volume, just like 3D.
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4:52PM on 05/13/2015

It benefits the Star Wars movies...

Every new format is a re-release for the Star Wars movies. Now that this has been announced, its time to expedite the Star Wars Blu-Ray 3D edition and maybe a digital download 3D version too. George Lucas is so pissed that he sold to Disney.
Every new format is a re-release for the Star Wars movies. Now that this has been announced, its time to expedite the Star Wars Blu-Ray 3D edition and maybe a digital download 3D version too. George Lucas is so pissed that he sold to Disney.
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4:51PM on 05/13/2015

Well.......

Been buying blu-rays since 2008, and DVDs since 1999. Now, less than 10 years after Blu-ray a "newer/better" viewing tech is being released. What the hell? We still have movies out there that have yet to be released on DVD, let alone blu-ray. And what of the DVD titles that have yet to be released on Blu-ray. UltraHD doesn't even play DVDs. So does this mean my 4,600 blu-rays and DVDs will soon be obsolete? Digital does suck!
Been buying blu-rays since 2008, and DVDs since 1999. Now, less than 10 years after Blu-ray a "newer/better" viewing tech is being released. What the hell? We still have movies out there that have yet to be released on DVD, let alone blu-ray. And what of the DVD titles that have yet to be released on Blu-ray. UltraHD doesn't even play DVDs. So does this mean my 4,600 blu-rays and DVDs will soon be obsolete? Digital does suck!
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5:23PM on 05/13/2015
Well... Blu-ray came out when... 2006? So it's been ten years since the "old" format.
You have every option to NOT adopt the new format.
Also, those DVDs and blu-rays that you already own are not obsolete. They still play the movie, right? There is no need or obligation on your part to replace those titles in 4k; unless you want to.
Even your VHS collection is still viable. Or your laserdisc, betamax, etc...
Well... Blu-ray came out when... 2006? So it's been ten years since the "old" format.
You have every option to NOT adopt the new format.
Also, those DVDs and blu-rays that you already own are not obsolete. They still play the movie, right? There is no need or obligation on your part to replace those titles in 4k; unless you want to.
Even your VHS collection is still viable. Or your laserdisc, betamax, etc...
+2
4:33PM on 05/13/2015

Just read the article...

And now my head hurts :/
And now my head hurts :/
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3:58PM on 05/13/2015
Hopefully this means studios ease up on pushing digital for the time being. Fuck digital.
Hopefully this means studios ease up on pushing digital for the time being. Fuck digital.
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4:09PM on 05/13/2015
Boo-urns to you, good sir.
Boo-urns to you, good sir.
4:16PM on 05/13/2015
nope, I agree Fuck Digital
nope, I agree Fuck Digital
4:59PM on 05/13/2015
Digital's ok if you're traveling or on the go, but as a main source of entertainment? I'd rather not have my collection be limited due to storage restrictions, and other internet issues.
Digital's ok if you're traveling or on the go, but as a main source of entertainment? I'd rather not have my collection be limited due to storage restrictions, and other internet issues.
5:15PM on 05/13/2015
digital is cheaper and more convenient. And eventually it will probably match image and sound quality. In the end it'll come down to preference of the audience. Unfortunately, we the movie nerds are in the minority here. Remember the industry is driven by money and the common man loves to spend money on fast and cheap (Transformers anyone?). I really do hope they never get rid of physical media, even if Ultra Bluray takes over DVD/bluray, i'd rather have that on my shelf than a file in my phone
digital is cheaper and more convenient. And eventually it will probably match image and sound quality. In the end it'll come down to preference of the audience. Unfortunately, we the movie nerds are in the minority here. Remember the industry is driven by money and the common man loves to spend money on fast and cheap (Transformers anyone?). I really do hope they never get rid of physical media, even if Ultra Bluray takes over DVD/bluray, i'd rather have that on my shelf than a file in my phone
5:58PM on 05/13/2015
This is really just part of the race. Services like Netflix, plus the slow ponderous rollout of fiber are on their way toward making HD streaming a common everyday thing. So hardware manufacturers have to keep pace or else they'll go obsolete. This will not *ease up* anything, it's just a treadmill.
This is really just part of the race. Services like Netflix, plus the slow ponderous rollout of fiber are on their way toward making HD streaming a common everyday thing. So hardware manufacturers have to keep pace or else they'll go obsolete. This will not *ease up* anything, it's just a treadmill.
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