There is a lot of interesting news coming out the 2014 IFA show in Berlin, Germany, such as the TCL/QD Vision Partnership that may result is a LED/LCD vs OLED TV picture quality showdown, and Samsung’s “double whammy” curved sound bar and 105-inch bendable screen TV.
However, one announcement that has perked up my ears, is the Blu-ray Disc Association’s reveal (via Victor Matsuda, chairman of the Blu-ray Disc Association Global Promotions Committee) that it is now putting the final touches on a native 4K Blu-ray Disc format. That’s right, 4K is definitely coming to Blu-ray!
Obviously, this development gives rise to a lot of questions, and although complete answers should become available by the time the 2015 CES is held, as well as closer to actual product release dates, here is what we know so far:
4K Blu-ray Disc Players vs Current Blu-ray Disc Players
Forthcoming 4K Blu-ray Disc players are not be confused with current Blu-ray Disc players that provide 4K upscaling. However, it is also important to point out the 4K Blu-ray Disc players will still incorporate features we have become accustomed to (at the discretion of the manufacturer) such as: 1080p 2D/3D Blu-ray Disc player, DVD player, CD playback, 1080p and 4K upscaling for not native 4K content, USB media player, internet and network streaming.
It has not been made clear as to whether any current Blu-ray Disc players can be “firmware-upgradeable” to add native 4K Blu-ray Disc playback, as there is more involved than software or firmware, as well as the requirement that the Blu-ray Disc players have to be HDMI 2.0 compliant.
It has also been indicated that not only will increased resolution capability be a factor, but expansion of the color encoding system for the new 4K Blu-ray standard is expected to expand from the current REC 709 used in HD applications to BT.2020, as well as incorporating HDR (High Dynamic Range) capability. Also, a 4K Blu-ray Disc player will have the ability to send out a Blu-ray signal at speeds up to 50 Gbps per second or more, which is twice that of the current Blu-ray disc standard.
How 4K Blu-ray Discs Will Be Different
On the disc side of the equation, 4K Blu-rays will be the same 5-inch (12cm) 50GB-size physical discs used currently – However, 4K video signals will be encoded and stored on the discs in the H.265/HEVC format, which can compress 4K video data into the same space that 1080p video is stored currently.
NOTE: It is important to point out that Blu-ray Discs that are currently labeled as “Mastered In 4K” are not native 4K Blu-ray Discs.
Copy-Protection algorithms will be updated to make 4K Blu-ray secure from illegal copying (of course, some hacker will probably be able to figure it out – but that is a story for another day).
Movie Studio and Manufacturer Backing
Of course, the success of any content delivery service, be it digital or physical disc depends on the backing of Hollywood. Although no official announcements have been made by the major studios as to pending 4K Blu-ray Disc title releases, all the major studios (Disney, Fox, Lionsgate, Paramount, Sony, Universal and Warner Bros) are all members of the Blu-ray Disc Association, and, of course, current Blu-ray Player makers, such as LG, OPPO, Panasonic, Samsung, Sony, etc… will most likely jump in.
Other Questions That Remain To Be Answered
Will Pre-HDMI 2.0 4K Ultra HD TVs may be compatible with the native 4K Blu-ray Disc Standard?
Will 3D be a part of the native 4K Blu-ray Disc format?
Will 4K Blu-ray Discs be able to store at 120fps content?
How will 4K Blu-ray Discs be packaged and priced?
How will 4K Blu-ray affect all of the HDMI-equipped Home Theater Receivers in Use?
Will 4K Blu-ray Disc players that incorporate internet/network streaming be compatible with 4K streaming content providers (such as Netflix)?
As you can see, the addition of 4K into the Blu-ray landscape adds both opportunities for more needed access to content, but it may also cause a lot of confusion with regards to issues such as backwards compatibility and the necessity to purchase, at least for many 4K Ultra HD TV owners (or those who plan to purchase one) a new Blu-ray Disc player. Also, we don’t knowm at this point, how much the new players will cost consumers.