Here Comes 4K Blu-ray in Time for the Holiday Shopping Season

– Significantly Improved Picture Quality over Basic 4K
– Throughput to the TV over HDMI-2 Will Be 108 Mbps

This article appeared in Faultline

With 4K TVs nearing price parity with 1080p HD TVs, the next differentiator will be UHD – a format that adds more detail to the video than 4K, which only increases the resolution.

Armed with a new logo for the discs with the 4K Blu-ray format, the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA) has confirmed that it will begin licensing its new UHD format at the end of August.

The backwards-compatible Blu-ray 4K format will actually provide more of the new ITU’s UHD standard, unlike the 4K format that differs only from 1080 HD in its higher resolution.

UHD trumps 4K with an increased color range (Rec. 2020 instead of Rec. 709), higher frame rate (up to 60fps), and three versions of HDR (high dynamic range) technology – from Dolby, Technicolor and the SMPTE. Object-based sound is also supported, but not mandatory, from Dolby’s Atmos and DTS’s DTS:X.

There still isn’t a TV set on the market that can reproduce the entirety of the Rec. 2020 color space.


The Rec 2020 color space: first consumer-ready panels due soon


Currently, the only such capable panels are found in reference monitors, which have five-figure price tags. However, recent conversations suggest that IFA, in Berlin next month, will see the first consumer-ready Rec. 2020 compatible panels make their appearance, on the back of quantum dot technology.

The big giveaway on TVs as to whether they’ll be able to support the new Blu-ray format is the presence of a HDMI 2.0 port – as only that connector (aside from the most recent DisplayPort) is capable of the raw throughput needed for the format.

Currently, it looks like only a few 2014 models from Sony and Panasonic and newer premium 2015 TVs from these two and the likes of Samsung will be compatible.

WikiLeaks documents suggest that the throughput of the new dual-layer UHD Blu-ray discs will be 108 Mbps, with the triple-layer discs reaching 128 Mbps – in HEVC. Compared with the 17 Mbps HEVC that Netflix requires for regular 4K content (with no HDR) and you understand why a UHD title is a long way away from being suitable to be streamed OTT. That Netflix stream would deliver around 15GB of video in a two hour session; less than 25% of the smallest UHD Blu-ray.

The source of the leak was Sony, reinforcing its stellar security reputation, and an image contained within the leak seems to prove that only HDMI 2.0 will support HDR. The diagram shows full 1090p HD plus HDR and UHD plus HDR being pushed down a HDMI 2.0 cable to a TV – while those same formats are scaled down to SD and full HD respectively to fit on a HDMI 1.4 TV, regardless of whether they have HDR or not on the original full HD or UHD file.

4K shares the 3840x2160p resolution with UHD, but that’s its only upgrade. Aside from this, the signal remains unchanged, and there are lots of tests out there that show that you produce better pictures with better pixels – not simply more of them.

Consequently, the actual increased data that will be found in the signal between the UHD Blu-ray players and the TVs will have extra color space, HDR and frame rate data that won’t be found in a regular Blu-ray of the same content.

This is where the improved picture quality stems from.

Not that the CEA has done a very good job of making that clear to consumers. It has decided that any product that can produce a 3840x2160p image using a digital input can badge itself as 4K Ultra HD on its packaging, which will undoubtedly lead to situations where consumers purchase one of these new Blu-ray players and a TV that says UHD on it only to find that they can’t enjoy the suggested (perhaps promised) increase in picture quality that the UHD moniker would imply.

“Ultra HD Blu-ray enables the delivery of an unparalleled, consistent and repeatable experience that will set the standard for Ultra HD entertainment, the same way that Blu-ray set the standard for high definition viewing,” said Victor Matsuda, the chair of the BDA’s Promotions Committee. “With the commencement of licensing we would anticipate product announcements from various companies as we approach the 2015 holiday season.”

Rider Research makes two points:

Movies on Blu-ray 4K discs may retail for almost as much as current Blu-ray players, which …

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