4K Ultra HD Blu-ray on course for Xmas launch, as final specification is confirmed

posted on Wednesday, 13th May 2015 by Steve May

home cinema  Blu-ray  4K 

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The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray format is on course for a pre-Xmas 2015 product roll-out. BDA board member and VP of Innovation at Panasonic Hollywood Labs Ron Martin confirmed the news to Inside CI, as the final specification for the format extension was published and the format logo (pictured above) revealed.

There are no real surprises in the specification. The disc format will support 3840x2160 resolution content with high-frame rate support and an extended colour gamut. Discs will use 4:2:0 chroma sub-sampling, and of course, offer HDR (High Dynamic Range) compatibility.

While the industry seems unanimous in its enthusiasm for HDR, a variety of standards have been vying for validation. So what standard will 4K Blu-ray support?

“Essentially we reached a reasonable compromise both with content providers and technology companies, that is essentially a sub-set of the SMPTE 2084 10-bit HDR standard,” Martin told Inside CI at this week’s DTG digital TV summit in London. “We included a few features that dictate mastering processes so that CE companies can reach an achievable standard of a compelling presentation, without some of the more wild targets that were thrown out there. That is basically a 400 Nit average and anywhere from 700 – 1000 Nit total peak value. Peak in the sense of small spectrals, fireworks going off or an explosion. Something like that.”

The new Ultra HD format Blu-ray discs will hold up to 66GB and 100GB of data on dual and triple layer discs respectively. An optional digital bridge will enable consumers to view the content of purchased discs across a range of in-home and mobile devices, if the studios want it. The system also supports both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, for object based audio. The platform is fully backwards compatible with current Blu-ray discs. There will be no support for 4K 3D. “3D release will continue to be supported by HD Blu-ray,” says Martin.

Licensing of Ultra HD Blu-ray is scheduled to begin this Summer. The BDA says it 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. 

On the vexed issue of HDCP 2.2 copy protection, Martin says: “It’s going to be a migration, for sure. Most of the manufacturers are now up to date (with compatible inputs). By the end of the year all TV models and AV receivers will have it.” For those consumers with non HDCP 2.2 devices in the chain, Martin says the player will probably default to give a regular HD image. “The TV or AV receiver will need to be upgraded or will require a new purchase,” he warns.

Steve May

Steve is a veteran of the UK consumer electronics industry, having covered it for
various media outlets for more than 20 years.

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