Coming soon: 4K Blu-ray Discs
The Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA) have announced an updated Blu-ray Disc standard that will include 4K Ultra-HD (UHD) content. The update will allow for UHD content to be used on 50GB, 66GB and 100GB discs. The content will support up to 60 frames per second, will feature High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) compression technology and both high-dynamic range and wider color gamut. The first players should be available as early as spring 2015, with 4K Blu-ray Discs available as quickly Christmas 2015.
With the prices of UHDTVs falling to near parity with Full HD (1080p) sets, and video components supporting the new HDMI 2.0 spec and HEVC codec, the only next step is providing the sources. Currently, 4k video is supplied through limited means. For example: certain UHDTVs from Samsung can stream 4k video from Netflix. A few high-end services provide first-run movies in 4k (at steep prices), and Sony has a proprietary 4k movie store with limited options from Sony Pictures.
Victor Matsuda, global promotions chair for the BDA and VP of Sony Corp.’s Blu-ray group, argues physical discs are still the best way to consume media. “I think it’s very much in line with what we’ve experienced in the past: Packaged media offers a very controlled, stable, known environment, that’s fundamentally an advantage, compared to streaming services. The more information you’re trying to stream, it becomes more of a challenge for Internet-based services.
“One of the advantages Blu-ray and packaged-media formats have is having its own, enclosed, stable environment. We don’t have to worry about … how big the pipeline is from the service provider, whether your monthly data plan is going to affected by the 4K products rolling out.”
Blu-ray Disc sales have surged recently to account for over 30% of the retail disc market. This market, as a whole, has been shrinking, but internet service providers have also been clamping down on bandwidth utilization, making physical discs attractive to some more than others.