Consumer Reports has a article by James Willcox reporting from CES on UHD Blu-ray that says, in part:
"During a UHD TV panel that I moderated this morning, Blu-ray Disc Association spokesperson Dan Schinasi said that the new Blu-ray specification for 4K is now nearly complete. It's expected to be locked down this spring so that licensing and manufacturing could start in the summer. The first UHD Blu-ray players and discs could arrive by the holiday season—though we still don't have any idea how much they'll cost."
So it does appear there is a good chance we will have the first UHD Blu-ray players and discs by the end of 2015.
There was also a little more info provided on the technical details of UHD Blu-ray (see text below in bold
We were able to learn a few technical details about the new players and discs.
One is that they'll use the HEVC codec, sometimes called H.265. This is the same codec (compression scheme) used by Netflix and many of the other streaming services, so almost all UHD TVs introduced within the last year support it.
HEVC is a more efficient way of delivering high-bandwidth video, such as 4K. But UHD Blu-ray will reportedly have transfer rates up to 100Mbps, which is super fast, especially compared with streaming. That should produce better-looking images.
In addition to higher 4K resolution, UHD Blu-ray will be able to support better color, both a wider color gamut and 10-bit up to 16-bit color, which allows for smoother transitions between colors, without banding.
It will also include support for high dynamic range, which is the difference between the brightest and darkest images. There's also built-in optional support for 3D, should a manufacturer want to include this.
To fit the extra detail and improvements, new dual- (66GB) and triple-layer (100GB) discs are being developed. That's why older Blu-ray players won't be able to play the new UHD discs
Assuming all of this info is correct and taken along with Panasonic is reporting and other statements made at CES 2014 from Victor Matsuda (BDA spokesperson) it appears that the new UHD Blu-ray format will:
- use dual layer 66 GB discs or triple layer 100 GB discs
- support multiple color spaces up to and including Rec. 2020 (and probably will also specifically identify rec. 709 and DCI-P3 as valid color spaces - my opinion)
- will use a nominal/minimum bit depth of 10-bit and the standard will allow for up to 16-bit depth to be used
- will support up to 100 Mbps data rate for the recordings
- will use H.265/HEVC and given the above max. allowed characteristics that means version 2 of H.265 (rather than ver. 1 used by the 4K streaming services)
- will support 3D as an option (basically what we have now with HD blu-ray players where entry level models are not required to support 3D)
It sounds like the one significant piece of missing technical info is which chroma sub-sampling schemes will be supported in addition to 4:2:0 (i.e., will support for 4:2:2 and 4:4:4 be required for players and optional for for the encoding on the discs?).