If I had to name the most anticipated home-theater product of the year, it would have to be a 4K physical format. UHD displays have already started shipping to retail outlets around the world, but one piece of the puzzle still remains—content distribution. Netflix has announced that within two years, it will be streaming 4K content over the Internet. Sony has announced it will distribute 4K content via online downloading, and the company will start releasing "Mastered in 4K" Blu-rays on May 14
, but these discs are still 1080p. On AVS Forum, there has been lots of speculation about quad-layer Blu-ray discs that can accommodate 100 GB or more, but nothing more definite has surfaced—until now.
In a statement given to CNET, the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA) has confirmed that it is on the lookout for options to get 4K material on Blu-ray. In fact, the BDA has established a special 4K task force to work on gathering and analyzing proposals from professionals in the film and electronics industries. The task force is set to present its final recommendation to the BDA later this year.
As part of its ongoing responsibility to maintain Blu-ray Disc as the premium platform for watching movies and other content at home, the BDA established a task force last year to study a range of possible format extensions, including those that potentially enable 4K content playback on Blu-ray.
Through the first quarter of this year, the task force solicited and received numerous proposals, and is now evaluating the various technologies.
The task force, which is comprised of representatives from BDA member studios, consumer-electronics manufacturers and media-technology companies, looks forward to sharing with and receiving input from content creators, and is expected to make specification and technology recommendations to the Blu-ray Disc Association board of directors later this year.CNET
Many questions remain unanswered. H.265 compression is still in the works, as is the next-generation HDMI specification, but without an appropriate codec, no true bitrate can be calculated. Another big question arises if 4K does make it to the Blu-ray format—will it be compatible with legacy Blu-ray players (say, with some sort of automatic downconversion to 1080p), or will it require new hardware?
As streaming gains in popularity, every studio wants a piece of the action by starting its own streaming service. This has stirred things up, especially in light of the recent Netflix/Warner news
. Will the whole streaming paradigm implode in the battle of film licensing? With all studios already behind the Blu-ray format, it remains the best physical-media option for now, especially since it is already found in most homes today. I believe the addition of 4K to the Blu-ray format depends on the codec (H.265) and transport (HDMI), and both still have a lot of unanswered questions. Only time will tell.
What do you think?