Some progress on the 4K Blu-ray format was announced at IFA, with a timeline to actual products. Should we get excited just yet?
The web is abuzz with a story from the huge IFA consumer-electronics trade show in Berlin last week that the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA) announced release dates for the highly anticipated 4K Blu-ray disc format. The specification will be finalized by summer 2015, and actual product—both discs and players—should be available for the following holiday shopping season. That's more definitive than I've heard before, but it's at least six months behind the original timeline, so who knows if it will be delayed again?
The rest of the news is equally enticing, though not unexpected. Aside from a resolution of 3840x2160, the format will support 10-bit color, wide color gamut, and high dynamic range, though I haven't seen anything yet about exactly what color gamut or which HDR technology will be used. (The only gamut I've seen mentioned is BT.2020, but no current display can reproduce it; will there be any next year that can? I'm kinda doubtful. Also, 10 bits probably isn't enough for true HDR in any event.) It will also support frame rates up to 60 fps.
The codec will be H.265/HEVC (no surprise there), and current 50 GB dual-layer discs will work (which is a bit surprising). HEVC can theoretically increase compression efficiency by 50% over H.264/AVC, but current implementations achieve more like a 30% increase, depending on the content. Considering that the new content will have four times the resolution of 1080p along with 10-bit color and high frame rate (60 is a lot higher than 24), 50 GB won't hold all that much even with HEVC compression. There have been some reports of a triple-layer 100 GB Blu-ray format, but the BDA announcement did not confirm its use. Then there's the issue of bit rate—several stories have cited a bit rate of 50 Mbps at first, with rates up to 100 Mbps in the future. But will that require new hardware?
Speaking of hardware, here's a little-reported factoid that should be obvious (which could be why it's little-reported)—the new 4K Blu-ray discs will not be playable in current Blu-ray players, even 4K-upscaling models. The new discs will require a new player—and as I intimated before, perhaps the initial offerings will be limited to a bit rate of around 50 Mbps, which is highly hardware-dependent. When 100 Mbps chipsets become available, will we need to replace the player yet again?
Of course, most stories point out the increasing popularity of streaming, and how Netflix and other providers are starting to stream 4K, while TV manufacturers like Samsung are making deals with those providers to stream to their TVs. By contrast—and no surprise to AVS members—videophiles want the best possible picture and sound quality, and the only way to get it is on optical disc. Will that be enough to sustain a market for 4K Blu-ray? At least there's no format war this time around!
What's your take on the 4K Blu-ray news? Is it worth jumping up and down about yet?
Here are a few reports about the news from IFA:
Like AVS Forum on Facebook
Follow AVS Forum on Twitter
+1 AVS Forum on Google+