At IFA 2014, the Blu-ray association confirmed that a 4K Blu-ray format is coming in late 2015. They later shared details about the format, saying that it will utilize up to 100GB discs and add support for a range of improved picture quality parameters such as HDR, HFR, 10-bit colors and more.
4K Blu-ray details confirmed
Even though more and more consumers prefer streaming and even though streaming services will have a head start in delivering 4K content, the Blu-ray association believes there is a place for physical media in the future, as 4K Blu-ray discs will incorporate much more than just resolution.
Talking with CNET, BDA has confirmed that a 4K Blu-ray format will support not just 4K resolution, but also HDR (high-dynamic range), 10-bit color depth, and up to Rec.2020 color gamut. The format will also support HFR (high frame rate) up to 60 frames per second in 4K, but reportedly not HFR of 120 fps and above.
The improved 10-bit color depth will improve color gradation and reduce color problems such as banding. HDR will improve details in the very dark shadows and very bright scenes. The Rec.2020 color gamut will allow movie producers to reproduce around 75% of the colors that they human eye is capable of seeing, compared to around 30-35% of today’s Rec.709 standard used for HD content.
Rec.2020 is even wider than the color gamut utilized in movie theaters, but no TVs can reproduce the Rec.2020 color gamut yet. On the other hand, missing support for true HFR content is surprising, but it might be a limitation of the HDMI 2.0 cable standard that the 4K Blu-ray players are expected to rely upon.
The new 4K Blu-ray standard will reportedly work with existing 50GB Blu-ray discs (but not existing players). However, the new 4K Blu-ray standard will also utilize new discs with up to 100GB capacity and switch to HEVC decoding, which is far more effective than mpeg4 (H.264). 4K Blu-ray will support at least 50-60 Mb/s bitrate, and possibly up to 100 Mb/s, around double that of current Blu-ray discs.
BDA says that even though pundits claim that there is little difference between Full HD and Ultra HD resolution, they see visible improvements in the resolution jump.
In a separate announcement, Dolby has confirmed that the first Blu-ray movies with Dolby Atmos sound will start launch this fall, on the existing Blu-ray discs. We think it is safe to assume that Dolby Amos will also be supported by the 4K Blu-ray standard.
Too little, too late?
The Blu-ray association is not the only one with plans to incorporate elements of the Ultra HD standard besides resolution.
Netflix has already announced plans to start using HDR, HFR and wider color gamuts in the future, as they will shoot all future TV series in the 4K format. Amazon is also launching a 4K streaming service later this year, and many other providers expect to follow suit.
None of the streaming services will be able to match the bitrate of the physical Blu-ray format in the near future, but as the internet infrastructure is being built out to offer 100 Mb/s pipes and beyond in the near future, streaming providers will start experimenting will higher quality streams.
Despite this, BDA believes that the world will continue to rely on physical discs in the foreseeable future, even though Blu-ray has never enjoying the same success as DVD.