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BDA finalizes Ultra HD Blu-ray spec: hardware to emerge this holiday season

The Blu-ray disc association (BDA) this week said it had completed development of the Ultra HD Blu-ray specification and released the new logo. The upcoming technology will enable delivery of video content in up to 3840*2160 resolution using optical discs. The first Ultra HD Blu-ray (UHD BD) movies and players will hit the market later this year.

The Ultra HD Blu-ray disc supports video in 4K UHD resolution (up to 3840*2160) with up to 60 frames per second. The UHD BD format features high-dynamic range (HDR) with 10-bit colours as well as Rec. 2020 colour gamut, which further enhances quality of video at home. The new standard is also compatible with emerging object-based sound formats, including DTX: X and Dolby Atmos (which is supported by select Blu-ray titles too). The UHD BD format uses high efficiency video coding (HEVC, also known as H.265) technology with 4:4:4 chroma subsampling.

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The Ultra HD Blu-ray standard relies on new optical discs with 33GB layers, an increase of 32 per cent compared to the original Blu-ray discs. The UHD BD will use media that can store up to 50GB, 66GB and 100GB of data on dual and triple layer discs. It is noteworthy that UHD BD discs of different capacity will support various peak data-rates, which means different levels of quality. 50GB media features maximum data rate of 82Mb/s, 66GB discs support up to 108Mb/s data rate, whereas 100GB optical media can transfer data to players at up to 128Mb/s. Standard Blu-ray movies have a maximum data transfer rate of 54Mb/s. Increased data rates of Ultra HD BD require new Blu-ray players to support new HDMI 2.0/HDMI 2.0a outputs, whereas TVs will need appropriate inputs.

The new UHD BD format also supports the optional digital bridge feature, which can enable the consumer to view their content across the range of in-home and mobile devices. The BDA did not reveal any additional details on the matter, but since it is optional, not all discs will support it.

All Ultra HD Blu-ray players will be capable of playing back existing Blu-ray movies. It is unclear whether Microsoft’s Xbox One and Sony’s PlayStation 4 eventually gain support for UHD Blu-ray, but that is a possibility for newer versions of the systems with HDMI 2.0, which is required to transfer 4K video at 60fps with 10-bit colour. Some of the current TVs with HDMI 1.4 outputs can be upgraded to HDMI 2.0 and even HDMI 2.0a using a firmware update.

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Samsung BD-F7500 3D, Ultra HD-capable smart Blu-ray and DVD player

“For years, Blu-ray disc has set the standard for high definition picture and audio quality in the home. Ultra HD Blu-ray will do the same for UHD home entertainment,” said Victor Matsuda, chairman of BDA promotions committee. “The technical capabilities of Blu-ray disc, in particular its significant storage capacity and high data transfer rates, will enable the delivery of an unparalleled, consistent and repeatable UHD experience.”

Licensing of Ultra HD Blu-ray will begin this Summer. The BDA is working closely with industry leaders in the authoring, testing, certification and replication industries to develop the tools and process needed to ensure interoperability between players and software and to facilitate the development of a robust ecosystem to support the hardware and title launch of Ultra HD Blu-ray.

The first Ultra HD Blu-ray players and content will hit the market this holiday season. Pricing is something yet to be revealed.

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KitGuru Says: At last, the Ultra HD future with new optical disc format is almost here. The question is whether UHD BD is set to gain traction on the market. At present there are many online services delivering videos with 3840*2160 resolution, but with relatively low bitrates and without immersive audio, their quality is not as high as that promised by the Ultra HD Blu-ray. However, the convenience of online rentals may actually drive a lot of customers away from optical discs, leaving UHD BD movies to collectors and videophiles.

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