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Ultra HD Blu-ray specification finalized, ultra-high res content now on discs

By Ian Chee & Koh Wanzi - on 14 May 2015, 10:10pm

Ultra HD Blu-ray specification finalized, ultra-high res content now on discs

The Blu-ray Disc Association also unveiled a new logo for the finalized UHD Blu-ray standard. (Image Source: Blu-ray Disc Association)

Physical media like discs may appear to be going the way of the dinosaur thanks to the proliferation of YouTube and other streaming services, but that hasn’t stopped the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA) from pushing ahead and announcing the completion of the Ultra HD Blu-ray specification. There’s even a new logo to differentiate UHD Blu-ray discs!

The new UHD standard will finally bring ultra-high resolution, 3840 x 2160 content to physical discs. In addition, it will enable the delivery of a significantly expanded color range, high dynamic range (HDR) and high frame rates.

In comparison, the existing Blu-ray standard allows for 1920 x 1080 resolution video at up to 60fps. The BDA wasn’t very specific on what they meant by “high” frame rates on UHD Blu-ray, but we’re guessing this still means 60fps, which was what Panasonic cited for a prototype UHD Blu-ray player exhibited at CES 2015.

Panasonic exhibited a prototype of a UHD Blu-ray player at CES 2015. (Image Source: CNET)

To cap things off, the new standard will also be capable of delivering next-generation immersive, object-based sound formats like Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. There was also mention of an optional “digital bridge” feature which will allow users to view content across a range of home and mobile devices. This sounds ambitious, but no details were provided on how exactly this will work.

The BDA’s announcement comes at an opportune time. 4K televisions are popping up left and right, but 4K content still remains far from mainstream. While YouTube, Netflix and Amazon offer 4K content, support is sporadic and you’ll require a fast and reliable internet connection.

UHD Blu-ray wants to address this last point, with Victor Matsuda, the chair of the BDA Promotions Committee, saying that the new standard aims to deliver an “unparalleled, consistent and repeatable UHD experience”. Those of us with patchy or sluggish internet connections will know that “consistent” is pretty much a pipedream when it comes to 4K streaming.

To put things in perspective, UHD Blu-ray will more than double existing Blu-ray disc storage – dual-layer discs will hold up to 66GB while triple-layer discs will hold up to 100GB. Imagine trying to download all of that over a bad connection.

The new specification mandates that all new UHD Blu-ray players be capable of playing back current Blu-ray discs, so consumers will still have access to the more-than 10,000 titles currently available in Blu-ray. Licensing of UHD Blu-ray is scheduled to begin this summer.

Source: Blu-ray Disc Association