With all the 4K streaming deals being signed by UHD TV manufacturers, you’d be forgiven for thinking our ultra-high def future will be entirely in the cloud. But hold your horses: According to the Blu-ray Disc Association, 4K Blu-ray players and discs should arrive by late 2015.
Cnet reports that Chairman Victor Matsuda announced the association will begin licensing 4K Blu-ray tech in early-to-mid 2015, with the goal of having devices and content on shelves in time for the holiday shopping season.
While sales of media discs have been cannibalized by streaming services, there are good reasons for creating a new physical format. UHD video is incredibly bandwidth-intensive, so streamed content is usually heavily compressed; and of course, if your internet speed fluctuates, image quality can vary drastically.
(Is there anything more frustrating than a movie that’s constantly shifting between gorgeous HD and a sub-SD pixelated mess?)
Disc-based video is far less compressed, so you can get close to 4K’s raw, uncompressed beauty. For serious cinemaphiles, and indeed anyone who values an uncomplicated, uninterrupted viewing experience, that’s a big deal.
Current Blu-ray discs are limited to 50GB of storage, but Cnet also reports that larger capacities are in the pipeline. According to Panasonic VP Ron Martin, UHD-ready Blu-ray discs will offer either 66 or 100GB of storage. They’ll also use H.265/HEVC high-efficiency encoding, which can cram more pixels into less disc space than the current H.264/AVC.
The new 4K-format discs and players will also use 10-bit color and the expanded Rec. 2020 color gamut. That’s exciting tech, but it’s also essentially just future-proofing; few current televisions can properly display the range of color they produce.
Since the new encoding format will require new decoding techniques, new hardware is also required. That means Blu-ray player owners will need to upgrade to a new box in order to gain access to glorious UHD. Bet you didn't see that one coming.
Hero image: Flickr user "pitzyper" (CC BY 2.0)