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4K Blu-ray Players Receive 2015 ETA

The Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA) gave the burgeoning Ultra HD TV cause a big lift of optimism at the recent IFA show in Berlin, where key spokesmen revealed work on a substantial portion of the technical framework for a new 4K Blu-ray Disc specification is complete.

The group now expects the first 4K Blu-ray Disc players and software to be ready for market by the 2015 holiday selling season.

A few media outlets were quick to point out that the news may be too little too late for a new physical media platform, but Blu-ray aficionados celebrated the fact that the new standard allows for significant improvements in color bit depth (up from 8 bits to 10 bits) and higher dynamic range, which could make playback more difficult in live streaming with some service providers.

Victor Matsuda, BDA global promotions committee chairman, told TWICE freelance reporter Stewart Wolpin at IFA that the technology will begin to be licensed to manufacturers in the spring or summer of 2015, in time for the 4K Blu-ray players to ship for the holidays, providing new Ultra HD TV purchasers with a high-quality packaged media format that isn’t susceptible to bandwidth limitations and other issues that can interfere with streaming data rich formats like 4K over the Internet.

In addition to providing 3,140 by 2,160 resolution images, the new specification will offer up to 60 fps rates, up to 10-bit color depth, and higher dynamic range that should improve visible details within the bright white and deep black ranges of a picture.

The system will store data using the new H.265/ HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding) compression technology, instead of the H.264/AVC (Advanced Video Coding) system in place for FullHD BD. HEVC takes more processing to use when encoding videos but compresses the data tighter, allowing more pixels to Victor Matsuda, BDA global promotions committee chairman be relayed within the established data-transfer capacity.

Although the new format will work with current 50GB-capacity Blu-ray discs, higher-capacity multilayer versions are being added.

A planned 66GB-capacity disc will support a 108Mbps transfer rate, while a 100GB disc will handle 128Mbps.

As for the continued interest in physical media formats, the Digital Entertainment Group recently issued U.S. market forecasts that showed Blu-ray Disc players have penetrated 72 million households, or about 62 percent of the U.S. It is therefore pretty safe to assume that most Americans are familiar with and enjoy the benefits that Blu-ray discs offer to their current HD TVs.

As with most new formats, a new digital-rights-management (DRM) system was said to be in development for the new 4K Blu-ray specification. Less clear is exactly what color gamut format is in consideration for the specifications.

Some reports said the BDA is looking to add support for BT.2020 — the parameter values for UHD television systems for production and international program exchange, proposed by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).

It would encompass 70 to 80 percent of the visual color spectrum. Current sets typically support up to the ITU’s REC-709 color standard, encompassing 30 to 35 percent of the visual color spectrum.