My Two Cents
Monday, 21 January 2013 14:13

More Hobbit Blu-ray details, plus the BDA has a task force investigating 4K on Blu-ray

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All right, today’s post is going to be quick, but it’s a good one…

First up, there’s more news regarding The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.  As we reported last Thursday, word of the Blu-ray release of the film has begun to leak in Europe and in fact you can now pre-order the theatrical cut Blu-ray 3D Combo, Blu-ray Combo and DVD versions in Germany and France.  Now images of a French retail sell sheet have leaked online, showing your choice of three different Steelbook covers for the 2D version, plus word that the discs will include over two hours worth of extras, including a “making of” featurette and 10 video blogs – presumably an archive of the same video blogs that director Peter Jackson has posted online here. It also appears that the 3D version of the film may be contained on a pair of Blu-rays, while the 2D version will appear on just one disc.  More here at Collider and here at Bleeding Cool.  Here’s the German cover art for the BD3D and DVD versions that we posted last Thursday (originally from – we’ve added a look at the German BD Steelbook as well…

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (German Blu-ray 3D)    The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (German Blu-ray Steelbook)     The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (German DVD)

By the way, the French sell sheet makes no mention of the Extended Edition release.  But we do know from our coverage of Warner’s 2013 release slate event that the studio is tentatively planning on releasing it later this year.  And Jackson and company have indicated in various interviews that they’re considering what deleted footage to include in longer cuts of the films.

Also today, we’ve got a follow-up on our CES 2013 coverage of 4K... and it’s definitely of interest to you Blu-ray fans.  Blu-ray Disc Association president Andy Parsons has revealed that the BDA created a task force within its member companies in late 2012 to begin investigating the notion of extending the Blu-ray spec to deliver 4K movie content – presumably to make Blu-ray Hollywood’s preferred medium for distributing 4K Ultra HD content to consumers with 4K displays.  (More here at TechHive.)  What’s interesting about this is that while Blu-ray has disc capacities of 25GB and 50GB (via single and dual-layer media), RED revealed at CES that their 4K streamed movies will have the same data rate as Blu-ray (20Mbps) so you could presumably included a .RED file on a Blu-ray with a file size of 15 to 20GB.  But .RED is obviously a proprietary format, and it’s just one of several being used to deliver films in 4K theatrically.

BDA president Andy Parsons says that the Blu-ray format is technically capable of delivering 4K content, but there are a number of factors that need to be considered.  The first is the cost of doing so: Can existing production and manufacturing pipelines be retooled to accommodate 4K Blu-rays so that discs are reasonably priced, or is it just easier to stream 4K to displays?  And then there’s demand: Sales of 4K displays are going to be extremely limited for the next few years until costs come down, so will demand for 4K discs justify the costs?  Other questions remain as well: Would the new 4K Blu-rays work on existing players?  Could at least some players be made compatible with 4K via firmware updates or would new players be required?  Obviously, 4K video would either require greater compression than Blu-ray currently employs or additional layers would have to be added to the discs – or both.

Finally, there’s an even bigger issue to overcome – rampant concern over piracy in the Hollywood community.  Are the studios even willing to release their best films in 4K?  Think of it this way: If someone pirates a current Blu-ray, they’ve got a great high-definition copy.  If someone pirates a 4K file, they’ve essentially got a duplicate of the studio master – 4K is effectively the equivalent resolution you get from a 35mm film print.  That’s not an appealing proposition for any senior studio executive.

So interesting though the idea of 4K Blu-ray is, there are a lot of hurdles yet to clear.  Nevertheless, we’ll keep you up to date on any new developments as we hear of them.

Stay tuned...

- Bill Hunt

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