My Two Cents
Thursday, 23 July 2015 20:12

Blu-ray News – An Ultra HD Blu-ray update from the Blu-ray Disc Association

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This morning, I had the chance to participate in a virtual roundtable discussion featuring Victor Matsuda, the Blu-ray Disc Association’s Global Promotions Committee Chair, Paul Erickson, Senior Analyst for IHS Technology, and TK Arnold of Home Media Magazine. The session started with a video presentation in which the group discussed the outlook for UHD BD and confirmed that licensing of the format spec is going to begin very soon, which means the first official UHD BD players and movie titles could appear by year’s end.  [Read on here…]

There wasn’t a great deal of new information available, but the group did note that the goal is to ensure that UHD BD is – bar-none – the very best way to deliver the highest quality 4K video content to consumers, and also to make it easier than ever for that content to be shared across mobile devices (which now represent fully 50% of the consumer electronics space).

One of the things they revealed is that the current Blu-ray format has reached nearly 90% penetration in HDTV households, just as the format nears its 10th anniversary. Digitimes Research’s market projections show worldwide Ultra HD TV shipment projections increasing from about 14 million in 2014 to a whopping 70 million in 2017. In addition, a recent Strategy Analytics market report suggests that by 2020, 4K Ultra HD TV could represent nearly 50% of the U.S. television market. This, the BDA feels, bodes very well for eventual Ultra HD Blu-ray adoption rates.

After the brief presentation, Victor and Paul answered questions from the media in virtual attendance, so I thought we’d share with you what amounts to a transcript of that Q&A session. It should answer at least some of the questions you probably have about the format with the latest, up-to-date information straight from the BDA. There is a bit of repetition in the questioning, but I think you’ll still find it interesting to read. Here you go:

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Q: The BD UHD standard supports one mandatory and two optional HDR technologies. Can you share specifics on each, and how they came to be included in the standard? And what makes Blu-ray a superior format to help deliver HDR, compared to broadcast or streaming?

A: Much like we’ve done in the past, the format specification is meant to establish consistency for the consumer as well as serve as a toolbox for hardware manufacturers and content creators. The BDA determined that the open HDR technology mandated in the format would provide a fantastic consumer experience but we also wanted to give manufacturers the flexibility to use other proprietary HDR technologies. As noted during today’s discussion, Ultra HD Blu-ray provides a consistent, repeatable experience that is not subject to bandwidth constraints or other external factors that can impact picture quality. The bitrates and data throughput that can be achieved with disc surpass those currently available to other delivery platforms.

Q: Please detail how digital bridge feature works. And how widely will it be included in first gen players?

A: There are two digital bridge features, copy and export. Copy permits a bit for bit copy to be stored on an authorized attached media drive. Export allows files to be transferred to an authorized mobile device. It is up to individual manufacturers to determine how broadly they wish to deploy digital bridge in the their products. We anticipate hosting a future Webinar specifically on digital bridge later this year.

Q: Can you talk about the studio participation portion of this? I know Fox is very excited about UHD BD – are you hearing similar excitement from the other major studios?

A (Victor Matsuda): Ultimately that is question for the studios. That said, all of the studios have been heavily and actively engaged in the development of the format. As an Association, we have been very pleased with engagement and enthusiasm across the entire range of companies, content, technology and hardware. I think if you look at some of the recent announcements, you’ll see several studios expressing excitement about Ultra HD.

Q: Will UHD discs be bundled with a “standard” Blu-ray version? How many studios will participate at launch?

A (Victor Matsuda): That is a product question that you would have to ask individual studios. However, historically, studios have offered consumers broad options with respect to content purchases, including offerings that provide multiple physical formats, as well as digital rights.

Ultra HD Blu-ray

Q: Please answer critics who say physical media are a thing of the past and that it therefore may be too late for Ultra HD Blu-ray?

A (Paul Erickson): Physical media is still around for good reason. And though in North America, the popularity of streaming, mobile consumption and VOD has blunted some of the demand for physical media, there is no direct substitute for physical media in a number of circumstances. Viewers are still bound to limitations in terms of connections speed, wireless network, WiFi availability, service provider coverage and so on when consuming from these other options. Physical media is still a tangible and convenient way to view content without these restrictions. Certainly, one day the world may transition to digital, but we are still a long way away.

Q: Are there any plans to incorporate 3D into the UHD BD spec as an add-on?

A (Victor Matsuda): No. Not at this time. Currently there is no 4K theatrical 3D content.

Q: Will Ultra HD Blu-ray players also support DVD playback, or just Blu-ray?

A (Victor Matsuda): That is ultimately a product question. It is not mandated in the specification, but just as we saw with players, we anticipate that Ultra HD Blu-ray players will also be backwards compatible with DVD.

Q: Will the discs support multiple HDR formats, or back just one?

A (Victor Matsuda): All discs will support the mandatory HDR specification. It is a product decision as to whether they will also support one or both of the optional HDR technologies.

Q: Is there any indication of when the first titles and players will be available, or when they’ll be announced?

A (Victor Matsuda): We expect licensing to commence shortly, and while the BDA is not privy to individual company plans, we think it likely there will be products available before the end of the year.

Q: Have any of the studios officially announced Ultra HD Blu-ray titles yet? I believe Warner Bros has a few titles which will be available on Ultra HD Blu-ray with Dolby Vision HDR encoding. Is that official?

A (Victor Matsuda): Not to my knowledge.

Q: Does the split in HEVC licensing groups, especially the seemingly onerous terms proposed the HEVC Advance group, which imposed a high fee on content producers and distributors, threaten to derail the Ultra HD Blu-ray launch?

A (Victor Matsuda): No. We expect licensing to commence very soon and anticipate products will begin to enter the market shortly thereafter.

Q: Can you describe how HDR on Blu-ray will evolve? Are the SMPTE specs (2084 and 2086) going to service as a baseline “default” level of HDR, with other implementations, such as Dolby Vision, being used as a supplemental level of HDR that can be viewed by those TVs that can support it? So that at the very least, TVs will be able to receive some level of HDR?

A (Victor Matsuda): Every Ultra HD Blu-ray player and every disc will support the mandatory HDR specification. It is up to individual companies as to whether they wish to implement one or both of the optional technologies.

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Q: How many UHD BD titles at launch, end of year?

A (Victor Matsuda): We do not know.

Q: What specific HDR formats will the standard support or mandate? Is BDA involved in standardization discussions?

A (Victor Matsuda): The format mandates SMPTE ST 2084. The format also supports HDR technologies from Dolby and Philips.

Q: When u say “open HDR technology” – what exactly does that mean? I’ve seen Dolby Vision and Samsung seems to be doing its own HDR thing; what formats exactly will UHD BD’s “open” HDR format support?

A (Victor Matsuda): By open HDR technology, we mean SMPTE ST 2084.

Q: From the technical side, what are the limitations with frame rate for HFR presentations, 3D, 4K and HDR? For example, will HFR 3D HDR 4K be possible? Or would there need to be limits on one or more of these options?

A (Victor Matsuda): There are no plans to for 4K 3D. The format supports frame rates up to 60fps.

Q: UHD BD means passive 2K 3D, correct? Can/will both 2D and 3D versions of a film that was 3D in theater be included on a single UHD BD release, or will there be separate 2D and 3D editions? Or will there be full 4K 3D releases? Can 3D be streamed – in other words, will UHD BD be the only source for passive 3D content?

A (Victor Matsuda): The specification does not support 4K 3D. With respect to current 3D titles, playback of 3D content on Ultra HD Blu-ray players is not mandatory, but a manufacturer could choose to include this capability in its player.

Q: When do you anticipate will there be opportunities for the media to see UHDBD demonstrations the format A/V spec capabilities and of some of the various features?

A (Victor Matsuda): I think you will see them shortly after licensing commences.

Q: So the specifications do NOT include mandatory support for the MVC codec? Just optional support?

A (Victor Matsuda): MVC is not supported in the ULTRA HD Blu-ray video specifications.


That’s all for now. Back tomorrow. Stay tuned…

Bill Hunt


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