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Blu-ray News – 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray spec officially finalized, plus The Digital Bits at Comic-Con 2015!

May 12, 2015 - 1:16 pm   |   by
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The big news today, without a doubt, is this: The Blu-ray Disc Association has just announced the completion of the technical specification for the Ultra HD Blu-ray format. Consumer electronics manufacturers will be able to license the spec in July, which should lead to the first players arriving in stores either just in time for the holidays this year or (more likely) in Q1 of 2016, with a big rollout at the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas in January.  [Read on here…]

The spec obviously includes 4K HD video resolution (3840x2160), as well as High Dynamic Range (HDR), high frame rates, object-based immersive sound (think Dolby Atmos and DTS:X), and “digital bridge” which is designed to give consumers true freedom with digital copy content across all their devices.

Now, a lot of people have said that average consumers would have trouble distinguishing 4K from regular 1080p content at average home viewing distances. This is true. HOWEVER... the addition of High Dynamic Range as a key part of this spec changes that equation dramatically. Thanks to our friends at 20th Century Fox, I’ve personally seen a side by side demonstration of the same content playing in 1080p and 4K with HDR. Let me tell you, the difference is night and day clear, and EVERYONE (up to and including your Grandma Betty) will be able to see that difference and appreciate it. HDR greatly broadens the visible range of contrast in the image, so you get bright areas that look realistic and also truly dark blacks. But broadening that range also greatly broadens the color gamut, which means far more realistic color reproduction. Video images in properly-mastered 4K HDR have greatly increased depth and look almost photo real.

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The problem with Ultra HD Blu-ray is one of messaging. And right now, the major Hollywood studios are sending out a really terrible message. By scaling back their Blu-ray releases, dumbing them down, and turning them into cookie-cutter products, the major Hollywood studios are effectively alienating and abandoning the avid film enthusiast and Blu-ray collector market. There are LOTS of diehard Blu-ray fans – people that are the very best customers for Blu-ray releases – and the studios are shunning them right now in a way that they never have before. That’s a problem, because those are the very people that are going to make or break the Ultra HD Blu-ray format. The vast majority of home video customers are more than happy with DVD, digital streaming and – to some extent – Blu-ray. They’re not interested in 4K Ultra Blu-ray. So who would be interested? Only the most avid consumers of Blu-ray – the very people the studios are alienating. And right now, many of those people are asking themselves: “Why would I want to buy a 4K physical media format when it looks like Hollywood is already backing away from their commitment to existing Blu-ray physical media?” We know this for a fact here at The Digital Bits, because we talk to those consumers every single day.

So if Hollywood wants to get serious about Ultra HD Blu-ray, they need to get serious about existing Blu-ray too. They need to stop treating their Blu-ray releases like just product. And they really need to stop treating their best and most avid enthusiast consumers – the guys who buy dozens of discs a year – like mere “consumers,” on the same level as the Mom who impulse buys the odd Disney Blu-ray in the check-out isle of the grocery store.

Anyway, you can read a little more about the Ultra HD Blu-ray spec announcement here at Hollywood Reporter today. And we’ll have more here at The Bits over the next few days.

Now then… we do have one more big announcement for you guys this afternoon, which is this:

The Digital Bits at Comic-Con 2015

The Digital Bits is returning to San Diego Comic-Con this July to hold our longtime Blu-ray panel discussion! The Digital Bits & Blu-ray Producers 2015 panel will be held in Room 23ABC on Thursday, 7/9/15 from  1-2 PM (Pacific). We’re still working out all the specific details, but our intention is to have a group of familiar faces back to talk about Blu-ray, the latest Ultra HD Blu-ray news, and also to look at a new area of interest in the life of our favorite HD disc format, which is indie Blu-ray production. What does it take to create, master, author, and manufacture a great Blu-ray title independently? To illustrate the case, we’ve invited Alec Peters and our friends at Axanar to join us, because that’s EXACTLY what they’re doing with the new Prelude to Axanar Blu-ray. There’s also very nice synergy here, because not only am I now involved in the Axanar project, so too are some of the Blu-ray producers that we usually have on our panel, including Robert Meyer Burnett, Cliff Stephenson, and Charles de Lauzirika. With any luck, we should be able to show some cool sneak peeks at upcoming BD special edition titles and also some cool Axanar material too. So the panel should be a great time with lots of interesting insights into these issues. If you’re going to San Diego Comic-Con this, you’re not going to want to miss it.

We’ll have lots more on our Comic-Con panel in the weeks ahead. Meanwhile, come on over to The Bits Facebook page and talk about all of today’s news with us and with other Bits readers. Just click on this image link:

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We’ll be back tomorrow with more new Blu-ray announcement news, some reviews and maybe even a column too. Stay tuned!

Bill Hunt


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