Ultra HD Blu-ray logo

The arrival of Ultra HD Blu-ray players got a little closer Wednesday with word that the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA) will begin licensing the Ultra HD Blu-ray format starting Aug. 24th. The date is about a month later than the group had originally expected.

In addition to providing movies and television programs encoded in native 4K Ultra HD (3840×2160 pixels) resolution, the Ultra HD Blu-ray format will be able to deliver 4K UHD content carrying metadata for high dynamic range (HDR). This is expected to significantly expand the range between the brightest and darkest elements in a picture and gives the consumer a more life-like viewing experience.

Using July as the original target date for licensing the Ultra HD Blu-ray specification, BDA representatives said that it was possible manufacturers would have enough time to develop, manufacture and deliver the first Ultra HD Blu-ray players by the end of the year. Given that Panasonic has already shown an Ultra HD Blu-ray prototype, the somewhat delayed licensing announcement isn’t expected to change that possibility, although no manufacturers have officially announced introduction timing.

More on Ultra HD Blu-ray licensing after the jump:

“Ultra HD Blu-ray enables the delivery of an unparalleled, consistent and repeatable experience that will set the standard for Ultra HD entertainment, the same way Blu-ray Disc did for high definition viewing,” stated Victor Matsuda, BDA Promotions Committee chairman.  “With the commencement of licensing we would anticipate product announcements from various companies as we approach the 2015 holiday season.”

Representatives from Panasonic, Sony, Samsung and LG had no comment on the licensing news or their plans to introduce Ultra HD Blu-ray players as this was written.

Many view the Ultra HD Blu-ray specification as the baseline standard for HDR in next-generation 4K Ultra HDTVs, since it was the first to establish mandatory support of the SMPTE ST 2084/2086 HDR standards in players. It’s inclusion will be voluntary for discs. Other HDR standards, such as those proposed by Dolby and Philips, could also be supported by players if manufacturers decide voluntarily to include them in their designs.

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To support HDR, all Ultra HD Blu-ray players will have to include HDMI 2.0a connectors along with HDCP 2.2 copy protection, which will deliver signals carrying HDR metadata to similarly equipped 4K Ultra HDTV sets and any other device in between, such as an audio video receiver.

Additionally, the format provides expanded color range (up to a BT.2020 color space is included, with 4:2:0 chroma subsampling), and a high frame rate (up to 60fps).  Like current Blu-ray players new Ultra HD Blu-ray models will also deliver next-generation immersive, 5.1- and 7.1-channel object-based sound formats.

The Ultra HD Blu-ray discs will have a 66 GB (dual layer) and 100 GB (triple layer) storage capacity; a maximum data rate greater than 100 Mbps; HEVC/H.265 compression encoding/decoding; 10-bits (per color) video bit depth (higher voluntary bit depths are possible); 3840x2160p/24Hz and 2160p/60Hz resolution/frame rates; support for multiple color spaces within a ITU Rec. 2020 transport format.  Players map from the color space used for the recording to the color space supported by the 4K UHD display.

New players will also include an optional “digital bridge” feature, enabling content purchasers to view programming across a wide range of in-home and mobile devices.

The BDA pointed out that the Ultra HD Blu-ray format “represents the work of global leaders from the consumer electronics, IT and content creation industries and will enable consistent and reliable delivery of Ultra HD content to the rapidly growing number of Ultra HD households, expected to grow from 11.7 million Ultra HD TVs in 2014 to 95.6 million in 2019.”

Ultra HD Blu-ray players will also be required to play back current HD Blu-ray Discs. Support for other disc formats like DVDs and CDs, will be left to the voluntary discretion of Ultra HD Blu-ray player manufacturers.

By Greg Tarr


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