4K Blu-Ray Discs, and 4K Alternatives

There is no doubt that 4K, aka Ultra HD is the future (and present) when it comes to TVs.

Last year Sony and LG announced and released their first 4K Ultra HDTVs to the market. Both were huge at 84-inches, with equally as large price tags of $20,000+. (Watch our Sony 84-inch X900 hands on video.)

But this year things have started to change. Smaller more “normal” sized Ultra HD TVs have been announced by a number of leading TV manufacturers, which are said to be “very competitively” priced. Westinghouse are also getting in on the Ultra HD / 4K game with a number of models, with the smallest 50-inch Ultra HD TV asking for just $2,500.

So with 4K Ultra HD TVs very much coming our way and heading mainstream there is only one problem, where is all the 4K content? Even with all the advanced upscaling technology that the manufacturers are highlighting, we all know there is nothing as good as true native resolution.

Sony XBR-84X900 Hands On

Sony XBR-84X900 Hands On

Sony clearly thought the lack of available 4K content was a problem, and are shipping their 84-inch 4K Ultra HD TV with a 4K media streamer with ten 4K movies and shorts. In our Sony showcase video from CES 2013 they touched on the media streamer and said that that they would be “delivered” via “blu-ray data disc“, although the possibility of this data being delivered via thew Internet is a possibility.

They also stated that they will release later in the year a commercially available “4K content distribution service“.

Red Redray 4K Player

Red Redray 4K Player

Along with Sony’s offering, is the Redray Player. This is a 4K player that streams 4K content over the Internet rather than going with a disc format.

At CES 2013 Netflix were showing off their work on streaming 4K content, see our video here. Sony is due to announce the Sony PS4 anytime now, and we have our suspicions that this will be a 4K device.

As I’m sure you’re aware, blu-ray movie discs are in 1080p 24p on a 50GB disc. That’s a resolution of 1920 x 1080p at 24 frames per second. Ultra HD / 4K has a resolution of 3840 × 2160 pixels, and can have frame rates of 48fps. So essentially eight times the data, before taking in color spaces.

For all this new data to fit, a better compression codec is very much needed. h.265 was recently just approved, and offers compression of roughly 2x that of the currently highly implemented h.264 coded.  This offers some hope.

News has recently broken that the Blu-ray Association (BDA), aka the people behind the Blu-ray format are now considering the idea of 4K on blu-ray disc.   President Andy Parsons has announced the new task force to HDTV Mag, and has outlined three of their criteria that they need to meet.  The first is Feasibility, the second, Demand and finally, Impact on existing technology.

Things are clearly very much up in the air for the BDA and 4K blu-ray discs, but at least they’re considering the idea.

At the very least, even if there isn’t an official 4K blu-ray disc just yet or at all, I would be very surprised if we didn’t see 4K content on a blu-ray data disc encoded in the new h.265 codec.  Maybe this is what Sony is thinking.  Either way I think the true future, is 4K Internet delivery.  Either streamed live (with a fast enough connection) or downloaded, and played back later in glorious 4K.

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