After Blu-ray and HD DVD ushered in the age of HD and 1080p movies for the masses, discs were beaten to 4K by streaming services like Netflix, YouTube and Amazon. While the internet is still doing most of the heavy lifting for 4K, the Ultra HD Blu-ray specification is finally complete which means we should see movies and players arriving later this year. Besides being compatible with the 10,000~ Blu-ray discs already out, Ultra HD Blu-ray players will be ready for high-res 3,840 x 2,160 video, "next generation object-based sound formats" (think DTS: X and Dolby Atmos), more colors, high dynamic range (HDR) and even high frame rate video. That's a lot of buzzwords to say movies will have the capability to look and sound better at your home than they ever have before. The BDA also made vague reference to a "digital bridge" setup for extending your movie purchased on a disc to other devices like phones and tablets, but didn't say exactly how that will work, or if it's going to be any better than Ultraviolet.
The discs themselves are upgraded too, ready to hold 66GB or 100GB of data, up from the 25GB/50GB size of the current Blu-ray spec. According to the association licensing is expected to start this summer, and Samsung already announced it plans to release a player later this year. Hopefully, whatever it produces is better (and cheaper) than the slow, glitchy $1,000 BD-P1000 that kicked off the Blu-ray era years ago. Panasonic showed off a demo player at CES this year, and we're sure other manufacturers will follow suit.
For people looking to future proof their setup, the new crop of Ultra HD TVs hitting shelves this year have support for the high-res video, plus HDR color, but they may need to support a new HDMI 2.0a standard to get the most out of new discs. There's still a few more questions than answers about the rollout of 4K content, but as the picture clears up over the summer and into the holidays, we should have more information.