After locking down a name, logo and spec, the Blu-ray Disc Association has announced it's just about ready to start licensing the Ultra HD Blu-ray technology. The group anticipates we'll hear about products for the 2015 holiday season (and naturally is revealing this right after Western Digital's 4K movie ready hard drive appeared). Coming around just about nine years after the first Blu-ray players arrived, this upgrade is about more than just high-res 4K (3,840 x 2,160) video -- it also includes support for high dynamic range (HDR), high framerate (HFR) and a "digital bridge" feature that should give viewers more ways to store and play their movies, even while keeping the disc on the shelf.
In a talk recently posted on The Digital Bits, BDA exec Victor Matsuda talked a bit about the digital bridge, explaining that it allows for two features on movies: copy or export. With copy, an exact replica of the movie from the disc can be stored on an "authorized" media drive, while export pushes over a lower quality version, intended for mobile devices. The exact implementation of these features will be up to device makers, so we'll have to wait and see how they work out in practice, but hopefully they'll be simpler than the redemption code/account creation slog that we've experienced with digital copies through iTunes, Ultraviolet and Disney Movies Anywhere.
As far as HDR and HFR, there are a few answers there also. According to Matsuda, every Ultra HD Blu-ray disc will support a standard form of HDR (SMPTE ST2084), which should allow for better colors, more contrast, etc. They can also support two proprietary standards pushed by Dolby and Philips, so it will be interesting to see how well each works with UHD TVs from manufacturers that have chosen to implement various forms of the tech. As far as high frame rate, Ultra HD Blu-ray can do up to 60fps, which should make things interesting, but as Bill Hunt learned in the interview, it does not have a standard for using HFR, HDR, 3D and 4K all at once. While that could end up disappointing James Cameron -- depending on what he has planned for the Avatar sequels -- we hope there's enough room for the next gen of Blu-ray to be a worthy follow-up.