It’s time to throw your Blu-ray collection in the trash! That junk is old hat. There’s a new video format coming out really soon that’ll be everything Blu-ray is and more. More pixels! More colors! More expensive! Before you buy, you may have some questions about Ultra HD Blu-ray. Let’s see if we can find you some answers.
I would like to say that I’ve had the honor of interviewing representatives from the esteemed Blu-ray Disc Association to provide the latest and most accurate information available on the subject. Unfortunately, I can’t say that, because I haven’t. That would require me to call someone, and ask insightful questions, and transcribe what they say. Ugh, what a lot of work. I need a nap just thinking about it.
Instead, I’ve read this interview recently conducted by The Digital Bits, and found it to be
hilariously evasive and non-committal very informative.
Now, I could just send you over there to read the whole thing, but that doesn’t seem like much fun. I’d rather condense the basic gist of what was said there into pithy soundbytes, smash it together with other information gleaned in similar articles, and distill what I think is frankly a more honest summary of the situation.
To be clear, absolutely nothing I’ve written below is an actual quote said by anyone. But I think if you read the real interviews and then come back here to look at this again, you’ll find that what I’ve done is read between the lines a little and cut to the chase.
Are you ready? Let’s begin!
The Qs and the As
Big things are happening! Ultra HD Blu-ray is right around the corner!
When will UHD Blu-ray players be available?
We don’t know. You’ll have to ask the manufacturers.
When will the first UHD Blu-ray discs be released?
We don’t know. You’ll have to ask the studios.
Are any movie titles confirmed to be in the works for the launch?
But you expect this product to be available within the next five months?
What features will UHD Blu-ray players have?
Really not sure. Could be anything, honestly. We’re making a couple features standard and lots of others optional.
Is High Dynamic Range one of those features?
Yes! Ultra HD Blu-ray will have one mandatory HDR specification and two optional HDR specifications.
Warner Bros. has mentioned something about remastering a bunch of its movies into Dolby Vision HDR. Is that one of the UHD standards?
Yes, it’s one of the optional specifications.
So a UHD Blu-ray player might support that, but isn’t required to?
Will first generation UHD Blu-ray players support Dolby Vision?
You’re gonna have to ask the manufacturers that.
Does it look like the industry is leaning toward one of the HDR standards over the others?
Will UHD Blu-ray support 3D, which is currently a standard feature on most regular Blu-ray players?
No, absolutely not. Anyone who likes 3D can go crawl in a hole and die for all we care.
Will UHD Blu-ray players be backwards compatible with regular Blu-ray or DVD?
Umm… probably? We can’t guarantee that. That’s up to the manufacturers.
What does UHD Blu-ray offer that regular Blu-ray doesn’t?
More pixels and a wider color gamut!
Do those extra pixels make a visible difference that’s discernible to the human eye?
What do we look like here, optometrists? How do we know what you can see?
But just, in general, does it make a difference that people notice?
Of course it does. If you have a 4k source, and play it back on a 4k screen that’s at least 150″, and you sit about six inches from that screen, you should be able to see the whiskers on a cat in the background of a scene better. But only so long as it stands still. When things are in motion, that extra clarity goes away.
What about the extra colors?
Those? No, definitely not. They’re outside the range of your vision.
Are most of today’s digitally-photographed movies shot at 4k?
No, they’re mostly 2k.
What about those movies still shot on 35mm film? They have a Digital Intermediate, right? What resolution is that?
It could be 4k!
It could be? Is that really what most movies use?
No, it’s mostly still 2k.
What about older movies shot on film? Could those be scanned and remastered at 4k?
Sure! So long as they weren’t made using a 2k Digital Intermediate, which almost all movies made over the last 15 years were.
But movies older than that, before Digital Intermediates, those should be good to go?
Absolutely. Unless they had any digital visual effects, because those would be 2k or less as well.
All right, so we’re looking at movies more than 15-years-old that have no digital visual effects. Those are good candidates for 4k remastering?
You bet! Especially if they were shot on 65mm film!
How many movies were shot on 65mm film?
Like, maybe a handful?
For all that, do you anticipate seeing a lot of catalog titles released on UHD Blu-ray?
Is that supposed to be a joke? Nobody buys catalog titles on Blu-ray now. You really expect studios to spend the money to master and release discs that will only sell a couple dozen copies? Don’t make us laugh.
It sounds like UHD Blu-ray will have to mostly focus on newer movies shot in 4k. Something like Avatar, then?
Unfortunately, that movie was shot in 2k.
Really? That surprises me. How about Gravity?
I meant Avengers: Age of Ultron, the one that just came out this summer.
That one was shot with 4k cameras! Unfortunately, it was reduced to 2k for the Digital Intermediate.
Jurassic World, this summer’s biggest box office hit?
Shot on 35mm with a 2k DI.
I heard that the Hobbit trilogy was shot in 5k.
They were! All three movies!
With a 2k DI?
The Hobbit movies were also shot in High Frame Rate format, which regular Blu-ray doesn’t support. Can UHD Blu-ray do that?
Maybe? That doesn’t sound very confident.
Well… It’s theoretically possible.
But not required that UHD Blu-ray players support it.
Let’s change track here. I understand that I’ll need to connect a UHD Blu-ray player to a UHD television, but can I still use my existing HDMI cables, A/V receiver, video processor or other equipment in the signal chain?
Not a chance. You need to throw out all that junk and replace everything top to bottom.
Will a UHD Blu-ray player be compatible with the “4k” television I just bought a month ago?
Probably not. Those TVs were released before we finalized any standards.
Will new TVs going forward be compatible with UHD Blu-ray?
Back in 2006, the Blu-ray format had a rough launch. Early Blu-ray players were overpriced compared to the competition. Critical features weren’t finalized and wouldn’t be ready for a product generation or two. Early software release were very poor quality.
Where are you going with this?
Did you learn any lessons from that experience that will help this one go smoother?
Can I take that as a “No comment”?
Ask another question.
With everything you’ve just told us in mind, why does a consumer need Ultra HD Blu-ray?
OK, is that one a “No comment”?