The Blu-Ray Disc Association has finally outed the standards for the next generation of 4K Blu-ray discs, and they’re going to bring with them a bunch of improvements to help lucky 4K TV owners make the most of their pixel-packed screens.
For starters, the resolution has obviously been increased from 1080p to 4K (3840 x 2160), and video is encoded with the more efficient h.265 codec. The latter might sound dull, but it’s a more efficient compression method which should result in better picture quality with less on-screen artefacts.
Other changes designed to help improve the quality of the overall picture include a bump up from 4:2:0 colour sub-sampling to 4:4:4. This is a good thing, as it means that less colour information per pixel is thrown away, resulting in more accurate colours represented on the screen.
At 4:4:4, images are displayed in their truest colour spectrum, as no information is 'thrown away'. Good news then, assuming you’ve got a TV and AV receiver that can support it of course. They’re not that common yet.
HDR is another big improvement, letting TVs show off much more detail in both dark and light areas simultaneously, and with Samsung, LG and Netflix both supporting HDR video at CES, it looks like it has a bright future. Brighter than 3D anyway. Remember that?
Where do consoles fit in?
Gamers will of course want to know whether or not their shiny Xbox One and/or PS4 consoles will play nice with the format, but we think it’s unlikely.
Panasonic’s prototype 4K Blu-ray player which was revealed at CES is the world’s first Blu-ray player capable of supporting the new discs, which makes it highly unlikely that Sony and Microsoft’s consoles have the correct hardware to play them back.
Whispers of 4K-friendly console refreshes later this year suggest that we could see new console refreshes from both companies, presumably landing in thinner, smaller units, so watch this space.