by Anton Shilov
01/13/2014 | 11:28 PM
While ultra-high-definition (UHD) 4K (3840*2160 resolution) televisions are expensive nowadays, this year’s Consumer Electronics Show demonstrated tremendous interest towards the technology both by consumer electronics manufacturers and consumers. The main roadblock for adoption of UHD is the lack of content and while CE makers try to distribute such movies on special HDD-based players, Samsung has proposed a lot more convenient solution.
Virtually all 4K/5K ultra-high-definition televisions today from various manufacturers come with special media players that store limited amount of movies in UHD resolution on integrated hard disk drives and can access the Internet for additional content which should be bought and downloaded, or rented and streamed. For a lot of customers, such way of building a collection of 4K UHD movies is inconvenient and they would prefer optical media. However, currently used Blu-ray discs (BDs) are not suitable for ultra-high-definition movies because of limited (50GB dual-layer) capacity.
In a bid to distribute UHD content, Samsung Electronics proposes to use more advanced Blu-ray media that complies with the BDXL standard that supports triple-layer 100GB RE (rewritable) and R (write-once) discs as well as quad-layer 128GB R discs for commercial applications. Vice-president for consumer electronics at Samsung Australia Philip Newton reminded The Australian news-paper that optical technology needed for making and reading four-layer disks had been available "for years".
Modern consumer electronics BD players are not compatible with BDXL media because it relies on 33GB+ layers and features three of four layers. Still, considering the fact that there are plenty of computer drives that fully support BDXL along with standard BD, it should not be a problem to build a consumer-grade player with BDXL support.
Samsung BF7500 Blu-ray player with 4K up-converting capability.
Another technology that is needed for distribution of 4K movies is high efficiency video coding (HEVC, also known as H.265 and MPEG-H part 2) technology that is used for UHD video compression. Being 51% -74% more efficient than currently used MPEG4-AVC/H.264, the HEVC technology allows to compress 4K movies to around 80GB – 90GB, which means that 100GB – 128GB BD media should be enough to store it. The H.265 is currently supported by numerous decoder/encode chips that can be used inside players.
In short, it is possible to record films in 4K resolution onto optical media and build appropriate players. According to Samsung, once all the manufacturers of consumer electronics are “on the same page” with a strong intent to standardize a “Blu-ray 4K UHD” technology, the spec might be finalized shortly and real products may materialize on the market as early as “by the end of the year”.
Still, not everything may be that easy. It is unclear whether BD replication factories can replicate multi-layer BDXL discs. It is unknown whether Hollywood studios plan to implement additional copyright protection technologies along with UHD format that are more sophisticated than today’s HDCP, AACS, BD+ and BD-ROM mark. Finally, Sony and Panasonic are developing a new optical media standard with 300GB of higher capacity per disc, which will be ready by late 2015. The technology will hardly be needed earlier than 8K video shows up but to make it more widespread and hence less expensive, the two CE giants may insist on its usage starting from 4K UHD format.