Ultra HD 4K Blu-ray spec is about "more than resolution"

Matsuda, who is chairman of the BDA's global promotions committee, spoke directly to whathifi.com about the advantages of Ultra HD Blu-ray over 4K streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon.

"We think that the full experience [of 4K on disc] involves more than just the resolution of your screen. The issue of High Dynamic Range (HDR) was one of the hot topics at CES this year, and it's one of the most in-your-face advantages of the Ultra HD Blu-ray spec, along with improved colour gamut and bit depth. That's why the BDA has opted for the name Ultra HD Blu-ray rather than just 4K Blu-ray."

MORE: 4K, HDR and quantum dot explained

Matsuda confirmed that the colour bit depth will increase from 8-bits to 10-bits per channel, and that Ultra HD Blu-ray disc will be able to handle resolutions up to 3840 x 2160 at up to 60fps (frames-per-second).

He added that data transfer speeds are another big advantage for 4K on Blu-ray. While Netflix says around 15mbps is sufficient for streaming 4K video over the internet, Matsuda says Ultra HD Blu-ray will offer data transfer speeds of up to 108mbps on dual-layer discs (with 66GB capacity) and up to 128mbps on triple-layer ones (100GB).

"This is a huge advantage of Blu-ray, it's a closed environment and much more stable. We want to be the 'best of the best' for picture quality. Streaming can be quite unstable, it depends on your internet service and how many people are online."

MORE: BDA confirms preliminary spec for 4K Blu-ray discs

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High Dynamic Range is mandatory

Panasonic's prototype 4K Blu-ray player was unveiled at CES 2015

Panasonic's prototype 4K Blu-ray player was unveiled at CES 2015

Another benefit of Ultra HD Blu-ray, he says, is that HDR is mandatory, and alternative High Dynamic Range solutions from Dolby and Philips will be an optional part of the spec.

The BDA is currently working on a new logo for the Ultra HD Blu-ray format and says it is on track to confirm the final, full technical specification by mid-2015.

So why has it taken so long? "Rumours of a Christmas 2014 launch didn't come from us," says Matsuda. "At IFA 2014 we expected a consumer launch by the end of 2015, and we're on target for that."

As for hardware and software, Panasonic is still the only hardware manufacturer to have unveiled a prototype 4K Blu-ray player, but Matsuda says "it won't take long for the competition to kick in". And software? "There have been no announcements since CES [from the film studios], but we hope it won't be long. Hardware tends to come first, followed by the software."

Although Ultra HD Blu-ray players will be backwards compatible with standard Blu-ray, DVD and CD discs, Matsuda says "3D will not be part of the Ultra HD specification". Another nail in the coffin for 3D then.

MORE: Panasonic unveils prototype 4K Blu-ray player

Andy Clough

Andy is Global Brand Director of What Hi-Fi? and has been a technology journalist for 30 years. During that time he has covered everything from VHS and Betamax, MiniDisc and DCC to CDi, Laserdisc and 3D TV, and any number of other formats that have come and gone. He loves nothing better than a good old format war. Andy edited several hi-fi and home cinema magazines before relaunching whathifi.com in 2008 and helping turn it into the global success it is today. When not listening to music or watching TV, he spends far too much of his time reading about cars he can't afford to buy.