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In my last article of this Living with 4K series I mentioned the near future 4K download players introduced at CES 2013 by REDRay and Sony. I also discussed the issues to movie collectors regarding the possibility of having, or not, a 4K disc from Blu-ray or otherwise.

As I said in my other article, on the roundtables I participated about Blu-ray I always received a NO response when I asked the president of the Blu-ray Association, Mr. Andy Parsons, if the association was working on a 4K version of Blu-ray.

However, on a recent exchange with him last week Mr. Parsons shared with me better news about the possibility of 4K in Blu-ray. Although there is neither a published press-release nor an official announcement in the Association's web site they have started a task force to evaluate the possibility of expanding the Blu-ray format, including for 4K.

Mr. Parsons explained to me the following, and I am quoting him:

"The creation of the new task force within the BDA is a relatively recent development, which is why the story seems to have suddenly changed.  The task force was formed in the September/October time frame, and it took some time for us to understand its objectives well enough to communicate them
outside the BDA.

The task force was formed to provide a systematic way to evaluate new technologies that might be added to the Blu-ray format, including 4K, high frame rate, and so on.  It's called the "format extension study task force", and its mission is to evaluate any proposed technology using three
main criteria:

1.  Technical feasibility: can the technology be added to the Blu-ray format in a way that is practical?

2.  Market demand: is there reason to believe that enough people in the market are interested in the new technology to justify adding it?

3.  Potential impact on the installed base of Blu-ray players: if the new technology is added, how would an existing Blu-ray player behave with a "new" disc containing it?  Would a new player be required?  Would it be possible to make the "new" disc's feature transparent to an existing player, similar to how Blu-ray 3D can be made to work in 2D?  If not, would the resulting behavior be acceptable?  And so on.

If the task force determines that the proposed technology can meet the above criteria, then it can make a recommendation to the BDA's board of directors that it should be added to the Blu-ray specifications."


If the task force finds a way to extend the Blu-ray format for 4K content it would be great news for movie collectors and I hope they will find a way.


How to see 4K now?

Even when there is no 4K disc yet Sony produced some 4K demo clips for shows recorded in an HP computer server that can be projected on Sony's 4K ES consumer projector ($25,000 MSRP).

Sony also produced 4K content in a Dell server with 10 full length 4K movies and about 20 shorts. The server is only "lent" to owners of 4K 84" panels introduced to the market recently ($25,000 MSRP), this server/content is not playable on the 4K projector but just on the panel it came with. I will cover that subject in a near future article.

But this week I received for a review one of the three 4K servers Sony said it uses for worldwide shows and I have seen at CES several times. I am presently evaluating the capabilities of the 4K projector and the 4K content stored in this server.

My purpose was to do the viewing with my Sony 4K projector, in my HT environment, with my screen, and my projector's settings, for a week, which to me is certainly not the same as experiencing it for a few minutes at a show booth under their conditions.

There are several clips recorded with the F65 Sony 4K camera that are very representative of the quality and potential of the 4K format for consumer displays.

The details in the image are superb compared with similar 1080p Blu-ray content upscaled to 4K with the Reality Creation video engine of the projector. Both showing the same 8+ million pixels but offering a different feeling of overall image quality.

The difference in the 4K image in my tests is noticeable even from 15-feet away at 3.5 times picture height on a ten-foot wide Cinemascope screen. This is not about acuity or seeing or not the individual miniscule pixels of 4K, or having to seat too close to appreciate 4K, but is about a feeling of overall impact of an image that is so dense in detail that conveys a sense of reality.

Having a source in 4K makes a difference even on a smaller screen if the quality is right, I have witnessed the prototypes of Panasonic 56" 4K OLED and Sony 56" 4K OLED at CES a few weeks ago. The Sony in particular was stunning compared to the 55" 1080p OLEDs from LG and Samsung, the Sony 4K OLED was the best TV in the show.

Would I buy the 4K versions of my preferred movies if I already have them in Blu-ray? Even if they still are in legacy 8-bit color, 4-2-0, 24 frames-per-second, and Rec. 709 HDTV color space? Definitely YES.

Not to mention if that 4K pre-recorded content may eventually be offered with the higher quality features of the DCI 4K specs or UHDTV (ITU).

I will discuss my findings in a near future article of this series.

Stay tuned to more "Living with 4K" coverage

Posted by Rodolfo La Maestra, February 15, 2013 3:10 PM

More in Category: 4K (Ultra HD)

About Rodolfo La Maestra

Rodolfo La Maestra is the Senior Technical Director of UHDTV Magazine and HDTV Magazine and participated in the HDTV vision since the late 1980's. In the late 1990's, he began tracking and reviewing HDTV consumer equipment, and authored the annual HDTV Technology Review report, tutorials, and educative articles for HDTV Magazine, DVDetc and HDTVetc  magazines, Veritas et Visus Newsletter, Display Search, and served as technical consultant/editor for the "Reference Guide" and the "HDTV Glossary of Terms" for HDTVetc and HDTV Magazines.  In 2004, he began recording a weekly HDTV technology program for MD Cable television, which by 2006 reached the rating of second most viewed.

Rodolfo's background encompasses Electronic Engineering, Computer Science, and Audio and Video Electronics, with over 4,700 hours of professional training, a BS in Computer and Information Systems, and thirty+ professional and post-graduate certifications, some from MIT, American, and George Washington Universities.  Rodolfo was also Computer Science professor in five institutions between 1966-1973 in Argentina, regarding IBM, Burroughs, and Honeywell mainframe computers.  After 38 years of computer systems career, Rodolfo retired in 2003 as Chief of Systems Development from the Inter-American Development Bank directing sixty+ software-development computer professionals, supporting member countries in north/central/south America.

In parallel, from 1998 he helped the public with his other career of audio/video electronics, which started with hi-end audio in the early 60’s and merged with Home Theater video, multichannel audio
, HD, 3D and UHDTV. When HDTV started airing in November 1998, and later followed by 3DTV and 4K UHDTV, he realized that the technology as implemented would overwhelm consumers due to its complexity, and it certainly does even today, and launched his mission of educating and helping consumers understand the complexity, the challenge, and the beauty of the technology pursuing better sound and image, so the public learn to appreciate it not just as another television.