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UHD (4k) Blu-ray Discussion Thread

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"But this is HD TV. It's got better resolution than the real world"

 

I thought with Dean's 4k hardware thread (here) it is perhaps time to split off UHD disc discussion from the regular Blu-ray thread and have one dedicated to the new format for those of us interested in moving over to it either now or in the not too distant future. I felt it best to also begin with a primer that I've written up below, which I hope covers all the need to know basics about the new format, what it is, and what you're actually getting. 

 

At the time of writing, the following studios/distributors have pledged support for the UHD Blu-ray format:

 

20th Century Fox

Lionsgate

Paramount 

Shout Factory

Sony/Columbia Pictures

Universal 

Walt Disney Entertainment

Warner Bros

 

 

Currently (of the remaining majors) MGM is the remaining holdout and have not indicated when they will begin releasing titles.

 

For the time being at least, all of the supporting distributors above are dedicated to releasing their titles as UHD/1080 Blu-ray/Digital Copy combo packs, so if you shop around you could start building your collection now at an acceptable price to avoid double dipping down the line and just get by with enjoying the regular included Blu-ray disc in the interim.

 

Blu-ray.com's 4K Release Calendar is a useful resource to see what titles have been released and which titles are coming soon:

http://www.blu-ray.com/movies/releasedates.php?4k=1

 

 

What's the difference (1080 Blu vs UHD Blu)?

 

Disc Capacity:

UHD Blu-ray is an extension of the existing Blu-ray spec. The format can use existing 50GB discs, as well as unique 66GB and 100GB capacity discs. At the time of writing the 66GB discs appear to be the standard, with there being some manufacturing and yield holdups delaying the rollout of 100GB titles (this is perhaps why UHD discs are barebones at the moment, generally opting to leave special features to any included 1080 Blu-ray discs).

 

Region coding:

Rejoice! UHD Blu-ray is a 100% region free format (though be aware that any included 1080p Blu-ray in a combo pack release may not be). 

 

Resolution, video codec, bitrates and colour space:

"4k" in the home is carries a resolution of 3840x2160 (UHD). Unlike the early years of Blu-ray, UHD Blu has spared us the tedium of a video codec war and bases the spec exclusively on HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding)/H.265.

 

50 GB discs support bitrates of up to 82 Mbit/s, 66 GB discs support up to 108 Mbit/s, and 100 GB discs will support up to 128 Mbit/s, well above any UHD streaming/download service. The format also uses 4:2:0 chroma sub-sampling at 10bit (vs Blu-ray's 8bit) and UHD being Rec.2020 based, vs Rec.709 we've been living with for decades, also brings with it support for a much higher colour gamut.

 

3D Support and High Frame Rates:

UHD Blu does NOT support 3D in the spec, so you will not see 3D UHD discs on the market. Players and UHD TVs may still offer backward compatibility with regular 1080 3D Blu-rays however. Unlike 1080 Blu, UHD Blu-ray supports higher frame rates up to 60fps. 

 

Dolby Atmos/DTS-X:

Although there are a number of 1080 Blu-rays featuring the new immersive height channel "object" based audio formats, there's some early indication that studios are looking to make this an exclusive feature on their UHD discs instead (to encourage people to upgrade). Certain Fox releases, like Peanuts and Deadpool for example, only feature DTS HD MA on the regular 1080 Blu whilst having Atmos tracks on the UHD equivalents. Sony are looking like the most aggressive supporters of Atmos on the UHD disc format, applying it to as many of their catalogue titles as possible, not just new releases. 

 

Are all movies released to UHD disc genuinely UHD resolution?

This is complicated, but actually, no, many are not. Studios have been gradually making moves to archive their libraries in 4k for a few years now (some, Sony for example, more aggressively than others). Ironically, it is catalogue titles shot on film that potentially stand to benefit the most from 4K masters compared to many modern movies shot digitally, this is primarily because of the fixed resolutions of sub-4k digital cameras in the past, and that many movies, even if captured at higher resolutions, have still had masters completed for their digital cinema release at 2k for one reason or another. Likewise, CG animated movies are not generally rendered above 2k.

 

So upscaled movies are a rip off? Not quite. Mad Max Fury Road for example was shot primarily on the Arri Alexa at 2.8k and was post-produced and finished in 2k. Despite those kind of production specs, the more modern video codec and higher bitrates on UHD Blu can still (though this may not be true in every instance) potentially yield a noticeable improvement in fine detail vs the regular Blu-ray. Being professionally upscaled at the source ahead of being mastered for disc may also yield noticeable improvements. Cinematographer God Roger Deakins is a big advocate for the benefits of upscaling in post (Sicario was shot at the Alexa's highest resolution of 3.4k, but upscaled to 4k for its digital intermediate ahead of theatrical release).

 

In short, don't get too hung up on the native resolution of a finished film. Accept that some movies on UHD Blu are going to look noticeably better than their 1080 Blu-ray counterparts in terms of perceivable differences in detail, but we're never going to be looking at a DVD > Blu-ray style leap in resolution here. Very fine details, more natural grain retention, reduced banding effects and fewer compression artifacts are where some of the central benefits are most likely to be seen. We're basically being handed quality much closer to that of a theatrical DCP presentation in this regard. Enthusiasts have never had it so good, and then there's the HDR factor....

 

HDR (High Dynamic Range):

This, far more than trying to let the increase in resolution influence customers, is in fact the main reason content makers and hardware manufacturers believe people are going to want to move up from 1080p. In addition to huge leaps in colour, the concept behind HDR mastering for movies is to present the greater degrees of latitude modern cameras have been capable of capturing, but display devices have thus far rendered impossible to replicate (this goes double for anything shot on film, which can still boast higher dynamic range than many digital movie cameras, too). Any LCVG'ers familiar with photography and messing around with RAW photo files in Photoshop, Lightroom...etc will basically understand what this concept is all about. At the lowest point of an image you have shadows, and at the highest point you have highlights. HDR colour grading of movies can potentially allow us to see move detail in these peak areas than ever before. This is a very basic example, but imagine a scene where the sun shines bright. Typically the highlights might blow out any fine details of clouds in the sky in such an image, but HDR has the potential to pull that fine detail back. 

 

The vast majority of movies today go through a digital intermediate (DI) process. This is where the original digital camera files are colour graded or, if the movie was photographed on film, the film elements are scanned digitally and then graded in the computer. The digital intermediate colour grade is one job in itself, but an HDR pass requires its own unique grade by the colorists (ideally supervised by a cinematographer). It was recently mentioned at a Fox press event that Deadpool for example had several separate colour grades covering everything from the regular digital projection release, the digital IMAX release, the digital laser IMAX release, a digital Dolby Vision theatrical release, the rec 709 Blu-ray and the HDR10 pass for the UHD Blu. That's a lot of work, and may not even yield colour consistencies from version to version. Indeed, it may explain why there is apparently quite a difference in colour between the Blu-ray and UHD releases of Mad Max Fury Road (though the UHD's HDR master was supposedly supervised by the filmmakers).

 

Because we're not allowed a new format without some kind of competing standard:

UHD Blu-ray discs actually have the potential to carry two competing types of HDR content. HDR10, the defacto open standard that is mandated in the format specification, and Dolby Vision. The latter is a more sophisticated method of HDR mastering, most notably in that DV has 4096 possible RGB values against the 1024 values of HDR10, allowing for greater colour reproduction in an image, and works within a 12bit bit depth against HDR10s 10bit depth. Dolby Vision also mandates higher brightness values in the display device and uses metadata for supported hardware to actually render the content on a frame by frame basis for a much greater degree of accuracy as it is constantly in conversation back and forth with your display device to understand what your display's capabilities are (and thus deliver an HDR image optimally tailored for that display).

 

Does UHD Blu-ray even have a future vs streaming?

This is all my personal opinion of course, but I think internet speeds (globally) are going to allow room for one last gasp of movies on physical media, and that this is going to be it. Not everyone is going to have the bandwidth to stream 4K into their homes, and the disc based bitrates for this kind of data significantly trumps UHD streaming and downloads, so the enthusiasts are always going to turn to the discs. Look at it another way. We're living in an age where vinyl has made huge comeback. The future of music distribution could literally be divided between streaming... and vinyl! Who in the world would have predicated such a thing? The point is, physical media is not going to go away, but the means in which it is distributed, and who ultimately handles that distribution, is probably where we'll begin to see further shifts in the years to come with movies.

 

It was actually very interesting to read the preliminary hardware sales data shared by the DEG (Digital Entertainment Group) for the first quarter of 2016 that revealed:

  • 4K Ultra HD players launched in the US market and were quickly purchased. With 26 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray releases available in the first quarter, 4K Ultra HD discs experienced impressive sales with consumers buying more than 80,000 discs in their first weeks of launch. This number is two times that of Blu-ray Discs sales in its first weeks of launch.

That's encouraging to read, and hopefully provides some insight into the potential growth of the format. Studios have been working towards 4k and HDR for several years now, and from the manufacturing and software side there's not a whole lot that changes at the disc replication plants, whilst the players merely move to new lasers to read the higher capacity discs and add new processing to handle the h.265 codec and HDR. UHD Blu being a relatively basic extension of Blu-ray hopefully makes it a negligible added expense for manufacturers to provide players and for studios to provide discs compared to Blu-ray itself, as it provides fewer excuses for content providers not to support the format even though the physical media market is dwindling. Assuming the PS4 Neo hardware revision also includes support, we'll hopefully see that help propel interest too.

 

I think, whatever happens, it is realistic not to expect the library of available content to ever match that of Blu-ray. The library out there for 1080 Blu has well exceeded my expectations, and while major studios seem less inclined to provide special features or release more obscure titles, they appear more willing to licence movies out to smaller labels who are going from strength to strength. This may well continue into UHD Blu at some stage. Who can say for sure? The format may well end up something akin to laserdisc, which quite frankly I would welcome with open arms even if it meant typical disc prices remaining a little higher than what we're currently used to. Perhaps the studios know UHD Blu is likely to end up even more of an enthusiasts format than Blu-ray itself and that's why they agreed to abandon region coding in the spec?

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No problem. I added one last heading at the end regarding my personal feelings about whether the format even has a future which I think is relevant food for thought.

 

If one of the LCVG Super Powers wishes to make this thread a sticky then feel free.

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This one isn't going to get many of us excited but still, artwork has surfaced for Man of Steel.

 

147184_large.jpg

 

No date yet, but presumably it will land around the same time as Batman v Superman. The UHD disc is listed on Dolby's website as having Atmos (vs DTS HD MA on the regular Blu-ray).

 

 

Also:

 

151129_large.jpg

 

No date for this yet either, or audio specs (though it has Atmos on the VUDU stream so one would hope the UHD disc will have it too).

 

 

Retailers have also begun listing these three from Warner for release in September (only European dates for the time being)

 

156513_medium.jpg 156514_medium.jpg 156515_medium.jpg

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I'm not saying a HDR master of Man Of Steel could save it to the point where I'd sit through that movie a second time, but giving that thing a wider colour gamut is probably the single simplest repair you could do, short of dropping the final act down a mine shaft.

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Great post Dan. I picked up The Kingsman yesterday when i picked up Overwatch. I have decided that i will not be rebuying many movies that I already own on Blu-ray. Most of the Marvel stuff and Star Wars I will rebuy once its released, but other than that, I will be picky on what I rebuy. I'll grab Fury Road next. My Best Buy was out of it yesterday.

 

-Dean-

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I think when I am a bit more confident of the library of titles growing, and when I actually have a player and UHD TV, I will replace titles I own (any releases shot on 65mm like Lawrence of Arabia will be replaced without hesitation). I don't have a massive problem with double dipping, but any combos I pick up to build a collection now and just enjoy the Blu-ray from will certainly be movies I do not yet own. I still never picked up Fury Road on Blu-ray so I might as well get the UHD at some stage. There honestly aren't many new releases I'd pick up right now, though I'd like to get Peanuts and Creed, as well as the forthcoming extended cut of The Martian.

 

The Revenant is meant to look excellent on UHD but I'm not sure that's a movie I'd watch repeatedly (despite liking it a lot), but you may want to check that one out, Dean.

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forthcoming extended cut of The Martian.

 

The Revenant is meant to look excellent on UHD but I'm not sure that's a movie I'd watch repeatedly (despite liking it a lot), but you may want to check that one out, Dean.

 

 

I'll get the Extended Cut of The Martian. I have yet to see The Revenant, I may have to check that one out.

 

 -Dean-

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The US release date for Creed is the 7th of June. I've no idea why it was delayed since it is already available in Canada and Europe.

 

It sounds like 100GB authoring should be in full swing over the summer. A couple of 100GB discs have been released in Japan, Sony DADC also highlight it as part of their updated toolset for UHD Blu-ray authoring (along with Dolby Vision, which may increase chances of studios releasing DV discs by the end of the year). 

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I don't see the need to upgrade Creed, especially without Atmos or DTS X.  The Blu Ray unconverted is good enough.  

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Yes, a lot of Blu Rays look absolutely stunning unconverted; it's the addition of Atmos that's even swaying me toward getting a player before Christmas, but unless more titles add it, I could be leaning back toward waiting.  Again.

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There would still be benefits to Creed in fairness, it's just a question of what titles make sense to buy at this early juncture. Since I do not yet own the blu-ray of it the UHD combo release will be a no brainer for me at some stage (it's £20 at the moment, which for a Warner UHD disc is actually decent). Digitalbits reviewed the Creed UHD for what it's worth.

 

Sony do seem to be wanting to add Atmos to EVERYTHING, so they are putting the effort in. Fox have been surprising as Revenant and The Martian had theatrical Atmos mixes but they are not present on the UHD discs (same for Life of Pi too). I don't know why they left it off. Peanuts got one though, and Independence Day has DTS-X. Does an Atmos track take up noticeably more space? Maybe the current lack of 100GB discs is holding things back.

 

Warner generally seem to have an Atmos track where one existed theatrically, but not in all cases (Lego Movie had Atmos theatrically, but not on disc for example). Universal's first three in August all have object based audio (two with Atmos, one with DTS X) but it will be interesting to see if they apply it to catalogue releases like the Bourne trilogy, and Paramount's first two discs, the Abrams Star Trek films, will have Atmos too I believe.

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I made a discovery in the picture quality for the Samsung UHD player, downconverting to my 1080p projector.  I ran through the Disney Wow and Video Essentials calibrations, adjusting the picture whilst playing the disc from the Sammy (granted, it's a BD disc, so it felt futile to even try this).  But, when playing with the menus of my projector, changing the setting of "HDMI Dynamic Range" to FULL (was set to auto) made an enormous quality upgrade.  

 

Daniel, what can you tell me about this type of setting?  It's three choices are auto, Limited (The video input level is set for signals of 16-235), and Full (The video input is set for signals of 0-255).  Once I set it to full, the whole picture improved, even after changing to the UHD.   I have no idea what it means, but it did not have an adverse effect on my Oppo, though I did run through the calibrations on it as well. My guess is that the Sammy is not sending the information in way where "auto" could kick in, but the Oppo is.  

 

I then did another A/B comparison with the UHD of Deadpool against the BD, and it's a really close match, though the UHD, while not completely crushing blacks, is still somewhat darker.  But, it wins for eliminating the most of the grain that is much more noticeable in the BD.  

 

Next, I compared the Atmos sound from the UHD against the 7.1 DTS in the BD, and it's not even close.  The Atmos opens the sound field up so much, even the non-height effects and LFE improve tremendously.  Upmixing the BD with neural:X (a DSP soundfield in my Yamaha 3050), yields an improvement and activates the in-ceiling speakers, but they just get a bit of all sound effects and more of the music soundtrack than I really care for. I'll probably still use neural:x for movies where Atmos isn't even an option, like The Force Awakens.  I need to do more comparisons while standing on a stool to understand exactly what gets sent up there.

 

I'm thrilled with my UHD player purchase.  It is worth it for Atmos and provides a comparable picture.   This will definitely hold me until 4K projectors start to come in around $4K.

 

 

Carlos.

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I made a discovery in the picture quality for the Samsung UHD player, downconverting to my 1080p projector.  I ran through the Disney Wow and Video Essentials calibrations, adjusting the picture whilst playing the disc from the Sammy (granted, it's a BD disc, so it felt futile to even try this).  But, when playing with the menus of my projector, changing the setting of "HDMI Dynamic Range" to FULL (was set to auto) made an enormous quality upgrade.  

 

Daniel, what can you tell me about this type of setting?  It's three choices are auto, Limited (The video input level is set for signals of 16-235), and Full (The video input is set for signals of 0-255).  Once I set it to full, the whole picture improved, even after changing to the UHD.   I have no idea what it means, but it did not have an adverse effect on my Oppo, though I did run through the calibrations on it as well. My guess is that the Sammy is not sending the information in way where "auto" could kick in, but the Oppo is.

Is that setting unrelated to HDMI Deep Colour in the menus? Typically those number values relate to the video range a display device can handle. Whatever the case, I think you're right in thinking that whatever is going on it is probably an HDMI handshake issue in leaving it set to auto vs manually setting it to full. Having said that, how do regular DVDs and Blu-rays look forcing it to "full" as usually for 8-bit video you want things set for limited, so the whole process of having the player downscale seems to be making some things backwards due to... whatever it has to do to down convert I guess? That has me a little stumped. What version of HDMI does your projector support? (i.e 1.4, 2.0...etc).

 

I then did another A/B comparison with the UHD of Deadpool against the BD, and it's a really close match, though the UHD, while not completely crushing blacks, is still somewhat darker.  But, it wins for eliminating the most of the grain that is much more noticeable in the BD.

That's interesting. I wonder if that's an example of the superior video codec and compression shining through even when downscaled to 1080? I don't recall Deadpool having any artificial grain added to it when I saw it at the cinema.  

 

I'm thrilled with my UHD player purchase.  It is worth it for Atmos and provides a comparable picture.   This will definitely hold me until 4K projectors start to come in around $4K.

That's great you are finding a lot of value from the player even just running it to output 1080. It seems like a well priced machine (it's also meant to be very good at upscaling 1080 for those with UHD display devices). Once you move to UHD and HDR the investment will open up even more.

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Is that setting unrelated to HDMI Deep Colour in the menus? Typically those number values relate to the video range a display device can handle. Whatever the case, I think you're right in thinking that whatever is going on it is probably an HDMI handshake issue in leaving it set to auto vs manually setting it to full. Having said that, how do regular DVDs and Blu-rays look forcing it to "full" as usually for 8-bit video you want things set for limited, so the whole process of having the player downscale seems to be making some things backwards due to... whatever it has to do to down convert I guess? That has me a little stumped. What version of HDMI does your projector support? (i.e 1.4, 2.0...etc).

 

 

That's interesting. I wonder if that's an example of the superior video codec and compression shining through even when downscaled to 1080? I don't recall Deadpool having any artificial grain added to it when I saw it at the cinema.

 

 

That's great you are finding a lot of value from the player even just running it to output 1080. It seems like a well priced machine (it's also meant to be very good at upscaling 1080 for those with UHD display devices). Once you move to UHD and HDR the investment will open up even more.

Yes, it is not related to the Samsung player's HDMI Deep Color setting, which I have left at Auto along with its HDMI Color Format setting.

 

The HDMI Dynamic Range setting I tinkered with is on the Projector itself, and affects all sources coming through on that input (HDMI 1).

 

I just watched The Revenant on my Oppo and it looked fine with the HDMI Dynamic Range set to FULL, though the hue takes a little hit over when it's set to auto. If I can't compensate for that on the calibration for that source, I'm thinking I will have to switch the setting depending on the source, or I will have to run a 2nd HDMI cable so each input on the Projector can have its own setting. Good thing I opted for a conduit from the wall to the projector!

 

 

Carlos.

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Yes, it is not related to the Samsung player's HDMI Deep Color setting, which I have left at Auto along with its HDMI Color Format setting.

 

The HDMI Dynamic Range setting I tinkered with is on the Projector itself, and affects all sources coming through on that input (HDMI 1).

 

 

 

 

Ah, sorry I thought you were talking about settings on the Samsung, though the setting governs the same functions just on the receiving end for the PJ input so we're still talking about the same thing. Interesting. I've noticed a lot of people with UHD players and TVs are having to rely on different settings depending on what devices they are pairing together. It may be worth trawling through the AVS thread about the player: http://www.avsforum.com/forum/149-blu-ray-players/2325089-official-samsung-ubd-k8500-4k-hdr-ultra-hd-blu-ray-player-owner-s-thread.html

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Lionsgate are being quite bullish on their UHD commitment.
 

Characterizing the launch of 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray and digital distribution as being in its infancy, Lionsgate co-COO Steve Beeks says the studio remains ahead of the industry remastering titles for distribution in the new high-definition format. Lionsgate is remastering its top 100 movies in UHD for digital, broadcast and physical release.

“It is an opportunity for us to continue to release, not only new product, but go back to the library and release key titles once again,” Beeks said on a May 26 fiscal call.

The executive expects the winter holidays and fourth quarter to be “pretty big” for 4K releases.

“I think you’re going to see [4K Ultra HD] determine its course over the next several months.”

 

http://www.homemediamagazine.com/lionsgate/steve-beeks-bullish-catalog-4k-ultra-hd-releases-38168

 

 

I've never been too enamoured with their catalogue in all honesty, though I'd like to see them release Room on UHD.

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