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Ultra High-Def Blu-ray Gets Push from Sony, DEG

10 Nov, 2015 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (SPHE) has become the second studio to announce Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc releases, fueling speculation that the high-definition disc format may be in store for a resurgence.

Sony’s first batch of releases in the ultra-high-definition format, set to arrive on an unspecified date in early 2016, will include The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Salt, Hancock, Chappie, Pineapple Express and The Smurfs 2, followed, the studio said, “by a growing roster of titles including new-release film and television content.”

Ultra HD Blu-ray Discs feature four times the resolution of HD and include high dynamic range (HDR), which produces brilliant highlights, vibrant colors and greater contrast on compatible displays. Many titles also support next-generation immersive audio formats.

“By some estimates, consumers will own over 100 million Ultra HD television sets by 2019,” said SPHE president Man Jit Singh. “Sony Pictures’ 4K Ultra HD Discs will deliver consumers the ultimate home theater experience, with stunning picture and sound quality.”

Singh noted that the announcement comes exactly 10 years after SPHE authored the world’s first feature film on Blu-ray Disc.

Sony has an extensive library of Ultra HD, or 4K, content, including newer films and television shows, as well as classic catalog films restored from original film elements. Among them: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Men in Black, Ghostbusters, The Fifth Element, Bad Boys, The Da Vinci Code and Bram Stoker's Dracula, as well as such vintage classics as Lawrence Of Arabia, The Bridge on the River Kwai, The Guns of Navarone and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment was the first studio to announce a slate of upcoming Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc releases. At IFA 2015 in Berlin in early September, on the heels of a press conference in which Samsung announced plans to produce the world’s first Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc player, Fox announced its intent to release new movies on Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc on the same day as standard Blu-ray and Digital HD. The studio also will go back and reissue recent films in Ultra HD, including Kingsman: The Secret Service, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Exodus: Gods and Kings, Life of Pi and Fantastic Four.

“When my colleagues and I at Fox first saw the side-by-side comparison of Ultra HD with High Dynamic Range versus HD, it was reminiscent of the difference between standard def and high def,” 20th Century Fox president Mike Dunn said at the time. “This is a massive leap forward for the consumer experience.”

After finalizing the Ultra HD Blu-ray spec and logo back in May, the Blu-ray Disc Association began licensing the technology in August.

The rapid advance of Ultra HD, some observers say, is expected to lead to an eventual upswing in sales of Blu-ray Disc, which they say remains the optimal way to view the new sharper, clearer format.

“There’s a historical parallel — certainly the move over to HD sparked consumer interest in Blu-ray Disc, and for the same reason we expect a similar effect now,” said veteran entertainment industry analyst Tom Adams. “Networks struggle to provide the real deal, whereas the disc has the capacity to do it. So I expect people upgrading to 4K will be looking to Blu-ray as a way to get more content.”

DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group recently reported that Ultra HD TV set sales shot up 494% in the third quarter, with nearly 2 million sets sold so far this year. There are currently 2.8 million U.S. households that have an Ultra HD TV. Meanwhile, the DEG reported there are more than 96 million HDTV U.S. households, and nearly 80 million households own Blu-ray Disc playback devices.

Also Nov. 10, DEG at CES Unveiled that it has developed new artwork and other design elements for Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc packaging.

The new Blu-ray “Elite” package, DEG said, conforms to retail display requirements and features a carbonized black color with metallic silver text and logo. The 4K Ultra HD logo will serve as the header of the package while the Ultra HD Blu-ray logo will be featured on the spine, back cover and disc. The new header will help to differentiate 4K Ultra HD movies from current Blu-ray titles and is aligned with the 4K Ultra HD message used by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) to promote the latest compatible televisions.

“The DEG is pleased to have worked closely with content owners in coordinating the development of both the artwork and messaging for Ultra HD Blu-ray packaging,” said DEG president Amy Jo Smith. “Ultra HD Blu-ray will provide an outstanding video and audio experience for 4K Ultra HD TV owners and the DEG is confident that this effort will be appreciated by retailers and consumers alike.”


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