The roll-out of new Ultra HD Blu-ray discs and players is not going to make it for the Christmas season, despite industry efforts to do so. Nevertheless, we expect plenty of content and player announcements at CES in January. But it is likely to be more like Q2’16 before players and discs are available on the shelves, thinks Juan Reyes, CTO of BluFocus.
Reyes briefed us in a phone call now that his company has now been approved as the first “Ultra HD Blu-ray” Test Center in North America for BD-ROM Movie Player Verification, BD-ROM Application Software Verification and BD-ROM Commercial Audiovisual Content Verification. (BluFocus first Ultra HD Blu-ray test center in North America)
That means they will ensure that Ultra HD Blu-ray content and products are compliant with BDA Ultra HD Blu-ray standards and specifications before they are released. To do this, BluFocus uses proprietary test tools provided by the BDA and developed by leading technology companies.
But part of the job is also to test interoperability of the new Ultra HD Blu-ray discs in a variety of players and UHD TVs. This includes picture quality, graphics and menus and audio playback.
“Verification is much more complex than with HD Blu-ray,” noted Reyes. “The frame rates have expanded beyond 24 fps, the color gamuts can vary, there is a new encoding scheme (HEVC) and there are HDR versions coming as well. These are a lot of new features to verify. Plus, the authoring facilities need to get up to speed as well as the replication facilities as there are new disc formats too.”
Reyes said they are not yet actively verifying real movies – only doing test content evaluation for the studios to validate the process and to identify issues early on. He hopes to see the first real movie within the month, however.
What is his biggest concern right now? Getting the receivers, Blu-ray players and UHD TVs he needs to do all the interoperability verification testing.
Since the Ultra HD Blu-ray specification supports the 2020 color gamut and HDR, BluFocus needs equipment that can support these features. “So far, we have a couple of prototype Blu-ray players, a bunch of Samsung and LG TVs and AV Receivers from Onkyo and Yamaha, but we need more,” stated Reyes. “We hope the manufacturer will give or loan us devices as it is quite expensive for us to have to purchase them.”
On wide color gamut, Reyes noted that the studios are all mastering their UltraHD Blu-ray content to the P3 color space, but encoding the color in a 2020 container. “It will be some time before the studios start to master in 2020 as they need a bigger installed base,” noted Reyes.
HDR is going to be tricky. Fox has said they will master content in HDR for Blu-ray, but it will be the plain vanilla flavor which means static metadata and the PQ gamma curve (SMPTE 2084/2086). That leaves it up to the TV to decide how to manage the rendition of the content. HDR TVs will come with a variety of brightness levels, and there will be at least two types of peak luminance – one with a full white screen and one for small area highlights that can be significantly higher than the full white screen luminance level.
Reyes says the Ultra HD Blu-ray spec calls for no pixel in the picture to exceed 1000 cd/m² and the average luminance to be less than 400 cd/m² – at least for the next two years anyway.
Dolby Vision HDR of Warner Bros. content is coming thru Hulu, but no Ultra HD Blu-ray plans for Dolby Vision have been announced yet, says Reyes.
As a BDA Test Center, BluFocus can also evaluate prototype Blu-ray players and certify authoring and replication facilities.
The company has also started a division called BluEvo that will offer digital media services to the studios. This means conforming content to meet a range of release formats, effectively competing with the likes of Technicolor and Deluxe, among others. -CC