Jim's Cinema Blog

Musings for the day:  sit back and take time to read Amir Majidimehr’s excellent in-depth article, “Understanding Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc” in the June 2015 issue of Widescreen Review.  This is as good of an overview of the forthcoming 4K Ultra HD (UHD) Blu-ray format you’ll find anywhere, chock full of seriously mind-bending technical talk (sometimes more than you can absorb)!  Amir lead the team at Microsoft which developed, among other notable video advances, the VC-1 codec…  so he clearly knows what he’s talking about.

The new UHD format is exciting and may bode well for our collective home theater futures, but the “big caveat’ as he notes on pages 55 and 56 (… the elephant in the room, so to speak…) will give one pause.  I hadn’t really considered the major financial impact on the studios, as they will have to re-master most of their content for the UHD format.  While Amir noted that there are “some” movies already shot and archived in 4K, most of the film industry’s editing and post production still occurs in the 2K domain – even for distribution to first-run cinemas!  Re-mastering such content for a nascent consumer UHD BR format will take time and will incur significant costs for the studios and other partners in the distribution chain.  Disc replicators, for example, will need to invest heavily to churn out the new multi-layer UHD discs;  so everyone involved will need some pretty strong sales numbers to make this a real, ongoing, and thriving business.  And here’s the real “gotcha”:  the consumer trend toward acceptance of lower-quality media streaming – and away from disc ownership – may further limit the emerging format to a select few ultra-expensive players and a VERY small handful of titles.  At least in the beginning…

So it’s up to us – the home theater enthusiast community, to endorse and help make the new UHD format a success.  If not, it may be a very short lived format…  especially with the sagging Blu-ray sales and the mediocre-quality streaming, satellite and broadcast content deemed “good enough” by the general public.