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Ultra HD Blu-ray discs being researched by the BDA

The Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA) has announced that it is investigating ways of using its high-capacity optical disc format to distribute Ultra HD (4K) resolution video as well as the current Full HD (1080p) footage.

The Consumer Electronics Show this year saw several large-format TVs unveiled from a number of manufacturers, all supporting the new Ultra HD format. Ultra HD TVs have a picture resolution of 3,840 x 2,160 - around four times the pixel density of a similarly-sized Full HD TV, which uses a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080. Four times the pixel density means a more detailed and realistic picture, or a larger image with no loss of clarity.

Ultra HD is making a slow but steady march into the living room, but there's something of a Catch-22 scenario facing early adopters: until Ultra HD sets become commonplace, few media companies are willing to invest in an Ultra HD distribution platform to get the high-quality content into peoples' homes; until there's an easy way to get Ultra HD content to play, buyers are unlikely to want to invest in Ultra HD-compatible TV sets.

The BDA's plan would circumvent this: by using existing Blu-ray pressing and distribution services, distributors could easily add 4K content - culled from the 4K master prints used for digital cinema releases of films - at a very low cost, giving buyers an easy way to start building up a collection of content. Such discs could also replace existing Full HD Blu-rays, with the Ultra HD content being downscaled to work on existing HDTV sets - meaning buyers can begin collecting Ultra HD content while they're still waiting for the cost of the TVs themselves to reach less stratospheric heights.

According to Andy Parsons, president of the BDA, Ultra HD compatibility is under consideration for Blu-ray discs. "We created a task force three months ago to study the prospects of adding new technologies to the format," Parsons told TechHive in an interview. "We will evaluate three criteria, starting with the technical feasibility of doing 4K."

Four times the resolution means a substantial increase in data to store, so the BDA has its work cut out cramming that much extra content onto existing Blu-ray discs. The discs that are created are also unlikely to work on existing Blu-ray players, requiring users to upgrade if they want access to Ultra HD content.

No timescale for Ultra HD Blu-rays has been released by the BDA.

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