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Ultra HD Blu-ray discs offer an alternative to 4K streaming

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Don't give up on physical media just yet. That's the message from the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA), which this week announced that it's completed work on the new Ultra HD Blu-ray format. The format offers support for 4K resolutions of up to 3840 x 2160 pixels and "significantly expands" the color range for movies and TV shows. It also allows for the delivery of high dynamic range (HDR) and high frame rate content (likely up to a maximum of 60fps). Licensing for the new format is scheduled to begin this summer, while consumers can expect backward-compatible Ultra HD Blu-ray players to hit the market towards the end of the year.


The new logo for the Ultra HD Blu-ray format. (BDA)

The BDA is doing its best to convince people that physical media can still beat digital formats, with the chair of the BDA's promotions committee, Victor Matsuda, praising the new format's "consistent" and "repeatable" movie experiences — qualities that aren't always applicable for films rented over the internet, even if NetflixYouTube, and Amazon do all offer 4K streaming now. Ultra HD Blu-ray also supports more immersive, "object-based" sound formats (examples of which include Dolby Atmos and DTS:X) and "digital bridge" features that let consumers view content on different devices in the home. As you'd expect, all this extra functionality and resolution requires extra storage, with UHD Blu-ray holding up to 66GB of data on dual-layer discs and 100GB on triple-layer discs. (That's up from 25GB and 50GB on single and dual-layer Blu Ray discs.) You certainly couldn't download all that in a hurry.