First Wave Of True Ultra HD Blu-ray Discs Announced

Sony and Fox Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc Covers
Sony and Fox Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc Covers. Hancock cover providd by Sony - 20th Century Fox Covers provided by 20th Century Fox

Things Keep Changing

Most consumers are still getting used to HDTV and Blu-ray, even though both have been around for about decade (or more for HDTV), but 4K resolution has shaken things up again, first with introduction of 4K Ultra HD TVs, more recently with the availability of 4K streaming from services such as Netflix and Vudu, and now Wide Color Gamut, and HDR (High Dynamic Range have arrived.

Very few consumers of aware of Wide Color Gamut and HDR at this point, but both are poised to revolutionize TV picture quality, and will surely trickle down to the mainstream in the near future.

Also, on the audio front, new immersive surround sound formats, such as Dolby Atmos and, to a lesser extent, DTS:X, are beginning to take hold.

Ultra HD Blu-ray Is On The Way

Also, along with those advances, a new disc-based format is just on the horizon to meet the challenge of both recent video and audio advances, Ultra HD Blu-ray, which not only provides the ability to play native 4K resolution disc-based content, but also incorporates the ability to supply Wide Color Gamut and HDR enhancements to compatible TVs.

Unfortunately, this requires new players and content, but don't panic, if you decide to make the jump, the new players will also be able to play the DVDs and Blu-ray Discs in your current collection.

So far, two players have been announced, which will arrive first in Japan, the Panasonic UBZ1 (Official Product Page - In Japanese) and Samsung UBD-K8500. Whether these will be the first actual players introduced in the North American market remains to be seen, but by 2016, we should see something on store shelves, and with that, the price of entry.

It is unlikely that the Panasonic UBZ1 will be available in the U.S. market, as it features 4K Ultra HD hard-drive video recording capability, which would throw a fit with the MPAA and TV broadcasters over copy-protection concerns.

Of course, availability of players alone can't guarantee success, you need to have compatible content.

The First Batch Of Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc Content

With that in mind, both 20th Century Fox and Sony have announced the first batch of Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc titles that should be available in timing with the release of the players (watch for Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc Player bundle promos that may include one or more titles as a purchase incentive).

The first Ultra HD Blu-ray titles to be offered by Fox include: The Martian, Kingsman: The Secret Service, Exodus: Gods and Kings, Life of Pi, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Wild, The Maze Runner, and Fantastic Four.

The first Ultra HD Blu-ray titles to be offered by Sony include: Amazing Spider-Man 2, Salt, Hancock, Chappie, Pineapple Express, and The Smurfs 2, followed by additional movie and TV titles (For starters, I vote for Lawrence of Arabia and The Fifth Element).

It is important to point out that Sony's Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc releases should not be confused with previous "4K Mastered" Blu-ray Disc releases that are playable on current Blu-ray disc players.

Also, it is not known if all future Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc releases will be "combo packed" the way many Blu-ray Discs releases are now, but indications are, at least in the image attached to this article, that at least some Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc movies will include standard Blu-ray Disc disc copy as well. It appears that they will be priced about the same as their current Blu-ray Disc counterparts - probably without those "first week of release sale discounts".

In addition, all scheduled, or planned releases will be standard 2D (at least for the Ultra HD version), as so far 3D has not been included in the first round of Ultra HD Blu-ray specifications. However, it is expected that Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc players will be compatible with standard 3D Blu-ray discs.

More Info

For all the details from both Fox and Sony revealed as of the publish date of this article, read the article from The Hollywood Reporter and the Official Announcement by Sony

Stay tuned for more information the Ultra HD Blu-ray format becomes available.

UPDATE 01/04/16: Warner Home Video Announces its first batch of movies on Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc. Some of the titles include Mad Max: Fury Road, San Andreas, The Lego Movie, Man of Steel, and Pacific Rim (Read Official Announcement for full details).

UPDATE: 01/19/15: Lionsgate and Shout! Factory Announce their first group of Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc releases. Lionsgate titles will include: Sicario, The Last Witch Hunter, Ender’s Game, and The Expendables 3 - while the Shout! Factory releases include former IMAX titles: Journey to Flight of the Butterflies, Rocky Mountain Express, Wonders of the Arctic, and The Last Reef: Cities Beneath the Sea. For more details, read the report from Variety.