Samsung Launches Ultra HD Blu-Ray Player; Fox Commits to 4K and HDR Content

Kingsman - S 2015
20th Century Fox

Samsung unwrapped its first Ultra HD Blu-Ray player, with plans for an early 2016 release, at consumer electronics confab IFA in Berlin on Thursday. Meanwhile, execs from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment were on hand, committing to a simultaneous release of the first batch of Fox movies in Ultra HD Blu-Ray with high dynamic range (HDR).

"We are now preparing our recent releases ... in 4K Ultra HD to be available in conjunction with the launch of your Ultra HD Blu-ray players early next year," said Mike Dunn, president of Fox Home Entertainment. "We are committed to releasing our slate of movies going forward in Ultra HD with high dynamic range, day and date, with the Digital HD and Blu-ray release. We believe it is critical to have rich, compelling content available to consumers as the UHD TV market continues to grow."

Initially, these titles will include Exodus: Gods and Kings, Kingsman: The Secret Service, Fantastic Four, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Life of Pi, The Maze Runner and Wild.

Ultra HD Blu-Ray is a new Blu-Ray format that supports 4K Ultra HD resolution, as well as provides support for certain flavors of HDR, meaning that it has a wider range between the whitest whites and blackest blacks. There's growing interest in home entertainment to provide 4K and HDR.

The new Blu-Ray format was announced last January at CES, during which Panasonic was the first company to reveal that it was developing an Ultra HD Blu-Ray player. The technical specification for the format was completed last spring, and soon after it became available for licensing; the first supported products are expected to be available at the end this year.

Content in the format can be viewed in 4K and HDR on supported TVs, including Samsung's SUHDTV line, which was launched at CES. At the time, it was already collaborating with Fox through the Fox Innovation Lab, and the studio provided content for SUHDTV demos.

As first reported in The Hollywood Reporter last May, Fox has decided to make versions of all its new movies in UHD with HDR for home entertainment.

In an effort to have orderly rollout and sidestep a potential format war, companies including Fox and Samsung also participate in studio and manufacturer coalition UHD Alliance, which is working to create an agreed-upon, consistent and inter-operable quality specification for home entertainment. (Standards bodies including the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers are also doing related work.)

"We’ve made a lot of progress. We’re getting close to finalizing our technical specifications, as well as our certification and logo programs," said Hanno Basse, chair of the UHD Alliance and CTO at Fox, who was on hand at Samsung's IFA press conference. "Since the announcement of the Alliance earlier this year, we’ve almost tripled our membership, and we now represent a large segment of the device and content industry from around the world. And we hope to share a lot more details in the coming months on the launch of our licensing program and the availability of new products in the market."

A related initiative is the Secure Content Storage Association's recently released licensing specification for its Vidity enabling technology, which supports 4K UHD and HDR, and is aimed at enabling playback and sharing of digital content. This is an effort intended to start in the U.S.