The announcement of a next-gen Blu-ray disc is imminent – and there will be no 4k Ultra HD format war, the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA) told TechRadar in Berlin.
Brushing-off fears that consumers are now more interested in streaming from the likes of Netflix and Lovefilm than in collecting optical discs, Marty Gordon, Philips' Vice President for Alliances & Communications and spokesman for the BDA, promised an announcement of an 'enhanced' Blu-ray format 'soon'
"The BDA's task-force has been working feverishly and we expect an announcement soon – I hope this year," he said.
He also confirmed that the announcement would involve a traditional-looking disc.
"It will be an optical disc, but I can't comment on any of the specs," he said, also pointing out that the 300GB format Panasonic and Sony are rumoured to be working on is not the same initiative. "It wasn't part of the BDA," he said. "It's for professional use only so it's something totally separate from Blu-ray."
No format war
So could we see another damaging format war to echo the HD-DVD Vs Blu-ray fisticuffs from 2007-2008?
"We don't see any war, we don't see that happening with the next generation of Blu-ray," Gordon told TechRadar. "Standardisation is the exact reason why the BDA exists. It only reinforces the importance of working in a task-force so we can take everyone's opinions into account and really fully vet the technology."
However, any new Blu-ray disc format could go further than simply extra pixels. "We don't view it as just 4k," said Gordon. "To us it's just the next step. Blu-ray offers the best possible quality so it would be natural for it to have 4k, but if we're going to do it we should do it right."
The chances of a new-and-improved Blu-ray disc format grew at IFA 2013 with the announcement of a new HDMI 2.0 format by the HDMI Forum. The new spec supports all 4k resolutions at 60 frames-per-second, up from 30fps and 24fps for 3840x2160 and 4096x2160, respectively. Both Panasonic and Sony also unveiled Ultra HD TVs that use HDMI 2.0-specified inputs.
More than pixels
Though Gordon couldn't comment on HDMI 2.0's place within a new Blu-ray ecosystem, he did say that a new Blu-ray format would "be about more than just pixels", perhaps taking advantage of HDMI 2.0's new higher data transfer rate, which has increased from 10Gbps to 18Gbps. Technically that could mean dual 4k video streams, though Gordon was keen to talk-up the enhanced audio, too.
HDMI 2.0 could mark the death of traditional 5.1 and even 7.1-channel home cinema sound, ushering in support for a stunning 32 channels of uncompressed audio. "We think audio is one of the important features to look into," said Gordon. "We're definitely seeing more a demand for high quality audio."
Sony already sells its FMP-X1 4k movie player in the US.