The UHD Alliance and the Blu-ray Disc Association were at the 2019 CES in Las Vegas to tout the success of the 4K Ultra HD format and new promotional efforts.
The UHD Alliance currently has 43 members — comprised of electronics manufacturers, film and television studios, content distributors, and technology companies — with such companies as Charter Communications and Google joining last year to better understand how to deliver high dynamic range (HDR) content, said UHDA president Mike Fidler.
“Google of course brought out the Pixel 3 and that is a certified Mobile HDR Premium product,” he said.
The group also continues to certify products as Ultra HD Premium, with 46 new products added in 2018 to bring the total to 63 products (TVs, computer monitors, mobile devices and Ultra HD Blu-ray Players) and 10 companies offering certified products. The UHDA has also offered new broadcast recommendations to facilitate broadcast of Ultra HD Premium certified content.
The group continues to educate at such events as IFA, the 4K Summit, MWC, CEDIA and, of course, CES.
“We’re out at trade shows on an ongoing basis,” Fidler said.
Its educational website, ExperienceUHD.com, which launched in 2017, has been upgraded in the past year. It offers “how to” home theater set up information; educational information on HDR, 4K resolution, wider color spectrum, color bit depth and immersive audio; and social media links. Its biggest reach is with Millennials and Generation Z, according to Fidler.
Educational information on interoperability of different products went up on the site in October 2018.
“We are spending considerable resources,” Fidler said, to identify interoperability problems and offer steps on the website to fix them. The UHDA buys product at retail to test.
For instance, the website shows consumers how to set up TVs with screen shots of menus.
“It’s been really popular from a usage standpoint,” Fidler said, adding that every year the menus change “so we continue to do this.”
Sometime in the first quarter, the UHDA plans to put test patterns on the sight to help consumers see if they are getting true HDR.
The UHDA collaborated with Amazon on a section of the online behemoth’s site — which also offers a link to ExperienceUHD.com — to better educate consumers about the format. That product launched in August 2018.
“Other retailers have gotten in touch with us recently [about helping with sites],” Fidler said.
The group also unveiled a dynamic typograph asset at CES (developed in collaboration with the Digital Entertainment Group Europe), available for retailers and partners.
The UHDA is expanding its efforts into Europe, especially Germany, France and the United Kingdom, Fidler said.
In another initiative, the UHDA surveyed the creative community, getting close to 400 responses from cinematographers, colorists, directors, digital imaging specialists, editors, producers, VFX supervisors, writers and others on their preferences for and the importance of the format. The effort was recognized at the fall 4K UHD summit. In the survey, 86.1% answered “Most Important” to the question: “How important is it to you to have a simple way to get your home TV setup similar to monitors in the color grading suite for viewing content that YOU created?”
Actor Tom Cruise’s recent Twitter missive about motion smoothing was inspired by the survey, Fidler said.
Meanwhile, the 4K UHD market continues to grow with all 55-inch and larger panels available in UHD only and 100% of 50-inch and larger TV shipments expected to be in the format by the end of this year, according to IHS Markit data cited by the UHDA.
On the content side, the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA) noted that Ultra HD Blu-ray, both hardware and software, experiencing approximately 40% and 60% growth, respectively, in 2018, with catalog, local/regional and episodic TV titles increasingly joining new release theatricals on the format.
Standalone Ultra HD Blu-ray player sales for 2018 are expected to surpass 2017 by 44%, and growth of another 30% is anticipated for 2019, according to Futuresource data cited by the BDA. Meanwhile, 15% of all Blu-ray players shipped worldwide in 2018 are expected to be Ultra HD Blu-ray, with 25% projected in 2019 (excluding Xbox One sales), according to data cited by the BDA. The worldwide UHD Blu-ray player installed base is expected to reach 4.5 million by the end of 2018. As of December 2018, there were 29 4K UHD BD player models and 11 4K UHD recorder/player models for a total of 40, according to the BDA.
Global 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray sales continue to grow steadily, with an 83% increase in 2018 vs. 2017, and a further growth of 45% forecast for 2019, according to the BDA. Ultra HD Blu-rays are expected to account for 11% of Blu-rays sold worldwide in 2018, rising to 22% by 2020 and 40% by 2022, according to the BDA.
About 430 4K UHD Blu-ray titles were available in the United States by the end of 2018, the BDA reported, with such notable recent catalog releases as 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Matrix and Close Encounters of the Third Kind and such episodic TV releases as “Game of Thrones,” “Planet Earth 2” and “Dr. Who: Twice Upon a Time.”
BDA president Victor Matsuda was especially impressed with Lionsgate’s decision to release Twilight, which skews to a younger audience, on 4K UHD Blu-ray.
“Recognizing the business possibilities in reissuing that type of title was really encouraging,” he said.
With streaming 4K UHD still dependent on the pipeline to the home (Netflix recommends 25Mbps for 4K), the fact that most users’ service is less robust makes the physical disc more compelling, he said. Only 21% in the U.S. manage to meet the Netflix standard, while such European countries as Germany, France and the United Kingdom manage even less of a percentage.
To tout the benefits of 4K UHD Blu-ray, the BDA also unveiled a sizzle reel at CES for members.