back to article Sign of the telly times: HDR shines, UHD Blu-ray slides at IFA

This year’s IFA gadget expo proved to be a chaotic platform for next generation TV technology. HDR (High Dynamic Range) gained traction, while 4K UHD Blu-ray took one step forward and two back. There were boys' toys and bluster a-plenty. Pioneer Laserdisc player and projector from 1982 This year's 4K telly tech is not quite …

  1. imanidiot Silver badge

    UHD Blu-ray is already sunk

    I suspect with continueing expansion of broadband internet and large capacity media players the days of physical media are rather numbered. It's rather telling the largerst (and pretty much only) manufacturer of Optical Media production machines has scaled down production to near zero and has halted all development on the machines. Because no-one want's them anymore.

    1. Richard 22

      Re: UHD Blu-ray is already sunk

      Physical media is still required for maximum quality until broadband speeds catch up. 4k netflix is ~15Mbps, but a high quality HDR 4k stream would require several times that. Most people's broadband just isn't up to that.

      Whether any of this increases the enjoyment of the content is another matter...

      1. John Robson Silver badge

        Re: UHD Blu-ray is already sunk

        Physical media doesn't have to be optical disks...

        I'm sure that a microSD card could be shipped in a VHS sized box. Heck, even a full sized SD card would fit.

        They have the bandwidth and capacity already - I'm sure a read only version could be designed. But let me guess - they'll make another new format.

        1. D@v3

          Re: UHD Blu-ray is already sunk

          I wouldn't be at all surprised if that is the way things go. With the price of a 32gb SD card or usb flash drive, surely it wouldn't be too much of a step to fill one with a film (and some extra features) write protect it and stick it in a branded case.

          1. Teiwaz Silver badge
            Unhappy

            Re: UHD Blu-ray is already sunk

            What a lovely thought, a medium that isn't going to be rendered unplayable due to a scratch or that you have to spend ten seconds breathing over and polishing before playing.

            What would it profit manufacturers though? At most, a range of high transfer SD/microSD card reader dongles for those without card slots?

            Doomed from the start - Reason: Far too sensible and practical.

            1. fuzzie

              Re: UHD Blu-ray is already sunk

              Part of the justification for the packing is also for booklets/cover art and such. A shelf of MicroSD cards are just not that visually enticing. The booklet could always have a card pocket like the old Turbo Pascal Getting Started books with the floppy sleeve inside. Small items present a shoplifing nightmare, hence SD cards etc are often kept in locked cabinets or encased in overly large limb-amputating blister packs.

              1. John Robson Silver badge

                Re: UHD Blu-ray is already sunk

                @fuzzie - Packaging

                DVDs and blu-rays are already overpackaged - both are the same physical format as CDs, but the DVD case is the same height as a VHS...

                The BluRay cases are slightly smaller - for no discernable reason.

                We could easily make SD card cases the size of a housebrick if we wanted to - or we could package them in slightly thinner CD sized cases - enough room for some artwork and a booklet (most of the packet could *be* the booklet)

                1. davemcwish

                  Re: UHD Blu-ray is already sunk

                  Re: Packaging

                  Barring a very small number of boxed sets, that's the first thing I toss in the bin. I wouldn't be able to accommodate my 400+ disk collection without it. The silver disc thing and the artwork goes into a sleeve which then sits in a tray on my shelf.

                  The only problem I have with this is that the sleeves and trays are on import from the US; however it does make the living room SWMBO friendly.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: UHD Blu-ray is already sunk

              TRY scratching a blu-ray disc ... go on, I dare you.

              They have an anti-scratch coating of almost magical efficacy ... they HAVE to because the data layer is very close to the disc surface. I have approximately 100 blu-ray discs and not one has scratch. I've had discs bouncing around in their container across the Atlantic, a kiss of death to a DVD and NO scratches.

            3. Deltics

              Re: UHD Blu-ray is already sunk

              If you look after your discs they don't suffer those problems either.

              People who don't look after their discs are just as likely to not look after their USB sticks and whilst their problems are different they do still have problems.

          2. badger31

            Re: UHD Blu-ray is already sunk

            It's all about manufacturing. I'm guessing Blu-Ray discs are still pressed, like CDs. Unless SD compatible chips can be manufactured with the video data on them, with DRM, they'd have to load each card up, either individually or in batches, and I just can't see that being viable.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: UHD Blu-ray is already sunk

              Ideas:

              1) High-volume: Do away with the entire disc fabrication line and just have a pick-n-place x-y arm with a po-go pinned sd clamp attachment at the business end.

              2) Small to medium volume: Operator(s) po-go their way through trays of SD cards.

              3) Retail: Customer orders film "X" and retailer (high-street or web) flashes card in licensed writer, prints on the card and prints out the case sleeve to order. No excess stock. Can be done at the till.

              1. MrXavia

                Re: UHD Blu-ray is already sunk

                I like the Retail Idea....

                But another idea, allow 4K downloads, no DRM, just save to your own USB/SD/NAS and play on any device you want and keep it forever, its like UV, sure its a nice idea, but I can't guarantee in 20 years it will be around, BUT I can still play my VHS if I want to....

                Sure there is the piracy angle.. but considering I've never seen any DRM to work, is there a point to it at all? Better idea is to just digitally water mark the file some how...

            2. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

              Re: UHD Blu-ray is already sunk

              They won't, because SD standard mandates filesystem FAT32 or exFAT (i.e. FAT64). The movie would have to be a regular file, and implementing a DMR is going to be difficult. It would have to be some form of signed file specifically generated for the individual consumer and bound to the player with some form of online validation, similarly to Audible (audiobooks) or Kindle (books) or Steam (games). You have a choice between flaky hardware DRM on the media itself (e.g. Blu-Ray) or intrusive DRM on general purpose media.

              Yes, it should be possible to store media as a regular file on general purpose media such as SD and still protect it for offline use. The "secure" part in SD name refers to encryption specifically intended for media distribution, so in theory it should be possible. In practice, I don't know how secure this encryption is, and whether media executives would ever want to employ a standard they have not twisted first, to maximally inconvenience "potential thieves" (which is name given by all media companies to paying customers). However, I have a strong feeling that they would not.

              1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

                Re: UHD Blu-ray is already sunk

                An SD card is perfectly happy to store data in any format you like - it doesn't need to be organised as a file system at all.

                1. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

                  Re: UHD Blu-ray is already sunk

                  @Cynic_999 of course you are right, however if you sell such a card which does not match specification of SD Association, then you cannot call it SD card. It will look like one, but it will not behave like one, thus confusing customers. This is because filesystem (as well as partition table format) is part of the specification. Also, different filesystem would buy you exactly nothing.

              2. jabuzz

                Re: UHD Blu-ray is already sunk

                It is fully blown DRM it is the same scheme that is used by DVD-Audio, which Wikipedia tells me has been broken. However given that CSS in DVD's has been broken, AACS in Bluerays is at least circumventable, and HDCP is smashed into very tiny pieces it is all rather moot.

            3. John Robson Silver badge

              Re: UHD Blu-ray is already sunk

              I'm sure they can do bulk loads of data - and given the firmware in these devices they could reasonably secure it at that level after writing.

              What they secure it with (or even whether they allow anything to read the first n bytes, but then only play the remainder if a cryto response is provided) is of course up to them, but I suggest that minimal security is probably the best security.

          3. Deltics

            Re: UHD Blu-ray is already sunk

            The cost of an empty, general purpose flash stick is no guide to the problems and costs involved in mass duplication of pre-prepared devices with fixed content.

            Add to that the fact that still the vast majority of consumers want to put a "film" into a "player" and have it automatically load, present a menu and then off they go into the menu. A flash stick may be a good way to distributed MP4's or whatever to people who run their own media servers and/or know what an MP4/etcis and how to use it, but Joe Consumer isn't going to have a clue what to do with it.

            This is the problem with people who live, eat, breath, sleep and sh*t technology offering ideas on what will work well for people who are not.

            1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

              Re: UHD Blu-ray is already sunk

              Add to that the fact that still the vast majority of consumers want to put a "film" into a "player" and have it automatically load, present a menu and then off they go into the menu.

              I can't answer for the "vast majority" just a straw poll of everyone I know is that we don't give a flying rat's arse about a menu, we particularly don't care or want to have be forced to endure an indeterminate amount of unskippable adverts for films we are either not interested in or already have and we definitely don't want to have to endure minutes of unskippable lies (or "copyright is theft" shorts and walls of text - copyright violation is copyright violation it is not, and never has been "theft"). We just want to watch the bloody film. Now. Right now. In addition we definitely don't want to have to wait for five minutes (feels like it) for a media player to piss around with DRM (Java VM) and try to synchronise it's arse with the disc so it can start to show the above crap we're not interested before we start to watch the film that we are interested in. Sometimes I swear it feels like it takes 15 minutes from sticking a disc in a BD player and the film starts.

              On the other hand a ripped copy of a film will start pretty much instantly and that's what we, as consumers, actually want. While there may always be those that want the tactile feel of disc cases, to admire the artwork on the disc case and whatever is in them but I strongly suspect that the majority really just don't care. They may occasionaly be interested as to who the actors are playing particular roles, the plot synopsis or even the filming locations but any good media centre will have this information automatically and there's always a quick manual search of the Internet (or just IMDB).

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: SD-Card

                So what if they cannot call it an SD card due to DRM/file systems? They will buy them, rebrand as "UHD Cards" and be done with it. Sony and Nintendo and other companies have and did do in the past.

          4. chris 17 Bronze badge

            Re: UHD Blu-ray is already sunk

            @D@v3

            Just like a cartridge then.

            Maybe BlockBusters should come back with hdmi sticks powered by USB with a movie on it. Maybe the sticks can contain an sd card securely attached but replaceable / rewritable back at the shop :)

        2. jabuzz

          Re: UHD Blu-ray is already sunk

          Flash seems insanely expensive for what is read only distribution media. A much simpler to manufacture and hence much cheaper one time writeable memory would be much more appropriate.

      2. Deltics

        Re: UHD Blu-ray is already sunk

        Well, for me I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of occasions when a problem with an optical disc or a player has prevented the enjoyment of the content in the past 20 years.

        On the other hand, in the past 6 MONTHS the number of occasions when problems with network connectivity, load or configuration or device problems has ruined the enjoyment of network delivered content... suffice to say the fingers on TWO hands are not enough.

        1. MacroRodent Silver badge

          Re: UHD Blu-ray is already sunk

          Well, for me I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of occasions when a problem with an optical disc or a player has prevented the enjoyment of the content in the past 20 years.

          I suspect you do not rent or borrow disks then. I agree a bought or self-burned disk that has been stored carefully has no problems, but our family often borrows disks from library, and they often have glitches when playing. All too often there are circular scratches (the worst kind for DVD and other optical disks), probably due to fault or perhaps just dirt in some patron's player.

          The rarely used DVD-RAM used to specify a cartridge, very similar to what 3 1/4" floppies used to have. If that had been the standard for all DVD:s, they would have been nearly eternal. Which is probably one reason they are cartridge-less.

          1. Tim Jenkins

            Re: UHD Blu-ray is already sunk

            "...circular scratches (the worst kind for DVD and other optical disks), probably due to fault or perhaps just dirt in some patron's player..."

            Nope; I can assure you that these are always caused by a small person* rotating the disk around the spindle in the DVD case, sometimes for hours, with a small piece of grit trapped beneath it. They are also to be found on EVERY compact disk in a car that has ever had a micro-humanoid transported in it, usually five minutes into a very long journey.

            *the single indelible chocolate-button/marmite/jam fingerprint on the label side is the clue

    2. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: UHD Blu-ray is already sunk

      The real question is why 4k BD has been delayed so much.

      Is it a case of continued arguments about intrusive DRM schemes? Ones that demand an internet link to spy on you reporting every disk you play, etc?

      1. h4rm0ny

        Re: UHD Blu-ray is already sunk

        >>"Is it a case of continued arguments about intrusive DRM schemes? Ones that demand an internet link to spy on you reporting every disk you play, etc?"

        Probably. The Sony leak exposed details of the DRM on UHD disc format. It requires your device to be approved and the first time you insert a new disc it must be connected to the Internet so that it can contact the distributor's servers and request a decryption key. That alone gives them all sorts of monitoring and control options I'm not happy with. To say nothing of what happens when those servers aren't there any more.

        I'm actually one of the people who would have bought a UHD player and 4K tv (when prices on the players became sane, anyway). Now I am not.

    3. TheVogon Silver badge

      Re: UHD Blu-ray is already sunk

      "I suspect with continuing expansion of broadband internet and large capacity media players the days of physical media are rather numbered."

      There will always someone that doesn't have the bandwidth to run Popcorn Time I guess.

      1. Deltics

        Re: UHD Blu-ray is already sunk

        People were saying the exact same thing 5, 10 and even 15 years ago.

        Funny how these "numbered days" never seem to end. Could it possible be because even though connectivity speeds are increasing, so too is the capacity required to carry all the cat videos in ever increasingly quality ?

        Not to mention that more and more people are actually on that network and ultimately the headline "speed" of your individual connection to the network is not a reliable guide to the actual throughput you can carry over that connection.

        Meanwhile the throughput of channel between my optical disc player and my TV/amplifier is both higher and guaranteed and not affected by how many other people are playing their discs in their own homes at the same time.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: UHD Blu-ray is already sunk

      Sorry, but that's a load of rot.

      Lots of AV kit out there cannot be used to its full extent when paired with the limited video or audio bit-rate of a broadband connection.

      What of those of us that like to curate titles, feel / hold them / enjoy artwork and notes in the same way people have for years with vinyl, tapes, CDs?

      Or people that like access to a much wider catalogue than is available from myriad, fragmented streaming services (with lots of titles held up in legal knots or just unwillingness of distributor to allow VOD)?

      Or how about enjoying a collection divorced from the mercies of an ISP? 'Sorry, can't watch tonight, DLM has kicked in' doesn't wash for anyone with more than a passing interest in films.

      Most industry projections are forecasting more Blu-ray player sales this year through next. Doesn't sound like 'no-one wanting them' to me.

      Reductive statements like this remind me of people predicting the end anything Apple decide not to include in their kit. It might apply to one group of people, but not another.

      1. imanidiot Silver badge

        Re: UHD Blu-ray is already sunk

        Sorry, but that's a load of rot.

        Lots of AV kit out there cannot be used to its full extent when paired with the limited video or audio bit-rate of a broadband connection.

        What of those of us that like to curate titles, feel / hold them / enjoy artwork and notes in the same way people have for years with vinyl, tapes, CDs?

        Or people that like access to a much wider catalogue than is available from myriad, fragmented streaming services (with lots of titles held up in legal knots or just unwillingness of distributor to allow VOD)?

        Or how about enjoying a collection divorced from the mercies of an ISP? 'Sorry, can't watch tonight, DLM has kicked in' doesn't wash for anyone with more than a passing interest in films.

        Most industry projections are forecasting more Blu-ray player sales this year through next. Doesn't sound like 'no-one wanting them' to me.

        Reductive statements like this remind me of people predicting the end anything Apple decide not to include in their kit. It might apply to one group of people, but not another.

        1. You are in the minority. The market might continue for people like you but it'll be much smaller scale production than at this time.

        2. Sure, players and Blu-ray disks will probably still sell a lot for the next 10 years. HOWEVER. I'm not talking about the disks or the players. I'm talking specifically about the machines used to produce those blurays. All producers who want them have bought them, no-one is building new fabs. And no-one is developing new production machinery as there is no market. This never happened when CDs became DVDs and DVDs became BDs, so something is up. This doesn't mean production will stop in the short term. We're talking production machinery designed to last 10 to 20 years of non-stop running, so it'll be going for a while. But no-one is gearing up for production of more discs or new media types. A sure sign even the industry is having it's doubts

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: UHD Blu-ray is already sunk

      > I suspect with continueing expansion of broadband internet and large capacity media players the days of physical media are rather numbered.

      It's not uncommon for a standard Blu-Ray to be encoded at ~30Mb/s, occupying ~40-45GB (a good chunk of mine are, anyway). When the average UK broadband connection is ~20Mb/s, that's a large amount of data to download/store, and is going to be time consuming, and may not be conducive to being streamed (unless you decrease the volume of data [means either more lossy compression, or more efficient compression]).

    6. Deltics

      Re: UHD Blu-ray is already sunk

      If insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting to get a different result, then what is the equivalent for saying the same thing over and over and expecting to be right when you have been wrong on every previous occasion ?

      Not you specifically, but Requiem for Optical Media has been playing now for about 15 years with no sign of it reaching an end any time soon.

  2. Paul Crawford Silver badge
    Gimp

    Ambilux

    I shudder to think of what the results of playing some "speciality" video will be with the Ambilux image-related back lighting.

    1. Ian 7

      Re: Ambilux

      I shudder with you brother... you DO mean Dot Cotton in all her UHD glory, don't you? Ahem!

      1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

        Re: Ambilux

        Dot Cotton does Dagenham

        <shudder>

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When HDR becomes prevalent ...

    ... certain offenders (I'm looking at you SKY) must have to stop using cut-to-white and astonishingly bright white backgrounds --- these hurt my eyes on my old-school projector, I don't want to have to wear sunglasses indoors thanks.

    1. Jim84

      Re: When HDR becomes prevalent ...

      So what is superior OLED Hdr or LED LCD Hdr?

      1. TheVogon Silver badge

        Re: When HDR becomes prevalent ...

        "So what is superior OLED Hdr or LED LCD Hdr?"

        OLED.

    2. An0n C0w4rd

      Re: When HDR becomes prevalent ...

      Maybe Sky will also quit using 50i outputs and give decent data rates for their encoding so the picture doesn't look so crap

      Who am I kidding. Never happen.

      1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        Re: When HDR becomes prevalent ...

        Sky have the unfortunate but inevitable problem that they have restricted total bandwidth and increasing the available effective bandwith is a case of improved compression techniques or sticking yet another satellite up in orbit and having the receivers handle this. AIUI there is still (or was some) available capability on the receivers themselves which is very sensible and forward thinking of them but this still requires one or more satellites to be deployed to use it.

        I have a lot of sympathy for the poor bastards at Sky (and VM and other similar digital providers) who have to manage the total bandwidth available and counter this against the guaranteed rates that some channels contractually require along with the negotiations for enhanced bandwidth bursts for premium events which force other channels into lower bandwidths during these events (try watching the less premium channels when a big sporting even is shown, for example). Some channels have minimum bandwidths with capacity up to a certain amount, some a fixed rate regardless, some with a desired rate but with contractually agreed drops to lower if necessary... basically every which way they can be agreed upon.

        When the shift to adding HD channels came in this must have thrown even more complications into this mess with "standard" definition channels all being reduced in quality to allow the bandwidth for the "high" definition channels. The upshot of this was great for marketing drones because it accentuated the improvement given by HD channels... by reducing the quality of SD channels.

        It's no wonder than your average digital channel has somewhat less quality than the previous analogue equivalent.

  4. PleebSmash
    Thumb Up

    sony 4k projector details

    http://www.sony.co.uk/pro/export/pdf/product?VPL-VW520ES

    The native resolution is 4096x2160

  5. Cynic_999 Silver badge

    New format video media

    I can certainly imagine some sort of solid-state media will be developed in future. Maybe a mask-programmed ROM for high volumes and a fuse-programmed ROM for low volumes. Probably a new type of interface and connector. If no user-programmable devices are produced and the interface design makes it non-trivial to make an adaptor that will take conventional R/W memory devices, it will hinder people from cloning media - though it could still be copied to a different format and media and played via a different device of course, just as a CineVia protected Blu-ray or DVD can be copied and played with a computer application that does not recognise CineVia (such as VLC).

    It still cuts down on piracy quite a lot, because people generally want to be able to play their media from a conventional player onto their main TV, and it is only a small minority who are happy to connect a PC to their main TV and sound system to play protected content.

  6. J. R. Hartley Silver badge

    Never mind all that...

    Tell me more about the Laserdisc player.

  7. DougS Silver badge

    Do we really need 1000+ nits?

    If you have the TV in a brightly light room or especially during daytime with open windows, sure. If you have a home theater room or just do most of your TV watching after dark without a lot of other lights, even 400 nits is probably too much and you'd need to adjust the TV down from its maximum brightness.

    HDR is nice in theory, but CDs provided a much higher dynamic range than vinyl. They used it for that at first, then compressed everything to an even loudness because the typical listener doesn't want to struggle to hear the quiet sections, or turn it up during a quiet section and be blasted by a loud one. I wonder if the same thing will happen with HDR, and all that dynamic range will only be used for a few years and something equivalent to music's "loudness wars" will take over and everything will be so bright that if you have a 1500 nit TV you'll have it turned down to the minimum brightness and wish you could turn it down more.

  8. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    Whenever I see these huge things my only thought is: where on earth do you fit it into your living room?

    1. VictimMildew

      Re: ...where on earth do you fit it into your living room?

      You don't. You install it in your home cinema.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Of course, if you believe Samsung, LG’s new UHD OLED range isn’t really 4K at all, but 3K. Company boffins invited me backstage, to explain why LG’s latest UHD OLED RGBW panel technology, dubbed M+, isn’t actually 4K. According to Samsung, M+ panels are 2880×2160, rather than full 3840×2160. Ergo rubbish."

    I have a newsflash for you - none of those are 4K. 3840x2160 is actually called UHD or 2160P. 4K isn't a display standard, but rather a broadcast and film standard. There might be a few "4K" sets out there but the vast majority are UHD (3840x2160).

  10. alex870

    4K pipeline isn't ready yet

    Most classic films or film from the 90's and earlier are barely able to crack 2K resolution with their film stock and lenses (under perfect conditions and modern stock, you can get just over 3K on super 35. Real world results can be much less).

    A favorite digital camera currently used now is the Arri Alexa: 2.8K native. Most VFX pipelines are still 2K. 4K VFX is embryonic. Digital intermediates are still commonly 2K, and 4K only really got started in 2014. Take a look at imdb's technical specs to confirm. Even though Sony has been almost giving away their 4K projectors to theater chains, the DCP file being shown is still 2K in most cases.

    2015 is looking like the year they're almost getting up to 4K native in the production pipeline. Even if they did deliver UHD blu-ray, the results might be somewhat underwhelming still.

    1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: 4K pipeline isn't ready yet

      True. The digital processing of films for quite some time was done at 3k or so. The excuse given was usually that it was a higher resolution than the human eye could perceive (at any distance) however this always ignored the inconvenient fact that humans tend for focus their eyes on parts of a scene rather than the entire scene as a whole and therefore more than 3k would be required. For example I can easily distinguish and see pixels on the 2k monitor I am using at this moment even though it is taking up a less than half of the width of my vision (it does depend on the colours though).

  11. vaporland

    there's still some movies

    you can only get on laserdisc...

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So, what is HDR?

    As I only know of the real terms for HDR as used in photography, I'll consider replacing the buzzword.

    I will read the word "bum" in it's place from now on. As anyone can add a "HDR" (Happy Dancing Rabbit) or a "BBQ" (Brilliantly Black Qube) or what ever other buzz word they wish to the end of a name or brand of a set. I've seen "4k compatible" TV stands and furniture. Once bitten, twice shy.

    But actual specifics? So hard to find these days. I recently asked an official rep "is this TV backlit or edgelit?" They told me the TV "enhances the emotion of the visual fidelity". I just slowly walked away. Thanks mate, very technical and specific reply there.

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