A Replacement for Blu-ray Is Coming: Does Anyone Want It?

blue Ray Disk Illo

Sony and Panasonic are jointly developing a new optical disc that holds more data; would debut by the end of 2015

As Hollywood figures out ways to make its DVDs and Blu-rays more attractive to consumers who are gravitating more toward digital platforms for their TV shows and movies, Sony and Panasonic are about to give studios yet another disc to embrace and promote.

The two companies have paired up to jointly develop a next-generation standard for optical discs that will be able to hold at least 300GB of recorded material (a typical Blu-ray disc for a film holds 50GB). Sony and Panasonic hope to release the first version of the discs by the end of 2015.

The new discs are designed for the professional community looking for a new long-term digital data storage solution to archive their materials — and not for the general consumer. It sees its core customer base as studios, TV networks and post production houses, as well as cloud data centers.

But given the trickle-down effect of new technologies as prices eventually fall, it won’t be surprising if Sony and Panasonic eventually try to come up with a way to market their new high-capacity disc format to consumers.

It’s clear that the entertainment industry will need discs that hold more information. That’s especially true as more studios produce movies in the 4K format, and as the video game biz releases two new next-generation consoles this fall that require a lot of data to take the animation featured in the games to a new level. Sony is behind the PlayStation 4. Its PlayStation 3 currently plays games with high-end graphics. The electronics industry is also developing films that display images in the even higher 8K resolution, which will require even more data on discs to play on the screens.

Sony already is promoting Ultra HD movies in the 4K format that require more than 100GB of space on a disc.

Sony and Panasonic will work with the technologies owned by each company to develop the specifications of the new disc standard. Both companies essentially developed Blu-ray and were key in getting the studios to embrace it as the latest standard for home video releases.

The two companies are high on optical discs, given that they are dust- and water-resistant, can withstand temperature and humidity changes when stored, and are compatible with different data formats as they evolve.

Sony had previously commercialized a file-based optical disc archive system in 2012 that houses 12 optical discs within a compact cartridge as a single, high-capacity storage solution. Each disc within the cartridge holds 25GB capacity, offering a total range of storage capacities from 300GB to 1.5TB.

This summer, Panasonic launched its own line of optical disc storage devices that hold 12 100GB optical discs in a single magazine. A maximum of 90 magazines can be stored, providing a total storage capacity of 180TB.

“Both Sony and Panasonic recognized that optical discs will need to accommodate much larger volumes of storage in years to come given the expected future growth in the archive market, and responded by formulating this agreement,” the electronics giants said.

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  1. I say screw all of that. I have a digital collection. Means less junk in the house!

  2. brad says:


    Not really so. Since they are virtually no sources of 4k media right now, and it take years for conversion of the catalog you are pretty safe with a blu ray collection for about a decade. So the choice is suffer with DVD for a decade or enjoy blu rays. Also, if you read the other comments, the greater point is that the difference in 4k and 1080p is pretty negligible for most people.

  3. Jack says:

    Great i just started a Blu-Ray Collection. So now i have to replace all my DVD’s And Blu-Ray. Screw that.

  4. Steve says:

    Of course, but we’re not talking about trying to convince the average consumer to buy one now when avid early adopters have no plans to buy one for another 3~4 years anyway. We’re looking at a professional back-up format being tentatively available by 2014~2015, there are no official announcements that the Blu-ray Disc Association is considering any 4K format options at the moment so with 4K in its extreme infancy with people considering a $25k TV with 10 movies in a hockey puck, it’s redundant to talk about selling these at average stores to average people right now. I consider myself fairly well adopted to technology, I don’t make much money but I have SACDs, DVD-As, vinyl, 3D Blu-ray Universal player, 1080i50 UK Blu-ray discs and REGION B locked Blu-ray discs as well as PAL DVDs (some region locked) which I have a multiregion Blu-ray player for (Orei), bought my first Blu-ray movie in November 2006 when the PS3 came out, and heck I’m pretty sure I won’t upgrade until the last couple years of this decade.

    There’s nothing about this announcement that makes me think these guys are going to try and push 4K down my throat next year. DVD discs will still be released for several years to come as they cost pennies to make, Blu-ray will be a viable physical format for at least another 20 years, 4K discs will merely supplement the physical disc market and be a smaller niche for years to come until perhaps 30 years from now when 1080p TVs are relics.

    Let me know when you get the results of the double blind test. =D

  5. Steve says:

    CNET’s comments are misleading, you would need that viewing distance for the FULL value of 4K, but for a 90″ screen you would see the value of 4K at 12 feet. It’s the same in a cinema, people who love sitting in the back row are not resolving as much detail as those sitting in the middle of the cinema, moreso in a 4K screening.

    Years ago I read articles about why DVD was stupid, then why Blu-ray was stupid and why we didn’t need 1080p TVs, good thing new technology keeps coming out otherwise these pundits wouldn’t have any opinions worth writing about.

    It was your original assessment that an average person wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between two TVs side by side one with 2K material and one with 4K material and I don’t subscribe to that thesis unless they’re standing 20ft away from identical 50″ screens or something like that. At average viewing distances (around 8ft in my home, wish I had more but then again I’ve got an average viewing distance not a million dollar home with a 40’x20′ room just for my TV) I believe 4K is pretty noticeable, even if you’re not resolving the FULL benefits.

    • brad says:

      I think that you personally might be aware of some difference.

      But I would challenge a blind test with viewers coming in to a controlled room with two non branded 50 inch panels side by side playing the same material, one 1080p, one 4k, sitting 8-10 feet from the screen. I would still assert that (emphasis) most people, could not tell any difference. So if you are asking the consumer to replace, in theory, a 1080p set that they bought in the past 5 years, with one that costs 4 to 6 times more, there had better be a virtually overwhelming difference to motivate the purchase. There is not an (emphasis) overwhelming difference that was equal to the leap from VHS to DVD or the obvious leap from DVD to 1080p blu-ray.

      The differences are becoming more minute, as described in the article, because we have already reached the breaking point of human optics, and we have reached the breaking point where people are neither sitting closer, nor buying larger screens anymore. If we had a wide consumer change, where people changed the ergonomics of viewing spaces to sit 4 feet from the screen, and the were willing to invest in 70-80 inch screens, then the sell for 4k would be easy. But people have been sitting the same distance to watch TV for decades, and the statistics say that people are not buying larger panels anymore, actually the trend is not back towards smaller panels again.

      I would certainly love to have a 4k panel, for free, even though there is virtually no content. However I could never sell these is a store, it would be hucksterism to sell these panels to the average consumer that just dropped $1,000 to $2000 on a 1080p in the past few years.

  6. brad says:


    So at 10 feet you would need about an 80 to 90 inch screen for the value of 4k display. Well that is nice, but the average viewer is never going to have a screen that large.

  7. brad says:

    4K is an imperceptible improvement on an average 50 inch screen at an average viewing distance. In fact, most people can not tell the difference between 720 and 1080p. Therefore, we can conclude that except for true hard core cinefreaks that spend 10’s of thousands on massive home theatres, 4k is an industry boondoggle like the push for home 3d that Sony worked so hard at.

    Most people will not invest in 4k equipment in any forseeable future.

    • Steve says:

      “Also, an average person, side by side, cannot see, or appreciate a difference between a 1080p source on 1080p screen, versus a 4k source on a 4k screen.”

      And this I’m sure is based on a study that an AV organization did with two 4K screens showing an identical feed but with one being downrezzed to 1080p and various people invited in to test whether they could see a difference? Can you share a link with us to the results and methodology of this study please?

      I know what is estimated based on the human eye, and for 50″ screens you will notice the benefits of 4K at 7 feet, you will need to sit closer to FULLY resolve 4K, but you start to see the benefits from 7 feet.

      For a 60″ screen you start to notice the benefits at 8 feet.

    • gimpy2k7 says:

      Yeah 4K is going to be difficult to see a difference in while watching it on a 1080p screen…derp of course.

      There’s absolutely no comparison between a 1080p screen and a 4K screen. If you can’t see the difference you simply aren’t looking at the screen. Furthermore if you claim to not see the difference between the projection at a theater and your 1080p television, I’ll conclude that you’re just trolling. You can’t think one without the other. Just because you don’t want to see the difference to justify paying more money doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

      • brad says:

        Once again, I am saying to the average consumer, they cannot appreciate a difference between a 1080p image and a 720 image on an average screen at an average distance, say 8 to 10 feet. Also, an average person, side by side, cannot see, or appreciate a difference between a 1080p source on 1080p screen, versus a 4k source, (very little of these) on a 4k screen. Yes, I have seen a 4k image 4k source. Yes, up close, say 3 to 4 feet – on a 60 in screen, there is a difference. Does the average home theater viewer watch films this way. Nope, and they never will.

    • Steve says:

      Just to confirm, I absolutely agree with you that adoption will be much slower than Blu-ray was, I’m just disagreeing mainly with your assessment of resolution and the ability to discern it.

    • Steve says:

      If it’s at an average viewing distance for 4K then it will certainly not be imperceptible. If it’s at an average viewing distance for 1080p then it will be less noticeable. If it’s at an average viewing distance for 480i then it will most likely be imperceptible for sure.

      The statement “most people can not tell the difference between 720 and 1080p” doesn’t make much sense if you’re not including viewing distance. I find it very easy to tell the difference between 720p and 1080p on my 22″ PC monitor and it’s a poor performing LCD, never mind how easy it is on my TC-P50GT50.

      I am not a fan of Sony’s TVs over the last few years, I’m definitely a plasma fan. However I attended this year’s HDTV shoutout at Value Electronics in Scarsdale, NY, and I can assure you the difference for 4K was very noticeable even at longer than average viewing distances. However even more noticeable was how poor the TV was with contrast and black levels while watching a 4K scene from The Amazing Spider-man, the black bars immediately made it obvious I was watching an LCD. The 2 Pannys, the Kuro and the Sammy plasma despite being only 1080p decimated the Sony 4K for overall picture quality. Resolution is nowhere near as important as black levels, ANSI contrast, greyscale accuracy (Kuro is still the king here which might explain why it’s black/white demo scenes were still #1 even this year for a four year old set contending with brand new top of the line Sammy/Pannys), etc.

      That said, if your TV performs as well as this years top plasmas or a Kuro and you add in four times the resolution, you will become a believer. Have you seen native 4K content on a TV with 2K content for comparison on a similar TV right beside it?

      I’m not investing for the foreseeable future either, but once there is plenty of content and it’s clear the studios are only releasing 4K titles where the source warrants it and the reviews are aces all around, yeah I could definitely see myself upgrading. No way that happens before 2015 though, perhaps closer to 2020.

      • brad says:


        Well, we mostly agree. Of course panel quality is very important, and dark levels are vital.
        What I am saying though it that with a proper 1080p source, with a quality panel, like a pany plasma, you can get a pretty stunning real life image. The perceptible difference between a same size 4k panel with a 4k source at ‘sofa-distance’ for Joe popcorn out there, say 8 to 10,11 feet, is pretty much null. It would be noticeable to perhaps expertly trained eyes, with the highest professional calibrations in controlled viewing rooms. This remains a niche/niche product for at least another 5 to 7 years, at the earliest. I agree with others, that most consumers are still weary of the format wars, and the 3d TV push. And besides that, many panel makers have already suffered a dearth of sales, and are selling off and closing the production plants, or otherwise have financial trouble i; Pioneer, Panasonic, Samsung. so the question remains, can the manufacturers survive the massive costs of another product so soon?

  8. And Sony wonders why its electronics group is hurting. We get it that forcing people to change formats will engender more sales of catalog titles, but come on, dudes, this is your big push?

    • Steve says:

      Who other than VHS owners (and of course Betamax owners before them) has been forced to change formats? There are still DVD players and DVD releases of over 99.99% of releases.

  9. Steve says:

    Definitely want it, several years from now when I upgrade to a 4K TV. For the foreseeable future I’m good with Blu-ray and 3D Blu-ray, but I absolutely hope that we’ll get a new disc format for 4K movies otherwise we’ll be stuck with the same problems that we would have had if they’d tried to give us HD movies on DVD, low bit-rates, lossy audio, massive amounts of compression.

    No-one will be forced to buy the next format unless they want to take advantage of a 4K screen. The storage capacities and bandwidth required will ensure that physical media remains with us for many, many years to come.

  10. Zach says:

    I hope that studios will continue to release content on physical media for the foreseeable future. I like to have something I can hold in my hands. While streaming media is great for seeing something you’ll never watch again, physical media is best for collecting your favorite films and shows. If digital content sales do eventually convince studios to stop selling discs, then I hope they will still include special features with digital purchases.

  11. cadavra says:

    This is exactly why I haven’t bought a Blu-Ray player. Planned obsolescence strikes again.

    • brad says:

      If you are not willing to spend $150 for a enormous improvement in both sound and image, well, you just do not like movies that much.

      • The Normal-American Community says:

        Bingo, brad. Cadavra just doesn’t care that much; Blu-ray on a good plasma with quality audio (neither of these need be very expensive) is just stunning. I love movies and am annoyed when I have to watch DVD format for whatever reason.

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