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Samsung, Fox Unveil First Ultra HD Blu-ray Player, Discs

New format boasts four times the clarity and 64 times as many colors as HD

The nascent 4K Ultra HD business got a big boost today in Berlin on Wednesday when Samsung announced the first Ultra HD Blu-ray player and 20th Century Fox president Mike Dunn announced the industry’s first software releases.

Ultra HD is the much-ballyhooed next-generation viewing format, with four times the resolution and 64 times as many colors as HD.

At its press conference at the IFA 2015 trade show, Samsung announced, among other products, an Ultra HD Blu-ray Player (UBD-K8500) that supports HDR content and can play UHD Blu-ray at up to 60 frames per second. The player will also upscale standard Blu-ray Discs to UHD quality and, in line with the versatile nature of recent Blu-ray players, also will be able to stream 4K content as it becomes available. The Ultra HD Blu-ray player is expected to launch in early 2016.

Dunn, one of the home entertainment sector’s leading futurists, participated in the press conference and vowed 20th Century’s support, saying the studio will release upcoming movies on Ultra HD Blu-ray disc on the same day as standard Blu-ray and Digital HD. The studio also will go back and reissue recent hit films in Ultra HD, including “Kingsman: The Secret Service, “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” “Exodus: Gods and Kings,” “Life of Pi” and “Fantastic Four.”

“Seeing is believing,” Dunn said at the press conference. “When my colleagues and I at Fox first saw the side-by-side comparison of Ultra HD with High Dynamic Range versus HD, it was reminiscent of the difference between standard def and high def. This is a massive leap forward for the consumer experience.”

The debut of the format is expected by observers to revitalize Blu-ray Disc, given the familiarity of the format and the fact that more than 72 million households in the United States alone have at least one Blu-ray playback device. The charge back to disc will likely be led by home theater enthusiasts who want the best possible viewing experience that streaming, due to capacity limits and compression, can’t yet match.

The Samsung and 20th Century Fox announcements follow by a week the announcement by the Secure Content Storage Association (SCSA) that specs are now available for Vidity, an enabling technology allowing consumers to move their high-quality content easily around to virtually all their devices.

SCSA was founded by 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros Home Entertainment, SanDisk, and Western Digital. It now has over 50 industry leading companies as contributors including Samsung, Qualcomm Technologies, LG, Xiaomi, Comcast, Intel, Sky UK, Cisco, Sprint, Broadcom, ARM, Seagate, Akamai, DTS, Dolby, Walmart.

Dunn noted at the press conference that 20th Century Fox and Samsung have established a partnership within the Fox Innovation Lab “to marry Samsung’s world-class engineering and Fox’s creative content expertise.”

He showed a prototype of 4K Ultra HD packaging, with “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” and said the studio is “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.”

Hanno Basse, chief technology officer of 20th Century Fox and president of the UHD Alliance, told the audience at the press conference that Samsung and Fox have been working together “with a number of key industry players” to create the UHD Alliance.

“Since the announcement of the alliance earlier this year,” he said, “we’ve made a lot of progress: We’re getting close to finalizing our technical specifications, as well as our certification and logo programs. 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.”

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