Once upon a time, there were video cassettes. Then came DVDs, with their smaller format, their higher picture quality, and their improved data storage capacity. They didn’t even have to be rewound after the movie! And so the phrase, “Be kind— rewind” passed out of popular usage. Next, the Blu-ray arrived on the scene, and after a short battle with rival technologies, it became the top dog in the market. But what’s next? What comes after Blu-ray discs?
The King of Discs
It could be Ultra HD Blu-ray, also called 4K Blu-ray. In September of 2014, the Blu-ray Disc Association announced the impending arrival of the 4K Blu-ray disc format, which could handle 3840×2160 resolution at 60 frames per second. With an enhanced color depth of 10-bit per color, the 4K Blu-rays would also employ Rec. 2020 color space, broadening the potential color range. The Ultra HD Blu-ray logo was unveiled on May 12, 2015, with the first discs and players expected to appear on the market in December of 2015.
With the increasing popularity of 4K technology, Ultra HD Blu-ray may truly be the next big thing in the visual media market. That is, unless something bigger and better comes along.
The Queen of Archives
At first, some people thought that the new Archival Disc format would be that bigger, better technology, the format that would trump Blu-ray. After all, these discs can hold vast quantities of data, up to a terabyte. However, when Sony and Panasonic announced the 4K Archival Discs, they backed away from the possibility of home entertainment use. Instead, their plan is to reserve these discs and their incredible storage space for professional archiving purposes.
After all, the Blu-ray format and its 4K successor already have a rival— a massive one. It’s called the internet.
The Emperor of Media
It’s true that video streaming still has a few issues. The quality isn’t always what viewers prefer, and the level of clarity depends heavily on factors like internet speed, available bandwidth, hardware, and traffic volume. However, judging by the steadily growing number of viewers who stream their video content, those drawbacks are minor or temporary.
Is the 4K Blu-ray the last physical format for media? Perhaps the next big thing is not another disc. Perhaps the future lies in the improvement of data streaming, in faster internet, and in more powerful hardware. Maybe we’ll be enjoying 4K definition or higher on our supercomputers in a couple of decades. It’s not so far-fetched, really. After all, the first videotape demo happened in 1951, not even a century ago. And look at how far we’ve come.