Saturday, 23 March 2013

First Ultra HD player for the home goes on sale

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The company behind the Ultra HD/4K cameras responsible for the likes of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Spider-Man and House of Cards has launched the world's first Ultra HD capable machine for the home – and there's not a disc drive in sight.

Promising a BBC iPlayer-on-iPad style download service, the Redray 4k Cinema Player goes on sale this month for around £950 to become the first commercially available Ultra HD source. It could effectively see the end of both Blu-ray and even the whole idea of the shiny disc itself.

"If you go around and ask people who are touching the industry – like we are and all the consumer electronics companies – they would probably concur with me that there's not a lot of viability for physical media anymore," says Ted Schilowitz, 'leader of the rebellion' at Red Digital Cinema and evangelist for all things 4k, though he admits that Blu-ray might not be dead just yet.

"Whether the companies that still live in that world choose to put their last hurrah out in 4k is yet to be determined."

Banking on downloads

Not that Red is banking on downloads for the Redray, which can also read Ultra HD files – in the MP4 format – from both USB drives and SD Cards. It can also upscale from SD and HD to Ultra HD.

The Blu-ray Disc Association has yet to ratify a new specification for Ultra HD – also known as 4K – but even if it did, manufacturers would then have to sell a third generation of Blu-ray player. After poor sales of 3D Blu-ray players, that seems unlikely.

Red's download service is due to start this month with Odemax as the only confirmed content provider, though Schilowitz confirmed to TechRadar that Red is in talks with the 'usual suspects' to offer Ultra HD versions of major studio releases alongside independent films and remasters of classics.

"There are lots of veins of 4K content," says Schilowitz. "All will have a place on this platform."

Schilowitz couldn't confirm which companies Red is talking to, but the current suppliers of movie downloads – such as Netflix, Amazon and Apple – could be involved. Netflix showed-off 4K streaming on Samsung's stand at CES 2013, though that was using the new HEVC format.

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