First of all, no doubt many of you will recall that Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 director James Gunn revealed, in a recent interview, that he was pushing hard for Disney to finally join the 4K format this year with Guardians, Vol. 2 as their first title. We covered that here on The Bits back on 4/28.
Second, our own industry sources – including those from the various hardware manufacturers – have been telling us for a while that Disney was waiting to join 4K until Dolby Vision HDR support was more widespread in both 4K players and displays in the hands of consumers. At CES in January (see our report here), a number of major manufacturers committed to supporting Dolby Vision in their 2017 hardware line-ups, and indeed that hardware has now begin to arrive at retail (see our reporting here, and more on this in a minute).
Third, a few days ago, some users of Disney Movies Anywhere, a digital service that mirrors the UltraViolet program used by the other studios, discovered that many of their digital movies had suddenly been downgraded to standard definition. The titles that were affected seemed completely random. So our own Jeff Kleist, himself a frequent user of the service, began placing calls to the various services like VUDU, iTunes, Amazon, and Microsoft (that support Disney’s program) to find out what was going on, as Disney’s own helpline had closed for the night. While most of them simply acknowledged the problem and that they were working on it, one technician admitted to Jeff that the problem was caused by a format “reclassification” of certain movies, and that a fix would be coming soon. When Jeff asked if this meant that 4K format options were being added to the system, the technician was apparently less than convincing in feigning ignorance.
Finally, several of our retail sources are now reporting that they’ve been told to expect 4K title solicitations from Disney to begin, likely in the 3rd Quarter of this year, beginning with Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2. One of Australia’s major home video retailers, Sanity, recently listed Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 as streeting on 4K UHD on 8/23. In addition, in the last 24 hours, Best Buy Canada briefly listed Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 as “coming soon” to 4K UHD, but that listing was quickly pulled.
All of this suggests that the gears are turning at Disney and that the studio is finally moving to adopt the 4K format in the months ahead. We would expect to receive confirmation on this when the studio finally officially announces the home video release of Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 in the coming weeks. So stay tuned on this front.
While we’re talking 4K UHD today, we’ve also now begun to hear from international retail sources that Warner Bros. will be releasing Ridley Scott’s original Blade Runner on 4K Ultra HD later this year, as we’ve been saying for several month now, probably at the same time Blade Runner: 2049 arrives on BD and 4K. As you know, 2017 marks the film’s 35th anniversary. In addition to these reports, Amazon France has now listed the title as coming soon on the format with no street date given. Sources suggest that the release is expected to include at least Blade Runner: The Final Cut (see our review here) in 4K UHD format, with all 3 legacy audio commentary tracks (one with director Ridley Scott, one with Hampton Fancher, David Peoples, Michael Deeley, and Katherine Haber, and one with Syd Mead, Lawrence G. Paul, David L. Snyder, and Douglas Trumbull, Richard Yuricich, and David Dryer) as well as Charles de Lauzirika’s outstanding Dangerous Days: The Making of Blade Runner 214-minute documentary, presented for the first time in full HD on regular Blu-ray. (We would certainly expect a regular Blu-ray “refresh” of the title for the anniversary as well, for those aren’t 4K consumers.)
International retail sources are also confirming the planned 4K UHD release of Warner’s Wonder Woman this year, along with Blade Runner: 2049, Dunkirk, and King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. Universal’s The Mummy (2017), Van Helsing (2004), and Dracula Untold (2014), Fox’s Alien: Covenant and Prometheus, and Sony’s The Bridge on the River Kwai and Bram Stoker’s Dracula are also expected on the format this year, among other titles.
Do keep in mind that all of the above comes from retail and industry sources, all well-placed but some speaking off the record. None of it is official and none of it is to be considered official until the studios in question actually make their respective title announcements. It’s important to note that, for those of you who many not be familiar with the way the home video industry works.
Finally today, we mentioned that more hardware is starting to appear with Dolby Vision HDR support. Oppo Digital has just announced that its Dolby Vision firmware update for the UDP-203 and UDP-205 4K Players is now available. (For the record, the Main Version firmware number for this update is UDP20X-45-0605, dated yesterday, 6/6 – see details here.– see details here.) You can download the files from the Oppo website (see this link) and here (see this link) or simply update your player’s firmware via the player itself through its own network connection. The first 4K titles with Dolby Vision arrived in stores yesterday – Universal’s Despicable Me and Despicable Me 2. Here’s Oppo’s official statement from their press release:
“MENLO PARK, California – June 6, 2017 – OPPO Digital announced that its UDP-203/UDP-205 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc players can now receive a firmware upgrade that enables the Dolby Vision™ feature. Initially released in December 2016 and April 2017 respectively, the OPPO UDP-203 and UDP-205 have won numerous awards and have earned enthusiastic reviews from consumer and industry publications for their excellent picture quality. This new firmware makes the OPPO UDP-203 and UDP-205 the first Blu-ray Disc players to support Dolby Vision, elevating the players to a whole new level of video performance.
Leveraging the HDR innovation that powers Dolby's most advanced cinemas around the world, Dolby Vision transforms the home theater experience by delivering greater brightness and contrast, as well as a fuller palette of rich colors. Dolby's deep expertise in bringing advanced technologies from the cinema to the home has led to distinct features that enable Dolby Vision to deliver extraordinary viewing experiences to home consumers. Dolby Vision is the preferred HDR mastering workflow for major studios and a growing number of creative professionals, so consumers will have access to more of what they want to watch in HDR, including a robust portfolio of movies and episodic content. Dolby today delivers spectacular experiences in broadcast, gaming, music, and other genres, and this expertise serves as the foundation that will enable Dolby Vision to drive the future of entertainment tomorrow.
The OPPO UDP-203 and UDP-205 support the playback of 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Discs as well as regular Blu-ray and DVD. Packing a resolution of up to 3840 x 2160 pixels, UHD Blu-ray delivers four times the pixels of regular Blu-ray. Prior to the Dolby Vision upgrade, the UDP-203/205 already supported HDR10 (High Dynamic Range) and Wide Color Gamut. With the addition of Dolby Vision, the players further transform the home theater experience by delivering striking highlights, brilliant colors, and deep darks never before seen on standard television screens.
“The addition of the OPPO Blu-ray player to the Dolby Vision ecosystem is a major milestone that will provide expanded choice and accessibility for consumers,” said Roland Vlaicu, Vice President, Consumer Entertainment Group, Dolby Laboratories. “With Ultra HD Blu-ray, we are able to scale faster to meet the growing demand for Dolby Vision content globally.”
“Delivering reference picture quality and a premium viewing experience has always been the core mission of OPPO’s disc player products. We are thrilled to work with Dolby to incorporate Dolby Vision into our UHD disc players,” said Jason Liao, CTO of OPPO Digital. “The home theater experience is even more lifelike and engaging with the astonishing brightness, contrast, and color provided by Dolby Vision.”
The firmware upgrade that enables Dolby Vision is ready for installation on the OPPO UDP-203 and UDP-205 models. Customers who already have an Internet connection set up for their players can directly upgrade by answering the player’s prompt on their TV screen, or from the player’s setup menu. Customers who do not connect their players to the Internet can visit OPPO Digital’s web site and download the firmware file or request a firmware CD. The UDP-203 and UDP-205 are also available for purchase at OPPO Digital’s web site and from OPPO’s authorized retailers and custom installers.”
All right, that’s enough for today. We’ll be back tomorrow with more. Stay tuned…
- Bill Hunt