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The BD format was developed by the Blu-ray Disc Association, a group representing makers of consumer electronics, computer hardware, and motion pictures. Sony unveiled the first Blu-ray Disc prototypes in October 2000, and the first prototype player was released in Japan in April 2003. Afterward, it continued to be developed until its official worldwide release on June 20, 2006, beginning the high-definition optical disc format war, where Blu-ray Disc competed with the HD DVD format. Toshiba, the main company supporting HD DVD, conceded in February 2008, and later released its own Blu-ray Disc player in late 2009. According to Media Research, high-definition software sales in the United States were slower in the first two years than DVD software sales. Blu-ray faces competition from video on demand (VOD) and the continued sale of DVDs. In January 2016, 44% of U.S. broadband households had a Blu-ray player. For playback of 4K content, the BDA introduced a variant of Blu-ray called Ultra HD Blu-ray.
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The first consumer device arrived in stores on April 10, 2003: the Sony BDZ-S77, a US$3,800 BD-RE recorder that was made available only in Japan. However, there was no standard for pre-recorded video, and no movies were released for this player. Hollywood studios insisted that players be equipped with digital rights management before they would release movies for the new format, and they wanted a new DRM system that would be more secure than the failed Content Scramble System (CSS) used on DVDs. On October 4, 2004, the name "Blu-ray Disc Founders" was officially changed to the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA), and 20th Century Fox joined the BDA's Board of Directors. The Blu-ray Disc physical specifications were completed in 2004.
The first BD-ROM players (Samsung BD-P1000) were shipped in mid-June 2006, though HD DVD players beat them to market by a few months. The first Blu-ray Disc titles were released on June 20, 2006: 50 First Dates, The Fifth Element, Hitch, House of Flying Daggers, Underworld: Evolution, xXx (all from Sony), and MGM's The Terminator. The earliest releases used MPEG-2 video compression, the same method used on standard DVDs. The first releases using the newer VC-1 and AVC formats were introduced in September 2006. The first movies using 50 GB dual-layer discs were introduced in October 2006. The first audio-only albums were released in May 2008.
HD DVD had a head start in the high-definition video market, as Blu-ray Disc sales were slow to gain market share. The first Blu-ray Disc player was perceived as expensive and buggy, and there were few titles available.
Blu-ray Discs cost no more to produce than DVD discs. However, reading and writing mechanisms are more complicated, making Blu-ray recorders, drives and players more expensive than their DVD counterparts. Adoption is also limited due to the widespread use of streaming media. Blu-ray Discs are used to distribute PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X games, and the aforementioned game consoles can play back regular Blu-ray Discs.
Behind closed doors at CES 2007, Ritek revealed that it had successfully developed a high-definition optical disc process that extended the disc capacity to ten layers, increasing the capacity of the discs to 250 GB. However, it noted the major obstacle was that current read/write technology did not allow additional layers. JVC developed a three-layer technology that allows putting both standard-definition DVD data and HD data on a BD/(standard) DVD combination. This would have enabled the consumer to purchase a disc that can be played on DVD players and can also reveal its HD version when played on a BD player. Japanese optical disc manufacturer Infinity announced the first "hybrid" Blu-ray Disc/(standard) DVD combo, to be released February 18, 2009. This disc set of the TV series "Code Blue" featured four hybrid discs containing a single Blu-ray Disc layer (25 GB) and two DVD layers (9 GB) on the same side of the disc.
At CES 2009, Panasonic unveiled the DMP-B15, the first portable Blu-ray Disc player, and Sharp introduced the LC-BD60U and LC-BD80U series, the first LCD HDTVs with integrated Blu-ray Disc players. Sharp also announced that it would sell HDTVs with integrated Blu-ray Disc recorders in the United States by the end of 2009. Set-top box recorders were not being sold in the U.S. for fear of unauthorized copying. However, personal computers with Blu-ray recorder drives were available. In October 2009, TDK demonstrated a 10-layer 320 GB Blu-ray Disc. On January 1, 2010, Sony, in association with Panasonic, announced plans to increase the storage capacity on their Blu-ray Discs from 25 GB to 33.4 GB via a technology called i-MLSE (Maximum likelihood Sequence Estimation). The higher-capacity discs, according to Sony, would be readable on existing Blu-ray Disc players with a firmware upgrade. This technology was later used on BDXL discs.
On January 7, 2013, Sony announced that it would release "Mastered in 4K" Blu-ray Disc titles sourced at 4K and encoded at 1080p. "Mastered in 4K" Blu-ray Disc titles can be played on existing Blu-ray Disc players and have a larger color space using xvYCC. On January 14, 2013, Blu-ray Disc Association president Andy Parsons stated that a task force was created three months prior to conduct a study concerning an extension to the Blu-ray Disc specification that would add the ability to contain 4K Ultra HD video.
On August 5, 2015, the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA) announced it would commence licensing the Ultra HD Blu-ray format starting on August 24, 2015. The Ultra HD Blu-ray format delivered high dynamic range content that significantly expanded the range between the brightest and darkest elements, expanded color range, high frame rate (up to 60fps) and up to 38402160 resolution, object-based sound formats, and an optional "digital bridge" feature. New players were required to play this format, which were able to play both DVDs, traditional Blu-rays and the new format. New Ultra HD Blu-ray Discs hold up to 66 GB and 100 GB of data on dual- and triple-layer discs, respectively.
Usage of BD9 for releasing content on "pressed" discs never caught on. With the end of the format war, manufacturers ramped production of Blu-ray Discs and lowered prices to compete with DVDs. On the other hand, the idea of using inexpensive DVD media became popular among individual users. A lower-capacity version of this format that uses single-layer 4.7 GB DVDs has been unofficially called BD5. Both formats are being used by individuals for recording high-definition content in Blu-ray format onto recordable DVD media. Despite the fact that the BD9 format has been adopted as part of the BD-ROM basic format, none of the existing Blu-ray player models explicitly claim to be able to read it. Consequently, the discs recorded in BD9 and BD5 formats are not guaranteed to play on standard Blu-ray Disc players. AVCHD and AVCREC also use inexpensive media like DVDs, but unlike BD9 and BD5 these formats have limited interactivity, codec types, and data rates. As of March 2011, BD9 was removed as an official BD-ROM disc.
The BDXL format allows 100 GB and 128 GB write-once discs, and 100 GB rewritable discs for commercial applications. The BDXL specification was finalised in June 2010. BD-R 3.0 Format Specification (BDXL) defined a multi-layered disc recordable in BDAV format with the speed of 2 and 4, capable of 100/128 GB and usage of UDF2.5/2.6. BD-RE 4.0 Format Specification (BDXL) defined a multi-layered disc rewritable in BDAV with the speed of 2 and 4, capable of 100 GB and usage of UDF2.5 as file system. Although the 66 GB and 100 GB BD-ROM discs used for Ultra HD Blu-ray use the same linear density as BDXL, the two formats are not compatible with each other, therefore it is not possible to use a triple layer BDXL disc to burn an Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc playable in an Ultra HD Blu-ray player, although standard 50GB BD-R DL discs can be burned in the Ultra HD format.
The BD-ROM specification mandates certain codec compatibilities for both hardware decoders (players) and movie software (content). Windows Media Player does not come with the codecs required to play Blu-ray Discs.
Originally, BD-ROMs stored video up to 19201080 pixel resolution at up to 60 (59.94) fields per second. Currently, with UHD BD-ROM, videos can be stored at a maximum of 38402160 pixel resolution at up to 60 (59.94) frames per second, progressively scanned. While most current Blu-ray players and recorders can read and write 19201080 video at the full 59.94p and 50p progressive format, new players for the UHD specifications will be able to read at 38402160 video at either 59.94p and 50p formats.
For video, all players are required to process H.262/MPEG-2 Part 2, H.264/MPEG-4 Part 10: AVC, and SMPTE VC-1. BD-ROM titles with video must store video using one of the three mandatory formats; multiple formats on a single title are allowed. Blu-ray Disc allows video with a bit depth of 8-bits per color YCbCr with 4:2:0 chroma subsampling. The choice of formats affects the producer's licensing/royalty costs as well as the title's maximum run time, due to differences in compression efficiency. Discs encoded in MPEG-2 video typically limit content producers to around two hours of high-definition content on a single-layer (25 GB) BD-ROM. The more-advanced video formats (VC-1 and MPEG-4 AVC) typically achieve a video run time twice that of MPEG-2, with comparable quality. MPEG-2, however, does have the advantage that it is available without licensing costs, as all MPEG-2 patents have expired.
For audio, BD-ROM players are required to implement Dolby Digital (AC-3), DTS, and linear PCM. Players may optionally implement Dolby Digital Plus and DTS-HD High Resolution Audio as well as lossless 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound formats Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. BD-ROM titles must use one of the mandatory schemes for the primary soundtrack. A secondary audiotrack, if present, may use any of the mandatory or optional codecs.