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Classic James Bond films getting a digital make-over ready for new DVDs in October 2005

19-Apr-2004 • Bond News

Following the leaks about the spruced up audio the classic James Bond films will be enjoying in the new wave of 007 DVDs due out in October 2005, the first details of their visual face-lifts has come to light.

Lowry Digital, a Burbank company John Lowry started six years ago, has rack after rack after rack of Macintosh G5 computers, 600 of them, holding a combined memory of 2,400 gigabytes, reports the New York Times.

The Imagica machines are ultra-sophisticated digital film-scanners. They are loaded with reels from the original negative of the 1967 James Bond movie "You Only Live Twice."

The spools advance slowly, one frame every four seconds, which is how long it takes the Imagica to scan across a frame 4,000 times - a process known as 4K scanning.

During the scan, the machine creates a digital replica of the frame, consisting of 4,000 horizontal lines of data. A cable then transmits this data to a hard-drive server in an adjoining room.

To put the magnitude of 4,000 lines in perspective, a television displays broadcast signals as 480 lines. High-definition televisions have up to 1,080 lines. (The greater number of lines, the more detailed the image — the more closely it resembles a seamless, lifelike picture.) Impressive as HDTV looks, 35-millimeter film has far more color and detail. Engineers calculate that 4,000 lines of data would be needed to reproduce all the visual information in a frame of film — exactly as many lines as the Imagica delivers.

So, if it scans an original camera negative, as it`s doing with "You Only Live Twice," it creates a data file that`s a virtual duplicate of the negative.

By contrast, most DVD`s these days - good as many look - begin with a compromise: they`re scanned at just 1,080 lines, at most 2,000 (sometimes as few as 480), and the source is almost always not the original negative but a copy. When you start with a copy, Mr. Lowry said, "you`re immediately losing lots of details. Colors are less pure, too."

In other words, a DVD that`s scanned at 4K from an original negative should look better than the best DVD`s today. That`s the theory, anyway.

MGM has hired Lowry Digital to make 4K digital masters of nine James Bond films, including all of those starring Sean Connery.

MGM executives decline to say when they`ll be releasing these Bond DVD`s - or anything else about the project, except to confirm that it exists.

MI6 revealed in January that these discs wil be hitting stores in October 2005.

Click here to read more about the 2005 DVD project.

Thanks to Barracuda for the alert.

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