MI6 previews the forthcoming James Bond Ultimate Edition DVDs with a look at the digital restoration process and new features...

James Bond 007 Ultimate Edition DVD Preview
22nd June 2006

James Bond DVDs have never been lacking in features. In fact, many of them come with so many extras you'd think Q Branch had equipped them. The most recent Bond films (from License to Kill onwards) have also been blessed with crisp picture and 5.1 digital surround sound. The older films, however, have been less than perfect in those departments, even though picture and sound were transferred using the best available facilities, and every effort was made to make the extras as comprehensive as possible.

Since the release of the James Bond Collection as Special Editions, DVD and home theatre ownership have exploded worldwide. By the end of the year, DVD player penetration will have increased by 36 million (a 67% increase) in the US, while in Western Europe 56 million households will have joined the DVD club - a staggering 96% increase. The same period has seen a 30% increase in home theatre ownership in the US, up to 48% of all households, with comparable increases across key European territories.

With recent research showing that surround sound is a major contributing factor in DVD purchasing among home theatre owners, it was high time to revisit James Bond, giving all 20 films the treatment fans deserved - if not demanded.
Above: Packaging and collectors attache case for the Region 2 release.

Not to disappoint, MGM has spent the past two and a half years undertaking a full picture restoration and digital 5.1 surround mix on all 20 of the Bond films, under the expert supervision of film restorer John Lowry, founder of Lowry Digital Images (now DTS Images); the digital sound pioneers at DTS; and John Cork, who has either unearthed or created the most comprehensive extras ever seen on a Bond DVD, past or present.

With the best ever picture, the best ever sound, and never before seen footage, it's no wonder they call it The James Bond Ultimate DVD Collection.


Ultimate Picture
Scrutinizing 42 miles of film. Digitally removing 37 million pieces of dirt, and 74,000 'hairs in the gate'. It's not a job that would suit everyone. But John Lowry, former NASA film restorer and founder of Lowry Digital Images, was in his element restoring the James Bond films for the Ultimate DVD Collection, a two and a half year process requiring 600 Apple computers with a combined storage capacity of 700 terabytes (700 million megabytes). "This is true frame-by-frame digital restoration," says Lowry. "And when you have 42 miles of film, there's a lot of film to clean up."

DVDs commonly have a resolution of 720 pixels across and 576 high, making a total of 414,720 pixels. Lowry scanned the films at a resolution of 4000 pixels across by 3000 pixels high, for a total of 1.2 million pixels - almost three times the resolution of a normal DVD, "so there's a lot more information, which means that from these new scans you can make fabulous images." Each frame, Lowry adds, is 45 megabytes - so don't expect to fit much of a movie on a top-of-the-range iPod.

"We use information from many frames to create each new image. The grain noise is random from one image to the next, but we correlate the picture elements from frame to frame so we reduce the noise while extracting the finest detail from the images." The net result, he explains, is that the grain is reduced to a level that is consistent throughout the movie, and consistent with what a new movie would be today, so pictures are sharper than ever before. "The other challenge is repairing the damage frame by frame," he adds. "There are scratches and digs in the film which we're able to fix, [so] they're cleaner than the day they were shot."

Painstaking restoration like this is only possible using Lowry's computers, which have been taught to recognise the difference between dirt and detail, a process which is simpler than it sounds. "A piece of dirt is in one frame," Lowry explains, "but it's not there in the prior frame and it's not in the next frame, whereas a piece of fine detail is probably there in several frames." For all the processing power at Lowry's disposal, however, the human factor is key. "It takes the expert eye to look at those pictures and say 'Ah, there it is.' Our major objective is to be true to what the original director or cinematographer wanted in the first place, so we used various people at MGM and Eon. There have been a lot of eyes looking at it to say 'Yes, this is right.' We work towards this pristine goal, and if anyone can find a piece of dirt in one of these films I wish they'd drop me a note!"

Above: Confirmed packaging for the Ultimate Edition "monster box" release (UK)
Ultimate Edition "Monster Box" Pre-Order (Amazon UK)

Ultimate Sounds
DTS Digital Surround® is based on a technology known as 'coherent acoustics,' a digital coding system that was designed with the primary goal of significantly improving the quality of audio reproduction.


"In the cinema, the audio you hear is multi-channel, not simply stereo," explains Molly Kronberg, who is responsible for DTS' content. "Therefore, you hear sound coming from all around you, as well as the boom of the bass during scenes that require low frequency effects (LFE) - such as an explosion. DTS brings that cinema experience into your home by delivering master audio tracks that more closely match the original master recording than other digitally encoded soundtracks. The audience will hear details they've never noticed before because the soundtrack was relegated to two channels in the past, and now the film mixers can open up the soundstage and uncover facets that were buried or masked."

Thus, she explains, even the most die-hard Bond fans will feel like they are hearing the films for the first time with sound veil lifted. "Many of these titles have only been available in mono or stereo, and now they are newly remastered, with the audio tracks cleaned up and available in glorious 5.1 surround sound with DTS as the sound format for the very first time. The audio experience will be much richer with more detail, and seem very alive compared to the old mono and stereo tracks."

Ultimate Extras
"Our job was to produce the special features," said John Cork. "That meant tracking down never-before-seen or extremely rare footage, creating in some cases new documentaries, [and] supervising the locating of original material shot for the films like deleted scenes or alternate angle versions of some scenes." Cork worked closely with the producers, directors and others to present this material in the best possible way for viewers, while still trying to give this 'de-archived' material a feeling of immediacy. "The things that were most amazing to me were the things I didn't know existed," he says. "We found interviews that have never been seen since they were first broadcast of all five of the previous Bond actors. We found deleted scenes and other never-before-seen material from twelve of the Bond films. We even found footage of Roger Moore playing James Bond in a TV skit from 1964!"

In addition, Cork landed another considerable coup: having Sir Roger Moore record commentaries for all seven of his Bond films. "He didn't do a shot-by-shot commentary, which so often can be somewhat boring," he says, "but he really used it as a forum to tell stories from the entire span of his career, to talk about his experiences as an actor in England and Hollywood, and, of course, to talk about Bond in a way that I think is more intimate than he has ever done before." In all, Cork delivered 200 new pieces across the 20 Ultimate Edition DVDs.


Technical Features

  • Breakthrough Digital Process
  • Best Sound and Picture
    Revolution in DVD
  • Ultimate Picture and Sound
  • Frame by Frame Digital Restoration
  • Newly Remastered Picture
    DTS 5.1 Surround

Special Content

  • More From the Bond Archives
  • Never Before Seen Footage
  • Top Secret Files
  • The Bond Women
  • Mission Dossiers
  • Exotic Locations
  • Image Database
  • Screen Tests
  • Q Branch

Even the menus have been revamped with Cork's assistance. "MGM asked us to help create a new way to find favourite moments in the films," he explains. "This section is called the Mission Control. Here you can quickly select from great moments with actresses, villains, look for gadgets, find key action moments." In other words, a way to search a Bond film the same way everyone talks about them. "We also hid an extra in there under the title: Exotic Locations. All Bond films are set in amazing locations, so we created a montage of these shots and had Maud Adams and Samantha Bond come in and create narration explaining where the films were shot, the back-story behind the locations, and other little-known facts."

As a fan, Cork is also excited about the prospect of the best ever picture and sound to be found on The James Bond Ultimate DVD Collection. "This is the way these films were meant to be seen and heard," he enthuses. "The amazing new picture... it's like nothing you've ever seen before. Plus the best sound ever heard on a Bond film. I haven't had the chance to go through all the 5.1 surround mixes, but what I've heard has my heart racing."

Pre-Order Now
Amazon UK are taking pre-orders for the release of the Ultimate Edition DVDs on July 17th at a reduced price of only £12.74 for each two-disc title. The complete "monster box" of all 20 titles is also available to pre-order for only £209.99 (£10.50 per film).

Dr No
You Only Live Twice
Diamonds Are Forever
The Man With The Golden Gun
The Living Daylights
The World Is Not Enough

From Russia With Love
On Her Majesty's Secret Service
Live And Let Die
The Spy Who Loved Me
For Your Eyes Only
A View To A Kill
Licence To Kill
Tomorrow Never Dies
Die Another Day

MI6 DVD Coverage