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Editorial: Email Round-up

By Chris Beveridge     December 31, 1998

This month, we're going to do a bit of a mailbag session and see if we can answer a few of the more common questions popping up out there (almost makes me wonder if we need a FAQ around here...)

First off, lets get into the technical side a bit. I've been asked a lot, both in email and on the forum, why we aren't seeing any 16:9 for the few theatrical titles out there (There are a few though, from Pioneer and Manga) as well as 5.1 soundtracks. Take a look at these specs first off:

  • A new film print: $25,000 to $100,000 (depending on 16x9, restoration work that needs to be done, etc.)

  • A telecine (film to D1 tape) transfer: $10,000-$50,000 (depending on how involved the filmmakers are...they can take their time and then it can cost quite a lot).

  • Compression/encoding (for 1 video stream, 1 subtitle, 1 audio track): $100 per minute

  • Additional soundtrack and subtitle: $10-$20 per minute

  • A commentary track: $5,000 to produce (before encoding at above figure)

  • Menu design: $1,000 to $5,000 (depending on complexity)

    Now, apply those kinds of numbers to the anime companies, and I think most will understand, especially with the smaller numbers being sold. When you think that even such large companies as Fox and Paramount don't do 16:9 for the majority of their titles, it makes even more sense for smaller companies not to. Anime also has the "problem" of the majority of shows brought over being either TV series or OVA's, which you cannot apply a 16:9 transfer to. 16:9 is to make a widescreen presentation to fill out sets that can handle it, like the new HDTV standard. Theatrical presentations though, anything presented above 1.66:1, can be done in 16:9 to fill the entire screen.

    So yes, there are some shows that could benefit from a 16:9 presentation. Not only does it mean the title would get a brand new transfer, but it's more future-proof. But as stated, there are few movies currently on DVD from anime and few companies can afford the high cost of doing it.

    The audio I waver a bit more on. I wish more companies would make the extra expensive of doing a solid true Dolby Digital remix of the soundtrack. The recent release of Night Warriors OVA shows that OVA's can benefit very well from these mixes. The question remains though, of how many OVA's currently being released and in production in Japan actually use the Dolby Digital. I hope more start doing it.

    To close out this section, I want to direct you to the source I got for the numbers, Pete Bracke's most excellent DVD File site. Be sure to visit this section in particular if you want to learn more about how the master/authoring process works and costs. It is VERY enlightening.

    Fushigi Yugi: I've seen lots of questions about the validity of the tentative release for this show. If the dates for the VHS release are accurate on the provided Studio Pierrot site, the fourth volume which contains up to episode 13 will be out on 3/30/1999. With that being what's planned for the Fushigi Box 1, I'd estimate we'd see the box set about a month to six weeks after that. While I would love to see Pioneer return to their original release schedule they had for laserdisc (LD and VHS day and date, with VHS sometimes lagging behind), I think this is more than acceptable for a box set release. It unfortunately just means I have to ignore newsgroup threads for a few more months. Several months ago, we ran polls on what people would rather see, and it was pretty much dead even for box sets vs. monthly releases. Pioneer seems to be giving us both, with Fushigi this way, and Tenchi monthly. An test of the market, perhaps. But so far, fans seem to be most eager for box sets, with Bubblegum Crisis and Record of Lodoss War being the obvious choices. Pioneer may be reflecting that those are catalog releases, and a lot of people already know what to expect. To do this with new releases may get less people to purchase in the end, due to the higher cost. This is something the CPM may run afoul of next year with Utena being that way, and to a lesser extent Arslan.

    Bubblegum Crisis: As I noted in the forum yesterday, I'm not bringing myself too deep into the discussions (and I thank you all very much for being civil about it, it only helps) about the problems affecting some people while not others. The one thing I've seen mentioned a lot over the past week is people referencing the wonderful customer service of Manga for fixing and replacing copies of Ninja Scroll. One thing I would like to bring to the attention of these people is that Ninja Scroll was released around May 19th.... and the fix didn't start showing up until October 5th or so. And there are still many copies of the Version 1 floating around in stores and retailers on the net. M2K indicates that a 1.1 release will be in the works in the near future (and a note that by the end of this month we'll see a page on their site about the keepcase version upgrade) that while pressure should continue to be applied, it needs to be applied properly.

    Curiously, I've seen little comment about the Anime 18 titles coming from Central Park Media... either I'm the only one looking forward to them or the rest of you are just trying to not bring attention to yourselves over looking forward to them. It'll be fun trying to properly review those discs...

    And on that fun little note, I'll sign off on the last editorial for 1998 from me on Anime on DVD. Here's looking towards a bigger and better 1999!

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