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It looks like Bandai have put a lot of time in and money into the imminent Akira Blu-ray, hopefully putting to rest the fears of fans worldwide that it might be yet another quick transfer. According to Blu-ray.com, although the film had a full restoration for it’s 2001 DVD release, no punches have been pulled for it’s 20th anniversary, with the focus being moved onto remastering the score and soundtrack:

It was in the planning stages for bringing AKIRA to Blu-ray, that composer Shoji Yamashiro proposed taking the format to its limits by including a 192khz/24-bit audio track that would allow viewers to experience the full warmth and detail of the original recordings. After much debate, the decision was made to move forward.

Unfortunately, there were no available studios with the ability to master at this level of fidelity, and many of their sound systems could not reliably reproduce the dynamic range of sound that Shoji Yamashiro wanted to bring to the front during the re mastering process. As a result, the soundtrack’s re-mastering was done at Mr. Yamashiro’s own studio, equipped with the best equipment available, and the original analog master tapes were brought out from storage.

Even though AKIRA had major restoration work done for the 2001 DVD release, including a 1080p theatrical quality master, advances in digital restoration and film transfer technologies have increased to the point where a brand new transfer was warranted. As with the audio, a new inter-positive was struck from the original film negative for a new scan into a digital intermediate (DI); the master computer file upon which all of the remastering work was performed.

In fact, the transfer is of such quality that apparently it pushes the BR format to some of it’s technical and storage limits:

Even at a running time of only 124 minutes, AKIRA pushes the boundaries of what can be compressed to a Blu-ray Disc. The root of this challenge lies in the 192khz/24-bit 5.1 track. Uncompressed linear PCM at this resolution needs an astonishing 28 megabits per second (mbps) of transfer rate. To give a point of reference, this is 30% greater than the video bitrate on the well- regarded Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Man’s Chest Blu-ray, and 8mbps over the maximum allowable combined audio bitrate in the Blu-ray spec. This of course, doesn’t even account for the original Dolby Surround mix (linear PCM), the English Dub (48khz/16-bit Dolby TrueHD), or the Japanese Dolby Digital tracks. For help, Bandai turned to Dolby, whose TrueHD codec is standard for their releases. The two companies worked together closely to balance the available space on a BD-50 with the needs of both the audio and video tracks. In the end, the combined load of all four audio tracks bump their head against that 20mbps ceiling, never breaking through, while still leaving plenty of room for a high quality video presentation.

Interesting and exciting news. Although worryingly I can’t seem to find a UK website right now that’s taking pre-orders – worrying because the February 24th launch date is just ten days away. In the worse-case-scenario, and a euro release is substantially delayed again, then at lease the US disc is being reported to be region-free. Either way, expect a full report when I get my hands on it.

Special thanks to my good friend Jeb for the tip-off on this one.