Power Mac G5s Behind 4K DVD Restoration

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The DVD industry is currently driven as much by bringing old movies to the digital age as it is by selling the latest blockbusters. This is especially true of classic movies that have been restored from old, faded, and sometimes damaged film stock to look like new. Gene Kellyis Singing in the Rain (US$22.13 from Amazon), for instance, recently underwent restoration, and the comparison to its previous VHS release is simply incredible. Real colors, or at least real Technicolors, more detail, no scratches...It is changes like this that are selling many a DVD.

A New York Times article tells us that a bank of Power Mac G5s is behind some new movie restoration projects, including some new restorations using a technique called 4K scanning. 4K scanning uses 4,000 lines of scanning per frame of film, almost 4 times todayis High Definition format, to offer details and quality that are said to be as good as film. John Lowry of Lowry Digital is working on some 4K restoration projects (he also did the above-mentioned Singing in the Rain restoration), and he uses a bank of 600 Power Mac G5s, along with some 2.34 Terabytes of RAM, to help him do it.

Since last November, he has been immersed in a project that promises to advance the state of the art -- and that has been kept secret, even among most industry insiders, until now.

What he is doing will make a DVD look nearly as sharp and detailed as a 35-millimeter film print. It will produce images with six times the resolution of todayis high-definition television sets. In video quality, it could turn home theater into a true rival of the neighborhood cineplex.

Walk into the suites of Lowry Digital, the company that Mr. Lowry started six years ago, and the first sight that strikes you is the computer bank -- rack after rack of Macintosh G5 computers, 600 of them, holding a combined memory of 2,400 gigabytes.

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Studios frequently use 4K scanners for computer animation and special effects, but few have even considered 4K-scanning of entire movies for DVD. Itis an expensive operation. An Imagica scanner costs about $300,000. The G5 computers cost $3,000 apiece. The software, servers and so forth arenit cheap either. All told, mastering a DVD in 4K costs two to four times as much as doing it the usual ways.

The attraction of going this route is that it produces not just better-looking DVDis for now but a foundation for formats of the future.

The full article has detailed on information on exactly what 4K scanning is and why it offers a better image, even on todayis TVs. There is also information on some of the projects that Lowry Digital is working on, and other related issues. Note that the article is two pages long, and we recommend it as a very interesting read.

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