High-Def Digest Talks to FUNimation About Their Blu-ray Releases

Posted Mon May 17, 2010 at 02:10 PM PDT by Mike Attebery

Anime lovers, we've got a treat for you! Read our exclusive Q&A with the FUNimation disc authoring team!

It's no secret that FUNimation is currently very active with their anime release slate, with multiple box sets arriving on the format each month, including a mix of older series already released on DVD, and a series of new iterations of classic series ('Evangelion 1.11,' 'Dragon Ball Z: Kai,' 'Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood') released day and date with their DVD counterparts. Seeing the evolution of FUNimation's product line has been an interesting ride.

Thanks to FUNimation spokesperson Jackie Smith, I was given the rare opportunity to ask the disc authoring team an assortment of questions concerning the studio's release strategy and history. The DVD authoring team has answered these questions as a group, so it was impossible to individually credit each person for their responses.

HDD: Some early FUNimation anime titles had commentary tracks hidden away in the chapter selection tab, while newer releases contain them in the extras. What caused this change?

FUNimation: This is a programming and design decision made on a case-by-case basis. Some releases will have commentary tracks accessible on episode menus, which is similar to many mass-market titles currently available.

HDD: One of the biggest complaints or issues that anime purists have had with the Blu-ray releases has concerned the audio, with the English dub tracks getting a high definition surround track, while the Japanese versions get a dolby digital (lossy) track. Can you explain or shed some light into the 5.1 vs 2.0 sound mixes, and why one receives a lossless track while the other does not?

FUNimation: The 2.0 soundtracks in the Dolby Digital format are encoded at a 640 kbps, a data-rate three times higher than the comparable DVD which provides a quality that is almost lossless. However, future Blu-ray releases will include TrueHD lossless for all soundtracks 5.1 and 2.0.

HDD: Do you personally feel there is a significant improvement from the source material when upconverting it? Is there any other option available?

FUNimation: Upconversion is a process that is applied to masters that are only available in standard definition, also referred to as 480i. The video is digitally scaled to the 1080p format used on Blu-ray. Part of the process is to restore a progressive picture from the interlaced master tape. Standard definition masters are subject to a process called pull-down (or telecine) where some frames are split so only every other line is displayed at a time. This was originally done for compatibility with television standards. Blu-ray does not have this limitation, so part of the upconversion process is to restore the complete progressive frames revealing a sharper and more complete image. The upconverted video is encoded in the MPEG-4 AVC format which is far superior to the MPEG-2 format used on DVD. This allows for little or no added distortion during the encode process which is unavoidable in DVD.

Although an upconversion does not have the same level of detail as content natively created in HD, it reveals a sharper and more accurate image that surpasses the quality of DVD.

HDD: Many of your early Blu-ray products came with the Region A locked status, though a few in recent memory have had Region A/B playability. What determines how you region code the Blu-ray discs?

FUNimation: The region codes on each Blu-ray release are determined by the territories obtained when we acquire rights to distribute any given property.

HDD: Can you shed some light into the creation of Blu-ray menus, in terms of time involved, design, and function?

FUNimation: Blu-ray menus provide an enhanced user experience over DVD by functioning interactively using animation and sound while being displayed over the video. Graphic and motion graphic designers work closely with the Blu-ray authors to create all the necessary elements for every state of every button as well as associated video menu loops, music and sound effects. All the elements are combined and programmed to respond to user commands by the Blu-ray author. Ultimately, it is the menu designer that gives a look and feel to the Blu-ray that compliments the content of the disc.

HDD: There was an issue with the ‘D. Gray-Man: Season 1, Part 1’ Blu-ray, which caused some players to play the same audio track for two different episodes. Has the cause of this issue been found, and was there a running change made to the release fixing this issue?

FUNimation: Yes, unfortunately, not all Blu-ray players operate within the same specifications and it is impossible to test our releases on every player available today. However, we are working with our manufacturer to correct these issues. If a consumer believes they have a problem with a disc they can contact our Product Concerns department which will arrange a replacement disc.

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