Macs have been instrumental in breathing new life into classic English spy James Bond.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has announced the July 17 release of the James Bond Ultimate Edition DVD Collection - and this time the infamous secret service spy isn't just licensed to kill, he's also licensed to Mac.

Unseen footage, better quality with 5:1 surround

The collection - which took over two and a half years to put together - includes digitally enhanced versions of all the James Bond movies; sound and images look sharper and sound better than ever before thanks to new 5:1 surround sound.

All twenty James Bond movies are available as part of this collection, from 1962's 'Dr No' to 2002's 'Die Another Day'.

The videos also offer a vast range of meticulously researched archive material, including host of never-before-seen interviews and on-set footage.

There's even a rarely seen clip showing the riot that took place in Soho outside the premiere of the first ever film, during which a police officer was knocked through a glass window.

The bonus footage was assembled by Ian Fleming Foundation founder and world-renowned Bond expert John Cork, who explains: "We found interviews that have never been seen since they were first broadcast, of all five Bonds," adding: "We even found footage of Roger Moore playing Bond in a 1964 TV skit!"

Reliable Macs rule the roost

For Mac users, the story grows even more interesting, as the images and sound were remastered by DTS Digital Images (once Lowry Digital Images) using a huge installation of 600 Power Mac G5s.

The project needed that kind of horsepower, explained DTS Images vice president of strategy and marketing, Mike Inchalik, who stressed: "Certainly, the Mac is the only computer that's touched this project."

Inchalik, who used PCs extensively in his previous career at Eastman Kodak, stressed that his company is very happy with how reliable Macs are: "Historically, when I joined the company it had about 200 Power Mac G4s. It was refreshing how reliable they were," he explained.

Fan failure turned out to be the biggest technical problem in the G4's, he said, adding, "with the Power Mac G5 we have six fans. It's a different world, but we are still thrilled with how reliable they are."

Amazing stats

Reliability matters: DTS had to check an astonishing 42-miles of film as part of the project. The company had to digitally remove a mind-boggling 37 million pieces of dirt and 74,000 hairs before it even began to touch-up the colour, so that even the oldest Bond movies now look as fresh as if they had been made this year.

The company deployed 700 Terabytes of storage to support the project. Company founder John Lowry explained: "This is true frame-by-frame digital restoration. When you have 42 miles of film, there's a lot to clean up."

The project team also worked to a higher resolution than DVDs support, offering a route forward to release the digitised classics on other formats in future. The film was scanned at a resolution of 4,000 x 3,000 pixels, in contrast with the 720 x
576 pixel resolution of DVDs. This meant that each frame of each movie weighed in at 45MB.

How do they do it?

Lowry explained the laborious, time-intensive process: "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."

This reduces movie grain to a consistent level across the movie, making for a sharper image in the digitally restored film.

Inchalik (who led the team that designed Kodak's very first digital film scanner in the 1970s), explained why his company chose Macs - and cost of ownership is critical.

"Apple is our defacto solution," he said. "Costs of ownership include repair, power and heat demands. Power is a big issue for us, as we are based in South California. We basically look at how many gigaflops of computing performance we get per operating dollar."

Apple needs to remain focused on the same matter to retain these large-scale Mac deployments, he warned: "Power Mac G5s remain at the top of that heap, but it may not be easy for them to stay there," he said.

iPod enhancements are possible

He also hinted that the kind of technology DTS uses to enhance movies for better-quality DVDs and HD output could also be used to serve the emerging portable video industry.

"It's interesting. On the one hand the industry is looking at how it can ensure the highest quality viewing experience on new formats like HD, but it is also looking at delivering the best possible experience on small screens - iPods and mobile phones, for example, which is a whole different game," he observed.

"There are things we can do to make for a better quality viewing experience on iPods," he said.