Why Do Older Funimation DVDs Have Multi-Angle Credits?
by Justin Sevakis,
A handful of my older Funimation DVDs (“Rumbling Hearts” and the 2003 “Fullmetal Alchemist” come to mind) will show an English or Japanese logo in the opening titles based on what the selected audio language is. They accomplished this with the DVD's “angle” feature, but nobody seems to do it anymore. What happened?
Back in the early days (over a decade ago now), Funimation used to release DVDs with both the English and Japanese versions of the opening and closing sequences included, accessible as alternate angles. It was kind of a cool feature -- those who selected the dub got translated credits, while those who selected the subtitled version got a more Japanese experience. And if that wasn't what you wanted, the other version was just a button-press away.
The problem with doing this is that DVD has some major technical limitations that make multi-angles kind of a bad idea. The biggest issue is that the players themselves can't read the disc any faster than 9 Mbps -- and that has to include all of the video, audio and subtitles. Assuming the disc has stereo English and Japanese audio, that eats up at least 0.4 Mbps, leaving only 8.6 Mbps for video. Having two different angles at once brings you down to 4.3 Mbps, which simply isn't enough for a decent picture -- you have to over-compress the video. Funimation's encoding quality in general wasn't so hot in those days, so at such a low bitrate the image REALLY suffered.
The early days of DVD usually meant people watching their discs on old analog tube TVs, which were so bad at reproducing detail that poorly compressed video often went unnoticed -- DVDs were such an improvement over VHS that people were still pretty happy. But as people gradually switched to flatter TVs employing newer technology, people began to notice. And those multi-angle discs just were not looking so good.
About a decade ago, the company hired some new production staff who realized that this was a problem, and the practice was put to bed. Ever since then, Funimation only includes the English credits -- which annoys some fans who would prefer to also have the original Japanese credits -- but it's a lot better than having garbage video quality. In the years since, the company has quietly reauthored most of the old discs and reissued them. This was never an issue with Blu-ray, which came well after all of this happened.
Could the practice return? It's doubtful -- Blu-ray doesn't really support multi-angle features the way DVD did, so instead you'd have to use seamless branching to "choose" between the two formats -- they would not be switchable. It's also a huge pain in the butt, and probably not worth the trouble.
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Anime News Network founder Justin Sevakis wrote Answerman between July 2013 and August 2019, and had over 20 years of experience in the anime business at the time. These days, he's the owner of the video production company MediaOCD, where he produces many anime Blu-rays. You can follow him on Twitter at @worldofcrap.
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