I think the best live example of digital composition that I’ve seen recently was on the bonus video clips from Infinite Stratos. Sentai’s BD release has one of the bonus feature in which the viewers are given an example of how it’s done in the typical 3DCG merge scene. For IS, that means flight mecha designs with 2D face and body parts plastered into the mecha.
In light of digital animation and its proliferation and increasing sophistication, this is a no-brainer category in which anime can expand, grow, explore, and create new stuff. A while ago Raito-kun mentioned this, and it makes sense:
Really, the secret star of F/Z is Yuichi Terao, the director of photography. F/Z is no ‘sakuga anime’, but a ‘satsuei anime’.
There’s a good blurb about background art in the show featuring Terao and Kim (BG artist). Click on and read it~ Some notable blurbs:
– Terao joined Ufotable in Dec 2003. At the time he was hoping to apply for a job in production, but he was instead put into the newly formed Photography Department (Digital Compositing). He knew almost nothing about animation photography back then, but now he is the head of the department and the director of photography for Fate/Zero.
– For Terao, one of the most important aspects of the show is the sky. He uses a “Type-Moon Blue” to characterize the sky in the show because it is a color that works well with Type-Moon characters, and serves as a motif in all their original artwork. He tries to bring this out in the sky backgrounds as much as possible.
– To illustrate an example of the type of sky he is talking about, he shared a reference photo he took for Garden of Sinners on the studio roof. Incidentally, the studio roof is also the reference setting for the stand off between Tokiomi and Kariya in episodes 14 and 15.
– The issue of the sky color became a bit of a problem with episode 18, when the director Suhara was adament on not using the same deep blue shade for that episode. Backgrounds had to be redone to match the image the he had in mind. But in the end, for the date scene with Shirley, Terao used digital compositing techniques to bring out that deep blue shade instead. Suhara approved of it, and that became a new technique they discovered to present scenes, having an impact on how they approached future scenes.
– The V-MAX scenes in episode 21 contained a substantial mix of both 2D art as well as CG elements, which made sequence extremely heavy on resources. It was all thanks to the solid management by Yoshida, the production runner on the episode, that they managed to complete it before it aired.
– The final thing Terao mentions is a slight climax spoiler: He says that the final [SPOILER] sequence in the big climax scene is something that features their finest line-up of both background art and digital compositing, and that everyone should look forward to it.
– Terao expands on the philosophy of Ufotable, and says what is most important for all the studio staff is that they have to think of the audience and the products they work on first and foremost. Keeping the expectations of the audience in mind is the studio’s mandate for all staff. Freedom is only what each person makes of it, because as a large production studio, complete creative freedom can be rather hard to come by.
There are some hands-on accounts from the boys and girls in the trenches of anime digital composition and photography! It is a good intro in terms of what digital composition is:
– Digital compositing is the process of combining the character cels and the background cels for animation, and occasionally 3DCG data, into an animated end product. Animation no longer uses physical cels, but the layers are still called that for familiarity. During this process, various effects and lighting adjustments are also applied for each animation cut. Things like reflections, beams of light, or weather elements like rain and snow are often all part of the digital compositing.
– Yoshikawa compares digital compositing to a woman putting on make up. the characters and backgrounds in various different cuts are like different natural faces which people have. So each situation calls for a different approach. Some people look good with heavier make up, while others are best with a lighter touch.
– Depending on the requirements of a scene, a single cut can be finished and processed in just a few minutes, or it can even take a whole day to finish. Sometimes she works on something in the morning, and before she knows it, it can be nightfall. For episode 4, the scenes with Lancer using his spear to cancel Saber’s Invisible Air required quite a lot of work.
If you’re curious about other parts of the Fate/Zero process, here’s the post about line producers at ufoble; while they have their own system, what the job these guys do seems to be the same. A shortened view of project management. Ben from Anipages has written it up in more details here if you are curious on the topic. Drilldown, you know.
And just to round it out, here are the rest of duckroll notes on Fate/Zero Ufotable interviews from Mynavi News.
- Key animators – also tells you how the promotion system works
- Suhara (Episode Director)
PS. I remember hearing from Maruyama a while ago (years?) that somehow these days there are many more girls who are getting into anime production than boys. What’s up with that? And looks like Ufotable’s 2009 class was all girls? Nice.
PPS. The scene Terao referred to in the spoiler happens, I think, in the next episode. Can’t wait until Saturday!
PPPS. Sometimes NeoGAF forums throws 500/503 errors. Just try again later if you see that.
I’ll try to copypasta the relevant bits into the post when it stops doing it for me >_>