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  • Today, anime is a digital medium. Every year we have projects that push the boundaries

  • of computer animation. But it wasn't always computerised and the adoption of digital animation

  • hasn't been a smooth one. Because of the colossal increase in the quantity of anime

  • after the introduction of digital animation, we have a skewed perspective on how recent

  • its implementation was. Chances are, your favourite anime shows were created in the

  • digital era, but it's introduction and normalisation isn't as far in the past as you might think,

  • and there's a lot of misconceptions. Relative to the lifespan medium, digital animation

  • is still a new and unexplored technology. There are a number of events that trigger

  • the digitalization of the medium, and some of my favourite works coincide with these

  • periods. In this video, i'm going to explore when anime turned digital and how it has shaped

  • the medium today. The benefits and the damages.

  • Now you might date the start of digital animation in anime to the early 2000s where most studio

  • first implemented computer suits, or you might even date it back to the 90s were a number

  • of movies used pioneering digital techniques. But digital animation actually has its roots

  • in the early 80s, 1983 to be exact. This is a special year for two milestones.

  • Firstly, Kojika Monogatari or The Yearling, a world masterpiece theater series composited

  • a whole episode inside a computer and added various digital effects like beams of light

  • from the sun. Although it maintained a predominantly traditional aesthetic, without any prior knowledge,

  • you could watch the series and not even notice any digital input. The second and far more

  • obvious milestone was in Osamu Dezaki's Golgo 13 film. He used digital animation to

  • create the film's opening sequence and helped with shots of a helicopter in an action scene

  • towards the end. Looking back this looks pretty bad, it hasn't well at all. But at the time,

  • this was revolutionary. 3D animation like this had barely been used at all, never mind

  • in an anime film. And btw, don't let this scene put you off watching the movie, it's

  • also a fantastic action flick.

  • These projects were done at the the Japan Computer Graphics Lab. And we actually have

  • a demo reel from the lab that exists on YouTube. There's a bunch of logos and basic 3D animations.

  • This was from 1984, you can see they were already testing what a computer could do with

  • animation. With these projects came the birth of digital animation in anime.

  • Daicon IV is important to note from this period too. It was an opening sequence for a sci-fi

  • convention by studio Gainax and it's become a sort of legend. A lot people bookmark Daicon

  • IV as the turning point of anime turning into its own medium, the start of the fandom. It

  • used a very short digital sequence but its importance comes not from that but from who

  • was involved in it. Gainax became one of the most important anime studios after this and

  • a lot of the audience at the sci-fi convention were industry workers.

  • These early years were a goldmine of experimentation. Not everything came out the other end intact,

  • most of it looks extremely dated now. Regardless it's such an interesting period to look

  • at and incredibly important to the medium. Although, digital animation wasn't all blocky

  • 3d scenes. Infact, this becomes one of the big misconceptions about the topic.

  • In 1988 the groundbreaking film Akira showcased a computer system called the Quick Action

  • Recorder in its Making of documentary. This was a computer system that allowed animators

  • to put together a drawn version of a scene while working to see how scenes would flow,

  • the concept is more well known over here as an animatic. Despite Akira claiming it to

  • be a new technology, the system had been in use in Japan for most of the 80s. And some

  • people actually consider it the first instance of digital animation in anime. This, i imagine,

  • was invaluable to production, saving so much time and resources.

  • The one problem with digital animation in the 80s, and the reason it took a whole decade

  • to really kick-off was the price of hardware. Most studios just didn't have the funding

  • to throw massive amounts of money at technology they didn't quite understand. That all changed

  • in the 90s were hardware costs plummeted and suddenly, studios could afford to try out

  • digital animation.

  • We can look at all smaller examples that dipped their toes into the water, but it was in 1995

  • that Mamoru Oshii threw himself into the deep end with his film Ghost in the Shell. Quite

  • rightly noted as a pioneering work for digital animation in Japan. Fascinated by the new

  • technology, Oshii and his team composited the whole movie with computers. Using what's

  • referred to as a nonlinear editing suit. Before, anime would be made on film, which becomes

  • a very destructive process. A nonlinear system doesn't work frame by frame, instead it

  • connects elements like 3d scenes, layers and effects together. This was revolutionary in

  • how anime could be developed. Hours and hours of precious time could be saved with absolutely

  • no quality loss.

  • Specifically, digital effects like computer systems or dynamic text could now be created

  • in seconds. The iconic opening sequence for example would've taken months to animate by

  • hand, but with the digital process, it could be completed in a fraction of the time. Allowing

  • them to do cool things like making those numbers the binary code for each staff member's

  • name. Lens effects like the distortion on the edge of the frame here could be easily

  • made without having to animate each frame, this allowed them to replicate real cameras

  • with ease. You can see how sequences like these could only be possible with the help

  • of computer animation. This made Ghost in the Shell one of the most intricate and progressive

  • films in the medium. It was using techniques that nobody had seen before in almost every

  • scene.

  • This revolutionary jump actually became a main influence on the thematic content of

  • the film too. Oshii was always interested in how technology and computers will enhance

  • our lives, and he was at the heart of one of those revolutions with digital animation.

  • He used his experiences with the new technology to guide the film's story. Ghost in the

  • Shell grows a meta narrative in this sense.

  • Although Ghost in the Shell had become a successful digital anime, it still wasn't an industry

  • standard. Prices would have to drop considerably before most studios could invest in the technology.

  • And a lot of studios weren't all convinced about the movement to digital. Anime at this

  • point was a very traditional medium and the people who controlled it were happy with it

  • staying that way. So the rest of the 90s becomes a testing ground for various studios trying

  • out computer animation.

  • A few years later, the TV production Yuusha-Ou GaoGaiGar used various digital elements throughout

  • its episodes. The team would create CG elements for the show and would add them into the series

  • throughout each episode. Allowing them to have complex animation throughout the series

  • with little effort. This idea of sprinkling digital effects into traditional animation

  • became the standard, with bigger projects like Escaflowne compositing digital artifacts

  • into a very traditional aesthetic.

  • But some studios were taking extra steps to digitize their projects. Alice was released

  • at the very end of the decade and became the very first fully CG anime film. And it's

  • a real artifact of 90s computer animation. Very few studios had the courage to produce

  • full projects like this because of the judgemental anime audience, and looking at Alice, i'm

  • not surprised. Obviously there was a whole new level of freedom in how they could frame

  • shots. Moving a digital camera around a 3D environment was easy, and action scenes could

  • pull of complex choreography, but elements like textures and VFX were years from what

  • they needed to be. Characters didn't blend with the backgrounds and facial expressions

  • seemed robotic. This project as a standalone piece of anime wasn't great, but it was

  • an example of the possibilities computer animation could unlock.

  • One of the compromises of this period was called Cel-shading. This used computers to

  • take advantage of all the time saving benefits but imitated traditional cel animation. A

  • lot of the time you wouldn't be able to tell the difference. One of the early examples

  • of this idea was at Studio Ghibli, Miyazaki has always been a fan of the traditional animation

  • process, but even he couldn't resist the benefits of computers. After experiments in

  • Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away in 2001 became their first film to be composited fully in

  • a computer. This increased the studio's productivity immensely, having the film completed

  • in just 18 months. But Miyazaki took extra care to almost trick the audience into thinking

  • otherwise. He even added in artificial movement into static objects to replicate traditional

  • cel animation. This says a lot about how the industry was looking at the new technology.

  • They were eager to embrace the new era of computer animation, but unlike Disney or Dreamworks

  • they were reluctant to let go of the old aesthetic.

  • Katsuhiro Otomo was one of the early innovators in this field with his film Steamboy in 2004,

  • using a handful of digital techniques to enhance his production. Although, Otomo has voiced

  • his concerns about the new technology. He discusses in a 1998 interview in Animage that

  • the explosive amount of new options animators get can distract them from the basics.

  • Despite his concerns, Otomo embraces digital animation for Steamboy and created some of

  • the most intricate animation i've ever seen. It not only excelled in creating amazingly

  • complex scenes with 2D animation, it utilised 3D animation in a way that had never been

  • done before. The production team would storyboard traditionally, then create a basic 3D version

  • of the scene, then animate over that to produce the final concept. Much like how Akira used

  • the Quick Action Recorder to create an animatic. This allowed them to produce camera movements

  • that 2D animation would never be able to without sacrificing detail. Although, this obviously

  • wasn't a realistic standard as only a handful of projects since have been able to use these

  • techniques successfully.

  • Outside of using computers to recreate a traditional look, some studios were dipping their toes

  • back into the idea of rotoscoping. This has been used throughout the years. Even going

  • as far back to 1958's Hakujaden that filmed live action sequences for referencing in animation.

  • With the help of computers, studios could use motion capture to enhance movement. In

  • traditional pieces this ended up looking out-of-place. Falling into the uncanny valley. But became

  • an opportunity for CG movies.

  • In 2001 Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within was released, the film lost millions due to

  • its poor box office performance but visually, it was one of the most advanced pieces of

  • CG animation in the industry. And to be honest, it still holds up today. Character models

  • were extremely realistic and everything blended together quite nicely. It's certainly not

  • perfect, but Cg was viable for creating a good movie if in the right hands. A huge improvement

  • on Alice. Unfortunately, the massive amount of money Spirits Within took to make meant

  • Cg movies wouldn't be making regular appearances.

  • A few years later, in 2004, Appleseed was released. This improved visually again, with

  • some of my favourite CG action scenes. The world was presented seamlessly with fantastic

  • detail. But the bottom line was these movies were never going to make money. They took

  • far too much capital to produce and the market just wasn't accepting them. Unlike Disney

  • and Dreamworks who were making CG movies some of the most successful box office releases

  • ever. If two already established franchises, Final Fantasy and Appleseed couldn't make

  • it work, then nobody could.

  • But something far more important was happening. In the year 2000, a young Mokoto Shinkai,

  • having just left the video game industry was working on a solo project. He took on the

  • task of writing, directing and producing his very own short film. Voices of a distant star.

  • Shinkai created it all on his own computer using software like Photoshop and After Effects.

  • He didn't have a production team or studio, in fact he didn't even have voice overs.

  • Him and his wife initially played the two characters. It took 7 months to create and

  • became the catalyst to a new way of thinking in the industry.

  • By this time, every studio had a computer suit. And as Shinkai proved in 2001, animation

  • was now limitless. Anyone with the talent and dedication could now produce high quality

  • animation. This led to what we're currently in, the digital era. The amount of anime being

  • produced every year skyrocketed, and niche projects that previously wouldn't have found

  • funding now have audiences in the 1000s that could fund multiple seasons. Studios like

  • Science Saru were being founded with small teams using accessible software to make complex

  • works. We're living in a really interesting age and it's only just starting. With organisations

  • like Netflix now funding full series, there seems to be no limits to what might come next.

  • And it's all thanks to the pioneering work of the individuals involved in anime. Reluctant

  • to let go of the anime aesthetic, the industry has used digital animation to keep anime

  • well anime. And I think that's one of the main reasons we love the medium.

  • I'm going to make another video soon exploring the new landscape of digital animation, but

  • for now, i hope this video has been a helpful overview of when anime went digital. So thank

  • you, all my subscribers for watching this video, and for the continued support on all

  • my projects lately. I've really been putting the hours and and i'm making some of my

  • all time favourite videos. And that's not stopping anytime soon, so thanks for watching.

  • Be sure to share the video around if you can and make sure you're subscribed. I'm also

  • on social media if you want more regular update. But for now, thanks for watching.

Today, anime is a digital medium. Every year we have projects that push the boundaries

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アニメがデジタル化したとき (When Anime Went Digital)

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    二百五 に公開 2021 年 01 月 14 日
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