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Noritaka Kawaguchi p3

Anime producer Noritaka Kawaguchi talks about the production process on Children Who Chase Lost Voices From Deep Below...

Producer Mr Kawaguchi said there were different styles of drawing characters in anime: cute and cool. The cute style, for children, had larger heads for the characters. This movie had smaller heads on the characters, for a more adult audience: the cool style. The character design was by Takayo Nishimura, and the director Makoto Shinkai would consult with him during this stage.
The director would describe the proportions he wanted, the hair styles, the style of the eyes.
There were pencil drawings of characters like 12-year-old Asuna, with various expressions, running and from different angles.
Characters usually had five segments.
The storyboards would be made by the director.
Mr Kawaguchi pointed out some storyboards from the movie.
The storyboards had a few columns: for a picture, a description of the action in the picture, the dialogue in the shot, and the time or number of frames devoted to the shot.
One picture had Asuna listening to some railway tracks. Then there was another column with a description of the action and sound effects, and another with the number of frames devoted to the cut or shot: if there wasn’t much action in the shot, they could use less frames:There are usually 24 frames or pictures per second of action, but it can go down to 12.
The movie was 116 minutes long.
Another storyboard had a shot of a valley and it described the lens to be used in order to get depth of field in the shot, rather than ending up with a flat picture.
He talked about in-between shots, too.
In-between shots are the pictures between key poses of a character. Key poses are drawn by the lead animator, and might be a shot of a character with his arm way back about to throw a baseball for example, and another of his hand just releasing the ball. The in-betweeners draw the pictures in-between.
Mr Kawaguchi said that many in-betweeners dropped out of his studio after a short time. He said if you hired 100 people, 90 per cent of the in-betweeners would drop out of the company within three months.
He said many of the in-between shots were sent to China to be drawn.
Some say outsourcing to China might become uneconomical in future, due to the expanding middle class there and possible political demands for higher wages.
There were many character drawings in pencil hanging around the room, too. They were on pages made to be flipped by animators to check the flow of the pictures.
The shots had the director’s scribbles in red pencil for highlights, and blue pencil for shadows.
Many had notes written by the director: Less grass here, more rocky.
Makoto Shinkai was a very hands-on director, individually coloring many of the frames, using Photoshop, and some of these were around the room.
Mr Kawaguchi said that during the busiest stages of making the movie, the director spent 20 hours a day for a month in the studio.
The rest of the 200 to 300 staff also put in very long hours in the last three months of production. The movie was composited in Lightwave. Unlike with many western animations, voice actors were brought in after the animation was drawn.
Children Who Chase Voices from Deep Below is picturesque with some amazing fantasy ideas and some emotional scenes. It’s a long story, but it’s well worth seeing.

-copyright Simon Sandall.