Production I.G> WORK LIST> Reideen> SPECIAL FEATURE> A Golden Light in the Dark: The Making of Reideen CG Animation (3)

A Golden Light in the Dark: The Making of Reideen CG Animation (3)

Mitsuru Hongo's Reideen inherited the DNA of Reideen the Brave, the animated classic that aired on Japanese TV between 1975 and 1976. But at the same time, it returned as an entirely new Reideen with refined mechanical designs and settings. Furthermore, the new series features high-quality 3D CG animation that was unthinkable for a TV production until now. Shigeki Hayashi and Keiji Ikeda were responsible for the modeling and VFX of Reideen and the Self Defence Police. In this third part, Hayashi-san and Ikeda-san talk about giant monster movies and reflections.

Profile: Shigeki Hayashi - Born on January 26th in Chiba Prefecture. 3D CGI director. Board member of SimImage Studio. While still at school, he was convinced that CG was going to be the indispensable technology for the future film industry, and he decided to become a CG creator. The first creative work was to make a film that was shown at Fujitsu's pavilion at the 1990 International Garden and Greenery Exposition held in Osaka. After working for Polygon Pictures, he landed a job as lighting artist for the 3D CG movie, Final Fantasy (2001), and continued to participate in several projects including SD Gundam Force (2004, TV series, animator), in the game Monster Hunters (2004, movie part, animatics director) and Zoids: Genesis (2005, TV series, 3D CGI director). On Reideen he comments, "It was a venture to challenge the limits of 3D CG in a TV series."
Profile: Keiji Ikeda - Born on October 31, 1980 in Okayama Prefecture. 3D CG VFX designer. He decided to work in the CG visuals industry because he wished to share what he enjoyed the most as a child. In 2004, he debuted as a CG designer with a TV ad for Pocket Monster Emerald (Game Boy Advance software.) Since then he has worked on Gundam Evolve (full 3D CG OVA, 2001 to 2003) and the game Monster Hunter 2 (2006). He is one of Japan's promising young CG creators. On Reideen he comments, "Yeah, it definitely was a challenging project."

Part 3

I saw the golden Reideen and I thought: full powered right from the start?

The theme concepts for Reideen's CG were "dark, huge and slow." Didn't anyone say that if you made it too "dark," you couldn't see the 3D CG, which you'd put a lot of effort into?

Hayashi: As a matter of fact, yes. On the front lines, people told me, "What a waste!" (lol) The screen directing section also said, "You would put so much into modeling. Why don't you show it?" But I thought, "Never mind what they say. Just make a convincing picture." And we can also cover-up a lot of things if it's dark, you know. (lol) Especially in the first and the second episodes, the sequences in 3D CG are dark and dusty, so you can't really see Reideen entirely. Of course, you can tell we dedicated everything to the bank sequences like the fade-in and the God Arrow. But for other sequences, it might be difficult to see Reideen, because it's too dark. The colors used are also very pale, so some people might think it's too plain and flat.

As the episodes progress, we made Reideen look brighter, so I hope you have the patience to stick with the series until maybe Episode 6.

What were the things you had in mind to make it look "huge" and "slow"?

Hayashi: In order to make Reideen and the mechanical monsters look heavy, we made the robots move slowly. The latest robotic anime shows feature heavy robots with unlikely swift movements. I felt that such rendering wasn't real, so I wanted to make sure they moved with a proper sense of heaviness. For those who are used to the swift movements, which are common nowadays, the slow movements might seem awkward - like presenting an enka (Japanese ballad) to hard rock fans. The staff was a bit puzzled, too. And the characters were obviously in 2D painted cel style, so there was feedback that it might be better to use cel-shading techniques for the 3D's too. I also voted against Director Hongo's idea on purpose. But you see, Hongo-san, Takeuchi-san and Aramaki-san were all very stubborn.

In the actual screen, it looks as if we are watching a special effects giant monster film.

Hayashi: That image was absolutely not in my mind when we started, so I was stunned. I thought, "Why didn't I think of it sooner?" If you make it dark, huge and slow, it would sure look like a monster film. As for myself, my only concern was with trying out some rendering techniques that were not previously attempted in the 3D CG animation. When it was time to edit and when I watched a sequence where Reideen was grappling the enemy robot, I realized for the first time that the atmosphere was very similar to those giant monster flicks.

Ikeda: I think the staff on the front lines did not realize this either. As for myself, I only realized it when someone mentioned it.

After you realized it was like a giant monster film, did you work with that in mind?

Hayashi: On the contrary. I tried my best not to bear that in mind. I didn't want a simple giant monster movie. But I did steal some finer parts. (lol)

The latest robotic anime shows feature heavy robots with unlikely swift movements. I felt that such renderinh wasn't real, so I wanted to make sure they moved with a proper sense of heaviness. (Shigeki Hayashi)

The new Reideen is golden. What was your impression when you first saw the design concept drawing?

Hayashi: When I first saw Reideen designed by Takeuchi-san, it was completely different from the original design of the 70s, but at the same time I was convinced instantly that it was Reideen. Sure, the original Reideen was red and blue, and this one was golden, but I was comfortable about it. As soon as I saw it for the first time, I was already thinking about how I could make it look cool in 3D CG. And when I saw the gigantic wings on the back of its body, I felt assured that it would transform into God Bird. The funny thing was that Reideen was already golden when Junki boarded it, so I thought, "Wow, it's full powered right from the start!" (lol) I had imagined it would be a little less shiny in its normal form and then turn golden when it launches its deadly blow or evades danger.

Wasn't it hard to render the luster and the reflections because it's golden?

Hayashi: Basically when you work in 3D CG, the reflections are automatically made. So that part was easy in a way. The difficult part was to make reflections where and how we wanted.

Ikeda: In the ordinary shots, we made reflections where they were indicated in the storyboards. And we chose certain objects to make reflections as needed. For instance, when an object approaches Reideen.

Hayashi: It's hard to fake things with CG, so that was a bit tricky. In the actual production, the VFX team took on the job and did wonderful things.

(3 - to be continued)

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