Behind the Scenes Part 1: Tomohisa Nishimura (Producer)

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex - Solid State Society ("S.S.S.") premiered in Japan on September 1, 2006 on SKY PerfecTV!. Two years since the airing of S.A.C. 2nd Gig, this movie undoubtedly represents the apogee of seven years of hard work and accomplishment at Production I.G's Studio 9. The key staff that just completed the production will tell us this new chapter's attractions, the must sees, and also some episodes from the studio.

Part 1: Tomohisa Nishimura (Producer)
"The best phrase to describe how I feel is We've done it."

After participating in Sakura Wars: the Movie, he staffed the production department for Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex and S.A.C. 2nd Gig, and then became the line producer for the new Solid State Society. Nishimura says: "We have to keep the place clean to make it a pleasant workplace."

"Although Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex was a TV series, we didn't take a common layout approach. We decided to get "strikes" pitching fastballs, no "four balls." Nowadays anime productions tend to adopt a take-it-easy way when it comes to creating pictures, but with the S.A.C. series, we took it on with fastballs."

Thus the producer Nishimura looks back on the S.A.C. TV series. He truly respects the director Kamiyama who sincerely takes each project somewhat too seriously. They are good partners. How did Nishimura think about the finished S.S.S.?

"We used a system called the 3-D Layout System throughout the series. This helped to upgrade the quality as well as to speed up the process.
This 3-D Layout allows us to set out the inside scenes of buildings in a 3-D format ahead of time. To make it short, the 3-D team and the sequence director would decide the overall framework of the layout, so we would have the entire layout before we discuss each frame animation. This process has improved the overall movie quality. Of course, frame animators might add a final touch as well. It was also very helpful to have Takayuki Goto as the chief animation supervisor. Goto-san has checked the entire movie, so I think there is more continuity in the animation style."

In the animation production process, each scene is the result of a teamwork that involve a high number of people, from the sequence director to the key animators and in-betweeners. It is important to have people working on the same scene understand each other to make a quality output. In the production of S.S.S., "lighting boards" were also introduced for this purpose.

"We asked our art team to draw what we call "lighting boards" upfront, so we were able to put more detail and input into each scene. Of course, it is not uncommon to have such a reference tool in feature film productions, but I think it turned very useful for the animation supervisor during the drawing of key frames."

"In the production of S.S.S., we had a lighting board that showed where the light sources were for each of the key scenes. Layout for the scene and the location of the light source are not particularly obvious factors when you are watching anime, but these things accumulate to keep a certain level of quality for each scene."

Nishimura also confides that "the balance of keeping up the schedule and the quality was difficult. I still feel I could have worked more on smoothing out the work flow from one section to the next."

"The staff worked very hard and I feel the outcome is superb, but there is a lot that we came out with, which I'd like to work into the next project."
From his words we sensed a professional always aiming to accomplish the best under the leadership of the director Kamiyama.

Above you can see an example of a 3-D layout. In the opening scenes of S.S.S., Togusa and the new Section 9 go after Colonel Ka Geru, who had locked himself inside the airport building. Togusa is aiming his gun beside the right pillar and Azuma is in the left hand side. The layout like this was provided as a reference at the meeting to discuss the key frames. For S.S.S., almost all of the indoor scenes were constructed using the 3-D layout system.



These are the lighting boards and the actual animation for the same scenes (above). The boards show the locations of light sources clearly, so the sequence director and animation supervisor found them very helpful. The boards were drawn by Yusuke Takeda, the art director for S.S.S.

Quick briefing on Studio 9
As of November 2006, Production I.G has ten studios numbered 1 to 10, the Niigata Studio, the G-Studio (game development), Atelier Ogura (specializing in backgrounds) and IGFX (focusing on 3-D animation). Studio 9 was actually established for the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex series.

In the beginning, they worked in a room within the ING Building (the original location of Studio 3), but as the size of their project expanded, the room became too small, so they moved out of the building and set up a new studio at a separate location. Interestingly enough, Production I.G had only seven studios at the time when Studio 9 was founded, but the "Section 9" element was so strong that became a decisive factor in the naming of the new structure.

What's special about Studio 9 is that it has the capability of carrying out the entire process of anime production on the same floor: production scheduling, script writing, creating animation, directing, coloring, 3-D works, and filming. Obviously, a TV anime series can't be completed at Studio 9 alone, but in the world of anime production where specialization has become a major trend, Studio 9, which encompasses the entire process of production, is a rare breed.

The producer Nishimura talked about its merits. "When you have people from different sections crammed together, you get responses quickly, so I think it's less complicated to work. For instance, the 3-D team can connect with the sequence directors and the photographers and ask questions casually. That's the advantage of Studio 9."

The studio is always under some sort of pressure. According to Nissan's product designer Shunsuke Iijima, who visited the studio a few times while production of S.S.S. was in progress, "they work under the same kind of pressure as us (automobile) designers. They have cool flames burning inside the studio. It's the silent tension. I thought creators were the same everywhere."


Studio 9 inside view. Regularly, there are about thirty staff members. This is undoubtedly the territory of the director Kamiyama.