Hybrid CD Rom for Mac and Windows
NEC Interchannel, March 1999
The first thing that impresses is the lavish size of the set; five discs in two jewel cases inside a 12″x12″ keepsake box. Altogether, it does an excellent job of communicating the scope of what waits inside; a virtual Yamato that can be explored at will and a digital database for the first TV series.
Upon loading the software into your PC or Mac, the first thing that greets you is a gorgeous CG version of the original opening title, complete with the original broadcast recording of the Yamato theme. Following that is a 3-2-1 Wave-Motion-Gun-style countdown with rotating still images (different ones each time). This is followed by the opening sequence from the show itself, explaining what happened to the Earth and the hopeful message from Iscandar. And then, before you know it…
…you’re standing on the first bridge, ready to go in whatever direction you please. From here (and everywhere you go, for that matter) there are three options: tour the ship on foot using the position map at the bottom of the screen, tour the ship via shortcuts by clicking on the Yamato image at the lower right, or access the database by clicking the square icon ay the upper right.
That bridge looks mighty enticing, so let’s say you want to go with option A. If that’s the case, click here for a slideshow of all the major locations you could visit. This, of course, will only hit the highlights. The experience on the original CD-Roms is much more thorough with a series of Quicktime VR positions seamlessly linked by Quicktime movies that walk you from point to point along prescribed paths as seen in the map.
As you explore, you find that you can sit at each station, which has its own sound effects suite. You can activate the engine, the Wave-Motion Gun, the cannons, and even ride the captain’s chair up and down from the quarters above. All of these are visualized with Quicktime CG clips. In addition to this, the elevators can take you up or down to various rooms where you can find other things to do like page through a book of real-life Yamato artifacts, climb the levels of the hanger bay, launch a fighter, and even sit on the Captain’s private toilet.
If you wanted to take a shortcut to a specific location, clicking on the Yamato image would take you here, to a wireframe model of the entire ship that can be rotated to bring the destination points into view. Clicking on one of them would take you there instantly.
Wherever you go, the graphics at the top of the screen travel with you. Clicking on the database graphic takes you here, an access panel with buttons across the bottom that connect you with a TV series encyclopedia.
The first button opens up an interactive mission map. Clicking on the locations along the route takes the ship there, and a highly-compressed Quicktime movie in the lower left corner follows the path in virtual space.
The second button opens the character database, a list of major and minor characters on both sides of the story. The first screen (shown upper right) shows animation models and a description. Further clicking brings up a 3-D VR model that can be rotated and an animation clip showing that character in action. (Note that the only character with a VR model in this collection is Analyzer, since he also appears in the mecha database.)
The third button is, yes, the mecha database, which works just like the one for characters. But this time it offers dozens of CG models that can be rotated and viewed from any angle, from the ship’s toilets to the ship itself. Included in this set are such eclectic items as the Captain’s hat, a “mecha mop,” and a Gamilas typewriter—truly an otaku’s dream.
The fourth and fifth buttons are quite different. The fourth brings up excerpts from recording scripts (196 pages of them, to be exact) with links to animation clips containing that dialogue. The fifth is a virtual juke box designed to work like a cassette player with access to 11 different music tracks with liner notes.
The last button is a smaller database devoted to planets; Earth, Gamilas, and Iscandar. Each brings up a rotating CG model and a few pages of art and information. That’s the entire database, which could clearly fill an hour or two.
The bonus disc is another experience entirely, and since it uses a web browser for its interface, it can still be accessed on newer computers. So many elements were created or modified for the ship tour and the database that the producers decided to show them off here in three different modules. The first (shown upper right) is ‘Computer Graphics,’ a library of high-resolution jpegs taken from animated sequences or simple snapshots of CG models.
The Sound Effects library is exactly what it indicates, a catalog of original sounds playable in both .wav and .aif formats. The Famous Scenes section is a little less ambitious; stills from the TV animation turned into jpegs.
The instruction book has some impressive images of its own, including a diagram of the ship showing the explorable locations (above) and an overview of how to access the database (below)
The book also contains an interview with the producers of this amazing set, which is presented here in English for the first time…
Going all the way: the polarizing demands on the spirit of a producer
Started working with NEC Interchannel Co. Ltd., in 1995 in the multi-media special content group.
Founded limited liability company Innes in February 1997; planner and producer of music and digital content for CD-Roms.
Seeing the movie for the first time
got something bubbling…
Interviewer: Did you see Space Battleship Yamato in its first broadcast?
Funaoka: I watched it on TV in first grade.
Interviewer: The design and color of programs like Yamato and Heidi of the Alps made a strong impression, since they were exactly right for children at that time. There is still a clear imression of them even now. I didn’t think it would be possible to reproduce such an image today and create that same impression.
Yano: I first saw it in the movie theatre. It started something bubbling inside me, seeing the old Yamato crumble away and the new one rise up. How could a boy not like that? It was fun to follow that process.
Interviewer: It had a great impact on boys with just the right sensitivity. I seemed to be particular about details.
Yano: Long after the fact, I thought Yamato would be a good subject for CG, but there were some doubts. “Would the captain actually have a full view from the first bridge,” and other such questions. There were many angles we never saw, and I had various questions of my own. Therefore, we needed to build it in order to find out, and we decided to satisfy our own desires. “How would it look from over here?” That’s how we laid down all the essential points.
Compromising with the Complex World
of Leiji Matsumoto…
Interviewer: The original design stamp of Leiji Matsumoto on the anime is very strong.
Funaoka: There is a distinctive feel to the mecha of Mr. Matsumoto. Even down to the smallest part, doesn’t the anime have a strong sense of fantasy? I think finding a good balance was quite difficult. As CG gets further away from reality and closer to anime style, it starts to look cheap. But Mr. Yano does good work in that area.
Yano: Oh, it was pretty difficult. I had to decide on the shape, texture and detail of every single meter. “Let’s do it this way even though it isn’t in the original design,” I said. It would take a very long time to make it precisely match the original, which wasn’t always consistent anyway.
Funaoka: Doesn’t everyone have their own impression of the anime? After viewing it from different angles, that’s what I think.
Yano: It was serious for me in the beginning. I would start modeling based on a certain design drawing, and sometimes it would look very different.
Funaoka: Because the design was based on the original Battleship Yamato, the drawings followed the flat shape of that ship.
Yano: I had a lot of trouble with the look of the deck with all the gun turrets. The width is entirely different than in the model sheets.
Funaoka: (laughs) If it gets too wide it starts to look like a thermos bottle; too slim and all its force disappears when you see it from the front.
Yano: The balance came from rendering it at different angles and asking questions.
I gave most of my thought to the first bridge. Doesn’t everyone have their own powerful image of that? I didn’t understand at first what kind of power it would take to recreate it. It took over a million polygons. The proof is in the detail; you see it when you walk through and go to different stations. For example, the target scope for the Wave-Motion Gun rises when you’re in Kodai’s seat. It took everything I had to think up that level of detail.
Funaoka: It changed considerably from the original 3D version to the final one. It evolved as we added detail and color. It gained a more solid feeling with the right lighting conditions, and the atmosphere of Yamato emerged. A metallic impression makes it entirely different.
The more it demands,
the deeper we fall in…
Yano: Dr. Sado’s room serves as a medical office, and behind that is a tatami-mat room. This gives it a Japanese flavor, and we talked about having to take off our shoes before sitting down at the table.
Funaoka: The normal footstep sound is a gon-gon-gon, but we needed a barefoot sound when on the mat. It’s different from what you hear in the bridge, the hanger, etc. Sound effects contribute a lot to the virtual reality.
Yano: There’s a great sense of reality.
Funaoka: Yeah, I even got a word of praise about that from the producer of the anime; he said it was remarkable. We also designed a view of the elevator going up and down, seeing it from outside. I really like things like that, even if they are just small things. They accumulate subconsciously.
Yano: Actually, there were many small things that took up time. There are a lot of interesting things in Dr. Sado’s room, like the the very first design for Space Battleship Yamato on a poster.
Funaoka: It was important to see things that were invisible in the anime.
Not your average Database…
Funaoka: Making a CD-Rom is dynamic work. We work hard to turn passive viewers into active viewers. The more detail you devise the more they look for, so you have to have a variety of tricks. That’s what Mr. Yano does.
Yano: I have done that. I have my own view of the world, but even a tiny detail can bring it down if it isn’t properly connected to the laws of nature. If this view of Yamato is unconvincing, you’ll soon get tired of it, so I was particularly careful about that.
Funaoka: Even though I’ve seen it over a hundred times, I’m still not tired of it. Even if I understand what is where, I still think, “well, that looks really good.”
Yano: I try to get you to look at what I think is interesting, and it becomes an adventure. So I put a lot of information into the database. The designs for the characters and mecha are very detailed. For example, we show the meal tray and the mecha mop, even though they appear only once in the TV series. It was possible to look at the the Gamilas typewriter and other objects by turning them different ways in 3D.
Funaoka: It’s a lot of fun to do things like this. Taking a conventional approach might require intellect, but it isn’t very interesting.
Yano: When you look somewhere and think “this couldn’t possibly be here,” I like to put it there.
Funaoka: For instance, there is an “event” on each floor. We thought it might get tiresome if you do it over and over, so we added some different images for you to find if you continue further. That way you get a little more for your effort. That’s a nice thing; “I didn’t need this, but I’m glad to have it anyway.”
Yano: We treated it as entertainment software rather than a standard CD-Rom title. It is meant to have a sense of play. If you put something in that seems foolish and some say to take it out, you have to think first about the people who will buy the product. They have to find it interesting, so I stick with my guns.
Funaoka: There was the thought that what Mr. Yano and I had to interpret was the wish of a single fan. Could we fully depict the world of Yamato this way? I’ll be very happy if that’s how the end product is received.
Yano: Anyway, it took four years to make. A super-sized entertainment software product can take just as long as a movie!
Sample movie clips; click on an image name to open and view each one.