The biggest technical leap forward for Yamato 2199 was undoubtedly the extensive use of CG animation, created by Sunrise D.I.D. and engineered to integrate with the hand-drawn look of the series. Their techniques were first explored in the pages of CG World magazine #167 in June 2013. (Read the article here.) Four years later, their work goes on at Sublimation Studio and CG World was there again with new coverage in issue #224, published March 10, 2017.
Space Battleship Yamato 2202, Soldiers of Love
All seven chapters of Space Battleship Yamato 2202 will be screened in theaters. Here we focus mainly on the making of battleships from the first chapter, which was released on February 25.
Author: Hiroshi Okawara (Bitpranks)
Space Battleship Yamato is being newly presented with respect for the original work
Now, Yamato 2202 (seven chapters) will be released three years after Yamato 2199, which began in 2012. Because it is a remake of Farewell to Yamato, which premiered in theaters in 1978, the production overflows with homages to the original, and is convincing to former fans.
Including Yamato, the many fleets and fightercraft are expressed in 3DCG effects. Sublimation [Studio] is in charge of the 3DCG production.
“We inherited the work from the company that was in charge of 3DCG production on the previous series,” said Sublimation’s CG director Taichi Kimura, “and the tool changed from 3ds Max to LightWave. Though the production environment is different, our first goal was not to disturb the quality and atmosphere of 2199. The challenge is to create an anime with a slightly different approach than 2199 while still keeping this goal as a base.”
The battleship movement and passes were done in 3DCG in the previous work, which is also the demand from Director Nobuyoshi Habara this time, who wants to produce CG shots with an anime-like deform in certain passes. To pursue such an expression, visuals and sketches by Yoshinori Kanada, an animator on Farewell to Yamato, were consulted.
“At the order of the director, the nuances of weighty movement in space were intensified in Chapter 1,” said project manager Tomomi Uemura.
For Chapter 1, there were five modelers and 10-12 staff members for shot production. 3DCG was used for 150 out of about 350 shots for the first chapter, and though the quantity was heavy for that number of staff, the quality of shot production was improved with retouch effects. In addition to Mr. Kimura, Yasunori Honma handles direction for all upcoming episodes in a system set up for two-person direction.
The modeling of battleships, including Yamato
Creating a variety of models in LightWave
First, we introduce the mecha-related model production, including Yamato, which is one of the appeals of this work. As mentioned before, LightWave is the main tool of 3DCG production (hereafter referred to as LW). Of course, the models of ships that debut in this work are new, such as Andromeda, but since models from the previous work are utilized, such as most of the Garmillas vessels, it had to be verified that their 3ds Max and Pencil+ look could be reproduced in LW. It took four months, March through July of last year, to begin performing full-scale work.
“Rendering a line in LW is different from 3ds Max and Pencil+,” Mr. Honma said. “Particularly in the case of 3ds Max, we can put a line on an intersecting edge and smooth the boundary, but since we can’t do that in LW I tested to see how we could reproduce the same line. In the end, it was achieved by using LW and the material boundary was set for each place we wanted to put a line.”
General specifications in model production were made from combat inspection of model data inherited from the previous work. They were then used as guidelines for creating new models. Some outside staff was commissioned to unify the specs for new modeling, and in-house composite adjustments were made after they were freely created, so as not to limit the modeling tools according to the staff’s production environment.
“This time, it was easy to do the work in consultation with Director Habara and Makoto Kobayashi,” Mr. Honma said. “I was able to get specific instructions in a way that made it easy in 3DCG, and I was able to make a more efficient ratio of expression in the modeling and textures. It’s more comfortable for two directors to work in a very good environment.”
Composite work in LightWave
A. Material for rendering lines (temporary color coding).
The state of the model divided into material to distribute the lines.
B. Rendering lines using the material boundary.
C. After composite
Completed form. The model shape itself is the same as in 2199, but the colors were deepened as per the direction, which increased the volume of information. When the coloring changed, shades are added even when there is no shadow. Also, there is a lot of attention on markings this time.
To use 3ds render data in LW, it was necessary to faithfully reproduce line expressions made not only with 3D data, but also made in Pencil+. Therefore, to create a model that could be read in LW, the material boundary was set where a line was desired and settings were made so that a line appeared on that boundary.
Yamato also uses the 2199 version as a base. The silhouette changed as new equipment was added, so a lot of work went into this model.
A. 2199 version of Yamato.
B. Yamato for this work. The feeling of volume around the Wave-Motion Gun and engine have changed. It has a sharp, clear form which possesses the forceful silhouette of a battleship at the same time.
C. Wireframe display. In Chapter 1, Yamato appears while under repair in a dock, in a state where armor has been peeled off. To represent the texture of the armor peeled off, extra modeling was done to give the feeling of irregularities that would correspond from shot to shot.
Battleships appearing in this work for the first time
The latest battleship to appear for the first time in this work is the Andromeda model. A contemporary arrangement was done while following the original Andromeda design from Farewell to Yamato.
A. Shell image.
B. 3D model.
C. Completed Andromeda. For the new model, details were checked with the designer. Compared with Yamato‘s masculine impression, Andromeda has a more feminine body line. Mecha designer Junichiro Tamamori inserted line work directly into the picture.
Other 3D models
30 to 40 3D models were inherited from the previous work. This image is just one example. Mr. Honma created the base for the material settings for lines and the staff completed it by hand.
The large battleship of the Gatlantis fleet is an example of an efficient model expressed with modeling and texture. The large battleship usually has damage, but instead of giving the model a damaged feeling with texture, it expresses a state of being burned.
D. 3D model. Both the normal model and damage model use base model data.
E. A rendered image of the damage model.
F. Texture used for the damage model. The texture was created from a design image by Assistant Director Makoto Kobayashi, who retouched the normal model.
Shot production and effects
Expressing fleet warfare with numerous ships and powerful explosion effects
The highlight of Chapter 1 is a fleet battle between the mixed Earth/Garmillas fleet and the Gatlantis fleet. Since all scenes of space warfare are shot with 3DCG as a base, the work is performed early in 3D. It begins with storyboards made into animatics, and production begins after confirming rough layout and timing of the movement by the director. A large number of battleships appears in this fleet war, and since a mob of battleships is arranged in some instances, only a few ships are inserted as true data.
“LW can handle instances very lightly,” Mr. Honma said, “it was not necessary to make low-rez models for the mob and we could do the work very easily. Lighter processing is one of the strengths of LW.”
In addition, in terms of the cost of a shot, various measures are considered to reduce the labor and rendering costs. For example, in a shot of a ship exploding in a fleet battle, rather than creating a breakaway model for the explosion, two deformed ship models are combined using a free lattice transformation plug-in (AS-Lattice), making it possible to break the hull at any point. Also, with the breakaway model as a base, fragments of the hull can scatter when animation is interpolated by applying retouches in 2D processing using After Effects (AE). The base of the explosion itself is created in Hyper Voxcel, and by synthesizing it with retouched 2D “special effect” material, the effect can be finished efficiently with detail. Without such effects processing, the rendering cost can be severe, but Mr. Kimura says this is a very helpful method.
Fleet warfare that makes full use of Instance
Examples of fleet battle shots created with the Instance feature of LW
B. Layout made in LW. In the second case, only two battleships are actually deployed. The battleship is arranged in large numbers using Instance. The base model at the lower left of the LW work screen is the one used for Instance. This prevents the need to use low-rez battleship models in the mob.
C. Animatics for direction confirmation. The rendering cost of the explosion effect is taken into consideration, and expressed here with a simple sphere.
D. Completed shot.
representation of a destroyed battleship
Shots of battleships being destroyed come up frequently in a fleet battle, and were created using the free plugin AS Lattice. Combining two ships using AS Lattice makes it possible to destroy the front and back. By moving the lattice applied to a battleship, it is possible to freely control the destroyed part of the hull. When the base explosion scene is made, it becomes easy to mass-produce the setting and apply it to each shot. If the destruction data is only applied to the middle, it is replaced with another battleship as needed.
A. A lattice applied to the model of the battleship in its state before the explosion.
B. Moving the lattice causes the hull to begin to deform.
C. Manipulating the lattice causes the hull to reach a state where it breaks in the front and back. The broken parts are placed on the exploding model. The next model is broken in the front and back, and the model with its back end destroyed is combined with the previous model.
D. Completed shot.
Many of the explosion effects appearing in this work is animation created in Hyper Voxcel. It is expressed via a special effect. This effect creates a test video used as a quality index before the shot enters production. It is said that the director can adjust the image. The rendering of an explosion shot is prone to cost, but is easy to modify so that it doesn’t become a burden in a retake. Also, it enables a director to use an anime-like production technique that is frequently used in post production.
A. UI created in LW.
B. Smoke-emitting material created in 3D.
C. Composite with AE.
D. Effect material composited after being drawn in 2D.
E. Completed shot. In addition to the explosion, flames emerge from the hull and detailed elements such as reflections and fragments of the explosion are added. The effect expression is realized efficiently with detail.
Reproducing the “Kanada pass” in 3DCG
3DCG enables the production of extreme deformation
Director Habara is particular about what he describes as an “analog feeling that is important to Yamato.” It is an anime-like expression with hand-drawing, as done by the original Yamato production crew. One example is this Cosmo Tiger II flight scene. There are six shots that the director created by working directly with an animator. In the so-called “Kanada pass,” there is a dynamic expression that transforms greatly as an object approaches the camera. Recreating this expression in the pass was a big point in 3DCG.
“Because it is 3DCG, I didn’t think such a thing could be done,” said Mr. Kimura, “but I thought positively about how to reproduce this anime-like expression.”
In order to achieve this expression, the underlying lattice of the model is distorted to a specific target, and the method is adopted of morphing during a pass.
“Early on, we decided that the rule is fighters can distort, but battleships do not. But even battleships can stretch when they pass in front of the camera. It’s important to come up with cool shots, so we respond to this need by being flexible.”
“Every shot is made in such a way that the individuality of the worker comes out,” Mr. Honma said.
Even when it can’t easily be technically expressed in 3DCG, it is said to be a very educational experience since the directors give technical suggestions. When three people – the anime director, assistant director, and CG director – stand directly in front of the worker’s screen to make suggestions and give approval, there is close involvement that creates a ideal production environment with minimal waste.
Cosmo Tiger II Kanada pass
The director is committed to the point of reproducing the Kanada pass of the Cosmo Tiger II.
A. The Cosmo Tiger II 3D model in its normal state.
B. The state of transformation using the lattice. To ensure that the deformation does not vary from one animator to another, the deformed state is fixed as a target model, and can be transformed into a fixed shape with the morph setting.
C: Normal state.
D: The deformed model in the Kanada pass. It is possible to animate the shape from C to D within the shot.
E. Example shot of the Kanada pass.
Rendering with an emphasis on efficiency
To reduce the rendering costs of 3DCG, a method was devised to reduce retakes. The look and added effects can be modified during shot production with AE and many passes are output in the rendering of 3DCG.
“Because a lot of resources go into 3DCG,” said Mr. Uemura, “a shot that is returned for a retake when the look doesn’t match up can cause a serious loss of time. In order to reduce such things, I try to prepare enough materials to make the adjustments on the shooting side. There are often things that we don’t see until shots are connected, so we always try to be flexible with direction.”
Yamato‘s render pass process
A. Diffuse material is used in AE Colorama to make a cel.
B. Line material. To make it easy to check the output in this production, lines are output in white.
C. Mask. The windows and transparent parts are color-coded.
D. Normal map. This is not usually used, but can be used for special processing when creating a shot.
E. Color material.
F. Specular and highlight material.
G. Full composite state. Luminance is also output with a total of eight types of material prepared for photography.
Read another interview with the Sublimation team at the Lightwave website here.