At some point in watching our favorite anime series, fans might have wondered how exactly to create an entire animated TV show. How is anime created? What are the necessary preparations? Who are the people behind the production process?
These kind of questions are a few of those matters that avid fans and animation enthusiasts love to know and examine in detail.
This is the planning stage. It is where the crucial decision of whether or not an animation gets through. In this stage, we get to identify who wants to create the anime and the people backing up the project.
One could argue that it’s the most tedious part of the process considering the time and effort spent on it. At this stage, sponsors who will provide the money for the production, and the core team who will be responsible for the legwork has to be built.
This is basically the turning point that dictates whether or not the project is accepted.
It’s also during this stage when the four core staff positions are decided. These include:
- The screenplay writer(s)
- The episode director
- The storyboard director
- The animation director
One or more people could take on the same position depending on the budget, deadline and overall production needs. Moreover, bigger projects may need each core member to work on their respective teams to finish things faster.
In this stage, the committee responsible for the airing, distribution, and advertising of the anime is also introduced. They are usually composed of:
- The production studio
- A TV network
- An ad agency
- Merchandise licensing
- The film financier
- Financial investors
- Domestic and international distributors
- An international sales agent
As soon as the project gets the green light, working on the anime’s foundation automatically commences. This starts with scriptwriting.
Narration, stage direction, and character interactions or dialogues are provided in this process. For anime adaptations, scripts are usually created to keep the appeal of the original product, such as those shows derived from games.
In the case of original works, the creator will receive due credit, though the scripts could change to adapt the necessary variation once animated. Of course, the original makers of the story will be given a heads-up about the change, but in practice, they don’t really get to make the final say.
Once the script is finished, episode directors and producers will have to review the entire thing to see if there’s a need to change something or add crucial elements to promote a product, most likely those of their sponsors.
This is the visual foundation of any episode or series. Once the story has been polished, the director then visualizes how it would appear on screen by creating storyboards. In many cases, the episode director is also the one who helps create the storyboard. There are also projects who hire a different person to handle this task.
A storyboard contains the following information:
- Cut numbers
- Actor movements
- Camera movements, such as zooming and panning
- Dialogue from the screenplay
- Length of each cut measured in seconds and frames
This is where side notes about special effects, sound, and other guidelines are provided. The storyboard is what dictates the flow of the events, so the person in charge of the work makes sure that details are well provided.
Does it Require High-Quality Drawing?
Not necessarily. The most important parts of this process are the details and the sequence, so sketches are fine. However, there are a number of meticulous storyboard artists who invest time on drawing detailed outlines.
Now we get to the nitty-gritty of the art process. If storyboarding is the bones of the entire project, layout-ing is the muscle, tendon, joints and ligaments.
Here, layout artists work on transforming the rough images from the storyboard into the actual image that would appear once it’s animated. This is where you get to see add-on details such as:
Background art, such as mountains, trees, and buildings
Background shading, like warm colors for summer or a gloomy atmosphere for stormy weather
In layout-ing, you get a clearer image of where characters are standing, how a setting is framed and seen on screen, and things like that.
There are also cases when several cuts in the storyboard are joined in one layout sheet.
At this point, the storyboard has been polished by providing detailed layouts per scene. The next step is animation!
A lot of animators and anime fans admire this process knowing that it’s the part where you get to see static images move, breathing life into the images. This stage is where the animation director and his team hand-draw the frames and simulate it using computers and advanced digital animation programs.
Sometimes, up to 20 key animators work on a single anime episode and make sure that the specific cuts and frames detailed on the storyboard are expressed well.
This part is often the most overlooked part of the process since it’s basically a minor touch. Once the main scene or frame has been animated, details like minor background additions have to be provided to help facilitate the smooth transition of frames.
It’s said that this job is often outsourced, though some production companies do have extra hands who can do the polishing.
Any gaps in the drawing will be filled out in this section. Animators assigned on this task are also responsible for tracing the key frames and making sure that they’re very much polished.
Compositing or Filming
This is when the final touches are applied! Once the layout and additional drawings are completed, they are then transferred to a computer to be digitalized.
Here, colors are added depending on the specified color palette. At present, the industry is already employing advanced programs like Retas! PRO. This advanced program helps animators add more vibrant colors onto the final art. If you compare shows such as the Hunter X Hunter 1999 and its more recent 2011 version, you’ll see a stark difference when it comes to coloring.
In this stage, special effects like lighting, flares, glint, blur and more are also added. After the compositing procedure, the assigned staff work on the final polishing to make necessary adjustments to timing. This is done to make sure that the episode will not exceed or fall short of its broadcast period.
Anything that comes after the editing stage is considered as part of the post-production process. Procedures such as voice acting, subtitles, final episode cuts, and additional late edits fall on this part.
It’s easy to admire, enjoy and even critic on different anime series we watch based on its final output, but understanding how the entire production works makes it all the more special.
Producing an episode requires time, skills and money and there’s no foolproof guarantee that creators can enjoy a huge profit from the project. If you want to show your support, then watching anime episodes on legal online streaming sites or buying the original DVD copies is a good way to go! Next time you decide to pick a series, spend a little bit of time appreciating the effort that went into the show.