Space Battleship Yamato 2202: Warriors of Love
Interview with Sublimation, the Japanese animation studio responsible for the CG effects of this amazing project
Posted: Thu 27 Apr 2017
Considered to be a monumental work of sci-fi animation, the anime series “Space Battleship Yamato” (also known as Star Blazers - 1974) creates excitement even today! After “Space Battleship Yamato 2199”, the remake of the planetary phenomena, “Space Battleship Yamato 2202: Warriors of Love” is now becoming a reality through a seven-part theatrical film project done in LightWave 3D.
Tokyo-based LightWave reseller D-Storm interviewed Sublimation -- the studio behind the CG effects of this sequel -- to learn more about their workflow. Taichi Kimura (CG Director), Yasunori Honma (DCG Sub Director) and Tomohiro Uwabo (CG Project Manager) will tell us how enthusiastic they are about being on board the Yamato and how LightWave 3D made it all possible.
“With its ability to handle high poly meshes and complex scenes without problems and a full featured toolset LightWave is an amazing tool for the animation industry.” Taichi Kimura - CG Director of "Space Battleship Yamato 2202: Love Warriors"
From left to right: Mr. Honma, Mr. Kimura, Mr. Uwabo
After working for Japanese CG production studio IKIF+ and Production IG, Kimura joined Sublimation in January 2012. Taichi Kimura has been mainly involved in CG creation for Production IG's titles and pachinko machine. He is now leading the "Space Battleship Yamato 2202: Love Warriors" project as the CG Director.
Previously involved in 3DCG animation work at several renowned Japanese animation studios, Yasunori Honma has now joined the creative team at Sublimation and is in charge of the "Space Battleship Yamato 2202: Love Warriors" project in the role of 3DCG Sub Director.
Coming from the game industry where he has worked as programmer, Tomohito Uwabo has been developing unique in-house tools that provide solutions encountered in the creation process for quite some time. He is now more focused on the animation aspects as project manager on “Space Battleship Yamato 2202: Love Warriors" where he puts his unique skills to good use.
How have you come to start working on this project?
Since we had the chance to previously be involved with the "Space Battleship Yamato 2199” project, Production IG asked us to continue our work with this project. However, since the entire workflow of “Yamato 2199” was based on another software package, our main challenge was to convert the model assets and effects so that we could import them into LightWave 3D. This explains why “Yamato 2199” and ““Yamato 2202” each show a slightly different Cel-Shading look. Additionally, we also had to manually modify the shapes of the spaceships to provide as much consistency as possible between the two projects.
Yamato 2199 (Previous Shape) Yamato 2202 (Current Shape)
How many staff members do you have and how long did it take to create Chapter 1?
It took us almost six months to convert all of the effects and models for LightWave. This was a huge task and only after completing this could we begin work on creating the scenes. Since the deadline was set for November 2016, we had only four months scheduled to work on this project. This is why LightWave was so important for us because the direct “no-nonsense” LightWave approach allowed us to get the project done in just a few months!
For Chapter 1 we had around 14 people working on the project and the team was structured with eleven animators, two modelers and one texture artist.
Could you tell us a little bit about your creative process and workflow?
The whole project was done in LightWave and we used Affect Effects for our post process. LightWave 3D was our main and only 3D application for the project without a doubt and worked very well for our process. The process began with getting the storyboard done and then an approval of a draft 3D animation, we then replaced the low poly meshes with the final high resolution models to create the final animation for rendering. In this way, we did not lose too much time and we were guaranteed to end up with the animation that we wanted.
To get the cel-shaded look, our main problem was to separate each material in LightWave and then composite in After Effects. Since we used some of the data from "Yamato 2199”, we had to set up simple materials in LightWave as much as we can, output them via LightWave’s function "composite buffer export", and then composite in After Effects. Also, we had to find a solution to adjust the thickness of the outlines in After Effects to output better edges. Since the previous data was sub patched, we couldn’t convert them to LightWave. So, we had to freeze the meshes and then import the frozen modeling data in LightWave.
Animation draft Image rendered in LightWave 3D Image post processed in AfterEffects
Why do you choose LightWave 3D as your main 3DCG tool?
We prefer working with LightWave 3D and we find that it delivers what we need, in time and with cost-effectiveness! These are the main advantages of using LightWave for us.
Also, with its ability to handle high poly meshes and complex scenes without problems and a full featured toolset LightWave is an amazing tool for the animation industry. Since we had a huge number of battleships --some scenes were over 100 million polygons – and we had a really short deadline so using any other 3D software would have made this project very difficult for us, almost impossible. But since in LightWave it is very light to handle the modeling data, we can manipulate even the one million polygons mesh of the Yamato battleship very easily. This is one of the strong points of LightWave that is extremely helpful for us.
Let's talk about render time: How long did you take for rendering a scene of the Space Battleship?
About 10 seconds for a frame of 1 unit of Space Battleship Yamato.
Which are your best plugins to use with LightWave 3D on this project? Is there any plugin that you cannot live without?
Since this project utilizes our staff members and also outside contractors we decided to use free or in-house plugins only to make the process manageable.
As one of Japanese Anime Techniques requires, we often need to deform objects from camera perspective to exaggerate some animations and modify the shape of items accordingly. Sadly, this takes time, but thanks to the "AS Lattice" plugin, we can be more efficient; this plugin was pretty useful on this project.
Model using morph
We also use the lattice plugin for explosions and collapsed models. Often, we must create a special model in this case for the particular effect. But if we shift the position of the original Lattice object, we can shift the explosion position and replace it with another battleship. We also use the lattice plugin for creating cracks and bulges as well as displacement maps for additional deformation.
HyperVoxel is also a great tool when it comes to create some explosions and it is surprisingly simple with excellent results! This is one of the best tools for Anime style effects. We could not have better explosions than the ones provided by using HyperVoxels in LightWave.
Explosive scene using Lattice
How many teams are currently involved in this project?
Currently, we have four teams: Production IG Team, Yamato 2202 Team, Love Live Team and The Ancient Magus' Bride Team. On these four teams, three are using LightWave as their main 3DCG tool and even if these teams are independent on their tasks, they are also assisting each other when needed.
We have also been in contact with Nagoya Studio which is using LightWave exclusively as well. Now more than twenty people are helping us in the creation of our productions while learning LightWave, and some of them will become Yamato 2202 team’s members in the future.
Thank you for taking the time to speak with us!
Learn more about Sublimation, Inc.:
Website (Japanese): www.sublimation.co.jp
Interview originally published in Japanese on D-Storm website.