What Kind Of Animation Is Used For Anime?

Did you ever wonder how drawings from paper come to life? How does your favorite anime have those exciting fight scenes? Surely, the secret lies behind the animation process, but what kind of animation is used for anime?

Anime uses digital animation. Anime production houses use different software based on their company’s workflow. Some use a program where there is a pre-set for frame sequences, while others focus on software that works well with composting. Separate software is used for adding effects.

Does this mean that anime can be easily created as the final process can be done with just a touch of a button? It is still not as easy as we think! Keep on reading to learn how the creative and technical aspects of making an anime are done.

Anime Uses Digital Animation

Gone are the days when plastic was used to mimic movement between drawings on acetate. We are referring to cel animation. When digital animation was not yet available, anime was made in this way.

Everything about cel animation is manual. You stack acetates on top of each other. At the same time, you draw over older outlines to know how the next frame is going to look.

Needless to say, this kind of animation does not only take a lot of time and effort, but it is also costly.

This is how cel animation works. The drawings are done on the acetate. Coloring is inversed as it is done on the underside. (Source)

More than that, it can also be dangerous. A chemical used in cel animation, cellulose nitrate, was found to be highly flammable. Take note that in this process, the animators use a lot of light and they are working with flammable materials.

It was so common in those old days to randomly have light fires while working on cel animation frames. Scary, right?

Good thing that now, anime production houses use digital animation which is just a fancy word of saying they use computer programs made specifically to animate objects.

The video is quite old but even back then, they used computers when making anime. Today, they use tablets combined with computers, of course. Yay, for technology!

You might be wondering if anime is still hand-drawn, given the fact that we already have this ready-to-go software that can make life easier. Find the answer here, and you might just be in for a surprise.

What Programs Are Used To Create Anime?

As anime uses digital animation to complete the production process, their software takes center stage in making the abstract and scattered frames into concrete and coherent sequences.

Take a look at the most popular software that anime production houses use.

RETAS Studio Suite

A lot of production houses use this program because it has a lot of components that do not only deal with animating sequences but also image and photo manipulation of raw frames. These are the major components:

Stylos HDA tablet can be used to compile all the raw and hand-drawn frames and turn them into a sequence. It can also do vector line art just to clean up the lines in the paper drawing.
In-betweening FunctionAs the frames are already arranged, the in-betweening panels can be easily done by tweaking the pre-set frames. The animator can add outlines to existing frames to create the in-between.
Cut SpecificationsThe program also has the function to automatically note specific cuts based on the state of the current production. This is important when certain sequences need to be copied in future sequences.
TraceMan HDThe images that are processed in digital animation come from hand-drawn material. Therefore, this feature helps with scanning an image as well as transforming it into vector line art.

You might notice that we mentioned numerous times that there should be cleaning up or editing of “lines.” This is due to the fact that everything that goes through digital animation came from traditional hand-drawn art.

If you are curious as to how an anime stems from drawing by hand, check this article out.

PaintMan HD

This is widely used by production houses not for line work but for coloring. Before this program came to be, coloring used to be done manually. However, as one can imagine, the color may not translate well when the paper is scanned or photographed.

Using a program to color a hand-drawn drawing can capture vibrant colors and it is also more efficient. Nowadays, all production houses do digital coloring. They only do it the traditional way if it is the intention of the anime production team.

Here is how coloring is done with PaintMan HD. As you can see, it can be integrated as a plug-in of the RETAS Studio Suite.

They can also add effects at this stage, but the features of this program are limited. So if they need heavy effects in a sequence, they use another program.

Adobe Photoshop and Adobe After Effects

We mentioned adding complicated effects earlier, and Adobe After Effects is the preferred program for that. This program specializes in motion graphics and can also organize sequences. Further, the camera pans of a sequence can also be manipulated.

It goes hand in hand with Adobe Photoshop. The raw effects can be digitally drawn here and will then be processed in Adobe After Effects. Composting can also be done here to combine the backgrounds and the character frames as well as the animation sequences.

Here is a sped-up animation process that combines work from Photoshop and After Effects.

3D Studio Max

When 3D elements are going to be used in the anime, they use the 3D Studio Max program. Some production houses use Adobe Photoshop to create models, but the automated features in 3D Studio Max are much preferred.

Before the existence of 3D Studio Max, animators used to create models by hand. They create the same drawing, but at different angles. It will then be scanned and put together digitally.

The problem with this strategy is more often than not, the result is still not a perfect 3D model. Therefore, with the birth of this program, production houses practically scrapped doing manual 3D work as the effort is too much while the result is just so-so.

Adobe Premier Pro

Finally, after all the organization of frames that turned into sequences as well as composting all digital content, we arrive at editing. This program is used to arrange the sequences in the right order, edit and reorder cuts, add audio, as well as adjust camera pans.

The final timeline can be done with this program. Some production houses also use Adobe Media Composer in arranging the timeline. Final Cut Pro 7 is also used for final editing.

There was a time when Final Cut Pro X was well-liked by production houses. However, they soon realized that this program does not suit the workflow of the animation process because there is little to no network integration.

Therefore, people from various departments need to save their work on a separate device and walk to other departments, plug in a USB or external hard drive to another computer, and then copy all the files. Only then can it be edited. Due to this hassle, not a lot of production houses use Final Cut Pro X.

Final Words

As you now have discovered, digital animation is not as simple and easy as it sounds. Add to that the fact that even when they are already in the animation stage, there are bound to be errors. It is good news when the error can be corrected digitally, but what happens when it needs to be redrawn?

The answer is, the frame is disregarded as a whole and they go back to drawing it by hand. Learning all of these makes us appreciate the hard work of the artists in anime production houses, right? We can return the favor by happily watching our favorite animes!

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