Terao Yuichi of ufotable talks about the world of Japan anime and thinkingParticles effects for the anime production, 'Tales of Zestiria the X'

cebas: O genki desu-ka, Terao, this is cedar, how are you doing? Thank you for agreeing to share some anime work that uses thinkingParticles for visual effects.

Terao: Hello, I'm Terao Yuichi. I belong to Japanese animation studio "ufotable" and in charge of Digital Artist department. I am responsible for Composite Director and some FX Scenes everyday.

cebas: ufotable’s facebook post for the 'Tales of Zestiria BDBOX - Technical Works' movie FX caught our eyes, since some scenes included thinkingParticles. What was the statistics like for an anime style simulation? Like, how many frames? How many hours/days of FX work was involved ?

* Total shot [1st + 2nd season]: 7774 Cut
* Total : about 57 minutes
* Sim : 5 minutes to a few hours
* Rendering Data size[1st + 2nd season] : 0.95 TB
* Production Period (day of work)[1st + 2nd season - storyboard to composite] : 1.5 years.

cebas: doing fx in ANIME is a new thing to many people in the west since TP has always been associated with film or commercial fx, and then there is, of course, the game industry, so do tell us a bit more about the Anime visual effects field in Japan - is it high skill and in demand for Japan? What does ‘anime’ means?

Terao: Hello, everyone :) "Anime" is just one of the many storytelling styles in my country. I know that some people working in Anime Industry are already using TP. Jurassic Park was released in 1993. On the other hand, the process of digitization of animation began in early 2000s. In addition, for Japan the tradition of hand-drawing culture has a strong influence, even now, and It is only a recent affair that 3D / CGI began to be introduced in earnest. Both animation, live action and game cinematics, essentially seek the same resources. So, maybe yes, there is demand for highly skilled in Japan.

cebas : Terao, tell us about yourself as an artist: cebas communities would love to know more about you and your VFX work - some interesting history of how you came to be a VFX artist?

Terao: After entering Osaka University of Arts in Japan, I got a job in ufotable in Tokyo.It has already been 13 years since then, it's simple. I started my career as a compositor, now I am doing various work at the studio, for example FX artists.

ufotable digitalteam demoreel from ufotable on Vimeo.

  TP fx in the Anime Guild Opening

The AnimeGuild Opening Sequence (2K) from ufotable on Vimeo with thinkingParticles inclusive.


cebas: Is it easy to find training in thinkingParticles in the art colleges of Japan?

Terao: I believe so, I do not know where it is. You can find TP artists in Japan with the twitter hashtag "#tpjp"! First of all, I think we have to study English , it's best solution for now.

cebas: does ufotable uses both Autodesk Max and Maya?

 Terao: Max is our good friend. Maya is a honor student I have not met.

cebas: Terao, this scene in 'Tales of Zestiria the X' : https://www.facebook.com/ufotable/videos/1695143547177724/
Were you both the Compositor and FX Artist?

Terao: Yes.

cebas: could you give us some insights on why you decided to use TP?

Terao: the reason is that after some long research, our team found many cases where wonderful fx scenes was created using TP. I also found that as the scene in 3dsmax became more complicated in the effects sim, the range of changes and the general versatility of scene data tended to become difficult to handle.

As I entered the production for Tales of Zestiria the X, there was little preparation time so I thought it was a good opportunity to get going with TP and I started to study TP.

I did manage to find excellent tutorials on Thinking Particles on the Internet, and since I already have the Max basics, there are points where it was easy to study. At that time, I was also using Vue software, and I became very fascinated with the idea of procedural system construction.

cebas: for those new to the Anime industry in Japan, Terao, can you say something about the Anime-style of artwork and animation - are they mostly done on 3dsMax and what are the usual popular software used for Anime productions ?

Terao: 3D software : Both Maya and 3ds Max and composite : most of the time it is Adobe After Effects.

cebas: in your experience, Terao, has it been easy and straightforward for you and your digital team to integrate the FX done with thinkingParticles with the anime production pipeline? Were there any hiccups?

Terao: pipeline integration, no problem. Since I make many processes independently (sometimes from Previz to Composite) by themselves, I was able to detect the problems and their path and resolve them myself.

cebas: what are some of the features in thinkingParticles that you feel are unbeatable - such as, perhaps, help speed up and enhance creative output for your projects ?

Terao: I am interested in improving the efficiency of the destruction system and the evolution of liquid simulation. The mechanism of cache is still difficult for me, but I like to be challenge. I am also studying soft body now.

cebas: what do you find usually are the most difficult aspects of 3d/ fx design work - is it technology or artistic inspiration? - is there an available vfx software that resolves all your technology-to-creativity needs? What is missing?

Terao: It is a very interesting question. At first we will strive to realize the quality of the shots. Next, we will scale up the difficulty of realizing the quality of the sequence, and then realizing the quality of the whole movie. In that process, both technology and artistic inspiration are necessary. Furthermore, we are also asked for powerful scenes to inspire people. CG acts are magical. But, training is still necessary. Anyway I try to think like this. When you encounter problems, what we miss is not time or technology, but an imagination to always solve problems.

cebas: Terao, you could please tell us about visual effects in Japan?  We understand that there are lots of superhero and monster movies that are popular in Japan like Godzilla and Omnibus Japan’s ‘Patlabor Shutto Kessen’ - but we still do not know whether production and the art industry actually want lots of VFX projects or prefer a more traditional method to do anime story-telling?

Terao :  for me it may be difficult to explain properly. The animation industry and the live-action industry are not one and the same. Traditional methods are, of course, wonderful. But, everyone loves Marvel 's hero movies and sci-fi works. I believe that animation, live-action games and games are all emotional, complex work, and magnificent CG images will continue to increase. 

cebas: are there a lot of East-West, Japan-US/Canada/Europe joint projects between VFX production or creative studios ? Or mostly Asia partnerships ?

Terao: I think that there are many Asians in the story that I heard, but I do not really understand. Because ufotable does not outsource almost, I do not know much about it. I'm sorry. 

cebas: and what projects can we expect from you in the future (if you're able to tell us) ?

Terao: sorry, I cannot talk much about my next job with TP. But I want to make it a wonderful work to be exciting. Please look forward to it.

cebas: what are your professional and what are your personal hopes and dreams in moving into the future in the art of visual effects and balancing life/work?

Terao: for me, a professional vision is to output the quality that is required for a project properly under any circumstances, and I mean ...under "any!" circumstances :) It is very simple and requires a lot of patience. (Sometimes crazy hard work too :D.) Therefore, for me, it is very important to think that participating in a project itself creates meaning in my personal life. Make an awesome artwork and it will also make the audience happy. As a result, it is necessary for the studio to succeed as a business. Enrich the work, enrich audiences, enrich the studio - the goal is to complete this golden triangle in my studio. To me, that is connected to a good life.

cebas: Terao, that is an awesome way of seeing things which I am sure a lot in among our readers will agree. 

Terao: thank you for coming by ! Be in touch. terao@ufotable.com 

cebas would like to thank Terao Yuichi and the ufotable digital team

for this delightful interview about visual effects with TP in anime.

We hope to see more anime with thinkingParticles in time to come.