In “Professional Work Styles” featuring Anno Hideaki, the general director of “Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time ” (Shin Eva), the production process of the film was introduced.
In it, he introduced his unique animation production style where he doesn’t storyboard (draw) and uses virtual cameras, motion capture, etc. to create the previsualization first. The majority of the work was produced in this way without storyboarding.
How special a way of creating an anime this is, can be understood by considering the importance of storyboards in anime production. For example, in the “Encyclopedia of Basic Knowledge of Anime, Expanded and Revised Edition” (Kamimura Sachiko, Graphic Publishing), wrote the following in the section on storyboards.
“A storyboard is a blueprint for an anime that depicts the screen in pictures. It is so important that it is said that the quality of the work is determined by the quality of the storyboard. It contains almost all the information such as dialogue, acting, sound effects, layout, camera work, effects, and background music. The storyboard is used by everyone from drawing to production.”
The storyboard is based on the script and shows the content of each cut and how each cut will be connected to the other. In live-action films, the filming is done first, and then the editing is done to decide which parts of the footage will be used and how the footage will be connected to each other.
In contrast, in animation, the rough flow of cuts is decided by storyboard before the images are created, and the necessary pictures are drawn according to the storyboard. This is probably due to the fact that “drawing pictures” requires a lot of work, and therefore, it is important to avoid wasting time drawing pictures that will not be used in the work as much as possible.
In addition, since the storyboard contains all the information necessary for the production of the animation, it shows the director’s general guidelines for the work, and in this respect, it is also understood as the process that first establishes the “artist’s character. For this reason, in many feature-length animation projects, the director alone often draws up the storyboards.
General Director Anno also used pre-visualization in his previous work “Shin Godzilla”. Here is what he has to say about it.
“In the first place, 3DCG cuts can’t be made by editing if you have the material. But if you use a storyboard, you’ll end up creating the image of the storyboard, and you won’t be able to see anything you haven’t imagined, and the gap with the real world will widen. In “Shin Godzilla,” I didn’t want to create images based on the images in my brain. I wanted “Shin Godzilla” to be a film that cuts out the scenery that exists in real space. That’s why I first created a 3D space of something that exists in reality, and then used a virtual camera to figure out how and from where to cut out Godzilla. Or I would take a picture of an actual landscape and do a pre-visualization to initially see if it would make a good picture if Godzilla were in this actual landscape. That’s why I didn’t need storyboards, which are a form of drawing that prioritizes the image in your mind. (From a conversation with Kamiyama Kenji, published in “I’ve Never Shot a Movie: Director’s Cut Edition” (Kamiyama Kenji, Kodansha))”
Since “Shin Godzilla” is a special effects film, not everything will be the same as in “Shin Eva”. However, it is interesting to note that, on the one hand, the use of pre-visualization is like the two sides of a coin, and on the other hand, there are points such as, “If you make a storyboard, you end up creating the image of the storyboard, and you won’t be able to come up with anything you haven’t imagined,” and “Storyboarding is a form of drawing that prioritizes the image in your brain.”
In this interview, General Director Anno also talked about the “constraints” of having a storyboard.
“Animation is a process of taking an image in your mind and turning it into a visual image, so the first thing you want to do is to make the image visible in the form of a storyboard. But on the other hand, if I want to create something that I haven’t imagined, the storyboard gets in the way.”
“The reason why Miyazaki-san’s storyboards are in that style is because he wants to create something that is exactly the same as the image in his mind. That’s why he puts so much importance on storyboards.”
“I don’t like it when things only turn out the way I imagined them. Especially if I draw the storyboard myself, it’s hard to make it better than what I imagined. (omission) As for the information that the cut needs, it doesn’t come in any better than what I first imagined. My image is usually created in my mind before I draw the storyboard. Then, even if I draw the storyboard myself, there is just something there that doesn’t go beyond the scope of my imagination at all.”
The importance of storyboards in anime production. The pre-visualized production method of “Shin-Eva” can be seen as a counter to this.
By “filming” using 3DCG (which also includes human acting by motion capture), the artist tried to incorporate elements that were conventionally considered “live-action” into the anime, such as the accidental nature of live acting and the way a scene is created by editing.
This attitude can be seen in the interviews with director Maeda Masahiro and director Tsurumaki Kazuya in the pamphlet.
While not as radical as “Shin-Eva,” some of the works I have seen have challenged me to “incorporate live-action ideas into anime direction” or to “reflect images other than my own in the storyboard.
For example, in 2004’s “Innocence” (directed by Oshii Mamoru), although there was a storyboard, the idea was to build a set in 3DCG and decide the layout by freely moving the camera within the set.
This is in direct contrast to Oshii-san’s previous work, “Avalon” (2001), which was based on the concept of creating a live-action film with an animated concept.
However, due to technical problems back in 2004, the plan was to limit the number of scenes that incorporated live-action ideas to about 20-30% of the film.
One of the scenes that stands out among the 20-30% is the scene where the characters are attacked in a grocery store (convenience store), and this space was created entirely in 3DCG, with all the products in the store modeled.
In recent years, storyboards themselves have been drawn using traditional methods, but the use of 3DCG for layout has been increasing. In many cases, the layout is output in 3DCG based on the instructions in the storyboard, so the concept is no different from traditional hand-drawn animation.
However, in some works, the angles were decided in 3DCG prior to the storyboard.
For example, in the TV animation “Carol & Tuesday” (2019, directed by Watanabe Shinichiro), the art settings were created using 3DCG software called Sketchup, and in some episodes, the angles were decided using Sketchup before the storyboard.
With the spread of these 3DCG tools, it is possible that the idea of “cutting out the space as if it were a live action” will spread to anime.
Then, what about “incorporating ideas other than your own into the storyboard”? In the case of full-length animation, there are cases where multiple people are in charge of storyboarding, and the primary reason for this is thought to be “division of labor” to save time.
Of course, a person who is good at action may be in charge of an action scene, but only that person alone is in charge of that scene.
One of the few exceptions to this rule is “Hirune Hime: Shiranai Watashi no Monogatari” (2017), directed by Kamiyama Kenji, who talks with General Director Anno in the aforementioned conversation.
This film was created in a style where three people, including Director Kamiyama, each drew a storyboard using a digital tool, and then all of them checked the movie version of the storyboard and continued to improve the storyboard. Including the fact that the content of the storyboard is immediately verified in the movie, this style was quite different for 2017.
With the development of tools, the position of storyboards and the way they are drawn are sure to change in the future.
Even if it doesn’t go as radical as “Shin-Eva,” there is no doubt that the reasons why storyboarding will change are included in the issues raised by “Shin-Eva.”