Visiting Studio Colorido: Up-and-Coming Digital Animation Studio

I think it will be the top leading animation studio in the future.

Today, many of Japanese animation studios rely on “papers and pencils” to produce anime. Although some parts have been updated, this is the traditional Japanese style of the animation production which has been handed down for decades.

The world is now in the age of the internet and the digital tools. The animation studios innovate those new cultures, but Japanese studios remain in the world of “paper and pencil.” Meanwhile, there is a studio that is mainly using digital technologies and progressing the new animation production methods.

It is that I visited this time, Studio Colorido.

What is Studio Colorido?

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Hinata & Swan from “Hinata no Aoshigure”

Studio Colorado is the animation studio in Shinagawa, which is a rare location for animation studios.

You may recognize it from the opening animation of “Noitamina.” It is the new studio which have wonderful creators such as Hiroyasu Ishida (director of Hinata no Aoshigure), Yojiro Arai (director of Typhoon Noruda), and Takashi Nakamura (director of BUBU & BUBULINA). Their young talents, experienced animators, and digital technologies produce outstanding animations.

at the entrance

at the entrance

The uniqueness of Studio Colorido comes from the digital production environment, but I think it also comes from “where it is” and “how big it is.” While there are so many animation studios in Japan, it is the only studio that has the beautiful view of Tokyo Bay. It is exceptionally big in size as an animation studio.

How will the future of digital animation and Studio Colorido be?

Yojiro Arai (left), Kana Shibata (middle), and Kentaro Kurisaki (right)

Yojiro Arai (left), Kana Shibata (middle), and Kentaro Kurisaki (right)

On the day of the visit, Yojiro Arai (director of Typhoon Noruda), Kentaro Kurisaki (in-between animation checker of Typhoon Noruda), and Kana Shibata (design manager) kindly welcomed me.

We had a really fun talk. It wasn’t only about digital animation, but also many other topics. (For example, Mr. Kurisaki is in love with Anomalocaris.) What they talked made me feel their strong passion in animation production. I can’t wait for their new animation by their innovative ideas.

The final goal of Studio Colorido is “ALL DIGITAL.”

Mr. Kurisaki drawing on the graphics tablet.

Mr. Kurisaki drawing on the graphics tablet.

– The core productive methods are digital in Studio Colorido. How did you bring digital animation into your animation production? How do you think it will be in the future?

Kurisaki: Colorido’s final goal is “ALL DIGITAL.” I hope we can digitize every single method of animation production. Although we still drew some parts by hand, the production of Noruda had been a great experience to collaborate with the other production that used STYLOS (the digital drawing tool). At this point, it is still difficult to make everything digital, but we will keep trying to make it better.

Why are we challenging “ALL DIGITAL?” Currently, the animation production is the mixture of digital and analog. Having both methods causes so many productive losses such as printing out a digital picture for the check and replacing taps. Even in digital methods, if the filename extensions differ, we need to convert the files. STYLOS has its own filename extension, too.

At this point, we have many losses through the production. We used CLIP STUDIO PAINT from the early productive part of Noruda, so there was no scanning, but we still had to transfer the data into STYLOS. It wasn’t much work as scanning, but it was something we want to improve. Especially the small team like us, Colorado, needs to improve the productive methods as much as possible by omitting small losses so that we can spend more time on the animation. We are looking for an ideal software that enable that improvement.

-So you want to make more time to spend for creativity.

Kurisaki: We have to draw so many cuts. It’s always good if we can omit some parts. Also, I think the moment when we can move what we draw is the one of the beauty of digital animation.

The strength of digital animation is that we can spend more time on the character’s movement.

The strength of digital animation is that we can check the character’s movement in detail.

The strength of digital animation is that we can check the character’s movement in detail.

-What do you think, Mr. Arai?

Arai: Well, using digital methods means that we can put more effort on the character’s movement. That’s the main reason we are doing digital animation.

-Do you like making the character’s movement?

Arai: I didn’t care much about the movement before. As I make digital animation in Colorido, I started getting into it.

Series planning and screenplay are important for animation, but do you want to make animation depicted by the movement?

Arai: Yes. I think it would be meaningful work if we can do that.

-There are a lot of movements in Noruda.

Arai: Do you think so?

Kurisaki: Yes, definitely a lot.

Arai: I’m not sure how it look when we compare Noruda with other animations, though.

-Which animation do you think have good movements?

Arai: There are a lot. Recently, I thought “Denno Coil” and “Nishi-Ogikubo” (20min Walk From Nishi-Ogikubo Station, 2 Bedrooms, Living Room, Dining Room, Kitchen, 2mos Deposit, No Pets Allowed) had good movements. The movement of each anime makes the animation attractive, and I think it tells us a lot.

-The animations like “Nishi-Ogikubo” and “The Tale of Princess Kaguya” used a unique expression that the lines of the key animations remain in the final animation. Do you want to make that kind of animation?

Arai: I would love to try once. It might be a little different, but CGI and other live-action productive skills are so realistic and sophisticated these days. I think those works from other countries deeply consider what CGI or live-action can do, and their quality is improving dramatically. Whenever I watch those works, I often think “what if I make it into hand-drawn anime? How can I do?”

I sometimes wonder, “is it worth making animation too precisely?” I think it would be more meaningful to make hand-drawn animations with simpler characters, taking advantage of hand-drawing. In that case, I think hand-drawn animation has more chance in the future of animation production.

Hand-drawing never beats computers by preciseness such as in perspective. So I think we can make hand-drawing less precise. Hand-drawing can develop in a different way. The problem is we do not know whether anime fans like it or not.

About your job, your favorite anime, and creators.

Above Mr. Arai’s desk.

Above Mr. Arai’s desk.

-What exactly do you do as the in-between animation checker, Mr. Kurisaki?

During the in-between animation check of Noruda, how the hair flows is what I spend time on most.

Kurisaki: The production of Noruda was done by the methods that require more work than usual. The stage was school, so there are a lot of buildings and students. The typhoon was coming, so we had to draw raindrops and make hair flowing. We can’t do this much for the TV-series. We did a bunch of tricky animations. We controlled how the hair flows by the number of frames. Azuma (the lead character of Typhoon Noruda) has a fluffy hair, and we were very careful about how his hair flows. No matter who draws his hair, it had to flow in the same way. I think we did well on it. Also, we focused on the high realistic sensation from being locked in school by the typhoon.

Arai: Kurisaki’s another important job was to cooperate with the outside teams. He converted what we made digitally into analog for the other team. We need this job as long as the production is the mixture of digital and analog. Kurisaki indeed worked more than usual.

-Is there any anime of animator you have been influenced by?

Kurisaki: I say “Crayon Shin-chan” and “Medabots.” Although they are mostly simple unshaded characters, I loved the way they comically move around. In those works, the characters are simple but dynamic. I made some anime like that during my school year. I think I don’t care much about how precisely I draw.

Good side and bad side of digital animation.

Mac mini

Mac mini

-I think one of the issues the digital animation has been how we organize the data. After you made a digital animation, what do you think are the good side and the bad side of it?

Kurisaki: Unlike cut-bags, we could hardly tell how hard the cut was going to be just by looking at the folders on the computer. If we have the materials in the cut-bag, we can tell how hard the cut will be by its thickness. The files on the computer said the number of frames, but we couldn’t really tell how hard the cut was going to be.

STYLOS has a digital timesheet. Unlike the hand-written 6 seconds sheet, the digital timesheet can add the number of cells. If it’s analog, we can tell how much work we have by the number of the 6 seconds sheets. If it’s digital, we can’t. I realized how important it was to make the information visible. After Noruda, we decided to use analog sheets.

Arai: What Kurisaki said happens because STYLOS is still not perfect. The timesheet function is useful, but it doesn’t fit the analog production environment, so we use the analog sheet. I personally think we can use the timesheet function. Colorido has been using a unique method in which we color the serial numbers when we output the movie and then photograph them.

Because we are trying to do digital anime while current anime production system is mainly analog, those problems occur when we cooperate with the outside teams. If the production system changes, we may no longer need the idea of a timesheet. I think we can solve this problem and improve the production by total digitization so that we can make an animation more efficiency and spend more time on the movement. The system will improve sooner or later. We had many new challenges in Noruda. We had a hard time.

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Noruda says “Thank you”

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used lip-sync method

Kurisaki: Before Noruda, we made animations only in our studio, so we could preview right away and put video materials on the timeline of After Effects. This style worked when we were working alone, but it caused some issues when we cooperated with the outside teams. It was difficult to make the guideline show our own rules to the other teams. So now I know how to make materials easier for the latter parts of the production. I think this is the good point. The digital animation doesn’t require scanning. This is another one.

In addition, we can do some scribble on STYLOS. When we have some rough idea, we can scribble it and move it easily. This convenience is one of the points I want to highlight about digital animation.

What do you want to make next?

Noruda

Noruda

-Is there any specific skill you want to use next? What kind of animation do you want to make?

Kurisaki: I want to make something like “Ernest & Celestine”, the animation with little information and many movements. The simple gesture depicts who the character is. I like the way they depict characters only with simple behaviors. I wonder how much fun it is to make that kind of animation.

Arai: The entertainment impresses people. I want to make people laugh. Animation can hyperbolize the depiction. I think it works well in comedy. For example, the hyperbolized depictions in Misazaki’s “Lupin the Third” and “Castle in the Sky” are something that the only animation can do. The other depictions can be done by CGI or live-action. I don’t find it meaningful to make them into animation. I don’t mean to criticize those depictions. It does become an animation.

What is the depiction that only animation can do?

Director of Typhoon Noruda: Yojiro Arai

Director of Typhoon Noruda: Yojiro Arai

My taste has been changing a lot these days. Now the way I think is totally different from when I was in Ghibli.

Arai: But I enjoy this change. Whatever I try is fun, and I want to learn everything. The example of specific skill could be Obake (the animation method to depict fast movement). I think the characters can be much simple. The sophisticated precise animation is a good one to try, but I feel like trying something that the only animation can do. I guess it would be a comedy.

-Can a comedy anime be the next Colorido animation?

Arai: I guess it can.

Kurisaki: Maybe not something totally random. Maybe some comedy during drama scenes.

Arai: I want to draw some comical characters. I think it will be interesting to depict characters that way.

What is the ideal “imprecise” animation? How should hand-drawn animation be?

Drawn by Arai

Drawn by Mr. Arai

Arai: What I think Disney and Pixar are great is that they focus on the characters’ simpleness and smoothness while CGI tends to be used for detailed depictions. I really agree with that idea. Making “imprecise” by CGI is a quite hard work. But it is the beauty of hand-drawing. It is the characteristic.

-Mr. BahiJD from Austria has joined Typhoon Noruda. What do you think about the overseas development and inviting creators from the other countries?

Arai: I think they will increase. If some creators are interested in Studio Colorido, I hope they will apply. People from the other countries would bring new inspiration, and we can start new communication worldwide.

What do you do on your day off? What kind of job do you get into?

Kenjiro Kurisaki is the in-between animation checker and a big fan of Anomalocaris (left).

Kenjiro Kurisaki is the in-between animation checker and a big fan of Anomalocaris (left).

-What do you do on your day off?

Kurisaki: I watch movies and go to museums. Recently, I went to the National Science Museum, and I saw the fossil of Anomalocaris for the first time. I want to make a monster movie. The one with a giant monster.

Arai: That might be interesting if we do that by animation.

Kurisaki: Something like Anomalocaris will move creepily. His name can be Mr. Anomalocaris.

Arai: I want to release one anime every week on the internet.

-What do you do on your day off, Mr. Arai?

Arai: I usually want to sleep, but if I have extra time, I go out by train or draw some pictures. Recently, I started going to the gym to keep in shape for animation production. Also, I have so many plans of animation and visit some exhibitions to find some hints for those plans. Whatever I do is for what I want to make.

-What kind of job do you get into?

Kurisaki: Most of the jobs are quite hard, so I’m not sure if I’m getting into them, but I feel rewarded when I see previews of my work and when the anime is completed.

Arai: Storyboards. Key animations as well. When I draw something, I usually get into it.

I can’t wait for the next Studio Colorido animation.

The panel of Noruda

The panel of Noruda

They kindly accepted our offer and spent a lot of time for our interview in their busy schedule. I was very excited to be in the place where the future of Japanese animation production will be born. I will definitely keep my eyes on their new animation production system, business, and depiction methods.

On the day of the visit, it was unfortunately rainy, so I can’t introduce the beautiful from the studio. That’s the only sad part of this visit. If you are interested in Studio Colorido, visit their official website for more detailed information.

The official website of Studio Colorido

(interviewer&picutre: Yuuki Sakoda)

(translator: Naoya Koji)

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