CACANi is an animation software that generates in-betweens automatically. It had a showcase at ACTF (Animation Creative Technology Forum) and brought many people a huge surprise.
The version 1.1 has been released this year. We have tried it, and it’s just amazing. We felt a great potential to change the future of animation in CACANi, so we contacted them for an interview.
Mr. Hong Ze Liew, Business Develop Manager of CACANi, kindly accepted our offer. Surprisingly, he was in Tokyo when we contacted him, and we got to see him face to face the day before his flight back to Singapore.
Why do they have to drop all the skills suddenly just because the technology is progressing?
–What kind of people are the main target of CACANi?
Our main goal is to make something very useful for 2-D animators.
We feel that there are lots of great digital software for 3-D animators but not for 2-D animators. It’s because the native platform of 3-D arts is a computer.
One of the problems is a perception difference. The 2-D animators are often considered as old-school, and the 3-D animators are considered as artistry, and of course, their pay grades are different. This is why we hope to create something very useful for 2-D animators. The 2-D animators have spent so many years learning about characters and the way of drawing them. Why do they have to drop all the skills suddenly just because the technology is progressing? They shouldn’t have to.
The target audience includes professional animators, freelance artists, hobbyists, and even beginners.
–We think CACANi is useful for other artists such as illustrators and photographers as well.
Yes. They can do a quick review by CACANi. A quick animation is going to be good review before progressing to After Effects. Even if they don’t have any background in animation, they can still make some simple animation.
–Do you target any specific nation or area?
Because of the size of our nation, Singapore, we always look at overseas. We were very fortunate to be invited by Wacom to the Japanese event, ACTF. Most of us in the team grew up with Japanese animation, so it was a great chance to showcase for us.
We have seen strong support from United States, Japan and East Asia, South America, as well as European countries such as UK and France.
CACANi brought a huge impact at ACTF.
–We think CACANi brought a huge impact at ACTF. How did you think about that?
We were surprised that we got good feedbacks. Because of the nature of computerized animation, we were concerned that it might look stiff. We thought Japanese animators may not like it.
–You mentioned that CACANi will not take over all jobs of in-betweening, but some people are worried about that.
CACANi is a tool, like a knife or a different type of pencil. It will allow new ways of working. We will continue to work on CACANi and make it an even more effective tool.
We hope CACANi will improve artists’ working environment.
But the computer cannot be trained to draw animations like a human. So it will be useful up to a certain level. You still need artists to improve the animation to the level of art. At the same time, there are so many frames to draw. So we want CACANi to improve the artists’ working environment and enable them to finish the work faster and better.
–What kind of the animation scene is the most effective to use CACANi?
At this point, CACANi works better for the smaller motions. If the character does a 360-degree turn, CACANi doesn’t directly generate all the in-betweens. CACANi works better when you have a more constant scene, meaning the key frames have more information in common. In normal production, animators still have to draw every single in-between drawing even if the key frames are not so different. This is where CACANi is very effective. As we get feedback from the users and see more patterns, we will be able to improve it.
–It seems the main structure of CACANi hasn’t changed much. Do you have any plan of a major update?
We hope to make changes, but there are always issues. It’s like rebuilding a building. You need to teardown the building first, take out the core and build everything back again. If we find some way to improve the core significantly, it would be the version 2. What we are doing is first getting feedbacks, and digesting them. Sometimes they are not clear and don’t show what the user really wants, so it always takes time.
“What one animator can do.”
–We think CACANi is currently the tool to widen the range of “what one animator can do.”
It’s always different with each person. The definition of an animator, or the work an animator does, is very much dependent on the project. But we are not too concerned about formal definitions. We hope to build technology that enables artists to create their works faster. We are very happy if animators can now do a lot more things.
–Japanese production system is usually divided into individual jobs, so widening one animator’s job may not be welcomed.
I will say it is the balance. CACANi is not supposed to be a complete production system. However, the production definitely has certain needs at least for the part of the system. How to balance them is important.
There have been a relationship between companies, artist, and studios in Japan. The system was what they are all agreed on. CACANi is not meant to change the system. We think we can try to understand more about the system. If they are willing to collaborate with us, we will definitely open up and work closer to find the solution that is useful for them. It’s still a journey. We are happy if everyone gets something they can use from CACANi.
–CACANi would be a good tool for freelance artists and directors.
It’s good to have quick motion review. I was a freelance artist before. It is very hard for clients to imagine the movement when looking at static storyboards. In some cases, the clients want the animation work to be changed after it’s complete. That is a huge waste of time. So, with simple animations, the artists can communicate more effectively with the clients.
–When we use CACANi to generate in-between, and two key frames have a different number of lines, is there any way to edit the lines?
That’s what we have been requested from various users. We are hoping to rollout the additional function next time. There is the function to check the relationship between two key frames so that you can edit in-betweens by hands. Now we can’t really change it automatically, but we hope to complete the function.
Japanese Animation production system still heavily relies on papers and pencils.
–As you know, Japanese Animation production system still heavily relies on papers and pencils. Clearly, it’s because top creators are comfortable with papers and pencils and they tend to stay away from digital technologies. On the other hand, latter processes are mostly digitized. What do you think about this?
There is no need to make everything digital. It is always good to make them hybrid.
It’s the same problem like you are getting your dad to use a computer. “Paper and pencil” is a system that is the most direct system developed thousands of years ago. Comparing “paper and pencil” with animation software, “paper and pencil” needs only two things, but software have so many buttons and options. There is no way to make the computer software as simple as one pencil.
We totally understand how hard it is for the artists to change the system when they are comfortable with the old system. I don’t think there is a perfect solution. There are also so many works they are still creating by the old system. There is no need to make everything digital. It is always good to make them hybrid. Also, there will be young people who are more comfortable with computers, and people who are equally skilled in analog and digital. As long as they are interested in CACANi as a solution, we welcome them to get involved and discuss with us.
It’s important to preserve the quality of old skills. We hope to find some way to do both eventually. There are things that can be done by computer, and cannot be done by computer. “Paper and pencil” as well.
It is important to combine both. We don’t mean CACANi is the only tool. There are so many other software. What’s important is to achieve the result that the artists want. As long as the artists can achieve their vision, CACANi will be happy to be a part of it.
To make the software simple is always an issue.
–CACANi’s system is very simple compared with other software. Is simplicity the important feature of CACANi?
If drawing by digital takes longer than analog, it’s worthless. But to make the software simple is always an issue because we need to omit some functions. We are not trying to make the same environment as the old system. We do make it simple, but it doesn’t mean we are making it analog-like. What we are designing for is to make the drawing environment in which the artists can achieve their the results in an easier and faster way.
–What’s your future vision of CACANi?
Our vision is to enable artists (especially 2D) to create animations in an easier manner through the use of our technology. Using CACANi, 2D animators can spread more works through all different media to all over the world, and it would increase the audience of 2D animation. We hope that CACANi can help the artists create great works. They can join our community, or say hi at our Facebook page.
After this interview, we felt more potential in CACANi. It is just one of the animation tools, but we saw their strong will to make something better for everyone involved in animation. What they are looking at beyond CACANi development will definitely be one big part of the future of the animation production.
Interviewer: Naoya Koji, Yuuki Sakoda
Photographer: Yuuki Sakoda
Editor: Naoya Koji, JapanAnimeMedia editor team