Special Effects

Wrapping up the stop animation shoot can only mean the process of post production is only just beginning. It just wouldn’t be right at all to say imagination has its limits but there are a few things, which sometimes stop animators begrudgingly, call upon computer generated images (CGI) to complete. Sure, it may seem like the unusual combination but this is where the hands on approach to making a stop animation gets a little different and as some would say- a little fancier. Though it seems CGI has become the norm across the industry these days, a stop animation-specialized studio like dwarf has been working to establish a harmony between these two fundamentally different approaches.

Now, to give each approach its own space, CGI is actually involved in the final editing stages to join completed scenes in addition to optically retouching any scene when necessary. Removing anything from dangling cables or other needle pointers to color grading and color effects and lens reflections, the effects animators work frame by frame alongside the director. One of the main ways the teams communicate in the retouching process is with the storyboard as well as the timesheet which was filled out during shooting. Still, we can see the two-dimensional sketches in pencil are relevant to making the animation.

CGI lends a generous, virtual helping hand. With some CGI, we can really know when Domo-kun is hungry or when Plug is pondering or in a nervous fit. Even though computer graphics have the potential to create entirely new towns, backgrounds or landscapes it isn’t always used to such an extent. Sometimes, the dwarf team uses special effects just to accent the work of the animators. To enhance scenes which have particular movements like a considerable amount of running or flying and in order to better show space or emphasize the action taking place, a technique known as animatics is used for panning camera angles.

In the post-production of PLUG, OUR NeW WORLD, computer graphics were used to the fullest extent dwarf ever has. For instance, in these episodes, CGI was used to bring an actual character to life- the first time dwarf elected to do so. Since Praff, the large Giraffe-like animal, proved too cumbersome to animate, the team decided to rely on a CGI incarnation. In addition, most of the backgrounds and landscapes were also created with computer graphics as well. Another task animators relied on in post-production is looping because it saves a lot of time, for instance, in scenes when Plug and Runner are running, looping a cycle of a few of their steps makes it look like it was the work of stop animation.

Another one of the other lesser-known tidbits of using CGI is the reality-enhancing appearance of a hand held camera; less steady than Animatics and used for different reasons. For Goda and his team, this adds a more personal, human effect to the cinematography even though it was shot on a mounted camera. While most of the editing process is close hand with CGI, producer Noriko Matsumoto feels that first and foremost, "we don’t want viewers to think or assume this is an animation, rather we’d like to think we’re aiming for something more enchanting and spellbinding. An effect that makes it seem more natural- like the episode and characters were actually filmed live- this is why we’d prefer a hand-held camera look. We think making it look more real life adds a unique dash of interactivity." We’ve seen special effects really add relational dynamics to the style and relation of a character’s expressions and with the right blend of computer graphics and precise stop animation, us viewers are magically convinced of the actual existence of this fantastical world.