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CG for Beginners - The Movie "Mewtwo Strikes Back EVOLUTION" 3DCG Big Analysis

【CG初心者向け】映画『ミュウツーの逆襲 EVOLUTION』3DCG大解剖!
Original Supplemental Article Date: 2019.08.29 THU
Main Magazine Article: CGWORLD August 2019 Volume #253
Author: Satoshi Nozawa (野澤 慧)
Editing: Hiroki Ikeda (池田大樹) (CGWORLD)
Photos: Mitsuru Hirota (弘田 充)
Source: https://cgworld.jp/interview/pokemon-3dcg.html

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The movie "Mewtwo Strikes Back EVOLUTION" was released on Friday, July 12th, 2019. This new work, which is a full 3DCG remastering of the masterpiece “Pocket Monsters Mewtwo Strikes Back”, and it not an exaggeration to say that it is a big summer event.

This article was also featured in CGWORLD issue 253, but additional coverage was provided at CGWORLD.jp. OLM Digital supervisors explained the main highlights of this movie and the 4 steps of 3DCG: “modeling”, “animation”, “lighting” and “effects” for CG beginners and young people who want to work in 3DCG in the future.

At the end of this article, there is a CGWORLD special edition "Pokémon Quiz". 5 winners that correct answer the questions will receive a 1 year CGWORLD subscription and an original “Mewtwo Strikes Back EVOLUTION” Clear File (not for sale) as a gift, so please watch the movie at the theater and answer the quiz. Submission deadline: August 29th, 2019 to September 17th, 2019.

How to put the 2D World of Pokémon into 3D

Motohito Nasu (那須基仁氏) was the CGI supervisor for this movie and Hideki Sudo (須藤秀希氏) was the layout supervisor. As the two people who organized the CG team, how did you see this work through?

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Motohito Nasu (那須基仁氏) - CGI supervisor | Hideki Sudo (須藤秀希氏) - Layout supervisor

"I was worried about acceptance of 3DCG," the two said. Pokémon is a huge property that everyone knows now, both domestically and internationally. The original version of “Mewtwo Strikes Back” was also a huge hit in the box office with over 7 billion yen in revenue. Each fan has a strong image and memories of this very popular work and its contents.

The focus of this work was to not break that image, but to put the much loved world of Pokémon that's in 2D into 3D. In this was a very pressured situation, a new world view in 2.5D was created. While getting the cooperation of the drawing team who is usually in charge of the 2D animation, we packed the goodness of 2D into 3D.

“When I went to the theater, I was relieved that there were many people who came to see this film” says Nasu. Mr. Sudo also smiled, saying, "I went with my son who didn't know the original version. I was so happy that children today accepted it and was please to see him being moved and crying." It seems that many fans have accepted it. Check out the movie at the theater, but here we will introduce you to each 3DCG process for this work and what kind of skill is necessary.

1: Modeling


Modeling is the process of creating a 3D model from a 2D design. Unlike Pokémon, which have been in 3D in the games, Satoshi and Takeshi were the first 3D human characters [from the anime]. The TV anime series “Sun & Moon” is the 6th series which is currently being broadcast, but the way the characters are drawn varies from series to series.

Still, everyone knows that “Satoshi” is “Satoshi”. In order to make you feel that this is that character, there was much trial and error in this work. For example, Satoshi is a cheerful boy, but with a slight subtle difference in the size of the eyes, distance from the eyebrows, cheek position, gloss of the lips, it can make a cute look, look similar to a girl. Therefore, we made several versions with different facial parts and arrangements, and gradually brought them closer to the drawings from the series.

Character Design Finalized After Trial and Error


Satoshi, the first full CG version of this character, retains the look from the series so far, so that it will not feel uncomfortable from any 360° angle, and so everyone from children to adults will accept the design.

In addition, when creating a 3D character, it is very difficult to reproduce "2D lies (2Dの嘘)" in 3DCG and get a correct 3D representation. For example, Takeshi's narrow eyes.

When drawing, the eyes are expressed simply by drawing a line, but in the 3DCG world, if you draw a line, it will look unnatural like wrinkles and clay animation. Takeshi, like Satoshi, required a lot of trial and error while making many versions to ensure that there is no sense of incongruity as a three-dimensional object, while ensuring the integrity of the drawing.

That's why we arrived with the idea of using "eyelashes". By putting a lot of eyelashes, we were able to produce an expression that is visible as a narrow single line from a distance, and that does not feel strange even when it is filmed close-up.

Comparison of Takeshi's 2D concept image and Takeshi's 3D model

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Advice for young people aiming to be modelers
I think the important for modelers to have "preparatory drawings".

In modeling, a 2D character drawn in the design images are three-dimensionalized, but in many cases, only the front and side views of the character are sketched in the design images. Or it may be a three-sided view with a sketch from behind added, but with such limited information, you must create a model that can be viewed from any 360° angle.

In order to be able to model the parts that are not drawn in the sketches, it is a good idea to look at what you see in your daily life while imagining and analyzing them as three-dimensional structures.

Video Production Flow


Before explaining each process after the animating, let's take a look at the general flow of the entire video production. The above video is the picnic scene at the beginning of the movie. It introduces the general flow: “Layout” → “Animation” → “Lighting Composite”. “Layout” determines the character arrangement and camera, and “Animation” gives the characters life and movement. After that, in “Lighting Composite”, lights are applied to the background and environment that has undergone various updates (Lighting), and various materials are adjusted so that they do not look unnatural (Composite).

2. Animation

Animation is the process of “bring the soul into the model”. When a model is given movement, you consider it a success when it looks like the character is alive. Before starting the animation work, we need a way to move the model and that process is called rigging. If the model is considered a doll, it’s like putting bones in it.

Method for creating the facial expressions of characters

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Pokémon rigs are based on the skeleton of real creatures. While incorporating the elements of real creatures into the animation, we were able to reproduce the unique movements of each Pokémon. In order to pursue Pokémon-like movements, we also created a table that summarizes the unique features of each. In addition, this work uses a simulation that adds movement by computer computation to express the movement of hair, clothes, and muscles.

Method for Creating Pokémon Movement (Donfan)
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For each Pokémon, details such as shaking movement, muscles, the feeling of weight, and features such as “natural wrinkles that are made when the legs are bent” are incorporated into the models. Based on this information, they consult to with animators and riggers about which parts should move to make natural movements.


Advice for young people who want to become animators
Animation work is to give the character a lively feel, so be sure to study drama plays. There are many animators who actually make the pose they are working on when they are animating the pose. By observing human gestures on a daily basis and imagining the purpose and meaning of the behavior of those gestures, your understanding of movement increases.

3: Lighting

Lighting is the process of placing sun and lights in the world on a computer. However, it not just so that it shines brightly, the atmosphere of the place and the emotional expression from the environmental character it creates, increases the overall look of the picture.

A single light can be used to express whether the place is wet or dry. This time, it was also used to assist the cuteness of Pokémon. In particular, Pikachu is a Pokémon that is vital to the movie, so there is a lot of emphasis placed on its lighting.

Regardless of how beautiful the model is created, wrinkles may occur due to facial expressions.

Lighting a character makes Pokémon look cute

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Similar to live-action shooting, a character light is placed to create a three-dimensional effect. Comparison with and without character light. You can see that lighting has a big impact on the impression. Look at the flow and density of the hair and thoroughly studied how it is used to create a cute shading effect.

Lighting Produces an atmosphere

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Lights for the battlefield. In this picture, which a natural lighting look was aimed for, the lights were rendered in Maya. There are various patterns of lights in the arena, and you can change the lighting with a single click.


Modeling and lighting test video based on Pikachu. A rough model is created, and the lighting is tested after adjusting the direction and amount of hair. There is a lot of trial and error by the staff on how to make Pikachu look right in CG because it is very popular in 2D.


A video that introduces the process of putting various lights on in a scene one by one to complete the image. You can see that the look of the picture changes as one light after another is enabled. Think about what you are trying to accomplish with the lighting and what you need to think about to make it look real.


A video introducing lighting effects to highlight an outline by shining a light called a “rim light” from behind the subject. Use this when you want to emphasize something, or when you want to guide your eyes.

Advice for young artists who want to become lighting artists
In order to improve your lighting skills, it is important to be aware of the world through the camera len. There is a difference between the world seen with the naked eye and the world seen through the len, and the light changes depending on the len aperture.

By understanding the types and effects of these differences, you will be able to light more impressively. In addition, Noh masks are said to change their expression depending on the angle of light. This can serve as a reference for lighting and creating dramatic pictures.

4: Effects

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“Creating special effects and natural phenomena such as explosions, splashes, and light to give the story a sense of realism” is the role of effects. There are two types of effects: those that reproduce phenomena that occur in the real world, and those that express unrealistic paranormal phenomena.

Both of them are used in the movie, but the focus on expression is one of the great attractions of Pokemon. Fans have an image of their purpose, but in this movie, we had to create new effects while protecting the common image that everyone has. While respecting the anime everyone loves, we aimed to add an a+ impact with the effects while showing our love and appreciation. Pikachu's Thunderbolt in the early battle shows our commitment.

Reproduction of a Storm that looks Real

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In a case where an effect needs to reproduce a real phenomenon, a persuasive look that complies with the laws of physics and natural phenomena is required. In the production of this sea scene, various research was conducted to figure out: what is the height of the wave that the ship actually can break through, what is the movement of a ship that is shaken by waves, and the the height of cumulonimbus clouds. With such rigorous research, a scarily impressive scene has been produced.


A video introducing the process of creating realistic waves. The aim of this scene was to express the rough seas appropriate for the “adventure” and “confronting difficulties”.

Drawing Effects

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One of Pikachu's typical moves is the Thunderbolt. The effect for the move that the Pokémon used was particularly difficult. It had to be realistic when creating a full 3DCG effect while being faithful to the TV anime series that has been seen by many fans over the years.


An effect that expresses the power of supernatural Pokémon as water is used as a barrier. The full CG effect shows how realistic it is. These are events that do not exist in the real world, but effects artists create their own visual expression by combining real-world fluid dynamics, particle behavior, and explosions.

Advice for young people who want to become effect artists
For effects, you can understand theories by studying how effects are expressed in various movies, games and works from ancient and modern east and west. Often the director will say “It looks like that scene in that movie”. It may be necessary to accumulate ideas by watching many works from a young age.
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