The TBS drama “Sinking of Japan: A Man of Hope” has been attracting the attention of some “industry people”. That is, “creators involved in the CG production of Japanese dramas”.
The CG industry in Japan is said to be “buzzing when they saw the trailer. At any rate, since “Japan is sinking,” there is no doubt that this will be a very large scale CG show. The sense of expectation in the industry rose at once.
In recent years, CG in Japanese TV dramas has been losing momentum, being overwhelmed by Korean dramas that use large budgets to produce a series of large-scale CG. In other words, the Japanese drama CG industry is on the verge of “sinking” in a sense.
Under such circumstances, how do the industry people evaluate “Sinking of Japan”? We asked creators in the CG industry about the current situation and problems in the Japanese drama CG industry.
One of them, who is in charge of CG production for TV dramas and other programs at a Tokyo key station, has an uncanny sense of crisis.
“The current situation of CG for TV dramas in Japan is that budgets are tighter than overseas, and we are not able to fully meet the demands of the directors.
Even in scenes where the camera needs to be moved, there is no choice but to use FIX (note: fixing the camera), or to use still photographs where a solid model should be created using 3DCG. Also, in the case of serial dramas, there are cases where the time from shooting to editing is only a few days, so it is often impossible to raise the quality sufficiently.
Also, there is a shortage of human resources, as young people who want to pursue CG tend to go into games, and VFX for TV dramas is not very popular. We need to do more to disseminate information about this and try to acquire human resources.
I sometimes watch Korean dramas on Netflix, etc., and I honestly believe that the level is high. I guess the budget and the number of staff are different.
Associate Professor Isamu Ogura of Digital Hollywood University, which has produced many CG creators, testifies, “For the past 20 years, game CG has always been the most popular among young people.
“There may be few people who say, ‘I want to create CG for commercial TV dramas! “There may be few people who say, ‘I want to create CG for commercial TV dramas! In the first place, I don’t think there are many young people who watch TV dramas. Of course, there are young people who watch romantic dramas and Korean dramas, but unfortunately, I don’t think there are many people who want to create CG after watching them.
As for why Japanese drama CG looks “cheap,” Associate Professor Ogura points out.
Professor Ogura points out the reason why Japanese CG for TV dramas looks “cheap”: “I think that South Korea has experienced CG technology in movies and has accumulated the know-how to apply it to TV CG. Japan has the same technology cultivated in film, but I think they don’t have the budget or schedule to make use of it. I think so.
If you take the time to make a film that looks a little cheesy, it will definitely get better. However, I think that because the priority is low and the deadline for on-air production is too tight, they give the “go as is” sign.
The CG of “The Sinking of Japan” is clearly on a different level from the professional viewers.
I feel that “Sinking of Japan” is special even among serial dramas, and that a lot of time and budget went into its production. As a competitor, I think it’s a very challenging work,” said a Tokyo key station drama CG manager.
“The scene where the island disappears in the first episode does not look like CG to the average person. “The scene where the island disappears in the first episode does not look like CG to the general public. Flashy explosions and flashy destruction require time and budget, and CG requires a lot of time and effort, but I think it can be said that the level of CG is high enough to be able to do this.
The production of such “dramas that spend a lot of money and time on CG” may lead to an increase in the number of egg-creators aspiring to work in drama CG. In this sense, there are high expectations that “Sinking of Japan” will be the savior of the Japanese drama CG industry, which may be on the verge of sinking.
Then, what issues must be cleared for Japanese drama CG to compete in the world? Experts point out the following.
“Overseas, virtual production, in which CG is projected on a huge monitor and filmed against the background, is becoming popular. In Japan, too, some companies are gradually starting to use this method, but since it requires changes in the conventional production flow, it may be a while before it is used in Japanese dramas.
In addition, I have been paying a lot of attention to AI, as the latest image processing software uses AI to erase people from photos, make them look younger, and change the seasons of the scenery. I expect that this will greatly improve work efficiency and produce more creative and complete images in the same amount of time.
By utilizing the new technology that is being adopted worldwide, the Japanese drama CG industry may be able to find a way out. In addition, there is another view on the technical aspect.
In Japan, NHK’s CG that revived Ms. Hibari Misora was good as a still image, but as soon as she started moving, the CG became uncomfortable due to the “uncanny valley” phenomenon. The technology to represent these realistic people in CG is still not as good as Hollywood movies and foreign dramas, which are the pinnacle of CG technology.
On the other hand, the full CG reproduction of Shibuya in “Alice in the Land of the Rising Sun” and F1 in “The Naked Director 2” look like live-action. Also, the collapse of the island in “Sinking of Japan” is a high level of CG expression. Therefore, I think the current situation is that some fields are world-class, while others are still in their infancy.
Professor Ogura also points out that the overall level of creativity needs to be raised, not just in CG.
The other day, I talked to a CG director at a TV station, and he said, “There is little sense of urgency to raise the quality or else we are in trouble. If we don’t improve the overall quality of our productions, including direction, shooting, lighting, editing, and VFX, we may be able to create realistic CG dinosaurs, but we will not be able to create “Jurassic Park as a work of art” in Japan.
I myself once worked very hard on a CG project for a TV program, but was frustrated when it was hardly used, so I feel that if all creators could change their mindset, as well as their CG techniques, they could make better products. Of course, it is a prerequisite that they are paid commensurate with the amount of work they do.
A “CG director at a certain station” that Associate Professor Ogura spoke with also said something like this.
“I don’t think that the same quality can be achieved by another person with the same budget for the work I am doing as a supervisor. There are many factors that go into it, such as my persistence, personal connections, know-how, and eye for detail. So, of course, the budget is important, but I think the power of the person who puts it together is also important. In Hollywood, when you have a larger team, the weight of the top management becomes less important, but in Japan, I believe that the quality varies greatly depending on the top management.
In other words, rather than pursuing CG quality alone, improvement of other technologies surrounding CG and “the existence of a leader who understands the CG production project and leads it” are necessary to raise the level of Japanese drama CG.
In any case, I believe that the production of high quality, large-scale CG-dependent dramas such as “Sinking of Japan” will further raise the level of CG in Japanese dramas as Japanese TV professionals and viewers become more aware of the importance of CG.
I hope that “Sinking of Japan” will be a major stepping stone for Japanese TV dramas and CG in Japan to compete in the world.
Interview and text by： Hiromichi Chinmoku / TV producer and writer
Joined TV Asahi in 1992. After covering the Great Hanshin Earthquake and Aum Shinrikyo as a reporter in the Social Affairs Department, he worked as a director for Super J Channel, Super Morning, and News Station before becoming a producer. After working as a director of Super J Channel, Super Morning, and News Station, he became a producer. He has been involved in many overseas projects, including coverage of China, the Korean Peninsula, and the terrorist attacks in the United States. In August 2019, he became an independent producer and has been active not only in broadcasting but also in various media. He is also a part-time lecturer at the Department of Newspapers, Faculty of Letters, Sophia University. As a member of the Society for Public Communication, she has studied regional media, and has researched and written articles on face-hame-panels as her life's work. His recent publications include "Dramatically Increase Access and Registration! "Video Production" (Nihon Jitsugyo Shuppansha).