Anime resolution and Anibin

One aspect of anime that’s come up in recent years is the “high definition” standard. Technically the European Broadcasting Union defines “high definition” as having anything above a 1280×720 resolution on a TV screen. Begining around 2006, we started to see anime being produced in high definition formats (with some stragglers). This was accompanied by an increase in the paper size needed to hand-draw frames, making it more time-consuming (bigger pictures need more time) and costly (buying new paper). But, if “High Definition” merely means anything above 1280×720, how do we know what’s meeting the minimum standards and what’s going above them to “Full HD” (1920×1080)? That’s a good question and one I hope to answer in this (exceptionally long) post.

To begin, I want to thank muhootsaver for alerting me to an absolute godsend when it comes to animation quality: Anibin. Anibin uses TV recordings to measure the detail being displayed. This can range between SD, HD-1280 (minimum), and now to Full HD (maximum). Anibin provides detail range images for each analysis they perform. Let’s show some examples of each:

Zero no Tsukaima S3 AKB0048 Totoro
SD 720p Full HD

As you see, as we move right and more towards HD, the amount of details present increases in all 4 quadrants. These are three random shows/CMs I picked from the three categories (and won’t be providing screencaps for), so there was no bias towards one or the others. But what about actual shows and images? Let’s begin with a more recent show. A lot of people praised Nisemonogatari for its visuals compared to its predecessor, but what does Anibin have to say about it?

Nisemonogatari

Anibin’s analysis shows Nisemonogatari was animated in 720p and it’s evident in the BD screencap (stolen from TMSIDR’s review). Click on the image and look at the lineart. You’ll notice it’s a tad blurry at the 1080p resolution it’s upscaled to on the BD. The manufacturers upscale the footage at their facilitates to provide standard video amongst all video players.

So how about a show people describe as one of the prettiest animation shows in recent years: Fate/Zero?

Fate/Zero

You’ll notice more clarity than the other 720p shows I’ve linked to in Anibin’s analysis. They’ve determined it’s likely the same resolution that the Kara no Kyoukai movies were animated at: 1520×855. Not full HD (1980×1080), but higher than 720p. The right image is a screencap from the episode (again, stolen from TMSIDR). Looking at Rin, you’ll notice some of the lineart is blurry (jagged) in the 1080 shot, but it looks more crisp than the previous Nisemonogatari screencap.

So that’s two HD shows, what about an SD show upscaled? Here’s one from my collection: Saki.

Saki

Anibin has this as SD (though noting it lacks a lot of jaggies in line art), but you’ll notice that it still looks much smaller and compact than the previous two shows. When looking at the BD screenshot, you’ll see the horrible upscale taking away details in the mahjong tiles and making them look fuzzier than what they should be. This is one mark that we look for when measuring upscales. Alas, Saki was not given a great one.

Next we’ll look at a studio who hasn’t had the most favorable reception regarding HD quality: JC. Staff. I’ll link the two shows I have: Shakugan no Shana III and To Aru Kagaku no Railgun

Railgun
Shana III

Anibin’s analysis for both Railgun and Shana III show that they were both animated at 720, but Railgun‘s distribution is a wee small. Again, you can see the lack of clarity on the line art for both shows when you see the screencaps taken from the BDs. Definitely HD, but the minimum resolution. Meh.

Next we’ll take a look at another studio whose visuals are highly touted: P.A. Works with their 2011 show: Hanasaku Iroha:

Hanasaku Iroha

Anibin’s analysis has Iroha at 720p, the same as Railgun and Nise. A bit shocking to me since I’d never looked it up, but it’s true once you look at the screencap. You’ll notice what Anibin points out: the line art is evident of the 720p style, which means it’s only 1280×720. Surprising, huh?

And so that wraps up the non-Kyoani portion of the post. Kyoto Animation is an interesting case as they keep evolving. I’m going to show data from an SD show, an 720p show, a 720p movie, a current show, and a full HD show. Let’s start with SD: Lucky Star:

Lucky Star

Seriously, even Anibin went “I dunno” at Lucky Star. It was only when the BD-Box was announced when we discovered that Lucky Star was an SD show and the upscale proves it. Again, not a very good upscale, but you can still see the jagged edges near Kagami’s (far right) hair. Lack of details and jagged edges even when upscaled on BD are evidence of a SD production. Now, onto two HD productions!

K-On!
Photobucket

The Anibin analysis for K-On! is the usual 720p, but had to be done via Blu-Ray instead of TV due to airing in 4:3 format. As you’ll see with S2, the BD comparison is apt to what it would be on TV. Again, you’ll notice the standard blurriness as well as line art styles with this show when viewing the BD. The same holds true for Clannad. (Thanks to Goggen for the screencaps)

So what about their movies? KyoAni’s done good wok on movies, right? Let’s take a look at the Haruhi movie.

Disappearance

The first big notable title for KyoAni was Haruhi in 2006, so they would spare no expense for the movie right? Anibin puts the movie at just under 1280×720 (around 715p). Looking at the screencap, you’ll notice a thicker than usual line art, exemplifying that. As much of a fan as I am, it’s definitely not up to more recent work.

Speaking of recent work, let’s take a look at Hyouka, KyoAni’s spring show for this year.

Hyouka main feature
Hyouka OP/ED

Hyouka continues a trend started with Nichijou of having the show animated at higher than 720p, but lower than full HD. Anibin puts the show at a mid-955.5p resolution because of the vertical detail. You can see in the first screencap that the video is sharp, but not as sharp as it could be. The interesting part comes in the second row. The OP/ED for Hyouka was animated in 1080p Full HD. Check the screencap and you’ll notice no blurring, no line errors, nothing. Full HD in 1080p resolution. Anibin has the currently airing Chuunibyou in the same style.

And all that leads up to the first full HD production by KyoAni: K-on! The Movie!:

K-On! Movie

Again, no line art issues, no blurriness, nothing but a clear picture at a 1080p resolution. This is a full HD production. Question the content all you want, but you can’t argue that this is the top production KyoAni has put out thus far.

And so I suppose people who know me may be wondering “where’s the Haruhi TV series fit into KyoAni’s situation?” The answer: Nearly all of them. Let’s take a look.

Haruhi 2006 (upscaled)
Haruhi 2009
Remastered 2006 OP

Whew, let’s make sense of Anibin’s post. The 2006 episodes are upscaled and were upscaled for the broadcast as evident by the detail burst with a lack of fineness. The 2009 episodes were animated at 715p similar to the movie mentioned above. Notice the blurriness around Mikuru’s chin. The lines are a bit off there as well. But what is that third row? KyoAni remade the OP/ED from 2006 for the Blu-Ray box and this was the first time Anibin had gotten to analyze it. It’s very similar to Hyouka‘s normal episode quality, which puts it as KyoAni’s first 955.5 production! So what resolution is Haruhi? SD, 715, and 955!

And so that wraps up this exceedingly long post as we looked at screencaps and compared them to the images you’ll see on Anibin. As you can tell, we’re looking at fine details in upscales and so searching for these irregularities can be difficult. I find that Anibin is more constantly right about shows than anyone else I’ve found thus far and use the blog as a very valuable resource. I’m only linked a few shows here, but you can find most of the seasons on the blog. Good luck and I hope this was informative. Again, a giant thanks to TMSIDR and Goggen for screencaps. They’re my KyoAni buddies across the Atlantic.

If you have any corrections, please let me know in the comments. Thanks for sticking with this really long post.

Edit: Someone requested a comparison of the Rebuild of Evangelion movies in the comments, so thanks to muhootsaver for allowing me to link images from his blog.

Evangelion 1.11
Evangelion 2.22
Evangelion 3.33

(Forgive the last one for being a TV rip thanks to Vito Plahuta, no easily available BD version is available at the moment) Anibin has evaluated all of the Evangelion:New Theatre Ver movies and said that each one was animated in 720p. This doesn’t take into account special effects/CGI which are commonly animated at a higher resolution, but you can see the line art for each of the images is still rather noticeable when blown up to 1080 pixels high. The part which throws people is the animation (pretty good) and the vividness of the color palette. Personally, I was surprised when I saw Anibin evaluate Q at 720p; it seems like they would improve since 2009, but oh well.

27 thoughts on “Anime resolution and Anibin

  1. Might sound like nitpicking, but using “animation quality” to refer to the resolution hurts me deep inside. It’s a pet peeve of mine (and pretty much every sakuga fan you’ll find on the internet), but using the word animation as a vague term to refer to anything related to the visuals is a bad common practice. Fate/Zero is hardly impressive from an animation standpoint even though the show is gorgeous and has amazing photography, P.A’s stuff has really mediocre animation but gets great backgrounds and nice digital composition.

    Otherwise, great article!

  2. Do you know how Anibin analyses the video flux to produce those funky graphs ? I’ve known this site for years, but always wondered how do they come to those conclusions. What is taken into consideration and how ?

    >This was accompanied by an increase in the paper size needed
    >to hand-draw frames, making it more time-consuming
    Are you sure of it ? Didn’t they just use higher scan resolution ?
    I’ve got a few gengas from animes that were digitally produced, both SD and HD, and they’re the exact same size. The details are here, independently of the paper size, you just have to push up the resolution to make them appears. (that’s part of why I prefer cel anime to digital anime, with a good 35mm film and a good HD telecine you can have so much more details, just look at Berserk, Escaflowne ou Giant Robo blu-rays. We really lost something in the transition to digital animation.)

    • As I mentioned in a previous comment, Anibin uses LAview Version 1.77 from what they say. Anibin also takes the line art, and adjusts it until the resolution matches to be clear.

      I’m pretty confident the size of the papers went bigger. There was a feature in 2006 where KyoAni’s Tatsuya Ishihara shows off the different size papers used for previous 4:3 works, SD works, and the one they used for the first time to make Kanon in 720p. After looking at the size of those genga, and seeing the ones from Chuunibyou in this blog post, you can tell they’ve definitely gotten bigger since Kanon.

      • Personally I doubt that every studio increased the paper size when they switched to HD in the same way, some probably did this more than others. Maybe we should take a look at at making ofs of different shows to see the papers they used. At least for Angel Beats! I can try to find this information because there was lengthy behind-the-scenes stuff on the bonus DVD.

        • Actually, I think you’re right. I had the understanding that Kyoani had bigger paper than other studios and they were similar to the ones that were commonly used in making animation features.

          I don’t think that had anything to do with the final resolution (wouldn’t other studios be able to scan at a bigger DPI just by increasing the DPI and not the paper size?). I think it was a matter of detail in the drawings: bigger the paper bigger the details.

  3. Very interesting post. I’m not much of a “videophile” so the differences between 720, HD, etc., isn’t that important to me. I can kind of see the difference between the various qualities you discussed, especially between SD and anything higher. But that’s just because I’m looking closely at the screencaps you posted and usually when I’m watching anime I’m not paying that much attention to picture sharpness =P It’s still good info to know though and you did a good job of explaining it =)

  4. Interesting stuff. I’m really curious about how the graph was made. The search on LAView didn’t give any useful info, and mostly just gave me “LabView” result. But going by the your examples, they look consistant, so I’m inclinded to believe the algorithm. Do they have a graph for a non-anime picture? I’m curious what does it looks like.

    Also, is there a reason why KyoAni’s HD shows are consistantly more spreaded apart in vertical direction? The re-animated Haruhi OP is even more strange because there are two clusters at both end of vertical axis.

    • Same here. I can’t talk about the nuts and bolts of the program as I’ve not downloaded the program and the last versions were released in 2005 that I can find. Not sure how well it’ll work on Win 7.

      As for the KyoAni examples, it’s likely a quirk from the background art IMO. My screenshots are most probably not the ones Anibin uses to make these graphs, so I can’t testify that it’s true or not. I’m curious myself.

  5. I don’t get these graphs. what does form, size, colour and densitiy reveal? totoro and k-on movie don’t have many dots at the edges, in contrast to hyouka op. but k-on movie and totoro are the only ones without any streaks. and only the kyoani titles have this vertical tendency.

    • Generally, you’ll see quality go up as the size and density of the graphs start protruding out into the quadrants. The lines will show up in each graph, but the quadrant size/density is one of the factors I tend to look for when comparing features. The other issue is consistency. Different TV stations have different outputs and sometimes there’s variability. And for the KyoAni titles, I suspect it’s likely bias from the more detailed background art causing that vertical tendancy, but I can’t confirm that.

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  8. Great post. I wish this had been around last summer when I wasted more than a couple of hours google translating Anibin’s blog posts trying to determine what the images were showing. Anyway since I have seen this blog post linked a couple of times on 4chan I figure I might as well comment a bit on how to produce these spectrums seeing as I spent way more time then I should have testing ways to make them.

    To start, these images are the scaled magnitude spectrums that you get from taking the 2D Fast Fourier Transformation (FFT) of an image. What the FFT more or less measures is how sharp the lines in the image are. It shows you the spatial resolution of the image instead of its pixel resolution (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image_resolution). When you make an image bigger using conventional scaling methods you increase its pixel resolution, but its spatial resolution stays the same. The math behind the FFT is somewhat complex but these notes give a decent overview of it in relation to image/video processing.
    http://www.cs.otago.ac.nz/cosc453/student_tutorials/fourier_analysis.pdf

    You can generate the FFT spectrums using a number of programs, but most of them won’t be particularly user friendly.
    LAView: http://www.geocities.jp/kanasiinizi/pro/laview.html (To make them フィルター -> FFT -> FFT, then フィルター -> FFT -> データ並びほえ)
    Imagemagick: http://www.imagemagick.org/Usage/fourier/ (Command line based, has a real nice tutorial)
    Photoshop Plugin: http://www.retouchpro.com/forums/software/33084-here-fft-64-bit-Photoshop.html (The magnitude spectrum is located in the red channel)
    Matlab: http://matlabgeeks.com/tips-tutorials/how-to-do-a-2-d-fourier-transform-in-matlab/ (This one is probably overkill)

    Each program will generate spectrums that look slightly different. LAView uses a relatively naive FFT algorithm so the spectrums it makes will always be a power of two in size (I.E. A 1920×1080 image will have a 2048×2048 spectrum). Imagemagick uses a less naive approach and it produces spectrums that are the size of the longest dimension (I.E. A 1920×1080 image will have a 1920×1920 spectrum). Matlab and the Photoshop plugin both create ones that are the same size as the input image (I.E. A 1920×1080 image will have a 1920×1080 spectrum).

    Even if your program of choice doesn’t generate spectrums that are the same size as the original image you can still resize the spectrum back to the original image’s resolution to make it easier to measure the show’s resolution. After resizing, the results given by LAView and Imagemagick should look fairly similar to what Matlab and Photoshop produce, with the main difference between the output of each program being variations in brightness and noise.

    Accurately measuring the magnitude spectrums can be somewhat difficult. Anibin states that in order to bring out the characteristics of each spectrum generated by LAView he increases the gamma on them to 2.0 and then resizes them to 960×960. After that he measures how far the main “blob” in the spectrum extends from the center. There are two main posts where he lays out most of his method.
    http://anibin.blogspot.ca/2008/08/blog-post_5180.html
    http://anibin.blogspot.ca/2008/05/blog-post_3298.html

    I’m not sure exactly what program Anibin uses to do his gamma correction, but I’ve gotten decent results changing the gamma in Photoshop using Image Menu -> Adjustments -> HDR Toning -> Method: Exposure and Gamma. For spectrums created by LAView I have found a setting of 2.0 Exposure and 2.0 Gamma is decent. For spectrums created by the Photoshop plugin I usually use 0 Exposure and 3 Gamma. Afterwards if you want to bring out the high frequencies a bit more you can run Image Menu -> Auto-Contrast or something similar. Also, it is a bit of the pain to access HDR Toning for the spectrums created by the Photoshop plugin since you first need to delete the green and blue channels from the image, and then change the image mode to Grayscale.

    If you are going to try Imagemagick be aware that the results it produces can be somewhat inaccurate. It seems to remove or at least subdue higher frequencies in the spectrums it produces. In most cases these frequencies correspond to noise. However, I have noticed that they will sometimes correspond to sharp lines in the original image. An example of what I mean is shown below. At any rate, if are going to use Imagemagick you need to pick your own logarithmic scaling factor for each image, or you can use the “log scaling factor” equation they give in their tutorial. Finally, with respect to Matlab, I would say don’t even bother with it unless you have experience programming and looking to write some fancy scripts to analyze anime resolutions.

    Original Image (From the 1st KNK Movie): http://www.imagebam.com/image/83b26b236936659
    Gamma Adjusted, Auto-Toned, and Resized LAView Spectrum: http://www.imagebam.com/image/4dad45236936745
    Gamma Adjusted and Auto-Toned Photoshop Spectrum: http://www.imagebam.com/image/49782d236936784
    Log Scaling Factor and Resized Imagemagick Spectrum (Seems to lack key frequencies): http://www.imagebam.com/image/d9737e236936825

    Original Image (From Rurouni Kenshin: Trust & Betrayal): http://www.imagebam.com/image/1c88a6236937272
    Gamma Adjusted, Auto-Toned, and Resized LAView Spectrum: http://www.imagebam.com/image/a96b02236937384
    Gamma Adjusted and Auto-Toned Photoshop Spectrum: http://www.imagebam.com/image/2f4fbc236937427
    Log Scaling Factor and Resized Imagemagick Spectrum (Fairly similar to the others): http://www.imagebam.com/image/03bb9f236937504

  9. Fantastic post. I am thankful you’ve taken time to sit down and really analyze some of the series out there. This is a great eye opener for some of the people who swear by 720p all day everyday. Clearly with a distinction that some series are made at a higher quality than 720p. I wonder what will happen when the world finally makes the jump to 4K/2K in homes and standard computer screens.

    • I can’t find screencaps of the BDs and I don’t want to use another TV screencapture, so I can’t do a fully comparison. Anibin lists the re-make as 720p. NTV’s distribution is a bit low, so the image distribution doesn’t look as nice as some of the others, but the CM looks quite nice.

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  11. I’m curious as to how much background detail is a factor in these tests. Given that most shows are edited and composited in FHD today (there is a misconception that the entire show is produced at the resolution the line art was scanned at, largely because of these anibin comparisons). I’m interested in whether or not backgrounds are scanned at the same resolution as the line art. Obviously some are larger than the frame for the purpose of panning, but I’m interested in whether or not the overall level of detail present in backgrounds is higher than that of the line art or not.

    • I imagine the detail in the BG isn’t used much in these analysis. I think BG artwork is scanned at a higher resolution. In some shows you can see the brushstrokes easily, so that indicates a very high resolution. Personally, I’m starting to question Anibin after seeing bits in KyoAni’s Chuunibyou segments where we can see them working at 1080p resolution for the master tapes.

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