Myriad Colors Phantom World Roundtable #2: Digital & Background Staff

This is a newly translated roundtable featuring the staff involved with the digital and background portions of Myriad Colors Phantom World (background art, painting, compositing, 3D animation). It was published in the “This is Who We Are Now!! 2017” book sold alongside tickets to the 2017 KyoAni & Do Event.

Looking Back on Our Works

Myriad Colors Phantom World

Roundtable 2: Background/Coloring/3D Staff

Art Director: Mikiko Watanabe

Color Designer: Kana Miyata

3D Director: Rin Yamamoto

The Color of “Phantom World”


– When making Myriad Colors Phantom World (hereafter “Phantom World”), what points did you keep in mind?
Watanabe: When we were in production, I asked director (Tatsuya) Ishihara-san, “What’s the concept for this show” and he replied “None!” (laughs)
All: (laughs)
Watanabe: It wasn’t meant in a bad way, it was more of a “anything goes as long as it’s entertaining.” I remember being troubled instead from that.
Miyata: I clearly remember him saying “As long as it’s appealing.” He also said “make sure the characters are also appealing.” (laughs)
All: (laughs)
Watanabe: Ishihara-san thinks about things in his own way, but “I wish he wouldn’t say something like that.” “Phantom World” is a fantasy world, but instead of thinking about it was something tense and bothersome, it’s something more entertaining. I began working with only the guideline of “let’s make a world where it’s alright for phantoms to live here too” decided. Ishihara-san truly gave me a lot of freedom when production started, but since I had so much freedom, the amount of troubles I had also increased. Since I felt so troubled, I showed 6 versions of my rough draft art boards to Ishihara-san. I asked him to select “which one of these do you like best?” and when he chose the one with vivid pink and blue colors, that’s the direction I decided to take this work in. Although we decided the direction it would go, I’d always look over at the novel when I was drawing. “Is this good?” I’d continue asking the novel itself. (laughs) Since I had mixed colors I liked at the beginning, I went from there mixing in others and eventually created the first art board for the series.
Yamamoto: When I first saw that one, I felt “ah, she’s used some immensely impressive colors.”
Watanabe: “How did it turn out like this?” Remembering what I thought about during that time….. I thought they would match the feeling from the novel illustrations. (laughs) This was my first time mixing colors like this so when I look back at it again I feel “ah, that was so brave….”
Miyata: When I saw it for the first time, I thought “It feels like ‘Phantom World.’” I was surprised at that.
Watanabe: Lots of things happened in the background section. (laughs) I was told “I don’t understand why you mixed colors like that.” Because “it feels good!” (laughs)
Yamamoto: “I can’t answer that! Please just feel why!” (laughs)
Watanabe: That’s right! There’s no specific reason why certain colors are good when you mix them in, so I wanted to make it so it’d look beautiful color-wise without being limited to what to choose.
Yamamoto: Of course, even if you mix colors, if you used different ones, it wouldn’t feel like “Phantom World,“ would it?
Watanabe: Because it wouldn’t feel like that, we also designated “this color here” at times. And we also have a promise to showcase different times in the backgrounds without any awkwardness between the scenes. With designated colors and how to use them, it’s easy to unify scene colors, but since the amount of colors decided on for this show were so many, the staff were probably also perplexed. In contrast to what we usually do, working on something that isn’t completely settled is very difficult.

– How was working in the painting section?
Miyata: As “Phantom World” isn’t a singular story, but different stories each episode, the episode’s world revolves around the phantom for that episodes. So the people in charge for that episode made it with the colors they liked. It’s a title with that large amount of freedom to work on. In that way, though it might be troublesome to consider all that, it’s a fun difficulty to work on.
Watanabe: Inside the warm colored classroom, there’s cool blue shadows, so the way the characters appear inside it can be completely different. Several times the painting staff asked me “what should we do?”
Miyata: That’s true. On previous works, characters that were bathed in warm yellow light had a blueish tint in their shadows, so this show had situations where people would ask “what should I put in this person’s shadow when they’re covered in light?”
Watanabe: We talked about “what should we do” when this side is in the shadows and that side is in the sunlight. The painting section has gathered so much perspective around colors. Even if a work has you insert some slightly eccentric colors, because everyday scenes need an everyday feeling, you have to protect that realistic meaning behind them. However, if you’re going to a world with phantoms in it, you’re a bit freer.
Miyata: Right. That’s why everyday scenes here were difficult. Also, I mentioned to everyone “please don’t mix in black in the shadow colors.” For example, if your shadow color is yellow and you mix in black, it’s no longer yellow; your shadow color is represented as orange. Also, I wanted to show blueish mixed in shadows instead of black. If you don’t use black, then your shadow lines for beautiful colors would appear “delicious.” (laughs)
Yamamoto: You didn’t use black either for the line colors too.
Miyata: Right. That was a desire from Ishihara-san. He said he wanted to insert a color that would make it feel like a shiso red color.
Yamamoto; That strengthened the red.
Miyata: It’s emphasized. In this show compared to previous ones, the main line colors are changed in scenes much more often. If it’s night, then the scene turns more blueish and so if the main line color is red, then it won’t properly fit into the whole visual, so we altered the line colors for night scenes. Also I remember playing around a little….. using yellowish colors when they went to phantom worlds to make it easy to see that they’re in a different world and since it was dark inside the cat mansion in episode 7, the shadows and main line colors were darkened a bit to bring out a different feeling in those scenes.

Differences in time. Noon (top) compared to twilight (bottom)

“Phantom World’s” CG

– Next, how was production in the compositing section?
Yamamoto: Thinking back….. I vaguely remember a conversation about how this was a series with lots of battles so “we’ll give it our all on the effects!”
Watanabe: I remember hearing from the director of photography (Ryuuta) Nakagami-san that they were going to take various hand-drawn pieces and include them digitally to make effects for the scene where Reina inhales phantoms, so I asked him “Did you talk about this with Ishihara-san?” and he said to me “We’re trying this out!” (laughs)
Yamamoto: (laughs) We tried so many things for Reina’s inhalation effects. It was the point that we tried the most on.
Miyata: Did you use CG when you were working with the phantoms?
Yamamoto: We used compositing techniques on the phantom bodies like smoothing edges and the like. For the first time, we over-did it so much that the painting section told us “we can’t see the phantom itself, so we don’t know what’s going on.”
Miyata: You really did. (laughs) Also I remember when I saw the way the hair was graded in the novel, I asked the compositing section “Can we have this sensation with two colors?” and they said “We can.” Our previous works had many situations with one color gradation, but there were two colors worth in “Phantom World.” There were characters that were hard to tell too, but all of them had two colors inserted in their hair. As we consulted the illustrations for reference, there wasn’t a consistent image, so we decided those colors from that. This was difficult, but because we added in a different color into the hair, it always felt like we were shining light onto them from below. For example, Reina has green mixed into her black hair, so because the green is brighter than the black, it looks like her hair is being lightened. I consulted with the director and compositing section “are these colors okay?” and decided from there.

– How was handling the 3D CG?
Yamamoto: Throughout the series itself, there weren’t any points where we’d say “this will be 3D”, but there’s bits here and there in each episode. There weren’t any instructions or directions from Ishihara-san for the series proper. However, to not give the hand-drawn animation itself a poor impression, we would insert effects to give it a three-dimensional feeling, so we did things like creating the effects when Reina inhales in 3D to give it that dimensionality. By the way, Koito’s attack effects are CG, but they’re not 3D; they’re the representation of different effects from the compositing team. It might appear the same if we used 3D effects, but if we went with 3D, then the representation during compositing would be slightly different.
Miyata: There were few mechanical bodies for phantoms, so they were mostly hand-drawn.
Yamamoto: We did make the drone phantoms in episode 2 from 3D though. Also, the fireworks phantom was partially made in 3D. We also made 3D layouts for Haruhiko’s bedroom and the phantom-hunting clubroom, but they were just used for layout reference. No 3D backgrounds were used in the actual show.

Secret techniques hidden everywhere

– Please tell us a story unique to “Phantom World” from each of your sections.
Miyata: This time we used brown eyelashes as usual, but actually just Haruhiko’s alone were blue. They were blue in the original illustrations from the novel, but it also brought out a special feeling for him alone. But surprisingly no one noticed……..(laughs)
Watanabe: I didn’t think anything other than “well, he’s a boy.” (laughs)
Yamamoto: I also thought it was a difference between boys and girls. (laughs)
Miyata: It was to bring out a special feeling unique to the protagonist! Come to think of it, the shadows in the backgrounds for this show were really dense blue.
Watanabe: They were. “Phantom World” was the first time that I had gone away to use blue for shadows. And also the mid-day shadows for the clouds were pink this time. When I look at them again now, I remember wanting to have bits everywhere that this world is different than usual. The sky is a background that appears in all of our works, but the mood with it changes depending on the color. It’s “Phantom World” in some way, but when I think about “phantom colors” reflective of the series, I feel that pink is one of them because it’s not a color that gets put in the sky that often. Since the shadow color for the series is blue, if I put the cloud shadow color as blue, then the sky is presented the same as everything else, so pink brings out that warm gentle mood reflective of mid-day.
Miyata: Relating to compositing, I recall Nakagami-san saying “though color comes out of Haruhiko’s sketchbook whenever it’s absorbing a phantom, I want to change the light’s distance depending on the shadow of the phantom.” He was mentioning how he wanted the shadows to differ to match how strong the light was depending how close the source was.
Yamamoto: With effects too he said “I don’t want anything that feels like you could see it anywhere on screen.” He wanted us to slightly revise it and match the mood. This show has far and away more effects compared to our previous works. For 3D, I thought about how to “bring out that 3D feeling in a good way.” For the drone phantom’s feel for example, we want to make it in a way that reduces the 3D feeling so that we can match the mood from the usual hand-drawn animation, but this time we also added things to bring out that feeling in a good sense. I thought this series was something you could enjoy a variety of things in. It’s the kind of work where you can eat Italian, Japanese, French, all in one show.
Miyata: Certainly at its extremes you could say each episode was made to have a feeling of “a completely different title.” There’s the common world where “phantoms co-exist,” but I think it’s nice that each story itself can give off a different impression. In episode 4, I used crayons because “I wanted to make a world like a picture book!” so don’t you think it’s a series where you had things that felt good like that?
Yamamoto: But inside that taste of cuteness, there’s serious scenes as well. Something that comes to mind is episode 8 where it ends with the gag of Haruhiko leaving to become a bride and not coming back. That different episode development is what fulfills this work. I think that point is a strength unique to this title.

If I remember it, it was tough

– Were there any points where each section collaborated together?
Miyata: The director for episode 9 said “I want to express stage lighting” during the play. The spotlight above the stage’s color changed to the character’s color, but changing that color was all that the painting team could do, so the compositing section helped reflect the brightness of those colors. Because of that, the painters asked the compositing section “how would this impact how you process things?” whenever they would change the color. We had to adjust the colors numerous times in order to reflect the color we wanted to show after processing.
Watanabe: For backgrounds, we nicely worked together with the 3D section on the security camera at Reina’s house. The same camera could be hand-drawn into the background when small, but when it was big and moved, it became 3D. We collaborated a lot on various things as usual.
Yamamoto: For us in the 3D section, we didn’t work while talking with the background and painting sections, we had many instances where we worked to match what those sections created based on our own judgement.

– Looking back, were there any rough points?
Miyata: Since Ishihara-san works in a different studio, there weren’t many times I could get a direct check on what I was working on. It’s not that there were any inconveniences or problems, but I think it would be really nice to have a check when looking at the same screen.
Yamamoto: And then each of you coming to an understanding would be great.
Miyata: Since we wouldn’t be in the same place looking at the same thing, I sent a digital version of the color chart to Ishihara-san in order to strengthen our mutual understanding. Since everyone has their own image of “red” there’s lots of cases where “red” can differ, so in order to strengthen something I couldn’t put into words, I added numbers on top of the color chart.
Watanabe: Along those lines, since backgrounds are something that use multiple colors instead of a single one, it’s tough to keep that nuance of “what color” into numbers. Because of that, there’s a lot of times our conversations become more like sound effects. Ishihara-san doesn’t give off many of them, but there’s a lot among the director staff who’ll give an explanation like “Come on, can’t we make this go more “fuwaaa”?” Trying to understand that is incredibly difficult. (laughs)
Yamamoto: I’m in the same studio, so it’s not that difficult for me. In exchange, I remember there were two points in the episodes that were troublesome. The first was in episode 4 when Reina chased after her bunny parents where the earth was to feel like a rock garden. That garden constantly moved around. Since there were some ten thousands of grains of sand twirling around, I constantly worried about how “simply how are you going to move this amount of sand?” The second was similar to the first where the sand phantom appears in episode 11 when Haruhiko shrinks. This one the amount of sand was endless, so when I would add in the moving sandstorm, the stress on my computer grew and moving became a challenge.
Watanabe: In those instances, the 3D section truly helped us in the background section. The toughest point when working on the backgrounds was the final episode. Simply there were a lot of cuts, and there were lots where the screen itself was pulled because of the battle, lots where the screen jolted, and lots where a large background was needed. Furthermore, there were numerous places that hadn’t appeared before like the Alayashiki buildings, so it was really tough.
Yamamoto: It was tough for the 3D section as well with the amount of minor characters taking refuge in that episode. There were hand-drawn characters too, but most of them were made in 3D.
Miyata: These things go on and on, don’t they? Only good memories remain with me, but if I think back, all these troublesome times come back up.
Watanabe: At the time I was troubled, but now that trouble has vanished.
Miyata: They vanished before we realized it.
Watanabe: Come to think of it, the 2015 event (The second KyoAni and Do Fan Appreciation Event) had a studio zone inside it where art boards for “Phantom World” were stuck on display for fans to see. Since they were put up prior to it being broadcast on TV, that sense of nervousness was immensely memorable.

– Thank you for your time today.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s