■ Our next topic is the scene when the two protagonists fall down from the bridge. We ask the key animator Chung-Ning (Yao) to elaborate on it a bit.
Yao：This is a transitional cut between falling down the bridge and landing in water. Lantez attempts to catch Shaw and fires a grappling hook. The spatial relations and actions in this shot were difficult to organize, so our animation director suggested a vertical tilt. I included a spin to the camera from the left to bottom right in combination with a midair follow up shot.
■ It seems really complex to design this scene with different falling rates between the characters and debris. How was this designed?
Yao：The difficult part was the location of the debris. Some were below our characters’ feet while others surrounded them. Since the camera shot started at a worm’s-eye view then shifted to an eye-level follow, the spatial distance between the characters and debris also changed. We had to search for a lot of reference data.
Sun：Allow me to assist in the explanation. Due to the location of the characters, the original shot was a stable worm’s eye view with intentional slow motion after the debris fell alongside the characters. The rock and steel beams weren’t always surrounding the characters during the fall when seen from a worm’s eye view. We need to put in mind the spatial distance, the rate of falling, and the camera movement itself. All of these need to be applied to create the spatial relation, dimensionality, character performance, and pacing. These make it a really difficult cut to handle.
Initially, the simpler vertical tilt was chosen with the difficulty in mind. I didn’t think the key animator would add a camera spin to it, so thumbs up to Chung-Nin (Yao) for challenging himself! (ゝ∀･)b
■ Any difficulties encountered with drawing such a large frame?
Yao：It was difficult to draw since the paper was taped. There wasn’t a drawing table large enough for this, so sometimes I even tape the layout on top of the glass. (ง• ̀ω•́ ) ง
■ How about the character’s action design during this cut?
Yao：When I was looking for references in action films, I noticed that unless they’re incredibly good stunt actors, most people actually don't move that much in midair. Instead, they just get dragged down by gravity.
In terms of action, Shaw fell straight down normally while Lantez attempted to turn his body and reach out. Even so, it took two attempts before catching Shaw, increasing the intensity of the scene.
After overcoming numerous difficulties, we present the completed background layout!
（Copyright © SAFE HOUSE T & Studio REALS ）
■ The last demo cut is when D-4 appeared. This cut is also the last cut to the pilot film and it seems there are quite a number of animation sheets used for this as well.
Yao：This cut is mainly about D-4 coming out of the storage facility, moving towards the camera and the two main protagonists exiting the shot from both sides. The camera moving forward creates a false fisheye effect where the scene spreads outwards from the center. Since D-4 was designed to be spherical in this shot without much items in its surroundings, making it difficult to create a fisheye effect.
Sun：This is the last cut in the pilot film. In order to leave a strong impression, we presented the importance of D-4 as a character by increasing the frame counts to the animation. We made some artificial dizzying feel during the line art testing stage. It’s rare we get to try something as fun as hand drawn fisheye effects in an animation. (｡◕∀◕｡)
Yao：It took a lot of time to handle the structural integrity of the shot. Trying to show an expanding effect without losing the dimensions…
Ah~ I’m going to complain a bit. Finally finished drawing it in the dead of night and sent the key animation sample to Mr.Sun, only to be edited again. I was really depressed at the time but had to control my emotions and call him up to ask.
Sun：I was on a deadline too! (〃∀〃)~ I wasn’t able to tell how you felt over the phone. You’ve done great~
Yao：！！Σ(;ﾟдﾟ) (Nervous) No, I didn’t mean any negative by it!
Everyone：It’s too late for that! XDDDD
Ying：He even complained that it was because I didn’t have enough details in my settings that he couldn’t create the fisheye effect. (΄◞ิ౪◟ิ‵)
Sun：This cut really wasn’t easy. When Chung-Ning (Yao) sent it to me, it was already 80% done. It was just that the last few key animations had some imprecise and shaky lines. If we were to add the in-between frame and color it, these flaws would only be magnified. It would’ve destroyed the mood that we spent so long to build, that’s why I asked him to hold on to the end.
Luckily, he didn’t smack me or raise his voice. He was very sincere over the phone and a very responsible key animator that fulfilled the duties of animation faithfully. The end result had wonderful effects!
Hao：Looking back, it was indeed a blessing to have received that cut, although it was indeed tiring at the time.
Su：I recall strongly that we did a test video after the animation was completed. Mr.Sun had an explosive reaction saying “this is exactly what we want!”
■ We can see that everyone poured their heart and soul into every cut.
Thank you all for such an in depth explanation.
Aside from the contents of the production, did anything else of interest occur during the production?
Let’s start with Chung-Ning (Yao).
Yao：Eh? Starts with me? XD Let me think… Let Tsu-ying start. (laughs)
Ying：Can’t believe you tossed it to me!
Alright fine. Actually, I learned quite a lot from Kraft this time, like enhancing the storyboard along with the animation, filling in missing details to the background, improving the characters and the scenes…etc. Mr.Sun provided me a lot of room to execute all this. Although it was difficult at the time, I learned a lot
Hsiao：Want to talk a bit about your lithiasis incident? (σ`∀´)σ (pokes Yao)
Yao：Uh… Basically, I was just stressed and drank lots of tea and my waist and back were hurting and thought it was a stomachache.
Hsiao：You’re choosing to understate this?
Then allow me to graciously elaborate. He likes to brag how he’s all healthy and strong as a bull! Drinking all these seasoning packages and soft drinks all the time.
He started whining that he has stomachaches and refused to visit the doctors. Everyone had to keep encouraging him to go. In the end, it got to the point where he absolutely needed to go, and the doctor found out he had lithiasis. So much for being strong as a bull. Luckily, he listened in the end. (థ౪థ)
Su：(Focused and ignoring the side-conversation) As for me, compositing is basically assembling the materials everyone provides me with a complete imagery. This requires a lot of communication between the team to confirm the details of each individual part. It’s a big challenge for me since I’m more introverted and communication is not my best suit.
Yao：That’s not true~ You’re a better communicator than me. (◉◞౪◟◉ )
Su：You’re the hardest person to communicate with… (ㅍ_ㅍ)
Lin：I remember there was a time when I placed the animation cut I finished on the desk and Yao saw it as he walked by. He laughed at how the eyes I drew looked funny.
Later on, when Mr. Hsiao pointed out how it wasn’t done to par, I said: “Yao already laughed at me.”
Hsiao said, “He laughed at you but didn’t tell you how to fix it!?”
Ying：I saved that cut. The expression looks super peaceful. Everyone would pull that cut out when we’re in a bad mood. XD We actually have an urban myth that if you place a cut on the desk, it would be fixed on a yellow editing sheet for you the next day.
Lin：Even the items on the desk change places. Sometimes, there would be an extra pen or ruler.
Hsu：I lost both my pen and eraser… (= =)
Sun：I’m pretty it’s me. I actually enter the studio late at night and would borrow items from the nearest desk.
Everyone：Hoooo~ Case closed! XDDD
We can see the fun marks left behind by everyone on the door to our animation studio.
（Copyright © SAFE HOUSE T & Studio REALS ）
Hsiao：I would like to take this chance to ask my fellow key animators.
How do you reenact the character's performance and collect data when drawing key animations?
Yao：I’m not good at collecting data. Most of the time I just ask Tsu-ying and Tsu-hao or secretly observe them. Sometimes I even sneak to their seats after they go home.
Everyone：(laughs maniacally) What, to steal their essence!?
Ying：Sometimes I find my seat to be higher, and he even admits it himself.
Yao：Basically I just check out how they search for data or I go through my own experience or ask others.
Ying：I think data collection is an important process. When learning, it’s best to learn through the experience of others. It’s a waste of time to try and seek the solution yourself when there are prior examples out there. Life is too short to be stuck on the basics. I’m not saying it’s bad to have your own views, but you can build your ideas based on the fundamentals of others. When I couldn’t find any data, I would quickly watch a lot of anime at high speed, seeking usable animations.
■ Regarding this question, what are Mr.Sun’s thoughts?
Sun：I don’t have a magical answer to all this, especially since this is something that I’ve answered quite a bit... (^ ^”)
We need to produce work within a very limited timeframe. The only thing we know for certain is that we’re definitely not the first animator to draw this genre, so building on the experience of our seniors can elevate the scenes. As long as it’s completed within our skill level without disrupting the flow of the project, we should add our own personal elements the best we could.
I play a different role in every case Safe T has taken. For this case, I play the role of an animation director. I role rarely involves fixing characters or the scenes directly, instead, I give the key animators advice on improving the animation. The perks of this project are that I can go in depth on the thought process and reasoning behind the work more than I usually can.
To be honest, the team have almost no prior professional animation experience. This project involves scenes that are difficult even for pros, but the team completed it splendidly! We can fully see everyone’s passion and hard work in the completed video. I want to thank everyone for their trust in me and completing the work faithfully as I am directed.
Σ(灬ºωº灬) Ah! Is this too much?
■ We’ve mentioned a lot of hard work already. Let’s talk about something fun now~
Seeing the characters you illustrate actually moving must be fun, right?
Hsiao：It was actually alright~ Ah! I had an extremely good time when I saw the part with “Mr.Balance”~ hahaha
Lin：Chuan-Ning Yao is about to pop a vein. XD
■ (Laughs) You’re talking about the part where online fans screenshotted the running scenes?
< *A short review by a passionate fan : https://m.gamer.com.tw/home/creationDetail.php?sn=3610952 >
Sun：Yeah. An enthusiastic fan pointed out all the shots he felt that were awkward and that he liked. He said Lantez ran like he’s seen past all worldly desires with an enlightened look. The funny thing about this cut and the cut with great interaction and fluidness was that it’s all drawn by Chuan-Nin Yao. A negative review balanced out with a positive review.
Hsiao：And thus “Mr.Balance.” XD
■ Everyone sitting here is around 20 years old. For those fans who are passionate about animation as well, let’s share some of our educational background and how you’ve entered the animation industry and eventually Safe T.
Hsiao：I went to a vocational school majoring in business. At the time, I found ACG to be full of potential and decided to take drawing seriously. After passing my Japanese exams, I flew to Japan to study in specialized schools and met Mr.Sun there. I even practiced drawing in his place at night. We had to learn illustration, manga, and animation during the first year. By the time we hit the end of the first semester, I chose animation since I felt like it was the easiest for me to improve. Went on a path of no return. (laughs)
I had a lot of trouble looking for work. Sometimes I was hired but couldn’t stay due to visa issues. In the end, I was lucky to meet a boss who was willing to train me and let me enter a Japanese animation company as an animator. In the end, I still had to return to Taiwan due to visa issues. Thanks to Mr.Sun’s introduction to a certain animation project, I entered Safe T.
Su：I also graduated from a specialized school in Japan. I’ve liked drawing since I was little and decided to go study abroad in Japan during middle school. I even wanted to be a manga artist! (* ॑꒳ ॑* ) There was a class within visual communications major that involved making music videos. I realized I really enjoyed making the picture move. Later on, I wanted to learn drawing and technical software knowledge so I picked animation major within a specialist school. After graduation, I wanted to do animation related work so I asked Mr. Jui-che Cheng and he recommended Safe T.
Yao：I majored in visual communication design. I always had an interest in animation but was mostly self-taught. I wasn’t able to find animation related work after graduation and tried various jobs. In the end, I decided to come to Taipei from Kaohsiung.
Originally I thought even if it’s a paperwork job or gathering information, it’s all to better my understanding of the Taiwanese anime industry. By a chance of fate, I entered a certain animation company as an animator and met Mr.Sun in Animation Fun House. After a collaboration on a certain project, I joined Safe T.
■ It seems a number of you met Mr. Sun in Animation Fun House?
Lin：Yes, I was one of them. I majored in entomology in college but realized I wanted to be an animator on my freshman year. Coincidentally, I discovered the existence of Animation Fun House and knew they were opening some animation classes. I was one of Mr.Sun's first students when he started class in Taiwan.
Ying：Me too, I was also visual communications major. Originally, I wanted to be a fine arts animator, but I discovered that professional Japanese animation’s systematic approach to dividing work and presenting the scenes are exactly what I wanted. So my brother and I went to Mr.Sun’s class together.
Hao：I was an architectural major. Initially, I thought I was going to do architectural related works. After being pointed out by my teacher at the time, I realized architecture wasn’t my calling. I’ve spent my time in the military pondering my future until my brother told me of Mr.Sun’s class and we went there together.
Ying：After my brother retired from the Army, it was my turn to serve. I was very insecure, feeling that I would lose my touch if I stopped drawing. So I drew practiced whenever I had any breaks. I also worked on a certain previously mentioned project and entered Safe T after.
Hsu：I actually encountered the members of Safe T through that certain project as well. I came from a traditional background where my family asks for good grades. Eventually, I hit a breaking point and communicated with my family and shifted to game and design related majors. In the end, I realized I wanted to draw and make pictures move. Through the introduction from my school to a certain animation project, I met Mr. Sun and everyone at Safe T there.
■ Next, we’d like to follow up with the animation and executive director himself, Mr. Sun. Many of us heard of the life in the Japanese animation industry, we’d like to hear some of your own personal experience.
Sun：Plenty of friends know I majored in Japanese and didn’t know how to draw. I watched Tokyo Godfathers in the International Animation Festival of 2004 and felt a tremendous impact. I quit my job at the Japanese company and went to learn animation in Japan. I was lucky to be hired as an animator right after graduation, all the way till now.
■ After Mr.Sun and several other founders started Safe T, what fate brought Safe T to Doom Boys (former name of Kraft) and into an eventual partnership?
Sun：Taiwan has a lot of passionate developers who wanted to show their work. We were able to meet others with the same interest through the internet. Studio REALS’s director Cheng-Ting Lin and I met under such circumstances. After he introduced his story and world setting to us, we were moved by his passion and enthusiasm for the Taiwanese animation industry and thus the collaboration began.
■ We can see that the original script to the animation settings to the currently released concept art all has a great difference. What are some of Mr.Sun’s thoughts on the matter?
Sun：Professional animation production is incredibly difficult. Even if the process has a lot of room for improvement, but even the well-organized corporations in Japan needed to seek quality under very limited resources.
As we mentioned before, our company follows the professional Japanese animation system and workflow. I want to create an environment like a miniature Anime mirai (アニメミライ), where the staff can be trained with actual professional experience. We also had the renowned concept artist Chang-Ching Yeh to aid us, giving us a unique concept art. We will continue to try our back to deliver quality animation work to our loving fans!
■ The members of Safe T improved a lot in both knowledge and technical skills. What expectations does Mr.Sun have for the future of this studio?
Sun：The initial founders of Safe T all met in the Japanese industry. We were founded in 2013 and the actual studio began in 2015. We’re beyond grateful to have a young studio full of friends with passion and dreams willing to fight the good fight. Even if reality may be cruel, we hope the studio will do perform better and better as our members grow. We also want to develop a positive environment to invite new friends who may be interested!
■ Let’s share what each of us wishes for our future in terms of career!
Hsiao：I think there’s still much for me to learn. Right now I want to make my drawings the very best they can be and eventually become a character designer and animation director. It’ll be great to be able to draw a little of everything and make everything look natural.
Yao：My short term goal is to do a good job with my current work. Long term… well, although I have areas that are lacking, I still want to pursue filmmaking and directing. Hoping that I can help the Taiwanese animation industry grow.
Ying：I think key animation is closely related to many other fields. It is also the core to any animation related work. So, for now, I just want to be a capable key animator. Long term wise, I am aiming to be an executive animation director. If I have a story that I want to tell, I would also challenge myself to be a director.
Hao：I think I want to be a key animator or a background settings designer. Long term wise, of course, I also want to be a director. I first joined because I had stories I wanted to tell, hoping to present them.
Lin：My short term goal is to move towards key animator. The end goal is to be a director, sharing my stories to the public.
Hsu：Even though I was in charge of color design and coloring, but hopefully I can be involved with more animations. I want to be hands on with creating lively characters.
Su：After I began my work in compositing, I realized that I am still unfamiliar with the After Effects software. With so many plug-in nowadays, I want to further improve my technical skills. Also since I like the sense of enjoyment after completing a scene, I would continue onward to master compositing.
Huang：Grab hold of every opportunity, making sure that backgrounds, background settings, and background supervising are done to the best possible standard.
Sun：As a member of Safe T, my goal is to grow with everyone and create great works. Privately, I want to reach a resting stage with this project and finish translating the animation book that I owed… (இдஇ)
■ Finally, let’s end this interview with words to our readers!!
Hsiao：Good luck! ⁽⁽٩(๑˃̶͈̀ ᗨ ˂̶͈́)۶⁾⁾
Ying：That’s it!? Uh, okay… I think meeting Mr.Sun and joining as Safe T started was a valuable encounter. I wish for people who share the same love for animation and want to support the Taiwanese animation industry to join us in the future. (｡◕∀◕｡)v
Su：After the Kraft animation was revealed, several friends interested in animation asked to join us. I was really excited at the time hoping this studio would become a safe house for Taiwanese who enjoy Japanese animation. Although there are lots of differing opinions over the internet, I still want to use this project to change the current environment. Thank you all for your support! (*ˇωˇ*人)
Hsu：For those with interest in animation, I recommend you all give it a try first. After challenging yourself then gaining a feel of the professional industry, you’ll be able to appreciate the differences and learn the experience passed down. Good luck! ( • ̀ω•́ )b
Hao：If this is the path that you have decided on, then definitely give it a try. There are going to be a lot of stumbling road blocks, but it’ll be an unforgettable experience! Even if you failed, at least you’ve tried. You definitely won’t regret this! (✪ω✪)
Yao：Hard work goes beneath what you see on the surface. Nothing comes easily. Ideals must be based on reality. (ゝ∀･)
Lin：This is a difficult path to walk, so I think a humble heart is required. A patient and studious heart is needed to fulfill your dream! ヾ(●゜▽゜●)♡
Huang：The path to being an animator is long. As if running a super marathon. You need enduring hard work and persistence, but the day where you’ll be recognized is sure to come! (*´▽`*)
Sun：I am lucky to be working with everyone in this studio and look forward to future developments.
Finally, I’d like to thank everyone for reading up to this point and hopefully, this interview has been useful to friends who are interested in animation production!
Everyone did brilliantly! See you all next time! 。゜+.(人-ω◕)゜+.゜