Fantasy resulted in exceptionally realistic human characters and
an exceptionally collaborative pipeline. Pictured: The lead character,
Click for larger image.
While many will
praise-or protest-the exceptionally human characters of Columbia's Final
Fantasy: The Spirits Within, Millimeter had a chance to observe the
real humans working painstakingly behind the scenes at Square Pictures,
Wandering the studio, one comes to realize the secret hidden behind
the moistness of the characters' pored-and sometimes pimpled-flesh,
the advanced articulation of each entity's movement, and the elaborate
sets and effects that surround them. Final Fantasy has not just pushed
the boundary where photorealism meets CG. Final Fantasy, under the watchful
eyes of director Hironobu Sakaguchi and producers Jun Aida and Christopher
Lee, has also pushed the boundaries of collaboration, uniting artists
from around the world.
"We've worked together in a way where it's not just a pass-off,"
states Tani Kunitaki, staging director, who previously worked as a conceptual
illustrator for Fight Club, Blade, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
and as storyboard artist for The Matrix. "Everything has been very
integrated, and you can always follow up with other departments, whereas
on many other productions there are more walls of demarcation."
Indeed, the greatest walls of demarcation for Square may just be the
dark drapes concealing the panoramic views of paradise from the downtown
studio's creative womb. In this shrouded maze of rooms and cubicles,
and on the _motion-capture stage nearby, Kunitaki and his colleagues
displayed for Millimeter their own beautiful scenery and _described
the collaborative pipeline that evolved around Final Fantasy. Following
are a few of the magnificent _hybrids that have resulted from their
East Meets West
for larger image.
It is fitting that
the film's artists should come _together in such a way-headquartered
between Japan, the birthplace of Final Fantasy the game, and the continental
U.S., the stomping grounds of Hollywood-on an island whose very name,
Oahu, means "The Gathering Place." The film in its stars and
styles is diverse, fluid, and multicultural, and the union of Eastern
and Western sensibilities, in particular, played a prevalent part in
Kunitaki notes that he bridged the cultural divide during storyboard
and layout by combining the graphic sensibility of Japanese anime with
the cinematic influences of traditional Hollywood films.
"If you just cut out a frame, there's a nice feeling of anime within
the film," he explains. "However, since we're dealing with
a three-dimensional environment instead of a graphic environment, we
installed a lot of camera work that's very traditional. You're looking
at late '70's style of camera work-it's very subtle."
Editor and post supervisor Chris Capp adds that this combination of
Eastern and Western influences also _resulted in a blend of live-action
and animation styles. "The subtle camera work makes the audience
feel that they looking at live action more than at animation,"
he notes. "We had the capability to create really wild, fast cameras,
but that would have just called attention to the fact that this is a
CG film. The directors have taken a strong stand on making this very
Western from a cinematography standpoint, and very Eastern as far as
what's in the frame."