Thursday, June 03, 2004

On anime outsourcing... 

Some have been mentioning this article as of late, but it seems a bit unspecific on certain issues. The company mostly complaining, Oh Productions, talks about cells being outsourced. Do they mean "cells" literally or figuratively? If they paint physical cells, a big issue for them is the fact that the vast majority of anime is now colored on computers....

As far as outsourcing itself, as far as I know, inbetweens have been mostly done by South Korea for many years now (as well as for many american companies). How is the current situation different from that? Of course Korea has lately started to use some of their know-how to make their own animated material, but that's a whole other matter entirely.

But in any case, I thought this antecdote from Tsu-na-mi on slashdot was pretty funny, about the transition from cells to computer that anime has undergone (last paragraph):

The anime industry in Japan has mostly moved away from cels to to computer-based animation. Only a few legacy shows, like Chibi Maruko-chan or Sazae-san (which has been running since the 60s, I think) still use cels. Most new shows are of the digital ink-and-paint variety and many also feature a lot of 3D CGI assist. 5 years ago this was not so true, but practically every show made in the last 2 years is almost entirely digital.

This has stemmed the flood of outsourcing to a small leak. Almost any show you watch has a batch of Korean names in the end credits, but it's still mostly japanese. And all the top jobs are still held by japanese animators.

I know someone who was a former animator, ran a small studio in the late 90s, and was later a consultant for a DIP software company (Animo). One thing he said sparked the changeover was this: In order to make sure that work farmed out to studio XYZ in Korea matched the next scene farmed out to studio ABC in Thailand, the industry created a standard set of colors for cel paint. Being a relatively small industry, this led to one company making all the cel paint for everyone. A small, old, established company that had been doing it forever. And an old man who had been doing the job of master pigment mixer forever, having things his way, etc. Well, one day he, the only guy who really knew how to mix all the colors, had a heart attack and the industry realized their livlihood rested on the health of some crotchety old man at the paint company. Most studios switched over to digital within a year. ^_^

No way to validate that, but it certainly rings true to me from what I know of Japanese culture. :)

On another front, someone has some info. on the state of Korea and that now that they're doing well, they're feeling the pinch from China:

Seoul is more technologically advanced than any US city, kind of like a more traditional Tokyo.

It's not really that expensive - many daily things like eating out at restaurants, cell phone bills, internet (I get 50Mbps for $US30 a month), taxis, subway are cheap.

Accomodation is expensive only because they have the "key money" deposit system where you give a landlord $50,000-$150,000 to live rent free for 2 years, after which time they give you all of that money back again (with no interest). There is a hybrid system with a reduced deposit amount ($15K->$80K) and a low monthly rent. But if you've got some cash you don't mind tying up for a while, it's very cheap.

Korea is beginning to feel the outsourcing pinch from its neighbours, notibly China - where they're beginning to make things for cheaper than the Koreans can at comparable quality.

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