Anime Production – Detailed Guide to How Anime is Made and the Talent Behind it!

I think it’s both important and fascinating to learn about the fundamentals of the medium we all love, and one of the most critical questions is: how is anime made? For me, especially recently, that’s been a burning question that I ended up researching in detail. For the sake of other anime fans with the same question, I thought I’d share my findings. So, if you want ammunition to return fire the next time you find yourself caught in an argument about the merits of anime, or want a fresh way to look at anime, I hope this article will be useful. Over the last year or so, my increasing interest in this side of things has really opened my eyes to the talent, artistry, passion and beauty that can be found in Japanese animation. The article will focus on TV-anime production, but the same general process applies to movies and OVAs as well. That said, there can be a lot of variation between studios and individual productions.

The process of making an anime is a complex one, with many steps and stages. This chart from AIC’s English website is a good visual overview for what I’ll be discussing:
 

The anime production process

Pre-production:

This process depends on who’s pushing for an idea and who is backing it up, it can be animation studios themselves along with sponsors, but many anime are adaptations of manga or light novels, in which case, publishers front costs (including the costs of having it shown on TV stations). The production company (e.g Aniplex) gathers staff, sponsors, and looks at advertisement and merchandise. While many people describe studios as being cheap, only around half the budget is often given to the anime studio, with the rest going to broadcasters and other contributing companies. The broadcast costs are surprisingly high – according to blogger, ghostlightning – at about 50 million yen for a late-night timeslot across 5-7 stations for a 52 episode series. You can see why anime can be an expensive business. For example, Full Metal Alchemist, which had a 6pm Saturday slot had a total budget of 500 million yen (before additional costs).

When the core staff is arranged, they meet and plan out the anime, work on series composition (how the anime will play out across each episode/over the course of the series), and select further staff such as character or mecha designers. One of the most crucial core staff is the director. To understand the role of directors, you could think of them like directors of a movie, but instead of dealing with actors, they deal with the animators who make the characters movie. Their involvement is generally to attend meetings and make decisions in order to manage the schedule, budget and quality of an anime.

Following the early panning sessions, designs (character, mecha, costume, etc) are then created. Designs are obviously an important factor in creating a good anime. Character designers either have the task of simplifying manga/illustration designs so that they are suitable for animation, or, in the case of an original anime, coming up with a new set of characters based on descriptions from the director/producers. Character designers often continue to advise animation directors on corrections to animation that should be made to stay close to their character models (in which case they are generally credited as Chief Animation Director for the series).

Once the story and designs are mapped out, the first episode is tackled.

Production:

The first step is to write the episode scripts. Following the episodes synopsis/plans, the full scripts are written, by either one person for the whole series or by several different writers based on the outlines from the overall script supervisor (staff credit: series composition). The scripts are reviewed by the director, producers, and potentially the author of the original work before being finalised (after 3 or 4 drafts, often). The episode director, supervised by the overall director then takes this backbone of the episode and must plan out how it will actually look on screen. While the director has the final say and is involved at production meetings, the episode director has the most hands-on involvement in developing the episode. This stage is expressed as a storyboard (a visual script), and the storyboard marks the beginning of actual animation production.

Storyboarding:

Often the storyboard is created by the director, this means an episode is truly the vision of that director. But usually, mainly in TV-anime, separate storyboarders are used to actually draw them. This is because storyboards usually take around 3 weeks to do for a normal length TV-anime episode. Art meetings and production meetings are held with the episode director, series director and other staff about the episode should look. Storyboards are drawn on A-4 paper (generally) and contain most of the vital building blocks of an anime – the cut numbers, actor movements, camera movements such as zooming or panning, the dialogue (taken from the screenplay) and the length of each shot (or cut) in terms of seconds and frames (which we’ll explain later). Because the number of drawings available for an episode is often fixed for the sake of budget management, the number of frames is also carefully considered in the storyboards. The storyboards are roughly-drawn and are really the core stage of deciding how an anime will play out. Cuts refer to a single shot of the camera and an average TV-anime episode will usually contain around 300 cuts. More cuts don’t necessarily imply a better quality episode, but it will generally mean more work for the director/storyboarder.

 

Example storyboards from To Aru Kagaku no Railgun. Anime storyboards have 5 columns. From left to right: the cut number, the layout, the action, the dialogue, and finally, the running time (in time and frames). The layouts are only drawn roughly, because they are handled by other artists in the next step of production.
 

Layouts:

Less well known is the layout process, which marks the beginning of art production. In simple terms, developing a layout is about positioning the cels that will be used in the cut and the background art that will be needed, giving the definitive blueprint for how the final shot will look. The cuts are drawn up to the same size as the animation paper and the details of cel placement, precise descriptions of camera movement, and other decisions are included. In collaboration with the director, and possibly producers, the senior animators draw the layouts (or sometimes staff are specifically credited with layout drawings) and the shots are called about where the cels/characters are going to be situated and the way a cut is going to be framed. The basic structure of the background art is drawn in (ie. a tree here, a mountain there), and elements of the storyboard are expressed on the layout to help describe the cut. Sometimes multiple stages of the storyboard can be expressed on a single layout drawing as long as it isn’t too confusing. Cels are shaded in warm colours, backgrounds are shaded in cool colours.

After being approved by the director, these layouts are then duplicated and given to the background department (who get the originals), and the key animators. The art director and assistants work on painting the background artwork based on the rough drawings of the layouts while the rest of the production process continues concurrently.

Now the form of each cut has been decided – the positions of characters, the setting, what they’re going to do, and how the shot is going to be captured (camera angle, zooming and panning). But one of the most expressive and vital parts of production remains: the animation!

Black Rock Shooter Layouts. The cels are shaded a warm orange, while the background a cool blue colour.



Animation:

To its credit, anime is one of the few places left that you can still find ‘traditional animation’! I think there has been some confusion among many anime fans about just how digital anime production is, so I’d better make it clear: commercial, mainstream anime is still fundamentally hand-drawn, and that’s why it remains such a great artistic medium! Traditional animation allows for more individuality to be expressed. Sure, computers do come into it in a large way (and I’ll explain that a bit later), but the crucial thing is that the frames are still initially drawn by hand, and no in-between animation is simulated by a computer. There are some animators who draw 2D animation directly onto computer, but in anime this is largely restricted to in solo animation productions rather than commercial anime. The industry prefers this because the animators are generally more comfortable and able with this method, and it allows easier checking and correction of frames under sometimes tight schedules. Here’s how the animation is done:


Key Animation:

Based on the storyboard, the key animators start work, creating the animation drawings. They are assigned a certain number of different cuts by the person in charge of key animation. Key animators draw the essential frames that mark a distinct position or expression of a cel/character. For example, a character starting to kick someone as one key frame, and then the kick landing as the second key frame (if it’s a fast kick!). In other words, they draw the structure of the animation. The number of frames that a key animator draws for a movement will depend upon the intentions of the key animator and the nature of the cut, with time, and budget constraints considered. These drawings also include lines which direct where shading will occur. Around 20 key animators can be working on a single episode of anime, each in charge of a separate part (sometimes several cuts). Although it’s already decided what a movement will be, it is up to the key animator to express that as animation. That is why a talented and hard-working key animator can really steal the show, going well beyond the requirements of the storyboard and imbuing a scene with their own style. Some animators get the opportunity to deviate from storyboards as well (which the likes of Yoshinori Kanada was known to do, to great effect).

There is a subset of the anime fandom who are enthralled by great animation works and animators, ‘sakuga’ fans. Sakuga technically refers to the drawings in an anime, but is extended to describe the animation as a whole. People follow their favourite animators, and keep track of the cuts they do, also compiling them into anime or animator-specific music videos. The core of the sakuga online fandom is the ‘sakuga wiki’ (in Japanese), and a huge array of ‘sakuga AMVs’ can be found on youtube. Even a brief look over these videos inspired me with a real appreciation of the character and presence that individual animators can impart. I think this culture of appreciatimh outstanding key animation is one of the most fascinating arenas of the anime domain.

2nd Key Animation is also emerging lately, but I’m not too clear on what this means (if anyone can explain, please do!)
 


(Hironori Tanaka MAD)

 

But what about consistency? While emphasis on this varies from production to production, in general it is a good idea to make sure your characters look the same from one key animator’s portion to the next. This is handled by an animation director.

Animation Director:

This is one staff role that I suspect many anime fans haven’t learned about, because it’s not very self-explanatory. The animation director’s key role isn’t to ‘direct the animation’ per se (although they have varying levels of input depending on the person, studio and schedule). Their position is basically about consistency. They check all the key frames being created for an episode and make corrections where necessary so that the drawings are as close to the models for the series as possible. In some cases, they may have to redraw entire frames, or make adjustments to timing and movement (mostly, this happens for OVAs and movies). They are one of the four core staff positions for an episode (screenplay, episode director, storyboard, animation director). Key frames may also be checked by the episode director.

Animation directors tend to be more experienced animators and are paid more for the role. However, it is their responsibility if things go wrong with the animation, making it a potentially very stressful job, especially under time pressure. Often, an episode of anime will have more the one animation director, and this can be a sign of scheduling problems, with more people needed to complete the episode satisfactorily and on time, or even a sign of many poor drawings needing correction. It can also be because animation directors are being used to their specialties (ie. an animation director brought on to handle a mecha sequence, or to handle drawings of animals), or an indication that it was a difficult and demanding episode with a lot of drawings.

Other than the episode animation director, anime nowadays have an overall animation director (generally also the character designer), who often works alongside episode animation directors to keep the character models consistent throughout the entire show. They generally focus on the faces of characters. Some series place less importance on this, or, as was the case with Noein, didn’t use a series animation director at all!

In-between Animation:

We have our approved key-frames for a piece of animation, but now to complete the animation, so that it moves fluidly, more drawings have to be completed to go between the key frames. This is called in-between animation. In-between animation is handled by less experienced animators, and is very often outsourced (largely to Korea). In-between animation is paid more poorly than key animation, and is usually only a temporary position in an animator’s career. You could describe this as grunt work, because in-between animators don’t have a chance to imbue their work with individuality. They receive (particularly when it’s oursourced), clear instructions from the key animator about what the in-between animation should do, and simply fill in the gaps with drawings. They also have the task of neatly tracing the key frames.

Often key animators, particularly famous ones, or for important sequences, will do many of the drawings themselves, to minimise the number of potentially inferior in-between frames. There are many examples of this, but one of my favourites is Yoshimichi Kameda’s sequence from FMA:Brotherhood in which Mustang is burning Lust, for which he did all the in-between frames himself. I doubt frames drawn by other people could have matches his impressive drawings for that scene!

The in-between frames are also checked/corrected if need be. With the drawings from the key animators and in-betweeners combined, you have the ‘animation’ that goes into an anime!

Gurren Lagann animation. Top: key animation drawings, middle: cleaned and in-between animation, bottom: final product, coloured and including background artwork.

Generally, especially for TV, anime will be animated at 2:s, which means 1 drawing lasts for two frames (equating to 12 drawings per second), but sometimes animation is done at 1:s (24 frames every second) or 3:s. If every second of an anime was animated at even 2:s that would involve using around 15000 drawings for an episode! In reality, because many shots have cels as static, or because many scenes don’t necessarily require fluid movement, the average anime will have around 3000 frames/drawings. That’s still a lot of drawings! Often (especially lately), directors or producers will boast that their anime has “10,000 drawings for an episode!” or something to that effect, which is fairly impressive but doesn’t necessarily mean the episode is better. For example, apparently the first episode of Evangelion used only 700 animation frames, while Angel Beats used around 11,000 in episode one! A good director can work wonders with fewer frames using interesting scene compositions and shortcuts. Often, directors or studios will manage their budget by putting a limit on the number of drawings that can go into a single episode.

Another core factor is the trade-off between detailed, consistent designs and more fluid animation. You can see how faster animation drastically increases the number of drawings required, and sticking to detailed character models can be expensive and time-consuming. Fluid animation is easier to do with simpler designs OR if the requirements for consistency are less strict. With fairly tight budgets, the anime medium has long been a struggle to balance these issues with shortcuts and compromises. This truth is the basis for a lot of attack on anime from Western animation fans, but the fact is, with skilled enough animators and the right project you can have your cake and eat it too! Anime has certainly produced some of the most detailed AND fluid animation sequences you’ll be able to find!

Compositing / “filming”:

It is commonplace for the frames to be completed on a computer. After they are drawn and checked, they are digitized. Once they are on the computer, they are painted with a specified color palette by painting staff (generally a low paid job). They use the shading lines drawn by the key animators to do the shading colours. This digital equivalent of the ‘ink & paint’ stage of production, which used to be done by hand, has allowed some more interesting visual styles to come through in the colouring, such as the use of gradient shading or even textures. These would have been too difficult to do back in the day. It has also saved considerable time and money in the process. These become the final “cels” that go into the animation.

Once all the frames are coloured and finished, they can be processed as animation using a specialized software package. “RETAS! PRO” is used for approximately 90% of anime currently aired in Japan (for drawing sometimes too)! Before the use of digital ‘cels’ (digicels), drawings (printed onto cels) were actually filmed over backgrounds. Now, cuts are completed digitally, and the background art can be added on the computer. Initially, when digicel was first being picked up by studios (around about 2000), it had real problems matching the fineness of detail in hand-drawn and painted cels. But nowadays, anime studios have really perfected the digital cel, giving us anime with just as much detail and more vibrant colouring. The digicel age has now streamlined the production process such that repeated cels and clip/recap episodes are basically a thing of the past. Some still prefer the rougher look of pre-2000, but I’ve certainly moved on.

While it doesn’t use actual film, the compositing process of adding background art and capturing the animation digitally is still referred to as “filming”. The CG characters and machines are also generally added to the composition during the filming stage. The use of 3DCG is also now common-place in anime now for mechanical things, like mecha, cars, or even background characters. Its role is expanding and becoming less and less intrusive. During compositing, the effects are also applied to the cuts.

Effects! This might sound like a trivial thing when you’re talking about anime, but it can be a vital component of the visual style of a series because it incorporates basic things like ambient lighting, flare, backlight, the glint on a sword, blur, and many other things integral to giving depth and atmosphere to 2D drawings. Then there’s all the flashy things you’d usually think of when someone mentions special FX – magical attacks, explosions and the like. These are typically hand-drawn but then rendered with effect CG for their glow/shine. These effects can be simply added to the compositions using digital masking. The ease of this step now has resulted in one of the biggest distinctions between anime a decade ago and the anime of today.

In short, the digital age of anime (in most cases) has meant several things: physically filming cels is replaced by computer-based composition of the hand-drawn frames/art, painting no longer has to be done by hand, and the more effective integration of CG and digital effects. All of these things have saved time and money, so that TV-anime now use many more drawings and don’t need to recycle cels or have clip/flashback episodes.

After compositing is completed for all the cuts, they have to be to the timing required for broadcast, so that the episode doesn’t lag overtime. With the completion of the editing step, the episode moves out of production and into post-production. I won’t go into much detail on this, but it essentially encompasses adding sound (dubbing), both the music and the voice recordings, and final editing (cutting the episode with space for advertisements). Visual effects may also be added at this late stage too.
 


(Raw genga Birdy Part 3: Shingo Yamashita & Ryouma Ebata )

 
 

Japanese terms:

Animation Director: Sakkan (Sakuga Kantoku) [作画監督]
Drawings of anime: Sakuga (作画)
Key Animation: Genga (原画)
In-between Animation: Douga 動画
Overall Animation Director: Sou-Sakuga kantoku (総作画監督)
 

Sources for this post:

PRODUCTION I.G – Tokyo, Anime production process – feature film link

Steps in Anime Production link

Wao’s highly informative posts on anime staff on Animesuki! link

AIC – :: Introduction of anime production :: link

Sunrise – The Making of Animation: link
 

Nurse Witch Komugi omake on anime episode production:


 

Digital Paitning on Tonari no 801-chan


 

Other, forgotten sources.
 

Sakuga Resources:

Ani no Miyako blog

Sakuga Wiki (Japanese)

ワゴンの神様 blog (Japanese)

Follow my blog, or just the sakuga tag!

 

Hopefully this post provided a detailed overview of the animation production process that goes into anime, along with a general description of pre and post production! It’s important to remember that this is a description of your average anime. The truth is, approaches vary significantly between studios, production companies and directors. But I hope this gives a solid idea of some of the staff and production processes that are used. If you notice any errors in the post, can contribute any more detail on anything, or have any questions, please comment! In any case, I’d like to hear people’s thoughts and experiences on the topic.

119 responses to “Anime Production – Detailed Guide to How Anime is Made and the Talent Behind it!

  1. First of all, fantastic article so far, like you I’ve also been reading up on the animation process and ran into that AIC website a few weeks a go.

    I’ve only read part of the artcle, but I came across this: “2nd Key Animation is also emerging lately, but I’m not too clear on what this means”
    I can’t recall where, but I read that 2nd Key Animation is used on shows that are on tight schedules and so the Key Animators draw very rough frames, or few in number and the 2nd Key artists come along, clean these drawings up and fill in the blanks, though of course not filling all the blanks in as this is left to the Inbetween artists. So 2nd Key Animators are not as important as Key Animators, but they are not as menial as Inbetweeners either.

  2. Excellent post. This definitely went a long way towards filling the gaps in my knowledge about the process.

    I did honestly think that more of the process was digital (and it probably wouldn’t concern me if it was). Even back in the early 00s where CG stood out like a sore thumb and computer effects looked rough, I thought that, the more animators use the technology, the better and more seamlessly it would be implemented. The comparison between Evangelion and Angel Beats says a lot about how far anime has come. Technology will only improve. If it can take over more of the grunt work, then that means that talented animators can focus more of their effort on key animation and the parts of the process that are more open to creativity.

    • thanks for commenting! Glad the post could be helpful.

      Hopefully soon enough more anime critics will put the effort into learning the basics of the medium they rant so much about and make informed critique.

  3. Amazing post. I really do need to thank you on all the information you provide me on the industry. It definately helps me stay on top of all my friends. Its really amazing how far the industry has come. It reall is nice to see how my favorite for of entertainment is made and the hardwork that goes into making it. I really can’t wait to see the industry evolve even further.

    • Glad to be of service! Of course, I’d rather you shared the link with your friends and increase everyone’s knowledge on the topic XD

      Hopefully you continue to develop a strong interest in anime!

  4. I knew a lot of of this when I started reading (though you were right I didn’t really understand the job of a animation director) but I never really knew exactly how it fit together. This was awesome, thanks.

  5. Japan has had their own unique style of “limited” animation–which means making use of very few drawings to create fun movement–since way back in the 70s TV anime. It hasn’t really gone away.

    Second key animators clean up the rough frames drawn by a key animator. I haven’t noticed them a lot except for a few solo episodes here and there.

    Mitsuo Iso draw every movement in his legendary sequence in End of Evangelion, and is one of the animators in Japan known for doing that.

    • That’s very true. The NHK documentary on Yoshinori Kanada showed him varying framerates back in old TV-anime to great effect! Anime is still a medium of limited animation, but, for TV-anime, it’s less so that before. You see a lot more frames in modern TV-anime.

      I’ve been seeing 2nd Key Animation quite a bit actually, which is why I mentioned it. It would be interesting to see when it started becoming used regularly as a staff position.

  6. Wow, I also thought the process was more digital, having worked in a western animation (cartoons) studio where they used flash and illustrator for digital keyframing and character rigging. I had no idea that the in-between frames were actually hand drawn! I assumed they used tablets. Very informative!

  7. Haha I didn’t realize how much I’d pushed back reading this post until I saw the time stamp on the comments. Great job with this for sure, especially with all the details. I had a general idea of what was going on, but this guide definitely cleared up a lot of misunderstandings that I had about the process. I guess something that I’m still a bit fuzzy on is the difference between different types of “Directors” as they’re translated, but I get the feeling that it’s a bit more nuanced than that. I tend to notice this in SHAFT’s works more, where Shinbo is credited as 監督, whereas you have someone else credited as シリーズディレクター.

    • haha indeed.

      The series director is relatively unusual, and the division of duty between the director and series director is not really well-defined and probably varies from production to production. It’s become common-place for Shaft to have Akiyuki Shinbou directing with a series director under him. I can’t help but think it’s a way for the director to get credit for doing less work, but it’s probably beneficial to have two directors working on the series. I think it’ll work well for the upcoming Idol Master anime, for instance.

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  10. Question! From what you say, if an anime is from a publisher, usually they pay for it. If an anime is direct from the studio, the studio self-funds it. So for a show like Puella Magi Madoka, is SHAFT basically funding this “magical girl experiment” on their own?

    • In the case of Madoka Magica, that is funded by the production company Aniplex. One of Aniplex’s producers who also worked with SHAFT on Bakemonogatari (sorry I can’t recall his name without checking it) basically got Gen Urobochi and Akiyuki Shinbo together to do this. SHAFT is one of the production companies though, as well as Nitro+.

      But for studios like GAINAX and Sunrise, they tend to put together their original anime themselves.

      You’d really need to look at it on a case-by-case basis though.

  11. Questions?
    1. So the key animators draw the main sequences of movements and the in-between animation is just traced and rendered a little differently?
    2. Do they have to draw a new picture every time their lips move?
    3. I know FPD is frames per second, but doese that mean that 12fps means twelve drawings per second. and what if the character is holding still and their hair is blowing? (is that still just one picture with CG to move the hair)
    sorry about the clarity, I’ve been dying to figure this out?

    • Hi . Wow.. I must have missed this. I’m sure you’re long gone, but for future reference I’ll attempt to answer the questions.

      1. The in-betweeners do draw separate drawings for the gaps between key frames drawn my the key animators. They may also trace the key animation to make the lines clean before it’s digitised and coloured.

      2. It depends, but generally, especially in TV animation – no. If the head or facial expression isn’t moving/changing, the drawings will be edited rather than drawn anew.

      3. Even if it is only animated with 5 frames for a second, the anime is still broadcast/played at 24fps/29fps depending on whether it’s PAL or NTSC, so it really depends what you’re referring to when you say frames per second. I’m probably not in a position to go into too much detail about this.

      The second part of this question is similar to question 2. If (only) hair is blowing it definitely won’t be CG, but they would more than likely create a new frame by working from a copy of the previous frame.

      • 3. Things such as hair, mouth, eyes etc are sometimes divided by layers (you should be familiar with concept if you used, say, Photoshop), so different objects are on different layers, and only layer with hair is animated. Even when drawing cels on paper, animator usually only redraws parts of frame that change, not entire frame.

      • I would like to clarify some things about digital side of things, compositing and digital masters. Hope this is helpful for future reference to people who find this page via google or somewhere. Perhaps it can be included in main post if author wants to.
        In many discussions concerning anime some people tend to claim that new anime is not “HD” and “Old anime looked better”. Let’s have a look at an actual anime authoring process in modern production environment.
        First element of production process to become widely computerized was ink&paint, used in industry since at least mid 90-s, if memory serves me well last project to use traditional workflow in Production I.G. was Jin Roh, after it traditional ink&paint department was closed and Blood: The Last Vampire was inked, colored and composed on computer.
        However, to this day animators actually draw cels on paper, because it’s faster and more convenient for production team. After that, cel is scanned, colored and sent “filming department” (although no actual “filming” takes place nowadays, traditional name remains).
        While Retas Studio includes Core Retas (their proposed software for compositing anime), almost all studios actually use Adobe After Effects for this purpose, and compose cels, backgrounds, 3d and effects in it. Use of AE dates back to pre-2000s, and from 2000 onward it basically becomes an industry standard solution.
        So is modern anime actually “HD”? Let’s check numbers!
        Resolution of video on Bluray disc is 1920×1080 (1080p), however most anime is mastered in 720p (or even 540p). Thus most Bluray releases are indeed upscales from a lower-resolution master, usually made by a company other than original production studio.
        Resolution of master is dependent on studio and even project, good example will be Sunrise projects such as Planetes (2003) and Gundam SEED (2002-2003). While Planetes was authored in high resolution, Gundam got only SD master and is currently being prepared for re-release in HD.
        Not only master resolution, but cel resolution determines the clarity of images.
        Some studios take special measures to improve cel quality, such as Kyoto Animation, who moved to bigger paper size with Kanon (2006) to vastly improve detail for HD master. JC Staff scans their cels at 188dpi 1440×900, while Production I.G. seems to use 540p. P.A. Works seems to be one of the few studios who use 1080p workflow on their projects.
        Note that cels of given size are “pixelated” most of workflow to facilitate easier processing and paint, cels are smoothed (antialiased) before compositing using special algorithms.
        To prepare video master for BD (re)release, studios can use either Q-Tek or similar upscale solution, which simply interpolates the whole image and applies various filters, and result would usuall be blurry and unpleasant picture. This shameful practice to re-release SD-era anime is used by JC Staff (Shana, Toradora to name a few), Ufotable (Kara no Kyoukai), Kyoani (Haruhi, Lucky Star) and countless others. Another approach is to actually produce a remaster of original series (Sunrise, Gonzo, Seven Arcs, some Kyoani releases etc), which usually results in much clearer picture, but cel and 3d effects upscaling is still present.
        With pre-digital era anime situation is different, for a proper BD release such titles have to be completely remastered (with soundtrack re-recording/re-mixing in some cases), examples of good releases are Lain and Nadia. Because film is re-scanned, resulting image is much clearer than original telecine, with fixed colors and exceptional detail. This is the method used to produce BD and (earlier) HDTV masters for Ghibli films and other “old” anime.
        When discussing the level of detail in old anime, people usually remember the best feature films and OVAs, but in fact different anime was filmed on different film formats back in the day, so level of detail varies there as well. Modern 1080p re-masters capture sufficient detail to re-produce original cel quality. Digital 720p masters can be considered slightly inferior in terms of detail, however 1080p is on par and even better than old film masters due to inherent “clean” look of digital medium. Also, keep in mind that Japanese market is rather slow, and BD started seriously outselling DVD only a while ago, thus many studios usually see no merit in producing ultra high-resolution masters, and we’ve yet to see full capabilities of true HD digital workflow.

  12. Thanxxxxxx!!!!, Ive been dying to find this out.
    BTW I’ve looked at dozens of articles on the production of anime and yours is BY-FAR the most informative. Nice Job

    Plus a few-more questions, srry :)

    1. On average, how many people would you say, would be working on the actual drawing process of an episode in an anime series? Ex: Naruto
    2. Another on average question. How long would you say an episode would take from the time meetings take place, to the time the episode is finished?

    • Around 20, maybe more. You can check the credits of an anime by looking at how many names are under the heading 原画.

      Well Storyboards take a few weeks, and the script would be completed before the anime starts generally. It really depends where you would say the production starts.

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  15. this so great i have recently started making anime with my friends i draw and do the animation and colouring and they do the voices when im done ill put it on youtube or whatever but its basicaly about

    a girl who meets a guy in school but she dies in a robery before they get married (there almost out of highschool too) the guy joins the army to help save people and his best friend joins with him together they fight one day after retuning to america the main character meets a girl and they end up going out but he ends up having reocuring nightmares about his girl friend that dies they go to war and find out that russia is launching an attack on japan and that the reason why they are fighting american soldiers is a cover up to keep the attack on japan from geting out his friend dies by a stray grenade while the main character is pinned down he is shot in the leg the main character wakes up in a helicopter unsure how he got there and forgets his friend died he gets so angry when his allies tell him he is forced to return to america he is put in a mental hospital and fired without his girlfriend not knowing but he escapes and tries to tell his commander (he tellls the comander that fired him) his comander dosnt belive him so he finds a way to save japan buy holding a news station hostage and saying it on live news he is forced to find his girl friend as soon as posible to save her and himself from angry citezens or police officers the army belives him and they help japan but russia tries to nuke japan because they dont want japan to fight back but after recieveing information about the nuke instead of the army going to japan they go to russia as spys and keep them from launching the nuke in the end the main character gets over his lost girlfirend and his dead friend and enjoys life with his new married wife

    thankyou alot for the information too it is very helpfull i had heared of the positions but didnt know what they did and some times there wasnt information on any of it there are even some positions i didtn even know about thankyou alot o and thankyou for the videos to i found out that Tonari no 801-chan
    colours scaned in drawings way beter than “SAI” it sucks and is realy con-fuz-iling/confuzing you have not only been a great help with info but with software to i think this person sorry idk your name but id say youd be a good news reporter lol:-) thankyou alot for the info and people reading comments tell me what you think of my story if you have any good addons/add-ons to it or feel i could take somthing out feel free to email me at

    edsmith97@hotmail.com

    (my mom made the email not me im only 14 idnt know what an email was til i was 12)

    o and for big fans of angel beats check out this music video i made

  16. Here’s something I don’t really understand. If all the frames are drawn and then digitally ink and and painted on computers, then why do so many modern animes in my opinion have weird or just plain wrong colours, for example in Gurren Lagann all the shading is very dark & grey even in a bright area which looks cheap it reminds me of Flash where you can make a shadow by using black at 50% alpha on any colour. And penmanship why do so many Modern animes have uni-formally thin lines which again I think looks cheap it’s something else I did in Flash to make shape & motion tweens easier. Also you never mentioned how background art is made and I’d really like to know if there still hand painted or just Photoshop because that really put me off when I was watching Paprika.

    • Backgrounds are often painted digitally these days, but I think sometimes they are not. It should be pretty clear just by looking at it which is the case. I would say the majority of TV-anime use pretty ugly and stock-standard digital painting techniques on their backgrounds.

  17. such a very interesting blog for us who love anime. I think through all the efforts those staffs and animators done, it will all paid off when people really appreciate the anime they’ve done, the salary’s secondary, And especially those brilliant minds and imaginations of the writer itself. And for me who love anime, probably being one of the animators is the dream profession.^^,

  18. Thanks for all the comments. I’ll probably do a revised version of this soon with more detail. Thanks for the contributions too.

  19. But what about the lines. I don’t understand why there traced over so lazyly. Is it a time saving method. And shading, even in OVAs & film I see just just lazy silhouette for all over the character for shading.

      • A character closer to the camera should have a thicker outline because it helps create perspective. Also lines for the character with the same thickness all round looks fake and unnatural. That’s what I mean by cheap, laziness. I hope that you understand what I mean now.

        • I get what you mean, like there are some episodes even in mainstreamed animes like naruto and bleach where the art are badly drawn and the animations were plainly done. I dunno if japanese animators sometimes tend to be not in mood or as you just said being lazy

    • This is curious, I happen to know almost nothing about digital software used on these matters, indeed, I happen to be very very new in drawing, but I’ve been living in an arts conservatory since I was 4, mainly focused in music performance, theory and compositing, and lately started adventuring into the graphic arts and found Japanese animation to be the most aesthetic and passion-reflecting commercial art form that exists. I think I understand the basics of the principles you’re mentioning and do not deny their presence in anime, but don’t you think this actually serves the particular art style subject to Japanese animation? It makes it more aesthetic rather than realistic, and somehow, this is one of the most appealing elements of anime. Process what you read and saw in the videos: are there more dedicated and passionate animation artists than those found in the Japanese animation industry? This isn’t the first website I’ve visited concerning this matter and I have repeatedly found the fact that they use to work 14 to 16 hours a day and their average revenue rarely surpasses that of a normal professional working half of those hours. So even though I am not in a position to start a discussion about drawing/animating techniques, by simple logic I seriously doubt that such a staff really falls into those mistakes because of “laziness”. As artists we have that irremediable obsession for perfection that doesn’t allow us to perform a mediocre work, regardless of the energy or mood one has, and if the toughness of the anime production demands and the poor remuneration doesn’t keep them away, they have to be true artists.

  20. im happy to say thank you brcause, im reseaerching this job and its helpin galot thst its in english so thank you.

  21. Thank you so much for the guidance. I want to introduce the business in my country because there are many artst who very talented(including me) that end up not being recognised. The guidance would help me change the way artists are viewed in my could, I’m sure of it.

  22. Well I have a quastion… If in case that I would wanna create an anime serie or something, you gotta do all these steps ?!

    • This article just explains how an anime is produced by an animation company. If you’re just going to make a fan/personal animation, basically what you’ll need is a drawing and animation program and of course a lot of creativity to be able to make the desired drawings and cool animation sequences. Then you can post it in fb or youtube for online viewing(and if you’re aiming for a fanbase:p). Hope this helps.

  23. I made a new anime and i have such a big vision for it mixing early technology with ninjutsu the star has a kind of iron man suit that is generated by his chi the only problem is that its hard to make this anime properly without the right resources I know this is the next big thing but if you would like to check out my starters work you could come support and check out this knew upcoming action anime mixing urban hip hop with ninjutsu and Chung fu search on youtube (TENS unknown saga bb Ep.1-3) choose your ninja and let us know who’s storyboard you would like to see next as well as the rest of Blood Baths storyboard Ep.4 thank you.

  24. Howdy just wanted to give you a quick heads up. The words
    in your content seem to be running off the screen in Safari.

    I’m not sure if this is a format issue or something to do with internet browser compatibility but I thought I’d
    post to let you know. The layout look great though! Hope you
    get the issue solved soon. Many thanks

  25. (If I’ve borked the HTML in this post, I apologize.)

    Your links include most of the ones with which I am familiar, but also some of which I was not aware—thanks! ^_^ Here are a few that I don’t see:

    “Various Positions in the Anime Industry” by Jan Scott-Frazier
    Wikipedia:WikiProject Japan/Film credits glossary
    Cindy Yamauchi Part I—an interview with a longtime anime animator, which covers the intricacies of second key animation

    See also Animation Runner Kuromi and Animation Runner Kuromi 2, which depict the workings of a fictional anime studio.

    Lastly, Megumi Hayashibara’s (yes, *that* Megumi) manga Ashita ga aru sa: Sweet Time Express (AKA Megumi Toons) is an autobiographical look into the seiyū side of the anime business.

    Washi :
    3. Even if it is only animated with 5 frames for a second, the anime is still broadcast/played at 24fps/29fps depending on whether it’s PAL or NTSC

    Just a small correction: standard PAL is 25 fps, not 24 fps (there is a PAL/60 (60 Hz/30 fps) variant), and NTSC is 29.94 fps (precisely 30 * 1000 / 1001).

  26. Amazing post! Very detailed explanation. Thanks so much for sharing. I’m also wondering about the background art, as the backgrounds in some anime do look like they are painted by hand. Such as Inuyasha by studio Sunrise and FMA by Bones…….or am I completely going delusional? lol

  27. I honestly liked how anime looked pre-computer usage. Take ‘The Big O’ season 1 and 2. S2 has a more ‘blurrier’ look, with less defined lines that make it so that everything is animated better and looks more fluid, but lacks the detail of season 1. I understand that strides have been made during that leap during digital cel techniques have been perfected, but there’s nothing like pausing something like Outlaw Star and feeling like practically every single pause is a screenshot since almost everything is hand drawn and colored in.

  28. certainly like your web site however you have to take a look at the spelling on several of your posts. A number of them are rife with spelling issues and I in finding it very bothersome to tell the truth nevertheless I will certainly come again again.

  29. thank you! someone has finally made a guide that makes sense, and has everything you need to know! keep up the good work. i’ve been trying to find out how they make anime, but i could never find a good page!

  30. Great post! Love all the details, videos, and that chart in the beginning. Really helpful. Didn’t know anime is still made with hand drawn :)

  31. Pingback: How anime is made from beginning to airing | Opinionated lifestyle magazine | Jack Credo·

  32. I Dont have much time to read with work and everything, Mind making some vidoes so i could practice on the weekends, im close to losing this job and i am going to be an anime writer and producer and making all the drawings, step by step, than get alot of people for vioces like misty from pokemons vioce… or Gill Diort Wish me luck!

  33. hi dose anyone know if there is gonna be a kaichou wa maid – sama season 2 ??? i will be glad if somoeone replay.
    Thanks!

  34. Can someone help me figure something out? Okay i am 15 and i want to do the drawing for anime’s.what exactly would is that profession called? how should i start training to become this? i practice everyday drawing Naruto Shippuden characters, but i cant help but feel im behind on learning and training. what should i start doing to prepare to draw anime. So can someone tell me how do i start to prepare for my career. and also do you think i should move to japan to work when im order? i know ill have to learn the language and everything. but drawing anime like Naruto shippuden is my dream ill do anything to accomplish it. thanks

    • Anime News Network’s Answerman! column has answered this question at least once in the last year or two—I recommend you search the site.

  35. Pingback: Websites I’m going to use to study « antiquitystigma·

  36. Pingback: Как создается аниме | Animebased|Аниме основа·

  37. So basically without money you can not really “start” your own anime series / show. But look I can draw very well, and edit very well, can you point me in the direction of where I would need to go, to actually help produce the show, with movements and etc. I would like a reply soon since this is my last year of secondary schooling and I would want to go right away into this career as my soul and brain both lead me towards it.

    • First step, learn Japanese, every single expert on the matter will tell you that, at least if what you want is specifically anime. As I understand, Japanese studios will rarely bother to translate instructions to english and do not even consider the meetings… Learn Japanese and you’ll get a better insight of the industry and doors will start to open. A Mexican animator currently animnating and living in Japan went trhough a very similar experience than that of yours, and he explicitly states that the language is the very first barrier to overcome. Search for his devian art profile: Titanomaquia, he has an english version for most of his posts.

    • Yes, try to learn Japanese. Also try get in contact with people like BahiJD, who is a foreigner who has become a key animator in the Japanese industry. Experiment with movement a lot yourself and try to imitate animation styles of others. I have no experience in animation production so I couldn’t help any further.

  38. Awesome article!

    While it’s true that most tv anime series use traditonal medium for line art, i think that digital medium can do awesome things:

    1. First and foremost the digital medium reduces some timing problems, thanks to the sophisticated tecnology.

    2. With a software like Adobe Illustrator you can create a digital library that contains all settei and line art backgrounds. You can upscale and downscale without a loss in image quality because illustrator is a vector software.

    3. The layout process can benefit from digital software, editing anytime with powerful tools like crop image(photoshop) and illustrator.

    4. 3D-toon cel shading animation can help a lot the animation process: Maya, 3ds max ecc.

    5. Editable workflows.

    Makoto Shinkai’s works are an example of digital film.

    The problem is that japanese industries are not yet ready for “shifting the medium”, because most of the talented animators are from the “analogical era”. But in the future things will be different.

    One note: i think that most studios doesn’t give enough attention to the writing process.
    The subject and screenplay contain everything: story, scenario, plot, dialogue, even camera works. If an anime fails in the script is game over and nothing after can hide all the structural problems.

    • Thanks Hocans,

      You’re right that there are some benefits to the digital medium, and its use is spreading within the anime industry. In a lot of studios animators can do their drawings either on paper or digitally but generally these will end up being printed for the animation director to correct just as they would a hand-drawn frame and they’ll also be retraced for clean lines by in-betweeners. Typically, when animators draw digitally, they still fit into the analog system rather than there being a true digital approach in place.

      If you haven’t already, I recommend reading this interview with BahiJD on anipages, as talks about his experience on Kids on the Slope as a digital animator (using Flash): http://www.pelleas.net/aniTOP/index.php/interview-with-bahi-jd

      • Hi! I’m glad you dropped in. Would you please be so kind as to approve (or reject) my first comment (#43, posted on August 12, 2012)?

  39. Hello we are a new anime studio based in America who would be willing for young animators to start their careers (However since we are YouTube based probably no pay). Please visit our YouTube page for information on future/planned anime we are currently working on also send us an email if you are interested in applying.

  40. I really like your blog.. very nice colors & theme. Did you design this website yourself or did you
    hire someone to do it for you? Plz respond as I’m looking to create my own blog and would like to find out where u got this from. appreciate it

  41. It’s as much as your own imagination and drive to locate the job that matches you best; it’s
    available – you simply need to take it. The first can be a “personal” account, the second can be
    a “premier”, as well as the third can be a “business” account.
    and Work At Home Services that will assist with information, contacts and links;
    however, you’ll still should do the research to verify work or business opportunity’s legitimacy yourself.

  42. Thanks! i found your article informative, i always wonder how the anime is made. i thought they use for entire production is computer. thanks!

  43. Pingback: 3 Major Anime Industry Sea Changes Explained By Their Effect On TV Anime (Part 2: Digital Paint and DVDs) | Animetics·

  44. Hi,

    first of all thanks for the fantastic article.

    since you mention Railgun: Are the backgrounds in Railgun 3d models, or are they handpainted? I ask, because I noticed that the backgrounds are using diffuse shading and do not have black outlines, whereas the characters and props they interact with use toon shading and do have black outlines.

    So I wonder whether this is merely an artistic decision, or whether this due to the creation process/tools used. I’m currently under the impression, that the backgrounds are created in some completely other way than the characters. Is this correct? Can you provide some detail on the how and why of this?

    Cheers.

  45. now, I didnt understand that they are drawing like 15000 pictures per week that sounds really difficult
    or, they are just making it by computers?

  46. Thankyou Washi. Its long I have been looking into these facts. Awesome article. I had a college project for which your blog was the most useful to me. instead if rebloging, I have taken some chunks and wrote a new post in my own Blog. thank you again

  47. Pingback: Anonymous·

  48. thks for the the great article about anime I learnt alot from your article I have been dying to know about how anime is made.

  49. Good post. I learn something new and challenging on websites I stumbleupon on a daily basis. It’s always helpful to read articles from other writers and use a little something from other sites.

  50. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Though I didn’t understand a lot of it, I learned a lot too! You might’ve saved me from getting a F on my report card in writing, lol. Though it was great and all, I personally suggest you lower the vocab so elementary kids can understand this. I’m sorry, but honestly, I really didn’t get, though I am still thankful you made this. Also, I suggest you add some pictures so we can understand better. Again, sorry, not trying to offend you, but my knowledge is very limited right now. Last thing, I think you might want to get rid of some unnecessary things that you might of overlooked. I’m not say get rid of, like, everything! But maybe something here and there. Please do not take this as offense, I liked this very much. Otherwise, I’d be a person with two right feet, hopelessly walking in circles searching for information on this stuff. Again, thank you, I am very grateful for this, and thanks again!

  51. Can I simply just say what a relief to find somebody who truly understands what they’re talking about on the web. You certainly know how to bring a problem to light and make it important. More people need to look at this and understand this side of the story. I was surprised that you aren’t more popular given that you most certainly have the gift.

  52. A littttle on the late side, but here’s some information on 2nd key:

    “By splitting up the KA work into multiple stages, it’s possible to give a whole scene a quality boost. As an example in this cut, the action of an extra extracting a sword is planned out as seen in the rough KA. A representative frame (in this case, the third one) is used as a base for the layout (a large layout sketch of the characters and background). The animation supervisor will go ahead and correct this one drawing in advance first. The nuances of this correction are retained as a foundation for completing the rest of the 1st KA (rough KA that focuses on the movement) At most studios the animation supervisor will insert his corrections after the KA (drawn down to the details) is completed. In this system, because the 1st KA is focusing on movement and rough on the details, a 2nd KA supplements with details that are required as a guide for in-betweening. Since this division of labour shortens the time a 1st KA artist spends on one cut, it makes it possible for him to work on many other cuts. As a result, it’s possible to boost the quality of not just one cut but an entire series of scenes.”

    http://www.pelleas.net/forum/viewtopic.php?p=4487&sid=5d331b063c5b3682a01838f417281732#p4487

  53. So if i wanted to make an anime what position in this chart of ranks would give me the most control over it and give me position of the creater,and if so the collage/university course i need to do for that particular position, and am also asking for some pointers on somethings i might need to know,i would apriciate your reply and it would mean so much to me,thanx!

  54. Pingback: Detalhes sobre a produção de anime | Gekkou Gear·

  55. Hi!

    I’m happening to be using this information for my project since I found it to be of great help. However, my teacher says that it can’t be from a blog since it isn’t as credible (bullshit >_>)…do you happen to know where I can get these information from? Eg: Some article/ newspaper/ a legitimate anime production co. I can’t find any of that on Google that’s why. Will be an extreme aid if you could help me out with this >_<

  56. Wow this was a really interesting read: I honestly had zero clue about how anime was made. I can’t believe so many different people work on it! It takes me ages to draw one picture without a background, i can’t imagine trying to do 500 for a short film or whatnot (that would be quite cool to try, however)

  57. Thank-you so much! I knew I wanted to be an animator for anime and see some of my ideas come to life (hopefully), but when my friend showed me this, even she decided she was going to do this with me. THANK YOU SO SO MUCH! Very informative! I loved it!

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