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Production Notes
"Recording Music in Warsaw"
On July 26, we, the recording staff, set foot in the Warsaw Philharmonic Hall of the very far country of Poland. Starting from 5pm, the orchestra had to perform twelve music pieces for the recording within 4 hours, as our contract with the orchestra would expire at 9pm. Despite the casual appearance, the orchestra members became highly concentrated professionals as soon as the recording started. The conductor Mr. Amano looked intense, his face covered with shining sweat. According to Mr. Amano, one orchestra session can make him lose 3 kilograms. From their very first performance, the orchestra members grabbed our heart by demonstrating the preciseness, power, smooth flow, and overall harmony of the music. Their breathtaking performance is just beyond words. Along with the melody, we could picture the movie scenes in our mind. The gloomy music especially touched our heart, reminding us of the sorrowful parts of the movie and bringing us on the verge of tears.

The sound engineer of the Warsaw Philharmonic Hall is said to be a genius with a great ear for music. There were occasions during our recording when he pointed out the weak points of the performance. "The sound of your violin got to stand out." "Harp, you should play a bit louder than that!" The engineer repeats such orders, even when the director gives a green light to the orchestra. This never happens in Japan. They say, however, that the conductors do appreciate the engineer's precise advice because he knows everything about each player's ability and the characteristics of the hall.

During the recording session, we had to ask the orchestra to re-perform a few symphonic numbers as their length wouldn't fit the movie scenes. As a result, half way through the recording, we realized that the time left was not enough to finish the rest of the scheduled performances. Mr. Amano explained, "The recording fee will be doubled after 9 o'clock, even by one minute. There is no unpaid overtime here". Well, then, we definitely must meet the deadline!

We had four numbers to record in the last 30 minutes. Mr. Kuriya gave directions to the orchestra from a separate room while the engineer constantly checked his watch. When the last performance was done, my watch showed 8:59 - almost 9 o'clock. This proved how professional the orchestra was. We really appreciated their effort to create great music in bounded time. Well done!

Shamisen - the heart of "NITABOH."Hiromitsu Agatsuma's techniques revealed on the screen.
The process to create an animation whose movements match the sound of the shamisen, the key element of "NITABOH," was not easy, either. The skilled shamisen player Hiromitsu Agatsuma covered Nitaro's shamisen performance in the move. In contrast to traditional animations, we tried to show the subtle movements of the plectrum and fingers pressed on the three strings. The music scenes from "NITABOH" were created to exactly match the shamisen music used in the movie.

First we shot the real shamisen performance and recorded it on videotape. Watching the videotape, we created the timesheets that comprised a considerable numbers of frames (24 frames per second). Based on the videotape and the timesheets, the animators drew the animation - the movement of the shamisen and its player. At one point the plectrum hits the strings nine times in one second; in order to animate the scene, we need to allocate quite a few animation cells to just one frame. An ordinary theatrical animation movie requires only one cell per two to three frames. Meanwhile, every shamisen scene in "NITABOH" incorporated many cells per one frame. We all appreciate the painstaking effort of the production staff who kept close check-ups at each scene.

Animating calligraphy - it's not as easy as it looks.
In the movie, when Nitaboh gets into a slump and asks for the monk's advice, the monk writes down the word "Shu-Ha-Ri" in calligraphy. The word appears from the pen tip smoothly on the screen like it's real, but how did we animate it? First we drew the word on an animation cell. Along with the movement of the pen, we erase the word backward while shooting the image consecutively. We pile each image (cell) in the reverse order so the cells create an animation which shows the pen drawing the word on the blank paper. Before this technique was established, the animators used to scratch off the words drawn on the cell little by little and shoot it on back-spinning print film. Although this operation is now replaced by computer, this type of animation still needs to be handled with delicate craftsmanship that creates reality on the screen. If a movie has a flaw in animation or sound, the flaw not only impairs the reality but also can devastate the overall quality of the movie. Unspectacular components of animation, such as sound effects, the check-ups for the movement of the shamisen plectrum and strings and the backwards shooting of the calligraphy, are also essential parts of the production. After all, the word "animation" means the process of imparting life, spirit and motion. We can't forget the fact that behind the glamorous animation professionals including the animators, voice actors, shamisen players and the symphonic orchestra, there are background roles who support the production to "animate" the movie.

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