To render the Eva units in Rebuild of Evangelion (2007-2012), Studio Khara used a combination of redrawn frames from Neon Genesis Evangelion (1996-1997), processed 3D animation, rotoscoped 2D animation of the 3D models, and hand-drawn 2D animation. Undoubtedly, this saves a lot of time when animating in HD for the fast-paced world of modern anime.
You can tell when they used straight 3D vs. rotoscoped 2D vs. hand-drawn 2D in clips like this–the struggle against Sahaquiel, the 8th Angel:
[Warning: Graphic violence, pretty brutal imagery]
I wish there was a full version with all the dialogue and in HD, but: pay attention to 1:33. Up until then, in the fast action sequences of the Eva units running toward the mountain, the Units are mostly in 3D, with at least one running loop that was redrawn from NGE, and other loops that are rotoscoped 2D. At 1:33, Unit-01 digs its feet in, in order to halt in position under the falling behemoth, Sahaquiel, and:
- the full shot of Unit-01 shuddering as it decelerates is 3D;
- the closeup of its feet scraping up the earth is rotoscoped 2D;
- the next low-angle shot of Unit-01 coming to a stop is blended from rotoscoped 2D into hand-drawn 2D, right before the lighting change occurs;
- and afterward until the end of the sequence, with one exception, Unit-01 is animated by hand.
From what i know of the industry, in a production with high enough budget, the hand-drawn style is preferred for moments of extreme action or emotion. As the Eva units get closer to the objective and the scene comes to a climax, more and more of their movements are drawn by hand. There are a lot of reasons for this.
One reason is the belief that traditional hand-made art is superior for expression, and that expression ought to be prioritized during the moments of peak emotion or action. I think this is a standard that will remain for a long time.
Another is that, in cases like these, line drawings can be much more fluid and adaptable than a 3D model, which has computed boundaries and volumes. Many principles of 2D animation involve the exaggeration, stretching, and morphing of shapes in order to heighten meaning, and unless you are manipulating the shapes of the 3D model while it is in the stage of your animation software, it’s much more straightforward to draw things 2D.
And there are more reasons. But i think i’ve rambled about this stuff enough for one night.
Up next is the design i’ll be using for Unit-02 in the animatic/animation.