“3N” Interview

Uploaded with permission from Xcomp/LHYeung, who is also the translator of this material.

Tetsuya Nomura (Director)

Ever since being responsible for the character designs of FFVII, not only does he work with character designs now but he also participates in all other aspects of producing a game. The first piece of work he directed was Kingdom Hearts (2002) and now AC will be his second piece of work.

Takeshi Nozue (Co-Director)

Starting the Final Fantasy series, he was responsible for the movies that were in the games and is a CG designer who is part of Visual Works. In AC, he was responsible for a lot of the CG related work as co-director.

Kazushige Nojima (Scenario Writer)

Drawing from his previous work FFVII, he is responsible for the scenario of AC. The original initial 20 minute scenario he had prepared for the startup of the AC Project was also his work. He is involved with the other FF series of games such as FFVIII and FFX.

As you may have noticed, all of their surnames begin with ‘N’ thus, the “3N Interview”.

Working towards the movie …

So before we inquire about the contents of the movie, lets find out the roles our three guests had. Mr. Nomura must have been involved in directing the whole movie as a director but, how were you involved in the startup of the project?

Nomura: Actually, I wasn’t involved in the planning of AC. It was “Visual Works”, a division who were responsible for the movies of the FF games who started it.

In other words, you joined in midway?

Nomura: Yes. I spoke with members of Visual Works and *Kitase. They already decided “Lets go with FFVII” before I joined. They were saying, “How will the first 3D game in the FF series turn out if used the latest technology to make it.”

*Yoshinori Kitase was the director of FFVII and his role was producer in AC.

So at what time did you take the role of director?

Nomura: When I joined in midway, the movie had already been done once without any directing. Since that was the case, I became the director. At that time, the scenario was only about 20 minutes long but, since it was decided that it would be released on DVD, I wrote the plot so that it would be an entertainment piece. In the end after adding all sorts of elements into it, it became about 60 minutes long.

The actual movie was near 100 minutes long including the credits. So did you, add in Mr. Nomura’s ideas to the original scenario?

Nojima: Yes, that’s right.

On the other hand, you made suggestions such as “Let him say this at this part” or “I want to add in this scene.”?

Nojima: However it was, we got ideas from Nozue and *Mr. Tetsu to see what they wanted to do first.

*Tetsuya Nomura of course.

Their ideas took priority?

Nojima: Yes. The scenario changed according to the ideas that were added so, we would adjust it and say things such as “Lets do this since we’re adding that in” or “If there’s no scene here then the story doesn’t link.”

You couldn’t just simply add in the ideas.

Nojima: Little bits of script were added at the beginning and end of scenes so that the new content would merge in..

At the very beginning, the movie was supposed to be 20 minutes long but it turned out to be 5 times that. Is the theme and story completely different from the original?

Nojima: No, the theme has always been the same.

The theme is the same but has it been altered in any way?

Nojima: Just by watching the end product, I don’t think anyone can make a comparison but, personally it’s changed us. We had to phone each other early monring about the changes we had to add (laughs).

You had to make the calls?

Nojima: Yes. I spoke in a soft tone but the tone had the opposite effect of being scary.

(Laughs). So after accepting those ideas, were there any negotiations such as, “Well, if we’re going to add in a scene here then I want more of this.”?

Nojima: There was. When it comes to the consistency of the scenario we had to change all sorts of the things so that the scenes would flow smoothly.

Co-director literally means that you had the position of directing together with Mr. Nomura. So as it suggests, did you have the same work as him?

Nozue: It’s hard to explain since I done everything. With AC I spoke with Nomura and took the role of working live.

In general, you were working with the CG production.

Nozue: Yes, I had a part in that more or less.

Is there a reason why you had to split the role of directing?

I only wrote the script for the scenarios. When it came to the start of a battle scene I would write something like “refer to the concept art” or “Your turn now, Nozue” (laughs).

There are many ways movies are produced but I’m not good at drawing to begin with (laughs). When I first started this job, I was already working with 3D so there were times when I was allowed to make use of that so that I could do my job easier. I’ve always thought that drawing in 2D was too plain after all. I wanted to empathize how all sorts of ideas are born when creating something in 3D. The concept art this time was really rough, leaving out all the positioning and directions. The rest was easily done by computer.

The concept art was basically done by members of the layour division in Visual Works along with myself and Nomura.

Nomura: This is the *second piece of work I’ve done with Nozue and in our last piece of work, we had talked about how “maybe we can add more depth to the scenes or some space for “free thought”.” When I look at the scenes on TV, I only see them as “pictures” no matter how I look at it. So I wanted to do something about that and expand the other side of the TV frame as if you were looking through a window. But at the time, there were talks about how “that’s the limit of the current system but, it’s possible if we create a new environment.” That’s how our work progressed as we created a new environment this time.

* Nomura and Nozue worked together on “Kingdom Hearts”.

So were you responsible for the concept arts?

Nozue: In terms of concept art, AC seems to have a lot less compared to the average movie.

In the production of AC, the first thing was to work on transferring the characters from FFVII over.

Nozue: Yes well, we started with Cloud. At first there were many designs for him. He went from a pretty deformed look to a completely opposite realistic look. In total there’s around 8 different designs for him.

And did you choose the final design from those?

Nozue: No, although there were a lot of designs for him at first, we didn’t really pick from them. We took some parts from the deformed and realistic designs, added some texture to them then repeated the process. Then little by little, the final Cloud was born.

I see. So after Cloud was finished did the other characters go smoothly?

Nozue: Well, we already had quite a lot of design and had the groundwork done.

In general, all the characters are human and walked on two legs but, Red XIII was an exception since he walked on four legs. There must have been some differences in creating the human form and beast form.

It was made to hold all 6 swords. There’s a rough sketch of something like a design of it.

Yes. But it was a lot of work dealing with his clothes, though (laughs).

But the hardest part was because her hair was black. Without considering the lighting effects and such, the black colour would seem fake.

It wasn’t as hard as Cait Sith and Red XIII but, because Tifa was a character with long hair, she was also hard to do. Since her hair was long, they were going to collide with each other after all.

We wanted to make it very real so when the fur got longer, the way it swayed about changed too. That was also something that had to be done. It mind sound weird saying there was a “dedicated swaying division” but, there were was a division who had the responsibility of dealing with the simulation of the clothing in detail. There were also ones for other things such as the hair of course. They were all seperate divisions.

Nozue: Red XIII is covered in fur so we had to use different techniques. At the start of the scenario, he doesn’t appear much but a relative amount of work had to be done. The way he was created is much different from the humans. That’s why it took a lot of time in the scenes where he makes an appearance. Everyone didn’t like working on him (laughs).

The battle scenes were the hardest to do?

Nozue: Yes it was. Red XIII alone had *4 layers piled on him. And we already removed some others too.

*Many layers are used and piled together to form one piece of CG artwork. The more layers you have, the more detailed the CG. However, this also increases the amount of work and time it takes for a computer to process it.

What about Cait Sith?

Nozue: Cait Sith was also covered in fur.

That’s true…

Nozue: Very fine fur was added to them. Everyone didn’t like working on Cait Sith or Red XIII (laughs). The parts when Caith Sith was riding on Red XIII was the toughest to work with in particular.

During Barret’s attack, it looked like he was charging his chaingun.

Nozue: That’s a new weapon. There are gatling types and charge types… In FFVII, there were gatling types. We made the new weapon so that it had the similarities to the weapons back then.

The next weapon that made an impression was Vincent’s gun. If we watch the movie carefully, we can see him *reloading his gun (laughs).

Nozue: Yes, that’s right. The sound is very pronounced so we added in the reloading sounds. As for the scenes itself, he does it so fast you don’t know it.

*Vincent reloaded his gun with bullets. Since his gun, the Cerberus, has 3 muzzles, does it mean he has to take the time to reload it 3 times?

I see. So in general, the action scenes are supposed to be really fast…?

Nozue: That was also what we were after. One of the concepts we had at the start was that “it’s meaningless to make people in a CG move the way they can in real life.”

The action was really fast but, Cloud, Kadaj and Sephiroth’s speed clearly surpassed the others.

Nozue: Kadaj is probably the fastest in terms of speed.

What’s considered the normal speed in comparison to the speed at which Kadaj and Cloud moved at?

Nozue: Well, when you compare Reno and Rude’s speed to Cloud’s group, it seems they’re moving at the speed of the average human but, we actually made them a bit faster. If we dropped the concept of “normal” speed in the scenes then things would get very hectic…

Clearly there was a distinction made between them [Reno and Rude] and Cloud’s group.

Nozue: Well, even when they really work at it, they can only do a really big jump (laughs).

About the characters (2).

Well, lets learn more about the other characters and the main points of the scenario.

Nojima: If you please.

At the end of FFVII, Cloud saved the world and was on the way to a happy ending but, in the two years towards AC, he returned to the way he was in the past. What happened to him?

Nojima: Cloud never had a boring personality in the first place so when he started living with Tifa and started out his *job, the peaceful life that he had never experienced before made him anxious. During that time, he also contracted **Geostigma so it’s to protect the ones precious to him or not, he had to face death and ran away.

*Using his new bike Fenrir, Cloud ran his own delivery service.

**A mysterious disease that’s spreading in the world of AC. Mainly children catch the disease easily and once they catch it, a black substance flows out of their body before they die in the end. There is no known way of curing it.

Nojima: Even though it’s become peaceful, Cloud has lost many people precious to him. And from Cloud’s background, it was the first time he was in a “peaceful” environment. He’s a character that likes to think about what’s going on around him often.

In the *novel, it feels like Denzel has a talent for leadership too.

Nojima: He’s probably of the “second rate” type. He’s the type that can’t be number one or has to have equal status amongst the others. That’s probably the reason why he gets along with Cloud.

*”On the Way to a Smile” which can be found in the Prologue book and also translated on this site.

Lets move on to the Kadaj group of people who fights Cloud.

Nojima: The three are very children-like, their actions, their thoughts, how they’re always thinking about “Mother”, crying instantly.

So psychologically, they’re at a very young age and innocent.

Nojima: They are pure. Kadaj is a character where the restlessness of young boys are empathized and Loz is just as you see, “a child with a big build.” Yazoo’s image isn’t as apparent compared to them maybe but, he teases Loz and is someone that is in between the two.

What idea is being conveyed by treating them as “children”?

Nojima: The three were originally added in during the plotting stage of the movie. Unlike the children that Cloud’s protecting, the three carry the significance of how they are “children that were brought up without any love.”

Well, next there’s Rufus who’s also infected by Geostigma. In one scene we see him standing up. Can he really move like normal people?

Nojima: He can move as much as Denzel can.

Then why was he sitting in a *wheelchair all that time?

Nojima: It’s just a disguise. Rufus is someone who has a great desire for attention so maybe his fake acting has something to do with that.

Nomura: In one of the **FFVII movies, he even had a wry smile on him when he was inside the building that was going be destroyed (laughs).

*At the start of the movie, he sits on a wheelchair as if he’s in a very bad state. But in another scene, we see him stand up showing that he could get up on his feet fine.

**In one of the FFVII game movies, Rufus has a bold smile on his face even though the Shinra Inc HQ he was in was about to be destroyed.

Yes. It’s because In FFVII, he abused Sierra and after reflecting on what he had done, he named it the “Sierra”. Cid’s tone sounds like he’s angry so there are times when he gets into fights a lot.

She arrived via airship. But she’s not so weak that she would get sick from using a parachute (laughs).

No, she’s a busy person. Yuffie entrusted them to Cloud because Materia is so dangerous but, Cloud didn’t care about the Materia at all and that’s why **Marlene got to throw it around (laughs).

Well, Rufus never foresaw the existence of Kadaj, Loz and Yazoo so he chose Cloud to fight them. He would do anything to secure Jenova’s head.

*Highly condensed Mako which contains all sorts of power. Usually it’s attached to weapons to be used but Kadaj directly attached it to their body.

**Cloud leaves the Materia that he got entrusted with by Yuffie carelessly around. How the box was left in an eye catching place proves this.

The name for Cid’s new airship, the “Sierra”. Could it be that * “Sierra”?

*A female who was Cid’s assistant in FFVII. Because she’s a perfectionist, those around her see’s her as a stupid person. Also note that her name was mistranslated in the game as “Shera”. “Sierra” should be the correct version.

After Cloud and the three remnants, Reno and Rude were the next characters that got the most screentime. Why couldn’t they leave Rufus?

Nojima: They somehow got along very well. Part of the reason is that they have a duty to Shinra Inc. and they’re kind of like the warriors from the Feudal Age who would follow their fallen ones. They have quite a sense of attachment. It’s complicated why Reno really wants Shinra Inc. to be reconstructed but, one of the reasons is that “he can enjoy life by being with companions from long ago.” Many of the original inhabitants of Midgar received a lot from Shinra and so there are a suprising number of people who sympathize for Shinra.

Many parts of the story involved comical scenes with Reno and Rude.

Nozue: Originally, it was a serious story so whenver we had the chance, we got them to break the atmosphere (laughs). It seems Reno and Rude are much remembered by the fans and their popularity is high with the staff too.

Intentions of the of the scenes.

About the thing that Rufus and the others called “Jenova’s head “. During the movie, the box was practically too small for something like that. In actual fact, it was just a given name and it really only contained parts of Jenova’s cells, am I right?

It was hard work timing all all *frame in and frame outs for all the characters in each scene. For example, moving Bahamut meant we had to follow him with the camera and then when we add a frame in, we had the situation where we have to remove the steel frames… So fine tuning the flow of the scenes took a lot of time.

Because the area was large, we only covered the areas where you could see the ground, the tall frameworks and the buildings… Since it was an area with an imaginary height, there was a lot of objects we had to add into the scene.

Nozue: The latter is closest to the answer. It’s named the “head”, though.

There were many battle scenes in the movie. What took the most time and work that leaves a lasting impression on you?

Nozue: The hardest had to be the *Bahamut battle. The area you could see was very large.

*One of the biggest scenes in AC. Cloud reunites with his companions from FFVII in a moving, breathe taking battle.

It looks like a lot of work just having a large area to cover.

And during that time, characters were switched in and out of the scene too.

*When an item, object, character etc are added to or removed from a scene. Bringing in another something into the scene is called “frame in” while the opposite is called “frame out”.

What was the procedure in creating the battle scenes?

Nozue: Basically when we said, “we’ll add in a battle scene here” we would decide on the settings with Nomura, then the layout and start coming up with ideas.

Did you try out all the elements first?

Nozue: We collect them all together then group them into which are predominant and which are inferior so that we have a clear grasp of the ideas. Then we would work with them.

There was a scene where the summoned Bahamut was going after the city’s monument. Was that of its own intentions?

Nozue: No, it was Kadaj’s intentions. The summoned creature obeys the summoner to a certain extent.

Did you get any inspirations when creating Bahamut’s movements such as from a monter movie?

Nozue: On the contrary. We thought we would make it move like a “human”. The original design for Bahamut itself was a “dragon king wearing armour” and so we presented it that way in the scenes.

Finally, tell us which parts you wanted fans to see, please.

Nojima: If it was a game then re-watching it many times would be tiresome but, since this is a movie I would be happy if viewers watched it 2 or 3 times to get a good taste of it. There are parts of it that are linked to FFVII. As for the scenario itself, there’s the one on one battle with Kadaj, the action scenes and there are also many things that the scenario tells you. Please enjoy it.

Nozue: The action scenes are fast so they might be overwhelming but, since they were done frame by frame, you could enjoy each frame as they are delivered. It’s a DVD after all. We made it so that even those who haven’t played FFVII can enjoy it so I hope lots of people will like it.

Nomura: AC is piece of work made by Japanese people. In Hollywood movies, I think there is a tendency where the meaning of all the scenes have to be expressed clearly but, this isn’t something like that. With our work, the viewer is free to decide how they interpret or enjoy it. The staff has their own answers to all the scenes in the movie such as the *angel statue that makes an appearance many times. But, even if someone who have watched it interprets it differently then that is just another answer. I guess “comparing answers” with friends is one of the ways you can enjoy the movie. I think AC is a movie that makes those who have watched it, want to talk about it with others.

*The angel statue that appears in the new city of Edge. It’s probably more interesting for the viewers to think about what the producers had in mind when it appeared many times in the movie.

Thank you all for today.

Interviewed in the Square-Enix office on August 18th.