Animation Production Guide

The Animation Process

Traditional cel animation is the oldest, and historically, had been the most popular form of animation until the advent of digital animation. In a traditionally-animated cartoon, each frame is drawn by hand on a celluloid sheet, painted with a brush, and sent to be photographed onto film stock. Most animation today, while still initially being hand-drawn on paper, has begun to utilize digital post-production animation techniques rather than the traditional cel and camera processes of traditional animation. While this digitization does save on materials and allows for easier editing, the overall process and stringent production schedules remain virtually unchanged. In 1986, when Dragon Ball first began airing on Fuji TV, digital animation did not exist and the majority of the franchise was animated in the traditional fashion on celluloid sheets. In recent years the Dragon Ball franchise has entered the digital age, with numerous features, theatrical films, and a new TV series all being digitally animated using modern technology.

It should be noted that although this guide specifically pertains to the animation of episodes, the theatrical films underwent roughly the same animation process, although films are typically held to much higher quality standards than anything produced for a television broadcast. This guide also specifically pertains to the animation production practices used by Toei Animation. Though the animation process is fairly standard throughout the industry, each animation studio’s process is slightly unique.

Traditional Cel Animation

Traditional animation is a technique in which each frame is drawn by hand on clear celluloid sheets and placed over a static background image to create a composite image. This process can be divided up into several basic stages, although this guide will cover those aspects beyond just that of the animation itself. This overview will take a look at the traditional cel animation used by Toei Animation up until 2002 to produce an animated TV series, from its original concept to the final product.

Stage 1: Planning and Scriptwriting

The process begins with a planning meeting between the episode’s main production staff, which includes the episode’s writer, director, and the series’ producers. Together they work out the episode’s main details based on the overall plot of the series set by the series composer and director. During the meeting it is established how much of the source material, if any, should be covered in this specific episode or over the course of numerous episodes. Based on this meeting, the scenario writer will produce a handwritten rough script for the episode, which includes dialogue and very brief direction on what will visually be occurring.

The series’ main production staff review the rough script and make any necessary edits, corrections, or adjustments. A rough script will typically undergo three or four revisions before being finalized and passed on to the episode director. Beyond this point there will be very few, if any, changes to the script.

Series Director Daisuke Nishio Holding a Dragon Ball Z Production Meeting

Prior to beginning the animation stage, a production meeting is held to discuss and strategize an episode’s production. The series director relays the production schedule as set forth by the production supervisor, identifies the available animation staff that will be used to animate the episode, and delegates the main tasks among the assistant director and production progression staff. The appropriate production material is also distributed, such as any reference materials, character designs, or scripts. The production staff then begins making the necessary arrangements in order to start the actual animation production process.

Stage 2: Storyboard

Based on the final script, the episode director creates a storyboard, which is a rough set of sketches detailing the entire episode — essentially a visual script. The standard practice at Toei Animation is to have the episode director draw the episode’s storyboard themselves, which is often why the storyboard credit is typically not listed on Toei Animation productions. On occasion someone other than the episode director — such as another director, the assistant director, or a talented key animator — will create the storyboard based on the episode director’s instructions and a separate storyboard credit is included alongside the episode director credit to denote this change in the production process. This is typically seen when the episode director is strapped for time or is otherwise a bad artist.

The storyboard divides the episodes up into scenes, and then further into the individual cuts that comprise the scene. The director determines how many cuts will be needed to create a specific scene, and then times out each cut to ensure that the episode will not run over the allotted broadcast time. It is also not uncommon for a storyboard to have no specified scenes and be entirely comprised of cuts. The scenes and cuts are identified numerically in sequential order as they appear on the storyboard, and these identification numbers are carried throughout the entire production process.

Additional direction is also included on the storyboard beyond that provided in the final script explaining what is happening in the scene, such as the movement of the characters, sound effects, camera instructions, and any other important notes or elements. Some directors will merely provide rough sketches, while others will draw in much greater detail. Overall, the storyboard sketches do not necessarily reflect how the final image will look, but are more so used as a template for how the characters will be positioned, and any other basic elements of a given scene. It is important to note that an episode’s storyboard must be finalized before any other work can continue, as the remainder of the production process is based on the storyboard.

Stage 3: Layouts

With the storyboard completed, the director assigns the storyboard’s cuts to individual key animators. On occasion a specific storyboard sequence will have been drawn with a particular animator in mind, and this may be the only cut they are assigned, but typically a key animator will be assigned a sequence of cuts. The majority of the cuts will be assigned based on the talent of the available animators, with some being particularly skilled at drawing action scenes, while others may specialize in drawing explosions. After all of the cuts have been assigned, the director holds an animation meeting to provide some guidance to the key animators on how they envision things should look and to answer any questions they may have about the storyboard. To avoid any complications further in the process, it is crucial that the animators understand the story and the director’s vision prior to any actual animation being produced.

The key animators then create layouts, or more detailed versions of the image for that cut in the storyboard, for each of their assigned cuts. In contrast to the storyboard, layouts are drawn accurately as to how the final product should look. The layout will serve as a blueprint for the following stages of animation, mapping out how the characters and scenery should be framed, as well as depicting the exact details of how the characters are to be positioned.

Stage 4: Revisions

After the episode director reviews the layouts for inconsistencies and content, they are sent to the animation supervisor to review the artistic attributes. The animation supervisor is responsible for overseeing all aspects of key animation, including the layouts. If a layout is too poorly drawn, or strays from the character design, the animation supervisor will revise it with the appropriate corrections. When the layouts have been approved by both the episode director and animation supervisor, they are photocopied and the originals are sent to the art department to begin work on the background art.

Stage 5: Key Animation

With their layouts approved, the key animators begin drawing the episode’s key frames, which is arguably the most important stage in the animation process, as these are the frames that will ultimately create each scene. The key artwork is highly detailed and indicative of how the eventual animation cel should look, complete with details on coloring, shadows, highlights, movement (if it applies), and any other necessary info needed for creating the final product. While there are many people that have a hand in creating the final version of every cut of animation, it is the key animator who creates the personality of that cut. The key animator is responsible for drawing and timing the most important frames of a particular shot, which define the main sequences of movement. Visual examples of this can be seen below in animated versions of the key frames of Super Saiyan Goku’s battle with Freeza and Vegeta’s sacrifice against Majin Boo.

The key animator will also provide all of the timing for the key and in-between frames in a cut, creating a timing sheet for the in-between animators to reference (additional information on this below). In some scenes there will be multiple moving elements, such as main characters, background characters, vehicles, smoke, falling rocks, etc. The key animator must identify these elements and plan out the entire scene in advance to determine how many cels will be required to animate these elements. This is accomplished by layering the cels, with each layer being identified. In the example below the frame is identified as “A2”, meaning it is the 2nd frame in the “A” layer of this specific shot. It also includes a timing chart for the movement of Cell’s hands. The timing chart indicates how many in-between frames will be needed to get from key frame A1 to A2 — in this case eight (8) frames — and the timing of these in-between frames in relation to the key frames.

Key Frame A2 of Cell Preparing a Kamehameha (Dragon Ball Z Episode 142)

With so many different animators working on a single episode, each with their own artistic styles and skills, it is the job of the animation supervisor to oversee and correct the key animation, essentially shaping the overall look of the episode. If a set of frames diverge too far from the episode’s overall style or the character designs, the animation supervisor will revise them and add corrective notes. Since all other frames and coloring will be based on these completed key frames, these elements will naturally take on the look of how the animation supervisor corrected the key frames. The key animator will then make these corrections to their frames and re-submit them for review. Once all of the frames from a cut or scene have been approved by the animation supervisor, they are sent to the chief animator for final review.

On occasion the animation supervisor will step in to provide a few shots that are either difficult to draw, or to help meet the production deadline, but there are also some animation supervisors that will provide key art for nearly an entire episode. There are also times where a key animator’s frames may stray from the overall look of the episode, but are so well drawn that the animation supervisor will not correct them. Beyond this point, the animation supervisor has no other roles, as he is merely in charge of key animation. After this stage, the chief animator is in charge of checking and overseeing the remainder of the animation process.

Stage 6: In-Between Animation

After the key animation drawings have been checked and approved, they are sent to the in-between animation artists to begin drawing the frames missing in-between the key animation frames. This is done based on the timing sheet created by the key animator, which indicates how many in-between frames will be needed to get from one key frame to the next. In some instances when an element in the animation is not linear, such as the movement of an arm, tail, or head, the key animator will include a timing chart to indicate the timing and placement of that element’s movement in-between the key frames. The in-between animator is also responsible for cleaning up the lines of the key frames and preparing the drawings to be passed on to the next department, the finishing department.

Unlike key animation, in-between animation does not provide much leeway for personal expression. The in-between artist will draw the missing frames as instructed by the key animator, and nothing more. However, in-between frames do require considerable skill in their own right. Poorly drawn in-between animation can ruin a shot of perfectly good key animation, while good in-between animation can considerably improve mediocre key animation. Traditionally, animators in Japan will go through a period of apprenticeship as in-between animators before ascending to key animator.

Kayoko Ōno Drawing In-Between Frames

Completed in-between animation is then inspected by the chief animator, or in-between checker, to make sure that there are no gaps or awkward movements. If there are no problems during animation testing, then the in-between animator will update the timing sheet with the final cel numbering (detailed in Stage 8). At this point, the overall artwork portion of animation production is over, as none of it will receive any additional revisions or corrections. In total, an average animated TV episode of the time was comprised of roughly 3,000 to 5,000 individual drawings.

Stage 7: Finishing Touches, Special Effects, and Backgrounds

The completed animation is then sent to the finishing department, where a replica of each drawing is painted onto a clear celluloid (cel) sheet by a finishing touches artist. Using a backlit animation desk, a blank cel is placed over top of the artwork and the black outlining is traced onto the cel. This tracing was done by hand for Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z, but was later accomplished in Dragon Ball GT using Xerography technology, a dry photocopying technique.

Yōko Ōbori Tracing In-Between Frames Onto Cels

Once the outline ink dries, color paint is applied to the reverse side of the cel based on the color palette established by the color coordinator and episode director, or as specifically called out by the key animator. Below is a completed cel, from the original key artwork to finished paint, of Mister Satan drawn by Studio Cockpit for Dragon Ball Z episode 174.

While the animation cels are being produced, special effects artists begin creating specialized cels to finish off each scene with additional detail and effects, such as shadow, fire, smoke, or in the case of Dragon Ball, energy and ki techniques. The techniques used to create such effects include drybrushing, airbrushing, charcoal, grease pencils, backlit animation or, during shooting, the photographer can use multiple exposures with various diffusing screens, filters, or gels.

While the animation is being completed, scene backgrounds are painted by artists who specialize in a style more reminiscent of traditional canvas painting. Unlike painting cels, painting background art is usually a very long and difficult process, due to the artistic qualities and details of each background. The background art, which is created based on the layouts submitted by the key animators, is overseen by the art director. The art director, who is often involved with an episode’s production from the storyboard and layout stages, will create rough sketches or art boards of the backgrounds before delegating them to different background artists.

Stage 8: Photography and Initial Editing

When a cut of animation is completed, its cels and all of their corresponding reference materials are packaged together and sent to the photographer. Each scene is accompanied by a timing sheet, as updated by the in-between animator, which lists all of the animation cels that make up the specific cut and instructs the photographer how to photograph each shot. Each line on the timing sheet represents a single frame. With the film being played at a frame rate of 24 frames per second (fps), it takes 24 frames/photographs to create a single second of animated footage. The example time sheet below, which lists three key frames and four in-between frames, represents only one second of footage.

Framing the cel is very important, since if it is not framed correctly several problems may arise, including parts of the image being on the screen that are not intended to be seen, such as the edge of the cel paint (rare, but it has been known to happen). A more common problem is “jitter”; if one frame happens to be photographed too high up in contrast to the last frame photographed, the end result will be that the frame appears to jump as the animation is running. Although traditional cel animation generally has a much richer and deeper look than most digital animation, its one true downfall is occasional poor photography, which results in shaking animation.

Based on the cut’s timing sheet, the photographer’s assistant will hand the appropriate cels needed for a specific frame to the photographer, who then places them over the static background art on the camera stand and frames the shot according to the key animator’s original layout sketch. Special attention must be paid to shots that are comprised of multiple cels, as the cels must be layered on top of one another in the proper order. The cels are always placed in alphabetical order, such that the “A” layer cels will always be placed first, directly over the background art, with the “B” layers being placed on top of the “A” layers, and so on. A piece of glass is lowered onto the cels in order to flatten any irregularities, and the composite image is then photographed by a special animation camera. This process is repeated until the entire cut has been photographed onto a roll of 16mm film, which is then labeled and sent to Toei Chemistry for development.

After the 16mm film negative is developed, it is sent to the editor for processing. Since each cut of animation is photographed as it is completed, many cuts are received out of order and on different rolls of film. It is the editor’s job to sort through all of the footage, placing each cut in the proper order as originally identified on the episode’s storyboard. After inspecting the film for any misaligned shots, discrepancies, or imperfections, the editor then splices and joins these photographed sequences of 16mm film together into a single film reel, creating the episode’s “film master”. It should be noted that the film editor is unlike traditional editors in Western film making and have no real creative control, as no additional footage beyond what is called for in the episode’s storyboard is created.

Stage 9: Dialogue, Sound Effects, and Musical Score

Toei Animation uses a voice-over process known as “After Recording” (アフレコ), meaning that the dialogue is recorded after the animation is completed, or in some cases when pressed for time because the animation is behind schedule, while it is actually still in production. The after recording process allows for faster animation production, as the animators do not have to match their drawings to the dialogue, and allows for the cast to maintain a more natural flow of their performances. This is in contrast to “Prerecording” (プリレコ), the process commonly used in the United States, where the dialogue is recorded prior to the animation’s production. Also in contrast to Western practices, the dialogue is recorded all at once by the entire cast in a large studio, as opposed to individually in small recording booths.

As the voice actors arrive at the recording studio, they are given a copy of the final production script, which is typed up and bound into a booklet. The final script also now includes detailed descriptions of the episode’s visual content, in addition to the episode’s dialogue, to help the voice actors follow along. The series director and producer(s) are also in the studio booth during the recording to provide additional direction to the cast. Alongside them are the studio’s recording director and their assistant, who operate all of the recording equipment. For reference, the dialogue for all of the franchise’s episodes and films up thru the 1990s were recorded at the Toei Audio Visual Art Center (TAVAC).

Prior to recording any actual dialogue, the cast sits down in the studio and performs a test reading of the script while the episode’s animation is played from a projector. With a better grasp of the episode’s content, the cast perform a test recording. Since the dialogue is recorded all in one take by the entire cast, including any narration or background dialogue, it is often not possible for each member of the cast to have their own individual microphone, and instead the studio is typically set up with three to four microphones in the middle of the room. Because of this style of recording, the test recording helps the actors figure out when to come to the microphone to perform their line(s). When the director is satisfied with the performances, and all of the recording logistics have been worked out, the episode’s dialogue is finally recorded. The recording of a single episode’s dialogue generally takes between two to three hours, with the inclusion of a short break in the middle and any retakes at the end.

The Cast of Dragon Ball Z Recording an Episode at TAVAC

Following the dialogue recording, the music selector and sound effects artist individually meet with the recording director to watch the episode’s film and determine the background music and sound effects, respectively. Any new musical tracks or sound effects are recorded prior to this meeting, typically based on the episode’s script and the scene timing established by the storyboard. Once the placement for each musical track and sound effect has been determined, as based on the animation timecode, the recording director creates a multi-track tape with the appropriate selections. After all of the audio recording is completed, the recording director sits down in the recording studio with the audio director and mixes all of the audio and voice tracks together while watching the episode. Once everything is mixed to both of their satisfaction, the recording director combines all of the individual tracks into a single 16mm “cine tape”.

Stage 10: The Final Product (Masters)

While the 16mm film master and cine tape serve as the original archival prints, they are not actually the final products used for its broadcast or home video distribution. A copy of the 16mm film master is created, which is re-framed and slightly zoomed in to capture a smaller amount of image. By re-framing the film once again, the likelihood of unwanted portions of the cel being seen in the footage is greatly reduced.

The original 16mm film master is then placed into protective storage, and the new film serves as the “first generation” master copy, with any additional prints made from this new film. Unlike the original film master (video) and cine tape (audio), which are separate reels of film, the “first generation” master copy combines both the video and audio components onto a singe 16mm film reel. A copy of the cine tape audio is placed along the length of the film using an analog strip of variable area optical soundtrack, whereby the sound accompanying the footage is physically recorded onto the film (as seen below).

For television broadcast, a “second generation” copy of the master copy is sent to the broadcaster. Up until the end of the 1970s, the majority of TV stations would broadcast shows using the film’s optical soundtrack due to its ease of storage. However, by the 1980s many TV stations had begun muting the film’s optical soundtrack in favor of broadcasting higher quality audio from a copy of the original cine tape. In order to avoid having to store the original cine tape, Toei Animation would often send it to Fuji TV for broadcast and only retain the master copy’s optical soundtrack as their internal audio source. Unfortunately, the original cine tapes were typically disposed of by the TV station following an episode’s initial broadcast, as they were quite large and the station’s storage space was at a premium.

Modern Digital Animation

Toei Animation first began using digital animation techniques in 1998, and by 2000 the majority of their titles were being fully produced digitally. In 2002, Toei Animation ceased the use of traditional cel animation practices and its animation production became fully digital. This transition was largely driven by the reduced production costs and the allowance for a shorter production schedule. The cost reduction comes not only from the reduction in production time, but also from the reduction of consumable materials such as cels, acrylic paint, and film, as they become unnecessary due to the digitization of the production process. It also allows the production process to be more efficiently carried out over a digital network system, eliminating the need to transport and deliver physical materials between studios or TV stations, reducing degradation and generational loss of the final product, and reducing the overall physical storage space required.

According to Toei Animation’s official website:

Animation Production From Across the Sea
Our studio in Japan is not the only place where our animation is produced. TOEI ANIMATION PHILS., INC. (TAP) is our subsidiary in Manila, Philippines, with which our Ōizumi Studio in Tokyo shares a borderless production network connected with optical cables. We also have dedicated lines connecting to the 21 domestic production studios that work with us, and our entire production process is digitalized for maximum efficiency.

It should be noted that at Toei Animation the shift toward digital production practices mostly affected its post-production work, such as the painting and filming of drawings, as opposed to the actual animation itself. The term “digital animation”, as it applies to Toei Animation’s modern production practices, does not imply the animation drawings are entirely created digitally, but rather that the final animated product is available in a digital format. Aside from specific computer-generated graphics and special effects elements, the majority of artwork created for modern Dragon Ball productions is still hand drawn by individual artists, either on paper or digitally with a tablet.

Stages 1-5: Planning to Key/CG Animation

Although many of the post production processes are performed digitally, the majority of the planning stages remain virtually identical to the traditional animation process. Based on the final script, the episode director draws a storyboard of rough sketches detailing the entire episode. After an episode’s script and storyboard have been established, cuts are delegated between the key animation artists to create their respective layouts.

Once the layouts have been approved by the episode director, they are digitally scanned and saved on Toei Animation’s network. Also during this stage, any scenes or items requiring 2D or 3D digital animation are identified and sent to the digital artists for processing. While the 3D animation is created using a combination of various computer graphics software and script packages, Toei Animation largely utilizes Autodesk Maya. Other digital 2D effects, such as textures or the motion of fire and water, are also created by the digital artists.

Digital Artist Drawing the Dragon Balls

With the layouts complete, the key animators begin drawing the episode’s key frames. While all of the animation following these initial stages are drawn digitally using a tablet, the storyboard and key frames are still traditionally hand drawn with pencil on sheets of paper. There are some animators that have begun digitally drawing their key art, but so far none have worked, or are currently working, on Dragon Ball productions.

After the key animation drawings have been completed, they are digitally scanned into RETAS! PRO, a 2D animation software suite developed by CELSYS. The software then vector traces the scanned drawings, separating each key frame into its individual lines, as though it had originally been digitally drawn, and isolating the drawing’s shadow markup as a separate layer. Since the drawings are stored in vector data formats, they are resolution independent and do not lose detail or quality when zoomed in or reduced in size. While traditional analog key animation is the standard practice for Toei Animation, some contracted animation studios prefer to only produce digital key animation drawings, negating the need to scan and trace them.

The key animation is then checked by the animation supervisor, who can now precisely correct individual frames as needed by creating a correction layer over the original key frame within the software. Once the key frames have been approved, the key animator creates a timing sheet for the entire cut, which indicates how many in-between frames will be needed to get from one key frame to the next. The software then generates a linear animation timeline, inserting the appropriate number of blank frames in-between the key frames as indicated by the timing sheet.

Stage 6: In-Between Animation and Digital Coloring

After the animation timeline has been established, the in-between animation artists begin digitally drawing the frames missing in-between the key animation frames. The software features a light table function which allows the animator to view subsequent frames on top of each other transparently, letting them easily reference the adjacent frames as they draw a missing frame. The animator can also run a rough animation test to check the motion depicted between frames, ensuring that nothing jarring stands out. This is very similar to the traditional animation check in which the animator held the paper drawings up and quickly flipped through them, simulating the animation. However, as the digital images can be transparently placed over one another, the software is much more useful in catching such errors or mistakes.

Completed in-between animation is then again inspected by the chief animator, or in-between checker, to make sure that there are no gaps or awkward movements. If there are no problems during final animation testing, then the overall artwork portion of animation production is over and the in-between animator will update the timing sheet with the final numbering. In total, the average modern animated TV episode is comprised of roughly 3,000 to 4,000 individual drawings (including both key and in-between frames).

While in the past the completed animation was sent to the finishing department to be traced onto clear celluloid (cel) sheets, this step is no longer necessary in the modern animation process as the final digital drawings have already been created during the in-between animation stage. Therefore, once the in-between animation is completed, it can immediately be colored. Traditionally, the cel painting was also performed by the finishing department, but in an effort to more efficiently streamline this task, it is now typically completed by the in-between animation studio itself. Using the RETAS! PRO software, Toei Animation and other studios can now digitally color 150 drawings in the time it had traditionally taken them to hand paint 50 cels.

Stage 7: Backgrounds

While the animation is being completed, scene backgrounds are painted by artists who specialize in a style more reminiscent of traditional canvas painting. The background art, which is created based on the layouts submitted by the key animators, is overseen by the art director. Similar to the key animation drawings, the background art is still painted by hand on physical media and then digitally scanned into the animation software at high resolutions. The backgrounds are then digitally touched up, removing any imperfections and adjusting color tones as desired. On average, a modern animated TV episode is comprised of approximately 300 backgrounds.

Stage 8: Special Effects, Photography, and Editing

Once the drawing has been colored, it is saved and sent to the special effects artist to add additional detail and effects, such as shadows, sun glare, fire, smoke, or in the case of Dragon Ball, energy and ki techniques. These effects are drawn by hand with a stylus pen and tablet, and are meant to add additional detail to the animation to provide a sense of realism to a 2D animated object. The completed cuts are then sent on to the photographers to be composited.

While the act of shooting a cut’s composite animation is still referred to as “photography” in modern animation, the term’s use is a mere carryover from traditional animation, as in modern animation there is no physical camera or film involved. As done traditionally, the photographer places a cut’s drawings over the appropriate background based on the timing sheet provided and then captures the composite images of the cut. In modern terms, this is known as rendering. However, in modern animation the photography process is much more involved due to the fact that the software allows the composition of a given scene to be much more complex: background art can be panned, zoomed, or placed diagonally, drawings can be assigned specific paths or coordinates, and the camera-work within a cut can become quite complicated with varying acceleration, motion path, or orientation functions. The software also allows the photographer to create 3D spaces using 2D drawings and backgrounds. With compositing complete, the cut can then be exported to the appropriate file format, depending on its intended use. While the cut’s completed animation can be exported to various movie file formats, individual frames can also be exported as raster images (PNG, JPG, etc.) for use in advertising, publications, or website design.

For editing, the cut’s completed animation is exported as both a full and lower resolution file. The series editor then begins creating a rough cut of the episode using the lower resolution video, which contains far less data and is therefore easier to load and edit than the full resolution video, and places the cuts together in the correct order of events. This phase of editing is referred to as offline editing, which is carried out using non-linear editing software. Once the offline edit is complete and approved by the director, it is sent to Toei Digital Lab for final online editing and mastering. A copy of the edited video footage is also sent to the recording studio to be used during voice recording sessions.

Stage 9: Dialogue, Sound Effects, and Musical Score

Although recording technology has changed, the actual recording process between traditional and digital animation has remained virtually identical, utilizing the “After Recording” process. With the final production script in hand, the voice actors do a test reading of the script while the episode’s animation is played on large high-definition televisions or digital projectors, as opposed to the analog film projectors used during film-based recordings, which are controlled from the recording booth. Following the test reading, the voice actors perform a test recording and work out all of the recording logistics. When the director is satisfied with the performances, the episode’s dialogue is finally recorded and saved in a digital format.

Up until 2013, all of the franchise’s dialogue had been recorded at the Toei Audio Visual Art Center (TAVAC) studio. In September 2015 the TAVAC studio was closed due to structural integrity concerns, and all recording sessions have since been moved to the Sound Inn studio or Toei Digital Center. While the recording studio has changed, all of the audio production aspects are still overseen by TAVAC.

While the episode is still in the early stages of production, the episode director, audio director, and producers determine any new musical tracks and sound effects that need to be recorded based on the episode’s script and the scene timing established by the storyboard. With the dialogue and musical recordings completed, the episode and audio directors meet with the recording director and mixes all of the voice and musical tracks together while watching the episode. Once everything is mixed to all of their satisfaction, the recording director saves the file and sends it off for final online editing.

Stage 10: The Final Product (Masters)

With all of the episode’s individual components complete, the Toei Digital Lab housed at the Toei Digital Center begins the online editing process. The full “online” resolution video and mixed audio data files are first imported into advanced linear authoring software and then properly lined up. Once the episode portion is ready, the opening animation, title card, eyecatches, ending animation, and next episode preview are inserted. The online editor then begins formatting the episode, adding any additional logos required for the broadcast version, the finalized episode title to the title card, the finalized next episode title to the next episode preview, and finally the episode credits to the opening and ending animations. The whole process is typically overseen by the episode director, or their assistant, and various series producers.

With the formatting complete, each individual version of the episode is exported into the desired digital video format with the proper encoding properties. The encoded video files are then distributed to the appropriate parties, such as the broadcast versions of an episode being sent to each regional Fuji TV affiliate station, and the original files are then sent back to Toei Animation to be backed up on their servers for archival purposes. At some point, following any animation edits, Toei Animation sends digital master copies of each episode to Happinet, the company responsible for creating and distributing the series to the home video market on DVD and Blu-ray.