What "Editing" Needs To Be Done To Anime For US Release?

by Justin Sevakis,

Craig asked:

Just finished watching the third Berserk film, The Advent and in the credits I saw your name for Video post production. What exactly do you do in terms of post production(clean up, video/audio compression, restoration?)? Do all companies who release home videos have their own in-house team or do they outsource to people like you? Sometimes there's even an editor listed, even though the show isn't edited in any way.

"Video Post-Production" is one of those technical jobs on the US side of things that nobody ever thinks about. When the master tape arrives from Japan, the first step is that the whole thing gets captured to a file. (The format normally used in the pro video world is QuickTime ProRes HQ.) Those files usually come with a test pattern, excessive amounts of black at the beginning and end (and sometimes where the commercial breaks were during broadcast), and maybe some extras like text-free versions of openings, endings, and other places where there was a bunch of Japanese text in the original broadcast. The master also usually has both the Japanese stereo audio, as well as stereo "M&E" tracks, or isolated music and effects tracks that are used to make a dub.

The "editing" that's involved is mostly just neatly removing what doesn't belong in a proper home video presentation. The first thing you have to do is trim down the video so that it plays back exactly like it should: all the excess black is removed, the weird screens where a sponsor message would've gone are removed, and all that good stuff. You then have to make work files -- small, portable and low quality versions -- for whoever is making your subtitles and your dub, so that everything will line up in its proper place once you're putting everything together.

From there, it's up to the individual company how far they want to go in adapting the presentation for Western audiences. Some companies prefer to -- and some licensors insist on -- replacing all of the credits and/or the show logo with English titles, and in that case, it's your job to lay out and typeset all of those credits. Sometimes that's easy (some licensors only provide a handful of credits they want you to use); sometimes that's a nightmare (a big-budget movie can mean laying out several thousand names into a neatly formatted scroll). If the English logo needs to be animated, that also might fall to you. If the show has an old dub that you're trying to match up against new masters, synchronizing that old audio also becomes your personal hell.

Anything you do usually has to be approved by SOMEBODY, so you'll usually need to export everything and send it off to the licensor. Once everything looks OK, you add in the dub audio (if there is one) and export the final "formatted" video for use on DVDs, Blu-rays, online streaming services, and whatever else. Someone will probably want to back up that final video to a master tape as well.

So you see, it's not a glamorous or even a creative job -- it's quite robotic, in fact. That said, I rather enjoy it -- pouring over and perfecting credit rolls is something that appeals deeply to my OCD side. Funimation, Sentai, Crunchyroll and Right Stuf do this in-house, although how much work they put in varies wildly from studio to studio, and from project to project. Discotek does some in-house and some out-of-house, depending on what needs to be done. Viz, Aniplex of America, and in the past tense, Bandai and Pioneer all rely on the dub studio to handle such duties. Prior to 2005 or so it all needed to be done at a large online video editing facility, but with the advent of Final Cut Pro, publishers were able to do it themselves.

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    Justin Sevakis has worked in the anime business for over 20 years. He's the original founder of Anime News Network, and owner of the video production company MediaOCD. You can follow him on Twitter at @worldofcrap.

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