Team TokuNet staff writer and translator Robin Caine shares how the production crew changed their way of filming Kamen Rider over time.
In the 70s, television programs were shot using film cameras. This period was known as the film era. However, with the advent of video camcorders, news programs, and variety shows began switching to video cameras. The era following this change was known as the video era. Despite multiple programs switching their camera equipment, dramas continued to be shot in film to obtain a cinematic look. This includes Kamen Rider.
Kamen Rider was initially shot in 16 mm film. During the film era, the drama portion was filmed in 24 FPS (frames per second) while character action scenes were filmed in 22 FPS. Changing the frame rate allowed a sense of speed to be produced. In the video era, the production crew experimented with various methods such as changing the shutter speed of the camera because high-speed filming was not possible. Unfortunately, the results were uneven and the editing process was inevitably choppy so the presentation was not satisfactory.
As far as television programs go, the delivery of footage to broadcasting stations required videos to be interlaced. Without getting too technical, interlaced video is one method for drawing an image onto a screen. However, the compositing team needed another format that uses a different method for drawing an image: progressive video. Progressive video was needed to combine with CG on the computer. As a solution, they had to mix different video formats: 59.94i and 30P.
Film Era to Digital
The Kamen Rider series shifted to filming with digital cine cameras in the early 2000s. Compared to the cameras that were previously used, digital cine cameras have enough resolution and dynamic range suitable for movie production.
However, the frame rates were no different from video cameras which filmed in 30 FPS and differed from the 24 FPS used in film screenings. In addition to that, they were not suitable for filming action scenes because it was not possible to alter any movements through the change of the shooting speed.
It Comes Down to Frame Rates
Variable frame rates (VFR) became possible with the release of the DVCPRO HD Camera Recorder AJ-HDC270F. This feature allows for the frame rate to change actively during video playback. The possibility of filming in 60 FPS also caught the eyes of the filming crew of Kamen Rider.
The first VARICAM AJ-HDC27F (released in February 2002, now referred to as 27F) was tested in the theatrical version of Kamen Rider 555: Paradise Lost. Due to its positive results, it was adopted for TV broadcasting the following year in 2005.
In 2010, the P2 HD camera recorder AJ-HPX2700G was released and the P2 system was then used as the data camera system. After that, P2 cards were used for offline and online editing, as well as for on-site shooting. VARICAM 35 was also adopted as the era progressed to 4K.
During 2015’s Kamen Rider Drive series, the VARICAM 35 and VARICAM HS lineups were used to shoot composite material in 4K. However, most of the filming for Kamen Rider consisted of action scenes that required shooting while holding the camera in hand. That’s where the VARICAM LT comes in.
This camera is capable of 10-bit 4:2:2 recording in 2K. This type of recording allows for more color to be captured, resulting in cleaner footage. This is especially useful for green screening. Since it can record up to 240 FPS, two LT models became the two main cameras for shooting.
VFR’s Vitality to Production
Every year, a meeting is held to select a camera for each season and VARICAM models have been used in recent years. VARICAM has been an essential camera system for the production of Kamen Rider since its launch, making full use of VFR (Variable Frame Rate) and shooting in 22 FPS to make the characters move a little faster.
Kamen Rider Zero-One was shot in both finer rates such as 21 and 22 FPS. The difference of just two frames makes action scenes look quicker, and the effect can be previewed on the set immediately after shooting. There were times when the film crew wanted to have an even greater sense of speed and tested shooting in 18 FPS.
These challenges and experiments are traditional to the filming of Kamen Rider.
AVC-Intra 200M is the main codec. This is used when the frame rate increases due to high-speed shooting and uses other functions depending on the shooting situation. Editors were able to work with native data in the compositing scene, which saved a lot of time spent on data conversion. Since the codec is light, the computer won’t get overloaded. The Kamen Rider project has always been a pioneer in digital cinema technology.
There have been no major technical changes in filming in the past five years, but the number of scene shoots has increased considerably due to major improvements in the workflow. Currently, Kamen Rider runs about 50 episodes a year, while filming three movies behind the scenes in addition to other related media. Thanks to the advantages of modern cameras, Kamen Rider has been filmed almost every day for the past 20 years.