Square Enix Image Studio Division
|Kabushiki gaisha Sukuea enix imēji sutajio|
|Industry||CGI animation for film, CGI animation for video games, performance capture, Visual effects|
April 1, 2021 (merged company)
Number of locations
|Takeshi Nozue (General Manager)|
|Products||Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children|
Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV
CG for Square Enix games
Square Enix Image Studio Division (Japanese: イメージ・スタジオ, Hepburn: Kabushiki gaisha Sukuea enix imēji sutajio) is a Japan-based CGI animation studio dedicated towards creating video game cut scenes and full-length feature films for Square Enix. Square Enix Image Studio Division was founded as Visual Works as the CGI department for Square and was responsible for creating the pre-rendered CG openings for the company, starting with Final Fantasy VII in 1997.
Beginning with Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children (2005) the company began to work on stand-alone CGI films, continuing with Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV (2016). After the acquisition of Taito and Eidos Interactive by Square Enix, Visual Works branched out their functionality to create cinematic scenes for Square Enix's acquired publishing brands, whilst continuing to primarily work on Square Enix's in-house properties. Visual Works are assisting Square Enix with the lighting and cinematic direction of the Kingdom Hearts franchise for the high definition entries.
In April 1, 2021, Square Enix merged its Visual Works division with its Image Arts Division to create Square Enix Image Studio Division. According to President Yosuke Matsuda, "The Visual Works Division has created pre-rendered movies for many of the Company's game titles. The Image Arts Division, whose core staff includes members from the team that created the movie KINGSGLAIVE: FINAL FANTASY XV, has meanwhile engaged in research and development into high-end visual expression with a focus on real-time graphics. By fusing the technologies and attributes of the two divisions into the SQUARE ENIX Image Studio Division, the Company aims to become faster at its research and development efforts into next-generation visual expression and at incorporating the results of those efforts into actual content.".
Visual Works was founded as a subsidiary CGI production company for Japanese video game developer and publisher Square around 1997. The company's first project was the 1997 Final Fantasy VII. They have continued to produce video game scenes for the company, remaining a subsidiary after the merger of Square and Enix into Square Enix in 2003, and expanded to create cinematic's for more video game franchises after Square Enix acquired Taito and Eidos Interactive. Working at Visual Works is considered to be among the elite of Square Enix technical jobs.
In 2005, Visual Works produced their first stand-alone project, the feature-length CGI film Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. They produced a second stand-alone film, Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV, in 2016.
The studio's creative freedom in creating cutscenes varies from project to project. Director Kazuyuki Ikumori explained in 2015 that some projects allow them complete freedom to decide the direction of the scenes and where they best fit, while others more narrowly define for the studio the length and location of the scene and how it begins and ends. Some projects also consult with the studio on which scenes work better as interactive scenes than passive cutscenes. Visual Works does not try to have different styles based on if a game originates in Japan or Western countries, such as for former Eidos properties, but instead try to match the style of the game series or development studio. Ikumori noted that for some series, such as those by Crystal Dynamics or IO Interactive, they receive a lot of detail about the feeling of the scenes, which they take as a starting point, but for others such as Final Fantasy they know the series so well that they can easily match the developers' intent. Ikumori credits this last to his previous work as a map and character designer for the Final Fantasy series.
Visual Works uses motion capture to design the movements of their CGI characters; Ikumori has described the process as being "really about the center of balance and that transition of balance" than about the exact motions. Especially for more fantasy-oriented series, they use the motion capture data as a basis to overlay with more exaggerated, "flashy" movements that still reflect the way the characters normally move.
In 2019, a four and a half minute trailer titled “Visual Works Character Prototype” was developed of a woman with an eyepatch fighting a doll. Previous demonstrations had been done with Visual Works employees ideas, but Square Enix president Yosuke Matsuda suggested making a demo based on this female character. Starting only with the concept of “a woman with an eyepatch”, Visual Works then expanded the world around her to give the character a lot of detail, the kind that would impress prospective game developers. While acknowledging that such projects are time intensive, Kazuyuki Ikumori, the general manager and chief creative director of Visual Works has noted that such projects are already very difficult and expensive, and that such projects get game developers and those making CGI visuals on the same page early on. The video was based on “oriental dark fantasy” as seen by those who do not know Japanese culture, and has elements of Noh such as a Noh mask.
Video game cutscenes
- Final Fantasy VII (1997)
- Xenogears (1998)
- Parasite Eve (1998)
- Final Fantasy VIII (1999)
- Final Fantasy Collection (1999)
- Final Fantasy Anthology (1999)
- Chrono Cross (1999)
- Parasite Eve II (1999)
- Vagrant Story (2000)
- Final Fantasy IX (2000)
- Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past (2000)
- The Bouncer (2000)
- Final Fantasy Chronicles (2001)
- Final Fantasy X (2001)
- Final Fantasy XI Online (2002)
- Kingdom Hearts (2002)
- Final Fantasy X-2 (2003)
- Final Fantasy Origins (2003)
- Final Fantasy XI Online: Rise of Zilart (2007)
- Final Fantasy XI Online: Chains of Promathia (2007)
- Kingdom Hearts II (2005)
- Final Fantasy XI Online: Treasures of Aht Urhgan (2006)
- Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII (2006)
- Final Fantasy III (2006)
- Final Fantasy XII (2006)
- Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII (2007)
- Final Fantasy IV (2007)
- Final Fantasy XIII (2009)
- Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep (2010)
- Final Fantasy XIV (2010)
- The 3rd Birthday (2010)
- Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection (2011)
- Deus Ex: Human Revolution (2011)
- Final Fantasy Type-0 (2011)
- Final Fantasy XIII-2 (2011)
- Gunslinger Stratos (2012)
- Hitman: Absolution (2012)
- Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance (2012)
- Tomb Raider (2013)
- Gunslinger Stratos 2 (2013)
- Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII (2013)
- Drakengard 3 (2013)
- Thief (2014)
- Rise of the Tomb Raider (2015)
- Final Fantasy Brave Exvius (2015)
- Densha de Go! (2016)
- Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (2016)
- Final Fantasy XV (2016)
- Valkyrie Anatomia: The Origin (2016)
- Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age (2017)
- Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue (2017)
- Just Cause 4 (2018)
- Dissidia Final Fantasy NT (2018)
- Shadow of the Tomb Raider (2018)
- Kingdom Hearts III (2019)
- Final Fantasy VII Remake (2020)
- Balan Wonderworld (2021)
Video Game Prototypes
- Hatsune Miku (2014)
- Character Prototype (2018)
- "キングダム ハーツ HD 2.8 ファイナル チャプター プロローグ" [Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue]. Dengeki PlayStation (in Japanese). No. 629. ASCII Media Works. 12 January 2017. pp. 68–77.
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- "Square Enix Streams Introduction Movie for Visual Works Exhibit". Anime News Network. Archived from the original on 2016-10-11.
- Fat Chocobo (October 17, 2019). "Interview : La French Touch chez Square Enix". Finaland. Retrieved June 1, 2020.
- Spencer (2015-04-03). "Final Fantasy's Cinematic Mastermind On Making Advent Children And FFXV's Cutscene Balance". Siliconera. Archived from the original on 2015-04-06. Retrieved 2016-11-02.
- "スクウェア・エニックスの映像制作部隊"ヴィジュアルワークス"が謎めく眼帯美女のムービーを制作したワケ". Famitsu. January 11, 2019. Retrieved June 1, 2020.
- Cowan, Danny (March 26, 2008). "Critical Reception: Square Enix's Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII". Gamasutra. Retrieved June 10, 2020.
- Siliconera Staff (July 14, 2011). "Final Fantasy CG Studio Visual Works Talks About The Tomb Raider Trailer". Siliconera. Retrieved July 8, 2020.
- Sahdev, Ishaan (August 30, 2013). "Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII Takes Us Behind The Scenes At Square Enix". Siliconera. Retrieved July 15, 2020.
- Sato (April 22, 2016). "Valkyrie Anatomia Trailer Shows A Glimpse Of Its Battle, Being Worked On By Visual Works". Siliconera. Retrieved July 9, 2020.
- Romano, Sal (November 4, 2014). "Hatsune Miku x Tetsuya Nomura Visual Works movie". Gematsu. Retrieved July 8, 2020.