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by Brady Games
Steven Kent and Tim Cox

Imagine your coffee table, complete with game controller, potato chip crumbs, and last month’s PSM. Now picture a stylish hardcover edition of The Making of Final Fantasy gracing your tabletop. Not only is this book (which retails for around 30 dollars) a fabulous addition to any vidiot’s library for aesthetic reasons, it is also a wealth of great information on one of this year’s most intricate installments of gaming cinema.

Brady Games, the publisher of some of our favorite strategy guides, has outdone themselves in bringing us a book of high-quality construction and design. There are 240 slick, full-color pages complete with inside information and everything from concept art to finished film shots. The book is divided into thirteen major sections, including a forward by director Hironobu Sakaguchi, concept art, storyboards, sets and props, layout, motion capture, animation, lighting, VFX, compositing, "bringing it all together," script, and an extras section.

Although I consider myself a film buff, there were many places in this book that I was genuinely surprised to be learning new information on the technologies that were brought to bear in Final Fantasy. No matter what a person might have thought of the movie in regard to the infinitely popular game series, one must admit that the animation and visuals in the film were stunning. This book lets you see how ideas were generated and the four-year process behind bringing the film to the big screen. It was interesting to see the original concept art, (over 3,000 images were created, but only about 500 made the final cut), their progression to storyboarding, and final scenes of finished work from the movie.

The makers of the film were tremendously committed to realism in every aspect. I was amazed to find that the compositing process for the film combined 16 layers of work, and that besides the normal layers of animation, they also added realism through layers that portrayed light and dust movement. They gleaned data for character movement through a motion capture process which made hard, 3-D computer data from 16 optical cameras that tracked light markers sewn into actors’ black bodysuits. This data was then used for computer animation later on in the course of production. The programmers who worked on the clothes did tests on different fabrics and used properties such as gravity and wind resistance when constructing character clothing. And finally, the programmers fought to be able to include features on Aki such as freckles that would add to the realistic feel of the picture.

There is a wealth of information about the making of the film that is given in language that the non-computer minded can understand (I had no idea what displacement mapping was before I read this, but I do now!), without sacrificing specificity and detail. It is also interesting to see how a totally digital endeavor redefines some of the old movie-making standards to create totally believable characters and environments.

This book is full of fascinating facts that will keep you turning the page, is visually interesting throughout, aesthetically pleasing, well-constructed, and above all, a pleasure to have as an addition to any videogamer or film fan’s personal library. Not only is my coffee table better off with its purchase (and my guests more intellectually entertained), I’m a little more savvy about the whole process behind the newest wave in movie making. This book is well worth the purchase price, and should be on every discerning videogamer’s shopping list. 

Monica Hafer   (09/10/2001)


Ups: Lots of info about the movie; beautiful layout and art; high quality.

Downs: What, you don't like reading? Look at the pictures.

Platform: Coffee Table


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