Hideo Kojima Interview

After three and a half years of hard work, "Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots" is finally complete. Director Hideo Kojima talks about the passion that went into the project, and the techniques he used to turn his vision into a reality.

●Development

Q: The motion capture for MGS4 took 4 months, including prep time.
Kojima:
I know, it's unprecedented. There was just so much of it to shoot (laughs). And there are some special demos this time where the player can move the camera around. To do that, we had to do a 10-plus minute scene in one take. If we had to retake something, we had to do the whole scene over from the beginning. That's probably one reason why it took so long. Also, the motion actors trained with Mori-san - just 1 or 2 days, but they learned everything from how to hold a gun to how to walk. In Hollywood, this kind of stuff is normal.
Q: Some of the action is pretty intense. Did most of the actors have an action background?
Kojima:
It depended on the role of the character - we had both action-type actors and stage-type actors. Like for Raiden, we used different actors for the action parts and the dramatic parts.


Q: This time around you recorded the motion capture and the voices in reverse order.
Kojima:
We used to always record the voices first and then add the motion capture. But with resolution this high you can see the smallest details, so if we recorded the voices first it'd end up feeling disjointed and hard to act out.
So for the motion capture in MGS4 we thought we'd start by first recording the motions and facial expressions and voices all at once. It was tough on the actors, but we made them do all the complicated MGS dialogue, plus the 10-plus minute scenes in one take (laughs).
Of course, there's motion and then there's facial expressions, and when you do a crying scene, you have to rest half an hour before you can do another take.
Which is exactly like a movie. And then we dubbed over that footage.
Q: So you filmed the facial expressions at the same time?
Kojima:
There's something called facial capture technology, which is in the same category as motion capture, only it captures facial expressions. We tried using it for the trailer, but it wasn't very efficient, so we used a regular camera for the facial expressions and had our animators render them by hand.
Q: You had actual human models pose for the BB Corps and used them for the 3D models.
Kojima:
The face of an actual person tells the story of his or her life. The BBs are monsters, which is a surreal concept, but that's exactly why we incorporated living, breathing human beings, to accentuate the realism.
Q: How did it feel when you actually put them into the game?
Kojima:
They were truly frightening. I've already shown them to around 100 game writers around the world, and people were covering their mouths and saying, "Scary!"
The idea of beautiful women being monsters is a common motif in Japanese horror. So Japanese people might be more used to it. But people in other countries have never seen it before, and it's like they don't know what to do. I consider that reaction a success. They might even be the scariest ever (laughs).


Q: The MGS series has a unique balance between realistic elements and purely fictional elements.
Kojima:
Well, to put it in simpler terms, it treads a fine line between Western movies and Japanese anime. Somewhere between Akiba and Hollywood (laughs).
Q: It's rare to see such a fusion of Akiba and Hollywood sensibilities.
Kojima:
Although it does fall more on the movie side. Like "The Matrix" and "Hellboy", for instance.


Q: MGS4 has a massive amount of sound effects. I hear they took 100 days and 120 different specialized tools to record.
Kojima:
Yeah, we built our own in-house Foley studio. And apparently the MGS team are the only ones using it.
Q: What kind of studio was it?
Kojima:
Let's see... It's got a lot of square footage. It has planking and stone, and mud and sand, and places for storing water and stuff. And lots of shoes, too. We had one Foley artist, and to make footsteps sounds for women and children, he'd set his butt on a bar overhead and adjusted his weight and stuff. We also had bamboo leaves, and cloth to make the sound of clothes rustling, and doors and things like that. All different kinds of doors. The same as you'd find in a Hollywood Foley studio.
Q: But you didn't use Hollywood sounds this time, you made your own in-house.
Kojima:
Our Foley artist was a Konami staffer. He used to do sound effects for movies, and he's been with us since "2".
You know how you want to make little tweaks right up until the last minute? It's nice when you've got a studio right next door and it's always open for you to use (laughs).
We did the post-recording in-house, too. If we wanted to re-record something, we could do it right away. It's the Peter Jacksonsystem. We did do part of the mixing in Hollywood, though, at Skywalker Ranch .
Q: How did you like Skywalker Ranch?
Kojima:
It's an amazing place. It's in the middle of the mountains, and there's no sign or anything marking the entrance. But there's lots of places to eat and stuff inside.
And there's lots of studios with names of different movie directors. So we had a guy there named Christopher Boyes, who was the mixer for "Lord of the Rings", do the mixing for us. Not for all the scenes, though, because there was a ton of material, and he used a synthesizer there's only 5 of in the entire world. There were scenes that had 150 or so sounds layered in. It's tough to do it justice in words, but mixing can create a whole different sound. Some Japanese movies use Skywalker Studios, too, but apparently most of them hand it over to the folks there and OK whatever they do. But I bombarded them with retakes (laughs). And they did a great job making it to order.


Q: You collaborated with a number of other foreign creators as well.
Kojima:
Yeah, Harry-san did the sound. He's been with us since "2". But he's been busy with "Narnia" and stuff, and I was afraid we weren't going to be able to get him. But I was in Hollywood on other business and dropped by to see him, and he said, "I saw the trailer. Probably 100 times. I already have a theme in mind." (laughs) So I said "Sounds great" and asked him to do it.We also got Alex from Logan, and Kyle-san who did those iPod commercials, both of whom are outstanding talents.
We had those guys do something special for the intro of the game - I can't say what yet, though.
Q: How did it feel to develop for the PS3?
Kojima:
Yeah, some foreign magazine was writing, "Hideo Kojima is not satisfied with the PS3's specs!", right?
The West doesn't have a culture of modesty, and so when you're modest people take it literally. It's like you have to be like "I am the greatest!" all the time.
And then it goes through the interpreter and gets translated, and printed in some other magazine, and then retranslated back into Japanese. And it's not the nuance of what I said at all. But now it can't be corrected. It's a real headache.
When a creator hears the word "specs", he tends to overimagine things. Like if you tell him "OK, now you'll be able to fly", he'll go off thinking "Sounds like I can break the sound barrier, maybe even go into outer space." Then when they actually make it, it's only a one-step advance instead of ten. But that one step is important. Then you start imagining the next ten steps, and even if you only end up moving one more step forward, that's two steps you've advanced. And sooner or later you do reach that tenth step.
Interviewer: Etsu Tamari