Why Japan's News Is Better: Dioramas and Miniature Models

Flip on the television. From the games we play to the movies we watch, CG is everywhere. While there's nothing wrong with CG per se, there is something so right with models and dioramas.

Respected Japanese network NHK has a full CG department, able to churn out impressive computer graphics. However, it still uses models made by its stable of master prop makers. NHK's prop department, which also makes things for numerous historical dramas, is vast and extensive. And talented.

It's no wonder, because the Japanese entertainment industry has a long history of building miniatures and models, which is best seen in the country's iconic kaiju movies, such as Godzilla and Gamera.

"When I've been on NHK," author and game localizer Matt Alt tells Kotaku, "I've seen them breakdown and take apart sets so quickly. Backstage, it's more like a theatrical production."

That physicality extends to the dioramas. On Japanese news and variety shows, Alt points out, there are typically panels of commenters. Dioramas give them something far more tangible to interact with than CG.

What's more, the dioramas might be easier to understand—especially for the country's older viewers. During the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, for example, the dioramas even seemed somewhat comforting—something Alt wrote about for The New Yorker.

Dioramas are both tangible and somewhat abstract. Newscasters can pick up the model buildings or cars. They are "real" in an analog sense. However, they are also somewhat abstract, because they are smaller and even "toylike". This can make them non-threatening.

The dioramas and models might take longer than the CG, but NHK continues to use them to explain everything from the Fukushima reactors and nuclear cores to new Tokyo Skytree and to, as it did last week, the sprawling Tokyo subway labyrinth.

Why Japan's News Is Better: Dioramas and Miniature Models

Why Japan's News Is Better: Dioramas and Miniature Models

Why Japan's News Is Better: Dioramas and Miniature Models

Why Japan's News Is Better: Dioramas and Miniature Models

Why Japan's News Is Better: Dioramas and Miniature Models

Why Japan's News Is Better: Dioramas and Miniature Models

Why Japan's News Is Better: Dioramas and Miniature Models

NHKによる福島原発の再現模型がすごすぎると話題に [Ride the Wave]

福島第一原子力発電所 模型制作 [NHK]

Kudos to NHK for busting out giant model instead of CG Sky Tree [@Matt_Alt]

東京地下模型が凄すぎる [@arrow_mg]

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