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Interview with WolfPack Productions' Cyberdramon

A region which gets the Transformers shows several years after the rest of the world, if they're broadcasted at all.
Welcome, this is Scandinavia!

Like it or not, but in order to keep the interest up and to satisfy the already existing fans, we have to turn to the Internet and the illegal episode downloads. Luckily Hasbro and Takara seems to turn a blind eye to this practise, perhaps realizing that the chance to download fresh episodes makes the fans more likely to purchase their merchandise.

Recently, our saviours on the download front have been TV-Nihon and WolfPack Productions (WPP). They recently finished up the Super Link series and have now started working on the newest incarnation of the Transformers concept, Galaxy Force. I got a hold of Cyberdramon, one of the lead figures in both of the groups, and he was more than happy to do this interview for us.

Björn ”Wave” Rudolfsson, February 2005.

Editor's note: The NTFA would like to make it clear that we do not condone the pirating and sharing of films, music and programs. We feel that cartoon episodes is a different matter though, as they are originally broadcasted on television (and available for anyone to tape), and the sharing of episodes actually works in Hasbro's and Takara's favour, in that it helps them advertise the toys to a higher number of potential buyers. 

Wave: Tell us about WPP and how you guys met and decided to do fansubs.

Cyberdramon: It was around April of 2002 when Digimon Frontier began airing in Japan. Many of us frequented a Digimon oriented IRC channel and a guy named Artlan was starting up the subbing of the first few episodes using scripts posted on a girl's Digimon fansite. I started helping with the editing and after doing episode six we found our own translator, Izumi. Then in July of that year we formed our own channel and established ourselves as a "real" fansubbing group.

Wave: There is a wide variety of series that you have done fansubs for. What is it that you look for in a series in order to fansub it?

Cyberdramon: Really all we look for is a series that we feel we can have fun doing. We don't like doing shows that could potentially be "over subbed" and want to try for more "cult" favourites.

Wave: We have had some heated discussions on our forum whether or not what you are doing is legal. The conclusion that it was illegal was reached, but we all also agreed that the subs were appreciated and that we would download the episodes even though they were technically illegal. What is your view on this subject?

Cyberdramon: Truth be told there's really not a whole lot you can do on the Internet that wouldn't be considered illegal by most of the larger countries. Even just purchasing a DVD from Japan if you live in the United States is technically illegal, that's why they have the region coding. It's really a call of morals. You have to ask yourself "Do you want to enjoy the show as it was originally intended?", if so then you have to be willing to suspend your ability to feel like what you're doing is a serious crime. I don't personally believe it's going to cause Hasbro or Takara any sort of monetary damage with the couple thousand people worldwide that download each episode especially considering how "Energon" is aired in the United States and it's target demographic. The "demographic" that the fansubs are hitting is a niche of fans. In reality, I think people have enjoyed Super Link more than Energon and it's caused them to also enjoy the physical merchandise more than they would have if they had only been exposed to Energon. I know that is the case with myself and a great multitude of the fans I've had contact with.

Wave: Have you ever run into legal problems because of your work?

Cyberdramon: Luckily no. It's my utmost hope that if we ever are contacted that we will be able to communicate effectively in a positive manner our desire as fans to have Hasbro/Takara take the effort and responsibility to provide us with an opportunity to enjoy the Japanese series uncut and in the original language.

Wave: I know you are a big fan of the Transformer concept. How did you first get in touch with it?

Cyberdramon: I've been a fan since 1984 when they started trickling out in the USA as a very small child. It's pretty much been non-stop since.

Wave: Are you interested in the toys as well?

Cyberdramon: Very much so. I spend a good portion of my wages on Transformer toys old and new.

Björn: Do you have a favourite character?

Cyberdramon: Right now I'd have to say my favourite character is Laserwave... and his little brother, Sixshot, too. Both from Super Link.

Wave: Which series do you hold as best so far?

Cyberdramon: I really greatly loved Beast Wars... However I think Super Link has uprooted it for the top spot.

Wave: How did you get the idea for doing Transformer series?

Cyberdramon: A looo~oong time ago (like 1993 or 1994) there were some TF websites that had a ton of info on Headmasters, Masterforce and Victory including some VERY grainy low quality sound clips of the opening and ending songs. I fell absolutely in love with all things having to do with the Japanese series at that time and it was always my hope, somehow, that they would bring those shows over. When I had the unfortunate displeasure of seeing the StarTV dubs I made a promise to myself that I would one day watch them in their original language. So after discovering anime and later getting involved with anime fansubbing and meeting like-minded people it seemed the only natural progression.

How and why did you (WPP) and TV-Nihon decide to make a joint effort with Super Link?

Cyberdramon: At the time TV-Nihon had the available translation power and WPP had a strong typesetter, editor and distro team.
(Editor's note: distro = distributor, a person who shares the newest releases.)

Wave: How come the co-operation stopped a few weeks ago?

Cyberdramon: It's difficult to really comment on the situation. It ended up just being mutually beneficial for both groups to end the projects as a joint.

Wave: Will TV-Nihon or WPP continue to give us fansubbed Galaxy Force episodes?

Cyberdramon: TV-Nihon has released, as of writing this, episode 4 just a few days after it aired. They plan to complete the series.

Wave: Will WPP and TV-Nihon perhaps join forces again in the future?

Cyberdramon: Probably not. TV-Nihon really wants to focus on Transformers and live action "tokusatsu" shows. WPP seeks to focus in on Digimon and Rockman.

Wave: At this moment, no new series has been announced by Takara/Hasbro, but when it is: Will you consider continuing working on that one as well?

Cyberdramon: TV-Nihon will continue to do all past and future Japanese TF shows.

Wave: Are the Transformer series you provide among the more popular series you sub?

Cyberdramon: I would say so. There was great interest in the older series especially. It's understandable that some sites don't wish to get involved in the whole "legal vs illegal" debate but it seems a great majority of fans were completely unaware that Super Link and even Masterforce and Headmasters were available to them. Hopefully we can find some way of better spreading the word.

Wave: What was the process each Super Link episode went through (from tv-rip to finished product)?

Cyberdramon: For Super Link there was a particular encoder in Japan whose version of the raw we'd wait until Tuesday for. I do believe it was encoded from HDTV. It'd then go to a person who would assign times to all the dialogue. From there the translator would go through each line and translate as well as translate any on screen signs or information. Afterwards it would be edited and sent to typesetting. The typesetter assigns the various fonts, positions the text, any of the "special effects" you see with the text. After that it goes to the encoder who assembles all the pieces into the final product. The final file gets distributed out to the distro team and about six hours after that it's released.

Wave: How long does it usually take you to do one episode?

Cyberdramon: Take for example this last episode of Galaxy Force. It airs Saturday morning in Japan. We're able to get the raw a few hours after that. It gets sent to the timer Saturday night and is timed and translated sunday afternoon. After that the editing and typesetting process don't take very long. The typical encoding process takes anywhere from two to six hours. With GF04 it was encoded three times before it went to distro. We released it Monday night.

Wave: A couple of months ago, a rumour was going around that you had been approached by a company to do subs for a DVD release of theirs. Could you shine some light on this?

Cyberdramon: Back in September of 2004 Metrodome, the license holder for Transformers in the UK, contacted me about providing WPP and TVN's subtitles for Headmasters, Masterforce and Victory. They had apparently announced their plans to do these series and were flooded with fans pleading that they do not use the StarTV dubs and instead requesting the original audio with faithful English subtitles. We were in communication for a while. I don't think they were quite experienced with the idea of Japanese anime versus a regular animated series. It turns out, unfortunately, they did not have access to the Japanese audio. However, it did give us great hope for the future.

Wave: Does WPP/TV-Nihon have any plans at all for releasing any other Transformer series?

Cyberdramon: TV-Nihon plans to do Micron Legend and Car Robots as well as any future series. We really want to do Beast Wars 2nd and Beast Wars Neo but unfortunately it's very difficult to get quality source for those two series. We hope Geneon Japan releases them on DVD soon like they've done the other series.

Wave: Have you ever been in contact officially (or otherwise) by Takara or Hasbro representatives for any reason?

Cyberdramon: Nope. Not a peep.

Wave: What are your thoughts on the upcoming live action film by Don Murphy?

Cyberdramon: I'm very excited! It seems like Don Murphy is very in touch with the fans so I think we'll be represented well as the TF mythos is translated into Hollywood's vision.

Wave: Do you believe Transformers is making its way back as a strong concept?

Cyberdramon: Did it ever really die? Well, I guess it did a little bit. I think we're very close to it being as popular as it was back in the day but I am somewhat relieved that Transformers isn't as saturated in the market this time around. I can only imagine that the TF movie will open the eyes of nostalgic fans and we'll really see a big explosion.

Thanks for giving me the opportunity to answer your questions!

Interview by Björn ”Wave” Rudolfsson,
Edited by Lars Eriksson,
The last revision was made on Thursday, March 31, 2005

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