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How does Demosaicing really work?—Interviewing Image Editor hubb2001

Hello, everyone! It’s been a month (this interview was conducted on August 29th 2023) since our last interview and this time, we have a big name many may recognize: hubb2001!

We made a table for you: check all the titles Hubb worked on!

TitleRelease Date
Irotoridori no SekaiTBA
Clover Day’s2023-08-18
Gears of Dragoon: Fragments of a New Era2023-09-28
Onii♥Kiss: Onii-chan, Where’s My Kiss?2023-06-07
Sugar Sweet Temptation2023-07-29
Yamizome Revenger2021-11-05
The Future Radio and the Artificial Pigeons2023-02-17
World’s Horniest Housewife – Rikky Horne2021-03-19
Chinkamo Twins! -My Twin Sisters Are Totally Into Me!?-2022-07-01
Secret Agent2023-09-29
My Klutzy Cupid2023-07-21

We’ll talk about everything — from the beginning of his career in the VN industry to tips to beginners looking for a guiding light. We hope this is was as illuminating to you as it was to us, so please leave a comment telling us what you think!

Fujoneko: Thank you for granting us this interview! I’d like to start with some basic questions. For starters, could you introduce yourself?

Hubb: Of course! The pleasure’s all mine. I’m hubb2001, although most people just call me hubb. I’m a freelance image editor who mainly focuses on visual novels. I’ve done work with JAST USA, Sekai Project, NekoNyan, and Love Lab. And I’ve been in the industry since about the end of 2020, so coming up on three years now.

F: The VN community, albeit growing in the West, is still very niche. How did you get into it as a reader and a fan?

Hubb: This one’s pretty funny as I can actually remember the exact moment, and even have a screenshot of the beginning of my fall into the rabbit hole. Edited to protect the guilty of course. Basically, back in late 2017 a guy I knew sent me an image of a Hachiroku Dakimakura, gave me the source, and I noticed it was about trains. I’ve always liked trains, especially steam trains. So my interest was peaked. Unfortunately at that time Maitetsu was still about 6~7 months from being released in English, so I had time to kill. I decided if I wanted to enjoy this “visual novel” I had better understand what visual novels were, so from there while I waited I started with Nekopara and Fate (Although to this day I have only finished the Fate route), before picking up a few fresh releases such as the first volume of A Clockwork Leyline and Newton and the Apple Tree. The rest, as they say, is history.

She looks like Yaya from Unbreakable Machine Doll

F: Before actually working as an editor, was there anything in particular you wanted to do in this industry? Also, what was the trigger for you to consider image editing? Was there any work (VN or otherwise) that inspired you to do this job?

Hubb: I actually started out by trying to get into Manga typesetting. I had just naturally ended up joining a doujin scanlation group around late 2018/early 2019, so typesetting seemed like the natural next step. Unfortunately, despite my discussions with them at Anime Expo 2019, Sol Press never responded to my application email. So I branched out a bit, ended up involved with some fan translations to keep my skills sharp, such as Kami no Rhapsody, while keeping people I knew in the industry aware that I was looking for an in. I don’t think I had any real particular goals for being in the industry, outside of being able to help bring games that I wanted westward.

F: This overlaps a bit with the last question, but when did start taking your first steps into editing as a job? Do you have any practical tips for people interested in this position? It’s not exactly a very popular pick; most people don’t even realize there are professionals behind that aspect of localization.

Hubb: As I mentioned previously, around 2018 I just happened to fall into a typesetting role for a scanlation group. They had a translator and editor already and were just asking in a Discord if anyone wanted to do photoshop for them. So I decided screw it, why not. And so I did, and the next week we released a translation for “Fate/Gentle Order 3 “lily“”. From there I just kinda continued working with them and ended up learning a lot of photoshop in the process. Some time after, I believe after I failed to get in to Sekai Project as QA, I decided I might try and aim for some more VN image editing, so I asked around and was directed to Kami no Rhapsody‘s recruiting thread on Fuwanovel. Sent their leader a PM and bam, I was in. That project actually taught me a lot and I consider a lot of my current success thanks to some of the skills I learned there.

After that in late 2020 I finally had my break as someone in the industry was looking for an image editor for a project and my name was put forward. So ultimately, having some past experience to point to, and being loud in the right places. Networking with people already in the scene so if something comes up your name can be thrown out also definitely helps. So just be active in those official discords so people recognize your name!

Fateful Beginnings (on Fuwanovel)

F: What is it like to work as an image editor in general? Any big pros or cons? If possible, could you comment on your experience working with NekoNyan?

Hubb: It’s chaotic at times. Every project is different, every company organizes things in their own way, even if they use the same engine. Sometimes, companies will refuse to give layered PSDs, or have just lost them, so even official work can be forced to work “fan translation style” sometimes. The biggest pro is that I often get access to high-resolution dev assets before they’re scaled down into the game. Assets that almost no one outside of the original devs ever gets to see. I think that’s pretty cool.

The biggest con is that I often have to end up spoiling myself before we have a build that I can read. For example, I’m currently working on Mysteries of the Heart: The Psychic Detective Case Files for NekoNyan, which has a lot of heavy mystery. But a lot of that mystery is presented via images—images that I have to work on. So, unfortunately, now I may know whodunnit despite not even knowing who that who actually is.

The other con would be that it can be kinda dull at times. Many games have to have demosaiced assets integrated, which can be hundreds of images that I have to slowly and manually copy over from a dev PSD and scale down to game size. It’s not hard work, just slow and dull at times. But otherwise I think it’s great, I’ve worked with a lot of fantastic people over the years who have really inspired me. Shout out specifically to Bango for being the first translator I worked with officially who actually recognized me when I was brought onto his project*, made me feel a lot more confident for that first time.

*Hubb refers to Laplacian/PRINCIPIA’s World’s Horniest Housewife: Rikky Horne, published in English by JAST USA here.

F: This might be somewhat repeating the question, but for those interested in following this path: what are some of the roadblocks and difficulties one must overcome as an image editor?

Hubb: The biggest roadblock I think is definitely just getting that first project to begin with. There really aren’t a lot of image editors in the industry, but that’s because ultimately there aren’t that many needed. Compared to Translators/Editors, whose work can take months to even years depending on the project, image editing on average has less time investment per game. There are exceptions of course, but if the assets are well-organized and layered, it’s not that hard to finish a project quickly. For example, my first project with Love Lab, Chinkamo Twins, I did 98% of it in a single night. That one was exceptionally fast, but still most don’t take more than a month. So in order to keep people regularly employed, there can’t be too many of us. And once you’re in you can kind of, stake a claim on specific companies due to being familiar with their asset layout. If you can get over that hurdle, the biggest hurdle will really depend on whose assets you’re working with. As I mentioned before, some companies are better than others at sending their localization team good assets. And sometimes you’ll have just figure out how to recreate something from scratch. So you really have to learn to go trace on heh.

F: Diving more into technical territory, what tools do you use?

Hubb: I use practically 100% Photoshop. If we’re given good assets, they’re going to be PSDs, and while other programs can open them I don’t see a reason to risk unexpected incompatibility. I’ve only recently branched out to another tool, ImageMagick for converting images. As one of my current project makes use of .BMP files (which can be messy to deal with transparency on), I use it to convert them to .PNG. I really wish I had known about it back when working on Kami no Rhapsody since that used .BMPs, it would have saved me hours of headaches! I know coming up I’ll also have a project that will probably require me to use InDesign, so ultimately like a lot of other industry’s I’m beholden to Adobe.

F: What skills (technical or general) would you say are critical for this job?

Hubb: Skipping the generic skills that apply to every job (time management, networking, etc.,) you obviously need to be skilled with an image editing software, as well as an ability to Google for things regarding that software, and a willingness to admit that you still have a lot to learn. I’m mostly self taught, but what others have taught me when I realized I needed help are some of the most valuable skills I now use. And a lot of the work I’m most proud of was only done because I asked my seniors in the industry for their advice.

Double triple huge shoutout to Kaitsu for being there for my stupid questions and being willing to hop on a Discord call for someone who was at the time a nobody who was struggling. Otherwise, curiosity on how things are made always help. Sometimes when playing a game now I’ll find myself wondering how the assets are arranged, how that effect was made, and how I’d try and recreate it if I had to. I also have a few places that I keep tips I’ve accumulated over the years. Just recently, I had a project where I remembered I had written down exactly how to do what I was looking to do purely as a what-if scenario, two years ago.

F: Let’s say you get a client: how would the entire process be? It can be just the general idea of it, from the initial negotiations to the actual delivery.

Hubb: It depends, especially in the visual novel sphere. There are a lot of companies that are more… lax on protocol, compared to elsewhere. Nowadays, I don’t really take new clients, I just accept projects from existing ones. And each of those clients had a different introduction. Two of them reached out to me, and two of them I reached out to. For my first client, there was a lot more up front negotiating, signing a NDA, agreeing on rates, getting project assets, signing on to places I needed access, etc etc. From there things became a lot more relaxed as I use the connections I had made out of those first projects to worm my way into other projects from other companies. Compared to when Meru approached me to work with Love Lab, I didn’t discuss rates before I had practically completed my first project there since I trusted her. Nowadays since it’s all known clients the only “negotiation” is if I have to ask for more time on a deadline, or in NekoNyan’s case, which of us image editors is actually taking on that project.

F: I know this is a hot question for many, but how does demosaicing really work? Is there any redrawing involved or do you employ other methods?

Hubb: To address the elephant in the room, yes there are releases in which the demosaics are newly drawn. Not many, and for example JAST will only license if they can get the assets straight from the dev — but they do exist. I’ve never done it myself though (I’m not nearly talented enough at drawing genitalia.) Realistically speaking, from an outside view, there’s no good way to actually tell — the people who do redraw are very talented.

As for me, my work demosaicing only regularly involves taking the dev’s PSD file, often one that just has a layer for “mosaic” and converting it without the mosaic into either the game-formatted PSD or exporting to a list of PNGs. Sometimes, this involves a tiny amount of touchup to make sure things blend well, sometimes I only want to transfer the penis, but the mosaic is larger than the penis so it’s outlined by it. So I have to manually clean out the mosaic. This generally only happens if there is a color difference between the dev’s assets and the game build and we’ve been told to use what we’ve got. But other than that, all the demosaics you see from me are straight from the artist themselves (for better or worse.) And of course, if they are newly drawn, we would have to get permission from the original developers first.

F: Could you tell us about your favorite projects? Maybe even the less enjoyable ones?

Hubb: Ooh this one’s tough. I think my biggest dream-come-true project so far was the fact that I was able to do the SD art for the A Clockwork Leyline Trilogy, as well as the full UI editing for Leyline 3. I mentioned it earlier, but Leyline 1 was one of my first visual novels that I read, and since 2 and 3 took so long due to engine troubles, I actually read 2 and 3 in Japanese, having only started learning after reading that first one. So it was a massive how-did-I-get-here moment when I was given the chance to join the project and get it across the finish line.

I’ve also heavily enjoyed working on the Sol Press rescue projects like Future Radio and Irotoridori no Sekai (I consider it a small act of revenge for ghosting me back in 2019.) A special shoutout to my one engine worker credited on the NekoNyan’s re-release of Onikiss — that one has a story behind it that will be fun to tell at a convention some day.

I don’t think any of my projects have been downright unenjoyable. Some of them are harder than others for sure, though. Mysteries of the Heart: The Psychic Detective Case Files‘s heavy mystery laden images have had some interesting challenges that we had to come up with some creative solutions for. But those challenges are just part of the fun.

F: Do you have any dream project, VN or otherwise?

Hubb: Do I ever. I mentioned before how Maitetsu was my driving force that got me into visual novels; well, it’s still my favorite game to this day. And everything I enjoyed about it was enhanced even further in the sequel Maitetsu – Last Run!! And I would give a lot to be able to bring that and Monobeno -Happy End- westward. I haven’t won the lottery to fund it yet sadly, although not for lack of trying. To be able to put my name on that game would be a definite dream come true. A true 10/10 once-in-a-lifetime game. Until then, though, I have to make do with enjoying season two of the Rail Romanesque spinoff when it airs later this year. Or convince someone to let me typeset the Maitetsu manga

Hubb’s Maitetsu collection!
(Not included: Dakimakuras, shikishis, wallscrolls, and a few figures still unboxed)

F: Any last words for Fuwa and for the community? Or even to those aspiring to get into the industry?

Hubb: Be kind to each other! Both for fans and aspiring localizers, making friends is one of the best ways to advance your understanding of the industry. Unless the NDA doesn’t let us, most of us are quite happy to talk about our work, if you’re genuinely curious. If you have questions about the industry, don’t be afraid to ask. Just be kind and respectful when asking. I’m biased, but I’d recommend the NekoNyan Discord, there’s plenty of active translators and editors (plus me!) willing to help you.
If you have other questions for me, you can also find me on Twitter (Not calling it X) as @hubb2001.

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Weird little gremlin who likes all the fucked up stuff; if a story doesn't leave you in shambles, what's even the point? Functional fujoshi, at your service.

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