My first competition and lessons learned

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My first competition and lessons learned

Postby rickadams » Thu Jul 04, 2013 9:59 am

My first con was Animinneapolis last year, which was a blast, but there was no AMV contest. This year one was announced, tho, so I decided to compete for the first time!

All the AMVs I'd made up to then (maybe 3 or 4 total) violated the rules for one reason or another, so I figured I'd make a new one. Genre? Comedy, of course. My editing skills aren't that great, the deadline was fast approaching, and it's always easy and quick to make something amusingly stupid.

The anime? Bodacious Space Pirates. I loved that show. So, to work. Asked all my friends for every song they could think of involving pirates, bought Sony Vegas (I decided doing AMVs with AVISynth and VirtualDub is just too hard), downloaded a BD season torrent of the series, and I was off.

I had a rough patch when I discovered Sony Vegas wouldn't import any of the .wmv files I'd downloaded, and then discovered ffmpeg, yay. I ended up liking quite a few songs and had a hard time deciding which to use when I realized -- hey, this is SUPPOSED to be stupid -- let's just use ALL of them.

The learning curve for Sony Vegas is a bit steep but not totally overwhelming. I searched out a lot of tutorials on Youtube which helped. I know enough now to do the basics, tho I am still learning the more advanced stuff.

And thus "" was born.

Here are some things I learned from competing:

I had a credits screen on the end but the rules said not to include that, so I deselected that track and encoded the file for the show, not thinking that this meant there would be a blank screen at the end for maybe 4 seconds. I should have trimmed that shorter to compensate. When it was shown at the show, everyone sort of stared blankly at the screen at the end thinking "Is something supposed to happen here?"

I normalized all the songs to 89 dB, which is what I usually do for all the music on my streaming Jpop station, but that turned out to be way too quiet. All the other videos were super loud, and then mine played and -- while it wasn't inaudible -- it sure lacked the same punch. There must be some universally understood dB level everyone normalizes to that I don't know about yet.

The video pixellated near the beginning like the player wasn't keeping up, so maybe the bitrate was too high, too low, or I made some other simple encoding mistake. My encoding-fu is not strong.

Also there was a scene that was very dark. Some of it was dark grey, some of it was black, and there was a lot of pixellation as the codec dithered between the two. That didn't look very good. More encoder-fu failure.

I tried very hard not to get my hopes up that I was going to win anything, telling myself the goal was to share my creation on the big screen, make people laugh, and to have fun.

But I was a bit disappointed I didn't win the comedy category (tho I did get a funny award for "Best Use of Attention Deficit Disorder" due to switching between five songs during the video, AMV Hell style). It did help that I thought the video that did win comedy totally deserved it. I was also disappointed with myself for feeling that way.

However, tho I went to bed that night feeling a little bummed, in the morning when I woke up I thought it was all completely hilarious, so that worked out.

My entry into the competition intrigued my son Joel, so he came along to the con for one day so he could be with me at the showing. He really enjoyed the whole day, and I loved having him with me. All the other AMVs shown were super impressive and/or funny. It was a great show and I'm thrilled to have been a part of it.

All in all it was more fun than ought to be legal, and I will give it a go next year without fail.
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Re: My first competition and lessons learned

Postby Seijin_Dinger » Thu Jul 04, 2013 7:33 pm

First suggestion, do not torrent your source
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Re: My first competition and lessons learned

Postby kireblue » Fri Jul 05, 2013 5:45 am

Seijin_Dinger wrote:First suggestion, do not torrent your source

not gonna lie though. That's what most people do nowadays. And in the case of Bodacious Space Pirates, it JUST came out on blu ray. But due to the rules of this site, posting about where to get said downloads is strictly forbidden.


But if you haven't already done so, I'd recommend that you check out this guide. http://www.animemusicvideos.org/guides/avtech31/ It has a lot of useful info in it that all AMV editors should learn. There is a segment in it that will help you for each of the problems that you experienced. And its not really that hard to learn. The amount of information in the guide is a bit intimidating though, so don't feel the need to learn it all at once. But once you do, it will all seem natural. I promise.

And in terms of your video, it was actually a really good attempt. I just think that the jokes dragged on too long. Imposing the rule that the AMV Hell series uses would have been beneficial. They require that all of the segments in their video be about 30 seconds long in order to keep the jokes new, funny, and straight to the point. Personally, I really like Bodacious Space Pirates, but since its not very well known, I'm always eager to see videos that use it :D

Keep up the good work. I look forward to seeing you grow as a editor. If you ever need any advice, just ask :D
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Re: My first competition and lessons learned

Postby AMVGuide » Fri Jul 05, 2013 5:40 pm

rickadams wrote:There must be some universally understood dB level everyone normalizes to that I don't know about yet.

Oh, but if only that were the case. Same with the volumes of TV commercials.
Anyway, I'll refer you to The Loudness War:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Gmex_4hreQ

Now, here's where the problem comes in for an AMV contest: Different songs have different Dynamic Ranges (The difference between the loudest part and the quietest part). As such, High Dynamic Range Music is going to sound quieter because it's loudest part is only going to be as loud as the loudest part of other music in the playlist-- and the rest of the song is naturally quieter. Conversely, Low Dynamic Range Music is going to sound louder. Why? Because it only has one volume level: Loud. And unfortunately, people have a natural tendency to think louder music is better quality, so you just have to deal with whatever you've got. This means you'll probably have to sacrifice your dynamic range if you want your music to sound louder. I know, it sucks. I like my loud parts loud, and my quiet parts quiet. If you want to take that route, Audacity has a dynamic range compressor, and a number of other things you can play around with. Then just aim for the loudest you can make it in the timeline without your peaks going out of range and causing distortion. The only other way around it would be to work together with contest coordinators to make the music in other AMVs quieter... but that's not very likely to happen. So, I guess the take-home message is: If you are sending to an AMV contest, you may have to sacrifice the dynamic range of the music, otherwise it will sound quiet. (Of course, that's not a problem with online distribution where your audio can be as dynamic as you want it to be.)

Anyways, I'm glad you enjoyed your first AMV contest :up: and if you need technical help, consider checking out my blog:
http://amvguide.blogspot.ca/
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Re: My first competition and lessons learned

Postby AceD » Fri Jul 05, 2013 6:05 pm

Seijin_Dinger wrote:First suggestion, do not torrent your source
Makes more sense to nowadays. The encoder of said release will have cleaned up and filtered the footage for you so it already looks fantastic. Encoders in these circles are pretty elitist about their work, and it will look better than if you went to all the effort of ripping and doing it yourself.

So no, shitty suggestion if I'm honest.

If you are all about the morale high horse, go ahead and buy it. I'd still download it from somebody who can actually encode at a high level though.
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Re: My first competition and lessons learned

Postby Ileia » Fri Jul 05, 2013 6:11 pm

Yeah, I'd agree with the above. Sometimes I own the DVDs and the torrent is better quality than what I am able to produce (I suck at cleaning up footage >_> ), so I just use the downloaded footage. It' s a don't-talk-about-fight-club thing, though, so shhhhhh, don't tell! We have to pretend like we don't do that! And scoff at those who do!
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Re: My first competition and lessons learned

Postby mirkosp » Fri Jul 05, 2013 7:06 pm

It's one thing to download content you purchased to begin with.
It's another to leech it all while ignoring the fact that, yes, anime producers do need a return on investment to keep doing what we enjoy to the point of making music videos to.

But hey. Bodacious Space Pirates is available on Crunchyroll. You can get a Premium CR subscription for like 5 bucks a month (4.99 eur, not sure what's the price in usd). And with that you ain't going to have any moral quasm since you essentially paid for all the sources available on CR. Which is a whole damn lot.

And now onto quality. 98% of encodes out there are technically worse than what can be achieved by using the original source (BDs if available, same goes for DVDs, or even for shows airing which are only available on CR or through capped transport stream) and doing a proper job with it (assuming one is able to do it). This percentual amount increases if we are strictly talking about English fansubs. The number is a rounded down extimate, actually. This is becuase the real elitist encoders aren't encoding anymore, and by virtue of better tools being available now, all their older encodes have largely been made irrelevant. The encoders left now only care about getting shit done fast. Which means they'll be fine with kinda ok results and just inflate the filesize when issues arise from their compression.
Sadly, for some sources doing a very good encode means opening up photoshop and fixing shit the hard way. That's probably not a problem for an AMVer who just has to clean up to perfection about 3 to 4 minutes of footage at worst, generally.
But yes, ideally it's possible to do better than both on-disk footage and fansubs around, and for most BD sources that's quite trivial nowadays. Just that the encodes you'll find around rarely were done by encoders which did bother, or are too old to be at that level.

Then again, this is all based on the flawed assumption that effort is the only thing one would need to do better, which isn't inherently true (there's a fair amount of knowledge involved too). So unless you're willing to go through a good deal of learnings, you might just as well stick to what's good enough.

Doesn't excuse you from paying for what you enjoy, though.
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Re: My first competition and lessons learned

Postby Pwolf » Sun Jul 07, 2013 12:38 am

Pirate/Purchase aside...

rickadams wrote:However, tho I went to bed that night feeling a little bummed, in the morning when I woke up I thought it was all completely hilarious, so that worked out.
...
All in all it was more fun than ought to be legal, and I will give it a go next year without fail.


High-five for having an awesome attitude and goodluck next time!
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Re: My first competition and lessons learned

Postby Seijin_Dinger » Sat Jul 13, 2013 1:42 am

AceD wrote:
Seijin_Dinger wrote:First suggestion, do not torrent your source
Makes more sense to nowadays. The encoder of said release will have cleaned up and filtered the footage for you so it already looks fantastic. Encoders in these circles are pretty elitist about their work, and it will look better than if you went to all the effort of ripping and doing it yourself.

So no, shitty suggestion if I'm honest.

If you are all about the morale high horse, go ahead and buy it. I'd still download it from somebody who can actually encode at a high level though.


I shall not retract my suggestion, and if you wish to think less of me, or whine about me on my moral high horse, that is merely your oppinion
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Re: My first competition and lessons learned

Postby rickadams » Wed Jul 17, 2013 9:59 pm

Certainly I have a Crunchyroll subscription and I absolutely love it, tho I don't think that gets me off the hook. I was just amazed by all the things that I learned from competing and being in the room when my video was being shown in front of a crowd that I would NOT have learned otherwise. Also, my participation in the contest got my son to go to the con with me, which just made me so stinking happy that I don't have words. Again, it was more fun than ought to be legal.
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Re: My first competition and lessons learned

Postby zibbazabba905 » Fri Aug 02, 2013 5:12 pm

The one I was in, it was an awesome feel to hear/see your stuff on the big screen/speakers. I think the audience cheered at the end, but I think that's more because the whole competition was over.

Threw another one in a smaller competition (voting by cheer) and was kinda surprised to hear people liked it
"Uhmmm... You know... it was at that point that I realized that maybe Thierry wasn't actually a film maker, and he was maybe just someone with mental problems who happened to have a camera. " -Banksy
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Re: My first competition and lessons learned

Postby Mr Pilkington » Mon Aug 05, 2013 4:06 pm

Stick it out, become ancient like the rest of us old fogies Image
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Re: My first competition and lessons learned

Postby BasharOfTheAges » Mon Aug 05, 2013 6:28 pm

Mr Pilkington wrote:Image

When did we get a :vlad: emote?
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Re: My first competition and lessons learned

Postby Mr Pilkington » Mon Aug 05, 2013 7:09 pm

Same time we got the MJ emote Image
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<inthesto> He takes her stuff / <inthesto> And then poops in her vagina
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