*sigh* Well, since I'm one of the ranking (or should that be just 'rank'?
) old guys here (old enough that I can only really refer to Vlad as my uncle and not as 'Dad'...) who's been at this for... 12 years now, albeit not exactly consistently, combined with my natural tendency to ramble on (DW is probably getting ready to type TL;DR already... he probably has it on hotkey from reading my LJ entries
), this could get a bit long.
General History: Cartoons and this Anime stuff
I've been a big cartoon and animation fan all my life- when I was a kid and stationed in Germany with my family (the first time) AFN would show such treats as Battle of the Planets, Speed Racer, and Silverhawks. BotP (aka Gatchaman) is the first show that I can remember watching that I can now identify as having been dubbed and hacked up anime. Later when back in the states, the Force 5 cartoon block- a collection of 5 robot/sci-fi shows including Starzinger (known as Spaceketeers) and the original Gaiking was a must-watch for me every day, as was Voltron. My first real experience with just how awesome anime could really
be was Robotech- characters actually died
, even in the hacked up Robotech version of Macross, Southern Cross, and Mospeada. I also watched plenty of domestic animation- DW can shove it, as I always liked Chip 'n Dale's Rescue Rangers more than Duck Tales.
In 1993, I headed back to the states (my family was then on their second tour to Germany) to what was once (and still is, to myself and many others) the University of Missouri at Rolla for college. While there, I made a number of friends who I would play roleplaying games like Rifts and Shadowrun with- and who eventually, halfway on accident and halfway by luck, dragged me to my first meeting of the school's anime club. It was all downhill from there, with my being part of the crew that eventually dragged the club out of a secluded room and to filling one of the biggest auditorium classrooms on good days and being a force to be reckoned with in the school's Student Council (we were an engineering school- everyone
was pretty much a nerd of some sort...).
First Exposure to AMVs
This was the early, nascent era of anime fandom- DVDs had been invented but were not any kind of consumer phenomenon, only a few shows (Ranma being the one that stands out the most) had even begun to be released on VHS commercially, and the internet- while extant and beginning to show some of the form it would eventually take- was still largely text-based. Pretty much all the anime that we got was via VHS fansubs, usually several generations old copied by friends of friends or occasionally directly from the fansubbers and traded between clubs like my own.
It was through these VHS fansubs that I first experienced AMVs. Several groups would tack on AMVs- either their own, as I believe was the case for Arctic (hey look, several old guys just cringed
), or just any that they had around and enjoyed. Probably the earliest video that I really remember seeing was by 'Philip von Fogler', and was a various video set to Bonnie Tyler's 'Holding out for a Hero'. I still have a VHS copy of this video and a capture of it to computer, as well as a number of other really old ones. This video completely amazed me how well it synced up- both at the time, and it still holds up well as being rather good now even if the picture quality is rather lacking given its age and source material. Still, it and those early, grainy VHS AMVs tacked onto my fansubs as afterthoughts to my fansub tapes laid the seed that would eventually sprout to become my entry into making AMVs...
The Early Years: No-Brand Videos
At the time, I was sharing a house a bit off campus with four other anime-club-member fans/friends, and generally just enjoying those middle-years of my undergraduate work where I had plenty of time for whatever I wanted. I watched lots of anime, played a lot of video games, and stayed up entirely too late many nights playing online on anime-themed MUDs/MUSHs. Somewhere in there in the summer of 1996, three of us- myself, Ben, and ZJ (aka Tenchi) were sitting around chatting and listening to CDs in the changer on random when my 'Last Action Hero' soundtrack CD came up and played AC/DC's 'Big Gun'. Listening to it, one of us (I don't remember which... I doubt any of us do...) said, "You know, you could really easily make an AMV to this....". We all had to agree this was true. And then, being bored that night, we decided, "Why don't we give it a try?" Shortly thereafter, we had a bunch of our anime tapes all over the living room floor and had made the (very few- our VCRs were already set up to dub fansubs anyway) wiring connection changes necessary to facilitate what we wanted to do. Over the next few hours or so, alternately arguing over what scene/show to use next and trying to get the timing right on our very much consumer-grade VCRs, the first 30 seconds or so of the video was recorded. I still have this tape- it's one of the few VHS tapes (along with the rest of the NBV video masters) that I will probably never get rid of even though I've long since digitized it. That night was a weeknight though, so we reveled in what we'd accomplished and turned in for the night.
The next day, the delight of working on our first AMV was still fresh in our minds. For some reason or another, I had to go by our school's library. While there and talking with one of my friends who worked there who was also an anime fan (though a lot more casual of one than I was), I mentioned our AMV work the night before. Somehow, the conversation turned to the fact that the library- courtesy of a grant a ways back- had a small collection of computers equipped for video editing. As likely comes a no surprise, I made a reservation for the group of us to come back that evening to try one of them out. The computer we ended up working on was a blazing fast Pentium 90 with 128 MB of RAM- the most memory we'd ever seen
in a computer at that time, and it had hard drives that were measured in GIGABYTES
! Also that most hard drive space we'd ever actually seen on a computer. It was equipped with a very specialized (and rather rare... I've never found one again- somewhat annoying since I still have discs with the files encoded in its own special hardware codec....) video capture/output card called a Plum Card. After a crash course in Premiere by the resident expert- a guy named Jeremy Squires who would eventually go on to work in Hollywood in digital effects- we were on our way, with me at the controls of Premiere and the other two helping out. We eventually, in effect, made that first video twice
due to how cantankerous and crash-prone that computer and Premiere were- but it did eventually get made. 'Big Gun' remains the only of my original videos from the No-Brand Videos (what we, being huge Koko wa Greenwood fans, eventually decided to call our little editing team) that I've not gone back and remastered- largely because it used some stuff that I still
have a hard time finding a good enough source for to justify remastering it. Going back and watching it, it's nothing groundbreaking- it's your typical lyric-matching action video (well, except where we couldn't understand the lyrics- and this was before easily being able to search the web and find the lyrics to songs...). But, it was our first taste of success in making a video- and we were thrilled with the results.
No-Brand Videos eventually made a total of five videos- that original Big Gun video, a Urusei Yatsura video to Saigon Kick's 'Love is on the Way' (Ben and I were huge UY fans), a various romance video to Little Texas's version of Disney's 'Kiss the Girl' (I've lost count of how many times people have told me they want to go back and remake this to the original version of the song...), a Macross Plus video to Savatage's (in effect, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra) 'Sarajevo 12/24' which was a definite challenge for us since it was the first instrumental video we'd tried and involved a totally different type of sync, and finally my first (but FAR
from last) foray into audio editing when I made a custom-cut of Gina G's 'Ooh Ahh (Just a Little Bit)' to set the Tenchi TV opening animation to without making any video cuts. All of these videos were pretty much made over the course of no more than a year- honestly, I don't remember the exact timing for a lot of them. If I go back and check the original masters and their credits I know they have the details- but it's not that
important. Eventually though, the fact that we were college students caught up with us and we were forced to devote our time to things like actually finishing up our (current) degrees and our research work, and we didn't have the time to spare for flights of fancy like making AMVs.
Despite being entirely made using a NLE system, those early 5 videos were very definitely of the 'old school' variety. I didn't learn (and that by accident...) to change the speed of video to help make scenes fit better until the third video, which was also my first experience rotoscoping- the Urusei Yatsura VHS tapes (everything was VHS source- and much of it subbed, making scene selection harder) which we were using were hard-subbed. Normally we would simply crop the subtitles out, but for this scene there were both spoken and
song subtitles, meaning if I cropped the scene I'd have to crop out nearly half of the total area. This meant I spent several evenings painting out the subtitles in Photoshop. The biggest effect we used in any of the videos was a fade or some rare text. One of the videos (Kiss the Girl) even incorporated some live-action footage shot of me playing the intro to the song on the piano- an effect which turned out absolutely perfectly IMO, though unfortunately that raw footage was not archived off at the end, making it hard to remaster properly.
Back then, we made the videos purely because we loved to make them, and about the only people that ever saw what we made were the other members of our anime club when we'd bring the videos in and show them before starting that week's showings or between shows as a buffer. The idea of entering them into a contest against other videos didn't even occur to us until a year or so after we finished the last of them. The first contest that we entered I believe was AX 1998. Our first foray into entering AMV contests wasn't very encouraging... back in the day of way before digital submissions, there were two ways to submit: mail the tapes in, or hand-deliver them. As we decided that we were going to actually go to the con (Kamiya Akira was one of the headline guests...), we opted to hand-deliver the two tapes with our entries (Big Gun & Love is on the Way), and upon getting our badges tracked down somebody who knew what we were talking about with entering the contest and dropped off our tapes. When the contest screening came later in the con (they pre-screened the entries and cut it down to a reasonable length), we were very surprised to find that neither video was shown- especially since there were a number of videos that (at least in our admittedly rather biassed opinion) were far inferior to our own. After the screening was done we headed over to talk to the contest coordinator, who didn't think he'd seen our videos but couldn't say for sure. We'd brought another copy of them though and after snagging the tape from our room and popping it into the VCR there at the contest, less than 5 seconds in he said quite definitively, "No, I definitely didn't see this one when we screened the videos last night." Somehow, the staffers had lost
both our entry tapes and they never got the chance to even compete in the contest. The tapes did resurface by the end of the con (and I still have those too), but we missed out on any chance of seeing how they stacked up against the other competition (if my memory from a decade back serves, Brad DeMoss's Speed Racer/The Distance video won).
It would be half a decade and something of another lifetime before I entered another AMV contest, or for that matter actually completed a new video.
Interlude: Grad School, Work, and Married Life
After those initial five videos, I still tooled around a bit with videos on my personal computer with cheap capture cards, but never really had the time or hardware to do much more than fool around. Over these years, the internet matured considerably and computer power grew in leaps and bounds and for the first time I could download
music videos and see a whole lot more of them. I saw my first videos by Doki, VicBond, and Kevin Caldwell. In those years, I finished up my undergrad degree, met my wife-to-be, finished my grad degree and got a job, and eventually married. I got closest to making a new video in the year after graduation and before getting married- toying with the idea of a Battle Athletess Daiundokai video to Chariots of Fire- but I just didn't have the computing hardware to make it to my satisfaction, having been heavily spoiled by the realtime capabilities of the Plum card. In the first year I was married and living in the New Haven area, I toyed with making a Now and Then, Here and There video to Genesis's 'Land of Confusion' as well as getting a start on the video idea that would eventually be revisited and finished some 6 years later as 'Party Like It's 2032
I got a serious nudge toward picking my old hobby back up when I, largely on a whim, volunteered to help as Tech Staff at Anime Expo New York. Held in Times Square in 2002, it was only a short train ride from my then-residence in Stamford, and it sounded like fun. While there I worked hard, cosplayed as an Afro Ken, and had some of the hardware eventually necessary to get the AMV contest running in the bag of wires & adapters I'd brought with me- and was thus there for the screening of the contest itself. There was a lot in that contest that was just 'blah' IMO- but there were also some really good videos, and I got the first chance ever to talk to a few other editors who were there. I left with a renewed interest in AMVs and a determination that I was going to give it another shot.
Since DW Complained that he wanted charts and pictures, here's a picture of a cutely traumatized Tsukasa:
Back Into the Fire: Fall 2002 & the Mission: Improbable Project
I fiddled around a lot, not doing anything particularly successful or serious as I learned the ropes of using DVDs as source and how to pull off the Bait and Switch method of editing which served to make life so much easier for so long. The disconnected schedules of my wife and I meant that I regularly had a few hours at home on my own before she'd get back in which I could work, as well as time later on when she was watching stuff on TV that I had no interest in. I joined the 'Org and started to feel my way around, though I think I largely just lurked or asked questions on the technical forums back then (kind of an ironic inverse of now- where I largely lurk and occasionally try and answer
questions in the technical forums...).
My first real impetus to make a real video came as many of the great things in my life have- on a complete whim. Some crazy fools decided that it would be neat to try and make a video where they took a 7-minute or so techno song and split it up into little pieces and let different editors make each segment of it. Though I'd not completed anything at that point, on a whim I emailed and asked to be given a track, and somewhat to my surprise was
. Since I had it handy and love the show, I ended up using the Battle Athletess Daiundokai TV series (Battle Athletes Victory as it's known to most) and making a completely random and nonsensical video with lots of colored flashes and some weird backgrounds I managed to put together in AfterEffects- somewhat impressive given I had no clue
what the heck I was doing in the program at the time. My segment (Battle Athletess Disco Scene
) wasn't the best by a long shot I'm sure- but it did fit in reasonably well, and I was thrilled to have actually completed something and to truly be a part of the AMV community again. It's pretty amusing looking back over the list of us that were on that project- some I clearly remember having been on it, but I had completely forgotten that Koop was actually a part of it too. I actually completely two segments- there were some last-minute problems with some tracks, and I volunteered to make a backup track which would technically be the first AMV that I know of to attempt to use Moko Moko Afro Ken.
Diving Back into editing and the con scene full-force: 2003
Over the winter of 2002/2003 after the Mission: Improbable video, I dove headlong back into video editing, learning a lot more about all the software in the Adobe Creative Suite that I'd picked up thanks to a friend's educational discount (as an aside- I still use this package to edit on, though I fear I will soon have to at least upgrade one or two of the program). Through all of this, the concept for Dark Metropolis
was born. Bending the Metropolis anime around the Dark City theatrical trailer, it was exponentially more ambitious than the M:IP segment had been, and would require much revisiting of the rotoscoping that I'd hated so much back in the No-Brand Videos days. Though I had gotten fairly good at some effects work (especially text, which I to this day love to work with) I was still yet to really learn to mask in it, so all of the work was done in Photoshop frame-by-frame with filmstrip (.flv) files. When completed, watching Dark Metropolis gave me chills- I couldn't believe that I'd actually pulled off almost exactly
what I had wanted to with it. The closing text effects and the 3-D lettering over the corona are still some of my favorite effects that I've ever done.
Thrilled with the video, I decided that I would take a risk and submit it to a contest- Katsucon 2003. I fully expected it not to get in- and was thus shocked when I got a call several weeks before the con telling me that it had indeed made the contest and would be shown in the main events room in front of thousands of people at the screenings. Though I had at the time made no plans to do so, I quickly set about trying to go to the convention so I could be there to see the video played. Here fate intervened- VicBond and his crew had several rooms and were looking to stuff as many people into them to keep costs down, and I secured a spot in their room and hopped on a train down to DC to meet Vic, Hsien, Nate, Alan, and many others who at the time were either completely unknown to me or these larger-than-life figures who I only knew through their videos.
Katsu 2003 was something of a blur to me- I had a great time getting to know all the other editors and generally enjoying the con. But the AMV contest showing was what I most looked forward to- and I was entranced watching Dark Metropolis shown before thousands of people for the first time. I've now been making videos and entering contests for over 5 years now, but that feeling is something that never really changes- it's just electrifying and frightening at the same time. Dark Metropolis was in my opinion at the time rather good (and I still consider it as such), but I had very little in the way of illusions of it having a shot at winning everything- there were a number of much better videos IMO, not least of which were two that remain favorites of mine: Hsien's Elephant Love Medley and Vic's Cowboy Bebop 007. So, when the awards ceremony came, I happily sat there expecting to see my new friends take home all the trophies. And in that I wasn't disappointed- Vic and Hsien between them took all but two of the awards. I completely forget who won the other one- but you could have knocked me over with a feather when they announced that Dark Metropolis had won, "Best Action". In reality it had only really won due to the coordinators (Katsu was then- I don't know about now- primarily judged by a panel and not by popular vote) not wanting to give Vic every
award at the show- but that at the same time meant that they'd been impressed enough that it wouldn't be completely out of place to give it the award. I went home from the con- amid a massive blizzard that trapped many at the con hotel for another day- even more fired up about editing than ever before.
The months that followed saw me getting much more comfortable with After Effects and editing in general. 2003 was I believe my most productive year ever in AMV creation, turning out a total of 8 videos- including the video that I'm probably most remember for (or at least was until BTTY...), Who Let the 'Fros Out
. I attended and entered the contests at the then brand-new Tekkoshocon, Anime Central, and gambled on entering WLTFO into Otakon's AMV contest- then (and still by and large) regarded as being one of the most competitive contests in the country, turning away 3 to 4 times as many videos as were actually accepted and shown. As with Katsu, I wholly expected to not get in, having attended one of the prescreenings and seen what I would be up against. And yet, I again was flabbergasted when I was notified that I had indeed made the finals- and that WLTFO would be leading off the Comedy category at the showing. Again I had to make last-minute plans to go to the con- this time ending up in a room with an editor I'd met and befriended at ACen earlier- Daniel Chang. Somehow I survived that weekend, despite the fact we were like a mile and a half away from the convention center. Given its competition- primarily Doki's 'Lollipops, Sunshine, and Rrrrrr'- I unsurprisingly didn't win at Otakon (as I hadn't at ACen), but with as many people as were at the showing at Otakon I could have cared less- it was incredible just seeing two-story high Afro Kens on the screen in main events.
I met a whole lot more editors over the course of that year, eventually also attending AWA and making great friends that remain to this day. Somewhere in there my wife's and my running joke about electric leeches was appropriated to create my editing studio- Electric Leech Productions.
Settling In: 2004 and on
Over the next few years I would continue to make videos whenever I could- through the good times and the bad. In the summer of 2004 my wife and I separated, divorcing at the end of the year. Editing gave me a focus for my emotions and energy and something with which to keep myself occupied and not feeling sorry for myself- though I don't think that my situation ended up reflected in the videos I made (ASLGBV, BGC:Streets of Fire, and my DDR track were all made during that period- and Callin' Tokyo was actually almost entirely edited the afternoon following my final divorce hearing that morning). About the only video that may somewhat have reflected on the events of my life was my sentimental Azumanga Daioh video, "Individuality
'- though even it was born from Jeff Heller's absolutely hilarious quick singing AzuDaioh cats clip shown to me the previous AWA. When I accepted the position I now hold here in Kentucky within my company and set out on a officially temporary relocation, my editing rig and the source for the videos I hoped to work on were packed up in my car with my cats and everything else and dragged halfway across the country from Connecticut to Kentucky.
In my downtown apartment here in Lexington, within sight of my work office, Everything About Guu
- probably the closest I've come to winning at Otakon, Bouncing Through the Years
- the video that I'm probably most known for now, and Otaku Anthem
were finished, sitting at the crappy rental furniture desk and chair. Things improved condition-wise when I was permanently assigned, bought a house, and once again had my nice computer desk and chair.
Over time though, the frequency with which I would edit dwindled. Work now had me traveling a good bit more- several of my videos ended up having to be completed on my laptop (Cliff Notes on the Oft Forgotten Ghibli was one such video, and Unlikely Star was started on the road). Also, I was tiring of the pressure of the contest deadlines. Finally, I was starting to staff more conventions- I had been one of the original members of the Anime Boston tech staff. I eventually ended up as the Host of the Anime Music Video Iron Editor Challenge, which led to my becoming staff on two more cons- Otakon and ACen, with it eliminating me from competing in the normal AMV contests.
Now and Then, From Here and On
A lot has happened over the last 12 years since I first got into AMV editing, both in my life and with the medium itself. Like anything else, my interest in it has waxed and waned- but like my interest in anime, I doubt my interest in AMVs will ever completely go away even if I find myself without the time or motivation to make them anymore. For now though, that's not a problem- As I think is the case for a great many of us who make the pilgrimage there I came home from AWA with a renewed vigor for editing and I've already got plans (and for once, an actual start on...) for what I hope to do for next year.
Many of my best friends these days have been met through this hobby, and some of the best times I've had have been at conventions and other outings with them. AMV editing has easily cost me thousands of dollars in computer upgrades and DVDs that I otherwise might not have bought (or would have waited for domestic release of instead of picking up the R2s....), and it's utterly impossible to count the months worth of time that I've spent in front of my computers over the years working on them- but I don't regret it in the least, and I hope to be at least entering AWA Pro for many years yet to come.