DAYS BEFORE THE .ORG: pre-2003
The odd thing with getting into AMVs for me was that the main reason I ended up getting into them was neither interest in anime specifically nor interest in video editing, but music. It all goes back to the fact that I grew up in a musician's family, and always had a very personal relationship with music - but I never learned to play music myself. Being a visual person, I always pretty much imagined things in my head to go along with music, usually something along the lines of really over-dramatized or abstract stories. I was also pretty much raised on artsy movies, especially Tarkovsky - which still influence my approach to visual+sound combinations. By 2001 I was into some really trippy music (King Crimson and whatnot), which only exacerbated my tendency to space out and dream up videos in my head while listening to music.
With anime and AMVs, the story is a lot more routine of course. Around 1999 I started watching your typical TV anime, beginning with Pokemon and whatnot. Once I got bored with TV, I started looking for more - and for those of you who were around back then, I'm sure you know that DVDs were few and fansubs were hard to get in those days. Shitty internet didn't help... what did, ironically, help was my ridiculously boring physics class in grade 11 when I basically gave up on following it and spent the second half of the semester in the back of the room, messing on the computers (the teacher, strangely, didn't mind). Not usually being able to find fansubs just lying around online, I did find one thing: a couple of websites that had downloadable videos of anime OP sequences. I saw a whole bunch of these OPs and thought they were ridiculously cool. On those websites, there also happened to be links to an AMV or two lying around. I only saw a few, including works by ErMaC, doki and Kevin Caldwell (I thought Engel was the shit). I later downloaded a few of those via Kazaa and watched them at home on occasion over the next couple of years. My brother
joined the .org in 2001 and kept me supplied with the occasional AMV as well.
In 2002, I went to my first con (CN Anime) and of course stayed for the AMV contest. That one further reinforced my faith in the fact that AMVs were definitely a cool thing and I recognized more and more their creative potential. At the same time, I recognized the potential to make shitty videos too, and the predominance of Linkin Park videos even in that contest started getting on my nerves.
By 2003, ironically, I started cooling off towards anime but was really into music and visualizing it (that year I went to a King Crimson concert and that experience fueled my audio-visual imagination for the next year), but at the same time I used to go to my brother's friends house to hang out there, and the guy was really into DBZ and Trigun such. He kept showing us AMVs he downloaded, and this is where things started pissing me off. I was getting really, really irked by the music choices. Why couldn't people just do something besides, well, LinkinballZ? I went to the .org just to check and see if there were other things being done. Somehow, and I don't remember how, but I bumped into a lot of AMVs to music I didn't like and yet - shock and horror - searching for AMVs to music by my favorite artists brought few if any results.
JOINING THE .ORG (and being pissed): May 2003
Well, being about as pissed as I was, I joined the .org in May 2003. My first post asked how long it took to make an AMV (I thought about 'fixing' the situation) - because for me that was (and still is) the number 1 concern, since by then I was already a university student, and had quite a few other hobbies that took up much of my free time. Then I went on a pretention-spree on the .org forums, basically telling how much their music choices sucked and how my music was objectively superior. I was totally an uptight, pretentious dick, and I seriously thought AMVers were a bunch of useless fucking fanboys (and hey, there are no women on the internet!)
I gave myself 3 days on the forums - I said to myself that if I didn't find some sign of intelligent life in the AMVing community, I'd just flame everyone and leave. By some fortune, people were actually not at all complete assholes to me, although dwchang did mistake me for Mad Hatter (
). Well, by day 2 I was already bumping into proof that I was wrong. There was actually quite a number of intelligent people on the forums (shock and awe), and better still, there proved to be some sign of hope for good AMVs. I only remember that AbsoluteDestiny's videos made a good impression on me then, though I know there were others too.
FIRST EFFORTS: June 2003-December 2003
So, retaining my pretentious attitude but deciding not to quit, I spent the next month familiarizing myself with AMVs, AMVers and technical guides. By June 2003, I decided that I should probably edit something after all. So I took the first video idea that came to mind and sat down to edit (with slight help from my brother, who also never edited an AMV before but was always a bit more technically savvy than me). The first scenes of my first video were literally the first cuts I ever placed in an editing program - no practice, no tutorials, just jumped in like that based on what I read in guides... Thus came my first video, Dangerous Curves
, which was driven (pun intended) by my impressions of hearing the song performed life at the aforementioned King Crimson concert the same year. The video was a bit ambitious (as in, long and kind of unusual) and was basically a mood-oriented video based heavily on internal sync, especially percussion elements. Unlike a lot of people who seem to hate their first videos, I was completely happy with mine and I still am, looking back at it. More importantly, from the very first cuts I established an editing style that I have largely stuck to since - and reflected my conviction that odd, trippy music + internal sync + mood sync > all, which I also stick to. By that point I sort of felt validated in the AMV community, was on good terms with a whole bunch of people, got excellent feedback on my video and was really having fun. I didn’t really edit for the rest of the summer, and while I did make some failed attempts at editing in the fall, I spent more time messing around the OT forums and enjoying the solid, creative videos that other people were making (much to my initial surprise).
Then came black day of December 6, 2003, when the .org’s OT forums were taken down. In a way, that was the day a particular animemusicvideos.org died. We lost a lot of good people in the subsequent weeks. In a way, that jolted me back into editing. So I took some of the nonsensical attitude that was going around the community (and shameless references to Project Genius) and made RPBP I
, which I dare say is one of the weirdest things that even I have seen. Again, I have no regrets whatsoever about that video, I still enjoy it very much and it did open up my other editing direction – bizarre, messed-up videos that pretty much make no sense and push the envelope music-wise. In many ways, that was my first (and not last) “fuck you” to the sense of normalcy in AMVing.
SEASON ONE: February 2004–August 2004
From then on, my editing became more regular for the next few months. In February, I decided to do some preparation for once, and challenged myself editing-wise a little with a silly video
to End of Evangelion of all things to get myself ready for working with the source for a more serious video later. It was fun, although I do wish I spent more time with lip-sync there.
The real purpose was to get ready for my next video, which like my first video was influenced by my impressions of hearing the music track performed live, and is still probably my most creative effort to date – The Wasteland
. Not to be pretentious about it, but it really was an extremely ambitious, long, moody video, and I thought I pulled it off well and got my crucial mood + internal sync completely established there. I still like that video a whole lot and I don’t mind that (from what I know) a lot of people still associate this video with my work.
Just after that, I got involved with the Animasia project, which was this really pretentious instrumental compilation started by rose4emily (who later dumped it, but more on this later), and met a lot of cool editors through that, with whom I would later work on other projects as well. This was my first MEP, and besides contributing Wasteland to it I also made an original track for it, known as Ararat
– which is a little pretentious with all the text, but I thought it was a neat experiment with storytelling structure which again, I was quite happy with.
In May and June, I did another pair of opposite videos using the same Gainax source type of deal, this time with KareKano – first the ridiculous RPBP II – The Assumption of Innocence
, which started with me making an audio mix so retarded I never thought I’d make a video with it, except I actually did make a video with it (highlight – a 2-minute philosophical rant that makes nearly no sense; my lipsync improved quite a lot by then and this is still my favorite part of the video and makes me laugh); and then afterwards, the slow, sappy Damage
, which was an experiment in making an AMV with very slow, sparse, vocal-oriented music where I couldn’t rely on the same internal-sync-with-rhythm deal that I tend to fall back on. Here I stretched mood sync and played with colours, to the point of obsession where I didn’t do anything other than edit this video for two days. I was pretty worn out by the end, but as usual, happy with the result.
By July-August 2004, I was starting to get burned out on AMVs. Firstly, I moved and was still settling into a new city. Secondly, things seemed to have slowed down with my .org activities, in large part because rose4emily was at that point basically ditching Animasia and the group I worked with on AMVs was gradually falling apart. I still kept in touch with Animasia, and for a period also got involved with ProjeKct Life later in the year (which also eventually got ditched), but in terms of real productivity – I only made one more video in 2004 before going on a prolonged de-facto hiatus, which was Destruction Dive
, which was my first take on a more straightforward, metal/hard-rock action video, which initially I was uneasy about. In retrospect though, I learned to like it, in particular the lyric sync which actually ended up being quite clever (I first thought it was sort of cheesy). I don’t watch it as much as my other videos, but it was alright.
SEASON TWO: June 2005 – December 2005
I was really busy at school in the first half of 2005, and pretty much disappeared from the AMV community for a time. In fact for a while I’d accepted that Destruction Dive would be my last AMV. Around this time I also picked up an obsession with the submarine simulator Silent Hunter III (war games were always a hobby), and was pretty into it for much of the time.
Oddly enough, it was my involvement with that game that brought me back to AMVing. I got an idea to do the first ‘serious’ GMV to that game, which eventually turned into a very serious project that even took on anime footage to support the story. The result was my odd offshoot, The Blind Man’s Tale
. It was my most ambitious (and longest, at over 12 minutes) effort at narrative, and is basically a short movie more than a music video, dedicated to World War II veterans. By current standards, the video isn’t technically impressive and I had to work around certain game limitations to get the footage for it (basically capturing footage while playing the game in real time). I spent more time capturing footage than actually editing, but even then, I spent more time on that video than any of my AMV projects. While working on it, however, I incidentally rediscovered how fun it was to edit, and a few AMVers got to see it and made encouraging responses.
With that video I appeared back on the AMVing radar, and by some incident one of the AMVers who caught it was jasper-isis
, who soon after asked me for a small bit of input into the “AMV Telephone” game she and krzT
were running, which was eventually released as EPYC
. Although that input amounted to two little titles invented for tracks in that project, I got pretty damn fascinated with what she was doing with that project, and also curious with what was going on with Animasia (which at the time she was trying to force rose4emily to release). Not to mention I was extremely bored that summer. As a result, we ended up talking a lot and basically got to be good friends and editing buddies of sorts. Thanks to that I got excited about AMVs again – working closely with another editor on projects has been pretty much irreplaceable for me since, and more or less a necessity to keep editing. Jasper eventually got control of Animasia, along with all the source material, after rose4emily FINALLY admitted he wasn’t up to it, and for the next few months she worked like crazy to have the whole thing polished up and put together, late though it was. I only had minor direct involvement with the project at this stage, but it was fun following it day-to-day when I could see real work being done on it. There was tons of excitement when the project finally got released on Christmas, and I’m glad to have participated in it.
I wasn’t totally wasting time as far as my own editing work, with one week in September seeing a pair of maybe my weirdest videos. First came The Plot Thickens
, which literally came out of a random challenge by Jasper based on which I came up with a whole concept for a video in the space of about… 5 seconds. That video I still like, even for its tongue-in-cheek artsiness alone. There’s no characters in that video, and it’s almost entirely composed of still life. I laughed while making it all along – but not as much as I laughed a week later while making RPBP III
, which certainly upped the ante on audio sources, and was ironically my first “native-language” (Russian) video. Apparently I came up with it while climbing in the nearby hills, contrary to popular belief that it came out of a bad trip. Both videos got a solid WTF reception, and probably coincided with my funnest editing period.
SEASON THREE: February 2006 – January 2007
While I made a few individual videos during this year, the real theme for me this year was working on the AMV Telephone Project
, which was an extension of Jasper’s original idea and was honestly a really neat activity (although I have to admit she’s helped more than her fair share to get this project finished and out the door as well). It has a bit of a story of its own, which can be found on the video description page.
I edited only sporadically for my own purposes, releasing one individual video and three jerkoffs, plus participating in Cat on Keyboard in Space MEP
, which is an even bigger jerkoff. The serious video, a metal project titled Crimson
, was actually a very good challenge from which I learned a lot – firstly I had to work with an older animation style (Berserk) which took some effort to get used to and get to look dynamic in an action video, and then I also polished the editing, filtering, and other technical aspects of the video more than any project I did before. The result was a really competent, heavy video I thought – although I don’t tend to watch it as often as some of my other projects. It was honestly a bit more of an exercise to me. I learned a lot from it, and from this video on the technical quality of my output increased, in large part thanks to extensive beta help from people like Orwell.
Of the jerkoffs, Milkfight.avi
had two interesting things about it – it was a 50-second video that I made out of a grand total of 1 minute of source footage, and it also drew the attention of the musicians behind the audio track, who featured it on their myspace and videoblog, and with whom I got to be in touch thanks to the video. Considering they are some of my most favourite musicans ever, that was downright awesome. RPBP *
continued the tradition of weirdness, with the help of Orwell
and Hebrew music. Batwards Seagull Orange
I basically made right after the AC^3 con in November that year, because I felt bad for not releasing anything else in a while, and because I was inspired by Fall_Child42’s Schism
that I saw at the convention to go forth and do all things weird. So, it’s definitely the most bizarre-looking thing I made, although hardly impressive. One fun fact about it: the time it took to render that video exceeded the actual editing time thanks to the ludicrous amounts of “effects” in it. It was actually uninspired, and admittably for most of the later half of 2006 I really sucked at anything editing related. But hey, it was fun times anyway.
At the start of 2007, I got my editing act together and with Jasper’s help, pushed the Telephone project out the door. Mission accomplished.
SEASON FOUR: February – September 2007
2007 turned out to be my most productive year – not counting Telephone and Cat on Keyboard in Space 2, I released 4 full-length videos, two shorts, one MEP track and one jerkoff
The first two videos I made were, unusually, serious videos in Russian. The first
was right in line with my tendency to release odd videos, I mean eh – Lain + weird Russian music calls for weird. It was pretty much instantly inspired by discovering this strange alternative underground band from my hometown, and fit effortlessly. While it’s not a complex vid, I think it ultimately had very strong mood sync and adequate editing. Russians over at AKROSS generally approved it as well (even if it’s way simpler than the typical “pro” AMVs in my native land). The second video
I initially had very conflicting feelings over and almost scrapped it. It was, in the end, a Shinkai video based on a sort of self-expressive desire, and I tortured myself for quite a while over it due to perceived ‘unoriginality’ and an inability to get pretty much anyone else to see the personal meaning that the video had to me. In retrospect, I was stupid to ever go defensive and unconfident over it. It took about a year for doubts over it to wear off, unfortunately – but I really like that video now.
The two shorts that followed were kind of fun to do. The first one
was a sort of impromptu Iron Chef I did against Jasper, still the only IC match I ever went through with. It went pretty fun, although I think the way we organized it and made it all like “Elitist Bastards IC” made it a little bit more ‘official’ than a random match between friends should’ve been. On the other hand, it inspired the loosely-organized but highly creative Donator Forum IC, from which several excellent videos (such as this one
) came out.
The other short
I did was this spontaneous Romeo+Juliet instrumental short made using only one episode’s worth of footage. I was in a good mood and it pretty much showed; also it’s the only true romance video that I’d ever tried to do, so I can chalk up that in my list of ‘achievements’ now.
The next two videos, which proved to be my last serious output to date, I personally consider to be my best. Sheep Go To Heaven
was inspired by the several (very good) serious videos to Toki wo Kakeru Shoujo – but I wanted to really be a smartass to everyone and make a complete opposite of them. To me it totally made sense, because watching the anime, I actually found that by and large, it was quite funny and had a lot of rather fun slapstick humour. There was totally enough in there for comedy, but I took a more non-comedy fun-video approach to it, focusing on largely senseless slapstick – and I think I largely succeeded. Sync-wise, it’s by far my best work to date, with internal sync using footage sped up 250% on average combined with a Moldovan folk-punk (!) about sheep (…). I actually really like watching this video, and probably watch it more than any other of my own videos. Or any videos, possibly >__>
The last serious project
I took on is in many ways a development of the same I used in my earlier “Damage” video – even the musical artist I used was the same. Here I took an even more ambitiously stark audio source, essentially amounting to poetry with an abstract texturist music background. Unfortunately the video source (5cm/sec) was a lot less ambitious, and I feel like this video gets unfairly overlooked. Unlike my other Shinkai-source video though, I never had many doubts about this one and I think it’s my best sentimental/other video to date. It’s a total opposite of “Sheep”, with very little internal sync to fall back on, and I spent quite a bit of time on the subtleties of it. I never promoted it much, given the negative air surrounding Shinkai anime as source these days, so it more or less went out quietly.
Thus more or less ended my most productive AMVing period.
HIATUS: December 2007 - ?
From that point on, my AMVing activity pretty much dropped off. It’s not true to say that it completely disappeared – but the only releases I made were MEP tracks for that one weird dada project
and Improv Project
, neither of which were very serious efforts on my part. I started up two fairly ambitious individual projects this year (one using Haruhi, one using Code Geass), but I’ve scrapped both – probably not permanently, since both had good ideas, but were just badly composed. Of course the real problem is that I got extremely busy. AMVs were never my main hobby, and AMVs have nothing to do with my career or my life besides entertainment. I have no passion for editing or any technical work with video. However I really like seeing final products of my own AMVing and I really like the community here, so I’m not likely to retire or leave anytime soon. I don't think I'm any sort of kickass AMV editor actually, and I'm definitely outclassed in terms of talent and ability by many of the editors here. And in the end, I think perhaps the only person who reliably gets a kick out of my work is myself. Which is both a good and a bad thing, but I'm not competing with anyone (except for fun)...
Of course, the fact that I had to write a massive thesis this year and am now a PhD student has imposed a lot on my time and energy and probably continue to do so.
It’s pretty likely I’ll start editing again soon, but I doubt I’ll really get back to editing with any real energy and ambition until 2009. But with all the friends I’ve made through this community, I don’t think I’ll be very far from AMVing generally!