Disclaimer: This interview project is not affiliated with animemusicvideos.org and is the product of CodeZTM. These questions do not reflect the opinions of Animemusicvdieos.org or its administration.
Welcome to the Lip Flapper! Each week, we delve deep into the community and get a good look into both individual members as well as group discussions on various issues that surround our hobby.
This Week in "The Lip Flapper"
This week, I lip flapped with Scintilla, a long time member and consistently great editor throughout the years. Scintilla is the mastermind behind Eva Bebop, Restless, The NERV Evening News, And Now a Word From Our Sponsors, as well as this year’s hit AMV Squideo. We talked about his past videos, some of his more recent hits, as well as some thoughts on the community as a whole.
Q: First of all, let me thank you for taking the time to answer my questions! But before we get started, how about you introduce yourself to the readers and let us know a little about yourself?
Well, let's see. I'm a lifelong resident of New Jersey with a healthy appreciation for pork roll, birch beer, Tastykake, and diners. I've also been rather musical for basically ever: from singing in church choirs, All-State choirs, and barbershop choruses... to playing in almost every musical ensemble our high school offered (horn for life!)... to spending my hard-earned salary on more musical instruments than I have time to play.
I was introduced to animé and manga near the end of my high school career by some friends from CTY... but it wasn't until college that my interest really exploded, with my sudden access to an animé club, high-speed Internet, and a nearby Borders that didn't care if I never bought anything.
Since graduating from college I've been working in various actuarial departments of a large insurance company and am pursuing certifications from the Society of Actuaries.
My other interests include card games (including spades, hearts, bridge, Pinochle, etc.), board games (including chess, Diplomacy, Settlers of Catan, etc.), Japanese mahjong (since mid-2011), and simulations (including Civilization, Colonization, SimCity from Classic through 4, NHL '96, RollerCoaster Tycoon, college basketball coaching sims, and who knows what else).
Oh, and I think Cyanna would hit me if I failed to mention that we've been married for three years, after having dated for five more and having known each other since high school before that. If you've ever seen me in costume at a convention, chances are she was the one who created it for me... and now she's plotting some for our new daughter.
Q: Well thanks for joining me Scintilla. Let us start off nice and easy and ask how you got involved in editing AMVs?
It started when I was introduced to animé and manga around my senior year of high school. My girlfriend at the time was a big fan, and she'd collected a number of AMVs that she'd sometimes share with me on the CD-RW we popped back and forth. (You have to remember that this was before widespread availability of broadband.) I had seen almost no animé at this point, but the videos were still entertaining.
When I got to college, I had my own computer and a campus broadband connection, so it didn't take long for me to discover the Org and start seeking out new AMVs on my own. This was also when I really got exposed to a lot of new animé and started thinking to myself, "hey, I could make those videos too."
My first attempt used Windows Movie Maker and VCD footage of a fan parody. But when I got home for the winter break that year, I installed my father's old copy of Adobe Premiere 5.1, read the manual, ran through the tutorials, and started experimenting. Some short snippets came out of that break, but I didn't see a video through to completion until a few months later, with "The NERV Evening News with Dan Rather".
Which I then sent to Otakon on a lark, never expecting it would actually break. It did.
Then we actually went there and I saw my first AMV contest on a huge screen. And we actually met other AMVers. And they were all a cool bunch.
After that, I knew I wasn't stopping anytime soon.
More here for those who care!
Q: Before I get too deep into the interview, I’d like to ask you about Aquiline Studios. Is there a specific purpose behind its founding? Is there anything special that the studio has as an editing philosophy? Why just yourself and Cyanna? Why the eagle?
Aquiline Studios was pretty much only ever meant to be a cool name to do business under, because it's fun to make studio bumpers and pretend we're big movie studios. Plus it sounds way better than "The _________ Family".
Similarly, we never really considered expanding beyond the two of us because it keeps things simple. We can share resources easily, and if we ever want to collaborate, it just takes a yell up the stairs. Besides, the other editors we know in any kind of geographical proximity to us already have well-established names for themselves anyway.
The name proceeds from the eagle; for those who don't know (as it's not the most common word around), "aquiline" means "of, relating to, or having the characteristics of an eagle". I've had an affinity for raptors since high school, and the name allowed me to keep that link to birds of prey while also projecting a refined brand image.
Though the font has always been consistent, the logo took a while. At first I was just using whatever good eagle photos I could find, until I realized I should probably be more consistent about branding if I wanted to stick around and have people remember my name. The yellow eagle on blue circle was first nailed down for 2004's "Rock Me Hideaki!", chosen as a transparent attempt to parody the Touchtone Pictures bumper that closed out so many television shows in my childhood. Even though I've abandoned that parody since (just as Touchtone's abandoned that bumper!), I can't imagine ever changing it now.
As for the editing philosophy... this might be long.
Part of the problem with answering this is that if you asked me about my editing philosophy and asked Cyanna about hers, you'd get two different answers. There are some points we have in common though.
The first principle that guides the videos we make is that we make the videos we want to make, and screw what everyone else thinks. (Overused Evanescence song? Who cares! 9 minutes long? Who cares!) Life's too short to be editing videos that we ourselves don't enjoy. People might think of me as concerned with appearances, and to some extent I am (more on this later) -- but even so, I don't compromise on this point; I've been saying this for years and I stand by it. I've never picked a concept that I myself didn't honestly want to see realized.
Secondly, from that pool of videos we want to make, we pick concepts strong enough to support whole videos. There are times you're watching an AMV and after a while, you can just tell that the concept was germinated from one or two "money" lines that just fit perfectly... but then the whole rest of the video falls to pieces. We've had concepts like that before; but, when we realize that we wouldn't be able to keep it up for the whole song, it's no longer fun -- so we don't do those concepts.
(I should mention that I've often edited songs down if I didn't think I could do the full versions justice; see "My Evil Alien", RMH!, etc. I don't consider this cheating; I still enjoy the end results.)
At this point, I should mention that much of how I approach AMVing can be explained by one simple fact: I've always been a perfectionist. If I consider an AMV worth making, I consider it worth making it the best I can make it.
Accordingly, another important principle that I've tried to adhere to and tried to make my personal brand stand for is that of solid execution of the concept, enough to keep people watching the whole way through. Even when time-constrained (see: 2007-2009), I've tried my best to make every scene serve a purpose and flow with the music the best that it can. When I actually *do* have the time to, I often find myself switching out scenes and tweaking transition timings and re-previewing hundreds of times until I'm convinced I can't improve on it any more.
Basically, I try my best to make sure no one can watch one of my videos and find him/herself thinking, "I could have done that concept better."
And lastly, I've tried to give my AMVs a polished presentation. Perhaps the most obvious aspect of this is how I tend to go crazy testing all the filters I can get my hands on to see what filter chain will give the best combination of visual quality and compressibility -- once again, perfectionism at work here. (My AVISynth filters guide grew out of this; it's partially meant to be my own personal easy reference.) But it also includes the studio bumpers, credits sequences, and Org video info page writeups.
In conclusion, I don't care if people don't associate me with the most original concepts or the most innovative editing methods. But when people see my name on an AMV, I want them to be able to expect a solid, cohesive video that keeps their attention to the end.
Q: You’ve written several guides on varying topics in AMV development over the years (such as the guide to converting to MPEG for conventions). What made you take the time to do this sort of thing? Any thoughts on future guides you might write?
Mostly, it was seeing an unfilled need in an area I had a personal interest in myself.
As I've already mentioned, the AVISynth filters guide has become a valuable reference for when I'm trying to filter a video for release after not having touched AVISynth in months. At the time I began it, the relevant section of EADFAG had fallen out of date, and I had curiosity and time on my hands.
Same kind of thing with the con MPEG encoding guide: I send videos to contests fairly frequently, and nobody else had written one up as far as I could see. (I know some people once intended to write one that used a free MPEG-2 encoder, but I never found out if that got anywhere.)
As for the DVD footage in Windows Movie Maker guide, that one was a little different, as it served no purpose for me personally. Cyanna, however, *was* editing with WMM at the time. Between her and the countless others editing AMVs in WMM, the program's inherent restrictions, and my own deep-seated urge to get people to Follow Best Practices to Avoid Wasted Time and Effort, it seemed like it would be a good idea to have a guide that I could just link to whenever someone had a question in the fora on WMM workflow.
Q: The NERV Evening News was an extremely solid piece that has aged extremely well. What made you want to put this together? Why did you decide to choose Evangelion for this particular source of audio? Why the Papyrus font?!
First off, the font's actually Bradley Hand ITC.
As with so many random songs on my computer, I don't remember how I first came across The Evolution Control Committee's masterpiece of subversive sampling known as "Rocked By Rape"; but it did coincide with my first year in college, when I was just really getting into the animé fandom. I'd originally hoped to be able to do the whole song with various animé, since the lyrics are so ridiculous... but I soon realized I hadn't seen nearly enough animé yet to be able to cover all of that.
Luck was mine that I had just seen Neon Genesis Evangelion for the first time that semester, so the show was still fresh in my mind. It has a pretty wide variety of scenes, tones running the gamut from comedy to insane psychological trauma; as I thought about it more, I came to realize that I could find scenes to fill *almost* all of the first verse. Some lines I never quite found good matches for ("tough FBI killed and injured children" comes to mind), but that brings me to something else: my mindset at the time.
You have to understand that this was pretty much my first decently done AMV that went public, disregarding one or two unimportant prior efforts. I was doing it because it amused me and because nobody had done it before -- I wasn't really thinking about things like polish and critical reception and all that, because I never thought it would be seen by that many people.
And it shows, from things like the intro sequence with that horribly inappropriate font choice you pointed out, to the pixelation of the later scenes because I started cutting clips at half-resolution to save hard drive space. If I'd known this video was going to be shown on the big screen in front of thousands at Otakon this year, I prooooobably would have been more careful about things like that.
It's a little embarrassing, to see things like that 8.5 years later. But apparently the concept was strong enough that people were willing to forgive faults like that, and I'm proud of that much, at least.
Q: I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask about Eva Bebop. What was the inspiration behind this classic AMV, and how did you manage to do such a fantastic work with the technical limitations of the earlier days of editing? Also, why Evangelion of all things?
The closest I could come to pinpointing an inspiration would probably be the "Nadesico vs. Evangelion" AMV I saw back in the day, which was the NGE opener redone with footage from Martian Successor Nadesico. It didn't take me long after seeing the Cowboy Bebop opening sequence to think it was one of the coolest opening sequences ever, which I guess led to wondering if it would be possible to parody it in such a way... plus I guess it gave me an opportunity to practice with heavy special effects.
(It's a lot easier to figure out what you're trying to create on screen when you already have a template to work from. I'm not good at conceiving way involved effects from scratch.)
As for how? Lots and lots of Adobe Photoshop. And in fact, it was even more tedious and time-consuming than it had to be, because I didn't know of the existence of Bezier curve paths and the Pen tool -- I was just using the Polygonal Lasso for everything. Yuck.
Once the hard work of all of that masking was over, actually compositing everything together (done in Adobe Premiere Pro (1.0)) wasn't nearly as difficult. There are a lot of objects on the screen at various points in the Bebop opener, but usually they don't have a definite Z-order: it doesn't matter much which ones go in the top layers and which ones go in the bottom layers, because most of the objects don't overlap with each other anyway.
So, most of the effort was spent on getting the motion right, things like making sure everything was flying by at the same number of pixels per frame and so on. (And thank Pen-Pen Adobe forced all of their effects to offer down-to-the-pixel placement accuracy in Premiere Pro; this would have been well nigh impossible to do correctly in Premiere 5.1.)
And why Evangelion? Because it was popular and I knew people would recognize it, because I love the series myself (and knew it well enough from re-watching and from my previous AMVs that it didn't take me long to come up with ideas for which scenes to use), and because I had a friend who owned the DVDs.
Q: Have you considered remaking the prior two videos (both with Evangelion) with the new Evangelion movies that have recently been released?
Oh, goodness, no. ^^> As pretty as they are, I don't have nearly the free time I had back then (very important for a technical monster like AEO:EB!), and some of the scenes probably aren't even in the Rebuild movies. But on top of that, said lack of free time combined with my backlog of AMV ideas makes me put more of a priority on moving forward and creating new stuff with the time I do have.
Q: Restless is naturally the highlight of Loveless AMVs everywhere. What was the story/inspiration behind that video, especially when you consider the different genre nature of your prior work? Why did you choose to use Lacara instead of Cascada?
You're too kind! ^^> Though I should point out first that I wasn't entirely new to the drama/romance genre, having made "My Evil Alien" 2.5 years prior.
Anyway, how I came across that song... I'm guessing here, but it probably started when I first heard "Everytime We Touch" at some social or on the radio or whatnot near the end of college. I guess I went searching for the song after that, and it didn't take me long to conclude that I didn't like it... EXCEPT for this one odd version labeled "Club Mix". Which had a bit more trancey of a feel to it, running 7'08", and totally different verses.
It took me way too long to realize that it wasn't by Cascada but actually by a different artist entirely. It took a while, but with the help of Discogs.com, I finally tracked it down: it was Lacara's version from 2003. The only thing left was to figure out what series to set to it.
It didn't take too long to pick Loveless, as it was pretty much the only romantic series I could remember watching that had the darker undercurrents and the sensuality I'd need -- and certainly the only one that fit those criteria AND had enough kisses to satisfy my craving for lyric sync. (And even then, I almost ran out of kiss scenes.)
It wasn't until I actually started working with the footage that I made the happy discovery that a lot of the coolest scenes of the series practically composite themselves, what with the pitch black backgrounds of the spell battles. I don't know if I did any actual outline masking, but the Luma Key effect was everywhere.
Having only two weeks between a big scary actuarial exam and the AnimeNEXT deadline (I missed the Otakon deadline that year), and not really interested in a heavily effectsy dancey video anyway, I had to hope that I could convey the tone of fear, awe, confusion, and eventually attachment inherent in the song well enough that the viewer would forgive me for what was mostly "slow editing to a fast song". And I guess it worked!
Q: Last year, you edited the very popular con dance video “And Now a Word From Our Sponsors”. Why did you decide to this song of all things, with this kind of anime that nobody would have ever thought of doing otherwise?
You can blame Ashyukun for this... in a very roundabout way, that is. His godly GAiNAX tribute AMV from 2005, "Bouncing Through the Years", was what introduced me to DJ Ötzi. However, it wasn't until a few years later that I hit upon the idea of checking out some of his *other* music to see if I'd enjoy it as much as I enjoyed "Megaman".
When I finally found "Burger Dance", I began to wonder just what the Central European pop music scene was like, that a ridiculously goofy song like this could become a huge hit. You can say this about DJ Ötzi, he sure knows how not to take himself seriously. Takes guts, that.
And one quick Super Search later (revealing that nobody had set Code Geass to it yet), I decided that this video simply MUST BE MADE.
But why (mostly) Code Geass, you ask? For the simple reason that the original Japanese broadcast of Code Geass had the most egregious, blatant Pizza Hut product placement EVER. That's right: if you check out the R2s, you will find that most of those Pizza Hut logos you saw in the Code Geass scenes in my AMV were already in the source footage. Sadly, said logos were removed for the American release, but they couldn't hide the pizza itself.
(If you've ever seen C.C. cosplayers holding Pizza Hut boxes and wondered why, now you know. As a matter of fact, even before my AMV was released, it had become an annual tradition at AnimeNEXT for someone to arrange a Code Geass Pizza Hut Picnic.)
And I still giggle every time I think of how I managed to make Mao do the dance in the second chorus.
Q: On that topic, let’s take a moment for a random moment of patriotism and ask what your favourite of the warring restaurant factions is? KFC, Pizza Hut or McDonalds?
Gotta go with... PIZ-ZA HUT!
Q: Ok, enough of the older stuff. Let’s talk about what everyone REALLY wants to hear about and find out where the hell you found the squid song for AMVSquideo (which is probably one of my favorite videos of 2011 hands down). While the combination was obvious, what made you want to edit this video?
What made me want to edit it? Simple: the desire to make AMVs with my own music.
This was a goal I'd had for years. AMVs with original music are something I've seen almost none of in my eight years in the hobby. Like I said before, I don't often come up with real innovations in editing -- but give me a spark of inspiration and enough free time, and I can write a song. I've been a musical being my whole life. I've been accumulating recording equipment since graduating college.
So I figured this was one of the few ways I could really break some new ground in the hobby and show people something they hadn't seen before.
And not only that, but I actually had all the resources to do it in my usual perfectionistic way. I wanted nothing less than a mix that sounded professionally done, of a catchy song that would fit right in with the bubblegum dance of Bambee, Aqua, Papaya, etc. (It drove Cyanna crazy during the recording process. She is really a trooper for putting up with me when I have my producer hat on.)
In the end, I'd like to think that overhearing comments like "Was that song CANON?!" means I succeeded. (That comment, from a random viewer at the AnimeNEXT AMV contest, was what inspired my new sig banner: "Maybe it's canon... maybe it's Aquiline.")
And hey, even 4chan liked it!... kind of.
Q: Can our readers hear about what your next AMV might be about, or what you might like to attempt in the future?
I'm habitually tight-lipped about future AMV plans, but I can say that Cyanna and I are planning to do a major collaboration soon.
Q: As an active member of A-M-V.org for many years, what do you think of a-m-v.org today as compared to what it was when you first joined?
Well, I've toned down my forum participation considerably from what it used to be, so I might not be the best one to ask about that. I'll see what I do remember, though:
It was pretty cool to join right before the Dangling Carrot and then the Golden Donut became reality, as I remember the frustration of not being able to track down copies of older videos due to offsite links going out of date. When everyone started uploading videos here instead, that became much less of a problem.
The Star Scale system was cool at first, but I'm incredibly annoyed that the rise in its usage seems to have been to the detriment of the traditional opinions system.
I haven't noticed much change in the people, aside from how it seems like almost all the people who were big on the AMV scene when I was getting into it have stopped making AMVs by now, which always did puzzle me. To me, the Org's always been a cool place to hang out with a cast of characters that runs the whole gamut of personalities. It wasn't difficult to get involved in the conversation back then, and I don't think that's really changed.
Maybe it seems a little more civilized these days, with the closure of the Off Topic board and with the IRC room basically supplanting the AOLIM Buddy Chat (which I never found very inviting back in the day).
Maybe people perceive us as elitist, but I think that's mostly just out of new-found contrast with other sites that didn't exist back when I was starting out (read: Hosatchel) -- I don't think the actual tone has changed that much. In any case, it's still true that the ones who care the most about the hobby will be the ones doing most of the talking.
One thing I have noticed is people not wanting to put their videos up here, sticking rather to the streaming-only sites, because they don't want to make it any easier than necessary (by offering direct downloads) for others to steal their videos. As someone who got into the hobby when nobody was offering streaming and who has always kept the direct download model in mind first and foremost when planning new releases, this kind of thinking is pretty unthinkable to me. But it does seem to be a consistent thing with new editors recently.
Q: Anything you’d like to say to the A-M-V.org community itself? How about something that might improve A-M-V.org?
Can't think of anything, sorry. I'm not much of an ideas person when it comes to improving communities, especially if I have almost no problems with how things currently are. (It would be nice to get back to the exponential growth (measured in # of videos in the catalog) we had going up until about 2006, but hell if I know how to do that.)
Q: Well, thank you again for taking the time to answer my questions. Do you have any last minute advice you’d like to give editors that might just be starting out? Or just something you’d like to say in general?
Well, mainly just the same advice I've been offering for years (and I *did* do all of these myself when I was starting out!):
- Make the videos you want to make
- If you want to improve your editing, read the theory guides (also watch other AMVs you consider good and try to figure out what makes them good)
- If you want to save time and effort on the tech side, read the tech guides
- If you want to get your videos more exposure, sending them to conventions is a great way so to do
- Above all, have fun!
Scintilla has an excellent attitude in the world of AMVs, and follows a practice that I wish more editors would follow.
Pwolf alluded to this last week as well, but it’s important to follow your heart in editing. Do what you want to do, and not what you think others would want you do to, or what you think crowds might like. Because when you edit what you love, you’re more likely to stick with it, through the thick and the thin, and put your whole self into the videos. When you have yourself in a video, you’re likely to follow it through and give it the kind of polish to make it into something great.
While I’m not as perfectionistic as Scintilla is, I do think it’s important to have a strong follow-through with videos. Anything worth doing is worth doing right.
Oh, and if you want the squid song, you can snag it here for a buck. Seriously consider supporting them, because these people deserve a little love for making AMV Squideo possible. XD
Also, if you haven’t already, I still highly recommend you watch his AMVs. While I’m preferential to Restless, any of the videos I’ve linked above are just as fun to watch.
Next Time in "The Lip Flapper"
Join me next week, as I sit down with a group of editors and get their opinions on the editing faux pas known as “Lip Flap”, and we get the community to discuss this long-debated subject.
January 9th: Lip Flap Discussion
January 16th: AimoAio Interview
January 23rd: Youtube Discussion
January 30th: Kosmit Interview