Using your audio to help you make your video
For this part of the guide, there is an editorial on the use of audio in amvs and a technical guide. Unfortunately I can't cover audio use in every video editing program that's out there.
a) Because I don't have every video editing program that's out there.
b) Because it would take too long and I'm lazy.
So, for the getting your hands dirty technical part of this guide the program that will be demonstrated is Adobe Premiere 6.0 (although for the most part 5.x will work fine too).
To all you Windows Movie Maker users, I offer my deepest sympathies.
However, all is not lost. Before we delve into the dark chasms of Premiere audio editing, I'll write generally about the use of audio in videos and most importantly how audio can tell you how to use your visuals.
If you just want the technical guide you can skip straight to it.
The GAiNAX bounce and other marvels.
You're probably wondering why I've chosen that as a title to this section. Well, it's quite simple - all I need is one word. Gunbuster. Have you ever seen the opening song for Gunbuster? Well you should - it's a seminal work in the artistic cannon known as fanservice. It's also a really good example of how audio can inspire a choice of visuals.
Some of you may recall that this line of the song (With great hopes, and great ambition. High high high high) was matched rather fittingly with one of the more infamous examples of the GAiNAX bounce. For each "high" there was a 'boing' as Noriko stomps towards us. This was more than an amazing depiction of a fantasy land where girls piloted mecha instead of playing tennis and sports bras hadn't been invented. It was an example of cunning editing.
The actual scene wasn't made for the opening, it is taken from the first episode but the guy who storyboarded the op knew exactly what he was doing.
In fact, GAiNAX are pretty good at amvs; it's what they started out doing with their Daicon opening animations. Daicon IV has another great example of matching audio and visuals (but of a very different type) - when the piano comes in in ELO's Twilight GAiNAX match it with a beautiful ballet of flying missile swords. It's enough to make an otaku cry with joy.
It's moments like these that are great inspiration for amv making. Remember that scene in Kevin Caldwell's Believe where a synth keyboard comes in and you see the stadium do that sweeping transformation and then the fast synth snare comes in as she takes takes the blocks and "on your marks" "ready" "go" flashes before our eyes? For me, that's what this stuff is all about - having some music fit so perfectly with the visuals is a really satisfying thing.
Alas, we aren't all Kevin Caldwell (me especially)... but that doesn't mean we don't have ears and can't work out what is going on in a song. If you've made a video where one of your scenes lasts most of the chorus and then goes almost halfway through the next verse of a song then you need to think more about what is actually going on in the song.
Songs have structure and so do good videos.
However, this guide isn't about macro management of your amv (that's kinda what Phade's guide is for) it's about micro management. The little things.
Jump in the Line, rock your body in time/Okay, I believe you
The basic principles of matching audio and visuals are pretty simple... it's just that lots of people don't pay enough attention to their audio. Once you actually start really listening to the song it all falls into place.
However, there are still things that people do that I personally see as a bit of a no-no and so I've decided to write some rules. Ignore them if you wish but don't come crying to me if you get bad reviews ;p
These 'rules' aren't really rules... they are only my opinion ^_^;;;
The golden rule: Music isn't just about what's being sung - it's about mood. For example, don't feel the burning desire to put in a particular scene just because the lyrics are describing exactly what is going on (don't completely ignore them either though ^_^). Make sure the way the scene looks also fits with the mood of the song. Is it sentimental? pacey? funny? aggressive? if the mood of the music does not match the mood of the visuals then they do not match. Pretty much. The only major exception to this rule is with comedy videos where anything goes.
Of course it is also possible to make a scene that had a particular mood in the anime to have a different mood with your audio selection but that's all about matching how it looks to how the song sounds. A thoughtful mood could be reworked into looking scared or angry depending on the choice of music. However, there are certain things that will never go together: you can't have SD anime characters dancing around to Bitter Sweet Symphony. Unless you are being funny.
The flip side of this coin is that music also often contains lyrics, a story or a meaning. Just because In the End has some fat power chords in it doesn't mean it's any good for DBZ characters going SS. The song is probably about a relationship that, despite the effort, didn't work out so in the end it didn't matter. Nothing to do with Goku at all really. Hence, if you can keep the video true to the intention of the lyrics and true to the mood of the song then you're already doing well but most importantly keep a good balance. I see so many videos that are either full of over-forced lyrical matching or are completely ignoring the lyrics. There is a third way and it is the way of effective amvs.
Rule number 2.- If the audio changes so do the visuals. For example, if the audio disappears don't leave the video lagging behind. Fade it out. Change the scene. Do something. The mood of the song has changed - it's gone from being loud to quiet or fast to slow or the key has changed... You need to have a similar change in your video - maybe you could go from an action scene to moody pensive scene. Something, anything, just don't stick with what you had before.
Rule number 3 - think about the instruments. Are the instruments in your song electronic? If so, you might want to incorporate a particular effect to coincide with a particular sound. Are the instruments delicate sounding? If so you might want to try and use a fade instead of a normal cut - having a cut on a drum is fine but it may be much better to fade in on a harp.
Rule number 4 - Be consistent. If you are doing a scene in which you are matching up crashing cymbals to smashing windows then make sure that every window that smashes happens on a cymbal. It's great that every crashing noise has a smashing window... but don't have any windows smash without this noise - it makes the effect useless. Also, if you are timing a particular kind of shot to a particular instrument, try to keep doing so for that section of the song otherwise the viewer can get confused as to what the video is really synched to.
Rule number 5 - not all the instruments are necessarily important. If you are timing a song that has lots of different elements to it, you may have to think about which one people will actually be listening to. This really depends on the song and sometimes the vocals can be a much more appropriate thing to time to if they are at a different pace to the rhythm. Similarly it could be the other way around and that the vocals aren't very good at all for synching your footage (e.g. most things by Captain Beefheart ;p) The exception to this rule is of course having secondary and tertiary synch elements. This is obviously a very particular style - a good example of which is ErMaC's Soul of an Angel.
Rule number 6- There are such things as inaudible beats. You may think that just because the drums have stopped that there is no reason to time clips and that you have been granted free reign on editing. You haven't. The person watching the video will continue a rhythm in their head and you need to make sure that any edits you do in silent sections still happen on an imagined beat even if the beat isn't there. Things just work better if you do. Similarly, between beats there is an off-beat that you don't always hear but it is 'there'. If something happens in-between beats that you feel could be "synched" then try and make it happen on the off-beat. This can be very useful for actions or movements which aren't big enough for an on-beat synch but work nicely as a minor synch element.
Right, I think I've had my say. Feel free to disagree but I think these are useful guidelines to think about when making your amv.
Of course, the very best of everything rewrites the rulebook but I think you still need to know what the rules are first ^_^;;;
AbsoluteDestiny - May 2002