I first discovered AMVs back in 2002. Much like my experiences with fanfiction several years earlier, I was unfamiliar with the entire concept at first and only stumbled across it online by happenstance. I was quickly overwhelmed by the very existence of fan-created content in anime (both a hobby and a mode of active appreciation that we enjoy and take for granted today), let alone the vast amount of it suddenly at my fingertips. In the case of both fanfiction and AMVs, I went about devouring as much of it as I could in very short periods of time, barely able to contain my excitement over these “new” ways for me to interact with my favorite series. Perhaps inevitably, I found myself contributing my own works to the digital vaults of both fanfiction.net and animemusicvideos.org, with somewhat mixed results along the way. In the case of fanfiction, one needs nothing but time on their hands to enter the hobby, so there was nothing to stop me from taking a crack at some of my own stories. Today, I have little to say about that period of my life. It’s just another pursuit that I’ve moved on from, but look back on with no regrets.
Getting into AMVs, however, would be a trickier transition that wouldn’t happen overnight, and would end up taking until almost the end of the decade for me to finally break into. In college I’d spent a good amount of time on Apple G4’s running Final Cut Pro, so I already had a good foundation in video editing. I just didn’t have a computer of my own to edit with, not that getting one at the time would have necessarily solved all my problems, though. While basic video editing tools come bundled with almost any new computer today, they were only beginning to reach the hard drives of average computer users in 2002. I wouldn’t get a Movie Maker-compatible computer running Windows XP until 2005 or so, and even then, on most days it was hardly up to the task of playing video, let alone editing it.
After digging myself out of one financial hole after another, I received my 2009 tax refund last year and finally took the plunge. I bought a dual core CompUSA-brand computer with a big hard drive and lots of RAM. It wasn’t the best computer on the market, but it was more than adequate for what I envisioned using it for. I also picked up Adobe Creative Suite on discount from my community college bookstore, allowing me to edit video in Premiere. So then, what do I have to show for myself?
Admittedly, this is a pretty lazy video, but in my defense it was my first try and was primarily put together over several days as a form of after-work migraine therapy. I thought it was a brilliantly simple concept at first. Today, I’m not sure what to think. There’s a lot I do like about it, and it does capture a certain feeling I have about the series that’s difficult to express in words. On the other hand, most viewers will likely find it to be frustratingly slow-paced, and it remains plagued by glitches, including sporadic visual noise across the top edge of the frame, “jitter” in the original animation that I was too lazy to fix, and ugly blocking in some of the darker clips due to compression. Watching it back to back with AMV auteur extraordinaire Otohiko‘s “The Wasteland” (or at least the first two minutes of it) makes its flaws pretty clear, as if they weren’t already.
But this was just a test, necessary to get that first video out of my system so I could move on and try to improve. I’d already started work on something a little more complex, an AMV I’d been piecing together in my head over the years and was finally ready to lay down on the timeline. My second video was the one I’d been looking forward to making, and five months after finishing it, I’m still pleased with the results.
There are still a few glitches, although despite the increase in cuts and the sheer number of clips I was using compared to my previous effort, Premiere was good to me and turned out a much-nicer looking video than it did the first time around. I’ve had mixed responses to my attempts at lip sync in the video. A beta-viewer even suggested that I get rid of it altogether. But I’d come this far, and I couldn’t think of any way to replace it without essentially tearing the entire video apart and starting over, so I stuck with my instincts and left it in the final cut. Unfortunately, I uploaded my final version to AMV.org in the wrong aspect ratio, which is how most viewers saw it when my initial announcement thread for it was posted on the site forums. This likely (and justifiably) turned off a lot of viewers before I was able to correct the problem. Now it sits in the digital archives of the site like an old library book on a dusty shelf. I’m sure someone will thumb through it or even check it out again some day, but that could be in a week or a year.
Until now I’ve avoided putting these videos up on Youtube, not wanting to further compromise their quality any more than I already have. But it seems like a good way to give my works a fair chance at a second life, even if it entails offering them up to the site’s fetid cistern of a comments section. I made these for myself and my own enjoyment, but I definitely wanted them to be seen by others as well. What could I have to lose?
I’m currently working on a new AMV, although due to the number of sources involved, it’s probably going to be a long time before it sees the light of day. Meanwhile, I’m trying to learn Photoshop, better understand Avisynth, and find a way to get people to watch my creations without coming across as too desperate. I’d also like to connect with other editors and share ideas, but some days it seems like it’s too late for me to make that happen. The AMV community is justifiably suspicious of outsiders, especially those who came into the hobby in the Youtube age. I’ve been an AMV-watcher for several years now, but if I want to establish myself as an editor worth watching in my own right, well… I guess it’s up to me now. Maybe writing about AMVs here will help get me off to a good start. What do I like about the ones I’ve made? What don’t I like about them? What are my favorite AMVs, how do they make me feel and why do I feel this way when I watch them? What do I like AMVs, anyway? Hopefully, the answers to these questions will help me understand what I need to do next, and maybe help me view both my own and others’ works from a new perspective.