Those of you who have followed Daizenshuu EX for an extended period of time may be familiar with the sudden drop in productivity sometime around April through June each year. It is during this time that the wife and I turn our attention to working on an Anime Music Video for Otakon’s contest. We have been submitting since about 2001, and have been regular finalists (either individually or collaboratively, depending on the video) since about 2003-2004.
In 2009, we did not make a single AMV. It was the first year we did not do so since 2000 when I got into the game — we did not even make so much as a trailer! My combination of apathy and laziness toward the hobby was rubbing off on Meri as well, and we simply did not get around to making anything that year. Especially after what we were able to create back in 2007, I felt like I had tapped out any imagination I had left. I was pretty damn satisfied.
(Insert generic description about the life-long friends we made from our years in the hobby, still enjoying watching fantastic video output, the amazing creativity people have, yadda yadda yadda…)
We wanted to make something for Otakon 2010, though. It was the only convention we were going to be attending this year, and with so many friends no longer submitting videos (or working on the intro to the contest, instead), our quasi-vested-interest in seeing the overall contest was waning. Also, to be frank… the last few years of Otakon’s contest have been pretty difficult to sit through. I just have not enjoyed them as a whole. I have always said (as both an editor and a coordinator) that if you don’t like the contest, your only course of action as an editor is to put up or shut up — either make a video that you are proud of and submit it, or quit yer whinin’.
So we tried that this year.
The two of us really love songs that tell a story — you look at examples like our Kare Kano video “Fake” from a few years back, and you can see how much we enjoy a song that so perfectly captures the feeling of a series and its characters in mood, sure, but also does so via its lyrics. Is it us (again) just being lazy? Perhaps.
Cage the Elephant’s “Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked” was getting lots of local radio play earlier this year with their album getting re-released (and apparently used in the opening to Borderlands, unbeknownst to us). The song was bound to hit us. The song has a great story to it. The song has a great attitude to it. It didn’t take much convincing from Meri before I agreed to it.
We agreed that it should be a multi-source video with a well-defined cast of characters: (1) the main character who comes across these “wicked” folks, (2) the whore, (3) the thief, and (4) the preacher. It was painfully obvious to us (as you will read later on) that Spike from Cowboy Bebop would make the perfect main character — Spike always works well with other series, and the old west vibe of the song fits in a little too well with the aesthetic of the show. Wolfwood from Trigun was the second easiest to cast, literally being a preacher with baggage, conflict, greed, and internal torture. The others were a little more difficult. We wanted to stick with shows in a 4:3 format to avoid cropping, so any more recent stuff was pretty out of the question. Choosing a notable character to act as the thief who holds up the main character at gunpoint was a tough one. We ended up going with Alucard from the Hellsing TV series (as opposed to Ultimate in its 16:9 format) since he definitely has a gun at all times, and he seemed like he might work well clashing up with Spike. The whore was the most difficult to cast — we did not want to go with Faye, since the other characters were all from different universes, so who would it be? What notable female characters could work in this context? We eventually settled upon Lust from the first Fullmetal Alchemist due to it also being in 4:3, and her demeanor fitting in well with the rest of the cast.
What would the point of the video actually be, though…? One morning en route the train station, I had the brilliant idea: Spike would kill them all…!
That proved a little more difficult than I thought. I remembered Fullmetal Alchemist entirely wrong, and we therefore had no footage to show Lust being killed. Alucard can’t die. Huh. All right, then. Our goal as creative editors is to tell the story we want to tell, though, and we ultimately (to quote Tim Gunn) had to just make it work. We are already making something “new” by combining the video and audio, so to take things out of context and tell that brand-new story really is the whole point!
We decided early on that we did not want to do a whole lot of compositing, and instead (to keep things simple for our lazy selves, and also as a partial challenge) wanted to be clever with our editing. No overboard effects. Keep it clean. Sophisticated. Appropriate for the music.
In the end, we only had one composite shot (someone else’s hand being turned into Alucard’s glove pointed at Spike), with the rest handled through creative editing and cuts.
OK… so there is actually another composite shot later in the video, too… for whatever reason, I don’t classify that in my mind the same way. I guess ‘cuz it’s on a TV.
The most difficult section to edit was the first chorus — it was also the last section we edited. The second and third verses feature a very distinct style of editing, which transitions into more traditional cuts for their respective choruses. The first verse+chorus combo of the video had none of this. There was no consistency! What could we do?! The problem was that the bass introduced in the second verse is not present in the first section of the song, which is what the masks and swipes were being timed to later in the video.
To be honest, we ran out of time and imagination before the Otakon deadline. Neither of us were happy with anything we tried. We had to show Spike somehow brushing her off and ultimately shooting her, but how could we do that with nothing interesting happening in the music yet? We ultimately went with a pretty awful split-screen (top and bottom) showing scenes of each character. Just cuts on a beat. No fades. No swipes. Nothing. It was ugly. It was not something I was proud of, but there was no more time before the contest submission deadline.
Something we had never done before was further edit a video after submitting it to a contest. Done is done, right? I was not about to let this one slide, though. It took us a month (and the impending Anime Weekend Atlanta Exposition AMV Contest deadline) to get it done, but we did. We wanted to do something that would set up the style of edits that would happen in the second and third sections of the video, so a similar style of masks and motion came into play. That bass still didn’t exist earlier in the song, so the timing was based off the lyrics, instead. There are still some split-screens at the end of the segment, but things at least have a flow to them, now. The execution style and initial editing was all Meri, while the timing and direction was all me. Good teamwork!
There you go. We made an AMV this year. Short and sweet, clocking in at just under three minutes. Is it my favorite video that we have ever worked on? Not by a long shot. Forcing these characters into this story certainly worked, but not as “perfect” as I would have hoped. I do think it is a fun video, which is pretty interesting considering that it is so clearly a “Drama/Serious” video underneath it all. What do you think? The attendees at Otakon seemed to like it, as we actually won first place for the first time ever in their contest. Huh.
(Yes, we will be putting up a downloadable version in the near-future. Just haven’t gotten around to it yet.)
I was tossing this out on Twitter one day, but I thought it would be fun to collect a bunch of links here to go along with this post. We never bothered to look to see if anyone else had made an AMV with this song (of course they would have), but it is fun to take a look afterward and see what is out there. Would they use any of the sources we used? Hilariously enough, all four of our sources have been used to make individual videos to the song!
- Here’s one with just Cowboy Bebop
- Here’s one with just Fullmetal Alchemist
- Here’s one with just Hellsing
- Here’s one with just Trigun
There are a ton of other ones out there, too. Take a gander through YouTube. Funny stuff.