starlady: Sheeta & Pazu watch the world open out before them (think in layers)
[personal profile] starlady
So I was very kindly given the opportunity to say some few things about AMVs at the Vid Party at WisCon 34 by its organizers, [personal profile] damned_colonial and [personal profile] were_duck; I also recced most of the AMVs that made it on to the playlist. The AMVs in the intro playlist were:

1. "Hold Me Now" (Princess Tutu) by alkampfer81
2. "D for Darker Than BLACK" (Darker Than BLACK) by include
3. "Scarlet Touch and Roses Rain" (Utena: Apocalypse of Adolescence) by Wunetti Productions

I had a whole legal pad page of notes that I mostly wrote while drinking a New Glarus Spotted Cow when I was delayed in MKE Friday night. I said less than this at the actual party (but some of the same to Mari Kotani, Madam Robot and their friends at dinner on Saturday), so consider the following an expansion.

# AMVs began in the early 80s and were made possible by the advent of the VCR--the first AMVs were created by recording bits . As computing technology has become cheaper and more widespread, the resource gap between authorized and fan creators has basically collapsed--authorized creators have more money, but their resources are greater, not different.

Of course we had to start with "Hold Me Now"; I found out from [personal profile] rushthatspeaks on our panel that ADV actually tried to license the AMV to use as a trailer for the anime but couldn't get the song rights (and that when the AMV premiered at Anime Boston the dealers' room sold out of the anime in about 20 minutes flat). Almost everyone who sees this immediately wants to watch the anime; I did, and the vid doesn't even really make it clear that in addition to being a magical girl ballerina anime it's also got some really interesting meta-narrative things to say about fairy tales and stories in general. Someone in the audience asked if the scene with the clocks and the gears in the bridge of the AMV was original footage; it isn't, but I loved the question, because it does look like it could have been fan-produced, which gets right back to that collapse I love to talk about.

# AMVs are frequently interested, first and foremost, in sheer spectacle. Partly this is due to the digital nature of anime these days--I think many, if not most, anime fans experience anime solely through their computers; I do--and partly also because most anime uses "limited" rather than "full" animation, which tends to put less of a priority on frame rates for various reasons, not only financial. Limited animation and digital video editing and digital animation programs allow editors a very wide field of operations.

# Also, AMVs love to lipsync. Love love love; lipsyncing is absolutely a norm, as are obvious unobvious digital video effects.

Hence "D for Darker Than BLACK", which melds an anime I love with a movie that I like a lot and has pretty good lipsync. Also I wanted to show this AMV because you can enjoy it without knowing the anime; if you don't you will form an impression that the anime doesn't quite bear out, whereas if you do you will think of the anime in a different way.

# Paradoxically, this wider field tends to result in AMVs that are, compared to vids, much farther from their source fandoms/canons than vids tend to be--even a multi-fandom vid like "Seven Nation Army" hews fairly close to the commonalities it presents between its source fandoms, whereas something like "Magic Pad" is worlds away from its source footage; half the shots in that vid are original, or almost entirely manipulated. Vids tend to be critical, or, hmm, political ("opinionated" could also work here) about their source fandoms; AMVs tend to be in it for the thrill.

I chose "Scarlet Touch and Roses Rain" because it's gorgeous and I love the anime to death but also because it's almost the only AMV I can think of with a queer theme, which [personal profile] were_duck asked for; the queerness is in the anime itself, and was not constructed by the editor, which is absolutely not the norm with vids. (Not that I think that queerness needs to be constructed in a fandom like SGA or Star Trek, but vidders are vidding against, not necessarily the texts themselves, but definitely against the normative interpretation of their source fandoms; that isn't necessary for Utena, and is almost never done for AMVs.) (Actually, okay, on a personal note, most of my AMVs make heavy use of irony, which I know is hard to communicate visually; I'm also not a terribly great editor. But I routinely get comments saying that my anime/song matches are fucked up, and I definitely think this absence of critical distance in most AMVs is one of the reasons for that.)


The Vid Party was great not only because it was awesome but also because I had seen less than 10% of the six hours of vids (which, okay, I was gone for two hours to go to my panel, sadface). I insisted we put "Lost in an Anime Dream" in the playlist because I think it's a great combination of anime and live action footage with an AMV aesthetic, and I love it. I already mentioned "Seven Nation Army" and how I think it can be compared with AMVs ("Magic Pad" is totally the AMV I show to people who've never seen AMVs now, incidentally), but I was really struck by one vid in particular, "Another Sunday", and I want to talk about it, and compare it with koopiskeva's "Skittles", somewhat in-depth.

Well, "Another Sunday" is awesome because the entire party sang along to the choruses at the top of our lungs, and it's a funny vid; we cracked up at multiple points. Also, SGA! I would be all over this show if it were half as awesome as the fanworks for it.

That said, I was immediately reminded of "Skittles" because of the color-systematized effects in "AS", but watching them together makes a great comparison of the different propensities and capabilities of AMVs and vids. The vast majority of the effects in "Sunday" are what, for lack of technical terminology, I'll call external--transitions, sparkles, color manipulation, mirroring, repetitions, blurring. So many sparkles, OMG. Partly the sparkles in particular are due to the song choice, so as to live up to its good 80s cheese. By AMV standards, though, these effects are fairly heavy-handed and simplistic; "Skittles" is based on the editor altering how the clip looks from the inside, rather than layering effects on top. Yes, some clips in "Skittles" aren't digitally manipulated, but I can only tell that because I've watched the source anime. The dance footage is in the source anime (though it's very possible to make characters do that dance when it's not in the source footage; see "The Running Man" for an editorial Haruhi dance), but the masking and layering of effects into the clips is original. Also, "Skittles" has boatloads of really good lipsync; the humor in the AMV comes from the lipsync, particularly if you know what the song lyrics mean and know just how much Mikuru would never proposition Koizumi or anyone at all, let alone so blatantly.

This is absolutely not to say that "Skittles" is better or more technically accomplished than "Sunday", or vice versa. But I do think both are good examples of "effects-heavy", and how that looks very different in AMVs versus vids.

This is also to say that we should watch "Skittles" at the vid party next year. Also, we totally need to watch the DaiCon IV opening animation, because it's a fan-created music video that's also an original animation that's about SF fandom, and it was created by the people who went on to found Gainax, the most influential and arguably the most fannish anime studio of the past 20 years. Try that on for a feedback loop!


Tom Lamarre in The Anime Machine talks about fannish activities (though he focuses on otaku and otaku praxis, as befits a book about anime) as a consequence of the force of the moving image, which in his accounts is channelled but never fully controlled by the frame of the image, by the corporate entities that cause the image to be created--there's more than enough energy left over to inspire fans to make their own participatory interventions into the flow of media images. I really like this idea because I think it explains the history of fandom really well; I really do think that fandom started with Star Trek, with TV, in the 60s; the Sherlockians were doing something different than what we now call fandom, and I think that this media fandom image-energy has since then looped back into text-based and non-image canons, with results like Yuletide, and the affirmational versus transformational fandom debate (and, for that matter, with results like true-blue Sherlockians disowning all Sherlock Holmes "fans"). I think AMVs and doujinshi, respectively, are the perfect examples of Lamarre's ideas; in some ways I think they map less snugly onto vids and fanfic, partly because of gender and partly because of other differences in contexts. But definitely, definitely, I think he gets at part of what makes AMVs so popular, and central.
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