Paul Geromini

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Saturday 26 August 2017

An Unfortunate Misfire

As faithful blog readers will know I have been creating a number of video projects as of late. During all the copious free time I had while I was unemployed, I spent some of it on this Gundam AMV. I found out I like Gundam a lot and I like the song I used (Mecha Mechanics by Whoremoans) a lot. But this AMV just does not work out. I am not totally sure why, but I have a theory. This video represents the ultimate "literal interpretation" theory of AMV creation. AMVs subscribing to this school of thought try to match the lyrics being spoken as close as possible to clips from the series. That school of thought worked out well for me with the Homeworld and Saikano videos, but I feel I was too slavish to lining clips up and consequently the video lacks a coherent theme. I also just had a hard time finding clips for everything. I spent a lot more time than I have on other videos trying to find things that would work.

I ended up not submitting this to any contests.

Scene Breakdown I have a couple comments on various parts of the FMV. You can think of this as a textual director's commentary.

00:13: Not sure how I feel about this 9/11 reference.

00:19: I really like this short clip and how it times up well with the music.

00:21-00:22: This is what I talked about above. These are clips of Gundams, but it is not the models mentioned in the lyrics.

00:33-00:34: I love this joke

01:31-01:33: These clips do not work that great. I ran the first one in reverse to look like it was going back into the water, but it looks awkward.

01:35: I think the next couple clips with the blue Zaku are the best executed in the AMV.

02:01: I was not sure what to put here and this is the best I could come up with.

Overall, it is a bit disappointing spending a lot of time to produce something that is not that great, but I learned a bit so it was not all a loss.

Monday 3 April 2017

My Second AMV

After much effort I have completed a second AMV which can be seen here. I am very happy with how it turned out as it was accepted as a finalist at Anime Boston 2017 in the other category. This is the most success any of my video projects have had. Just like those two other projects I want to give a brief overview of why I used the anime and music I did along with a couple comments on particular scenes.

Music and Anime I found the music first. During the time between Christmas and New Years I worked from home for a week and I was listening to a bunch of music. I started listening to The DoubleClicks as I had head them at Pax East 2016. When I heard the song I ended up using: Can't You See the World is Ending, I knew right away this was going to work with an actiony anime. At first I thought I might make another Legend of the Galactic Heroes (LOGH) AMV like I did with my first one. Reinhard would be the focus and there would be a lot more action. I scrapped that idea because this song has more of a high school/young adult vibe and as much as I want LOGH to become more popular, I am not sure I alone can carry that torch. Then I thought of using Nadesico since that has more of a lighter vibe benefiting this song and I want more people to watch this show too. I was not sold on the idea though and I did a brief search to see if another anime fit the bill better. Then I remembered Saikano and it just fit right away. It was just a nice bonus that the show is not in vogue anymore.

Editing Before I started editing I had a lot of difficulty getting quality source material. Saikano has never had a blu-ray release and the actual animation quality is just ok. That did not stop me from spending a lot of time with conversion tools (mostly handbrake) trying to get the best I could. The end result is functional, but certainly not as good as I would like. A big take away for me in the future is to secure better source material before becoming married to an idea.

For the editing process I used Sony Vegas. Here is what the finished project looks like:

When I start I lay the music track down first, then I put notes (those orange flags) around lyrics I want to get specific clips for. For example when the song reaches "try to stop the bombs" I want to put a clip of bombs falling. It is pretty basic, but it helps me keep things organized. Then I have a couple video tracks. 1. The main "AMV" track which will be the final video 2. A track above that for "Clips" so I can easily swap clips in and out that I want to try. You can think of this as alternative cuts. 3. A number of "Effect" tracks which holds things like text I want to overlay. I had a lot of more of these effects than any video I have done before. I am sure there is a more clever of way instead of using multiple tracks, but this is easy to do and what I was doing was not super complicated so I ran with it.

Once that is all setup I just trolled through the episodes to find clips I wanted to use. I would bring the whole episode into Vegas and I would scan it quickly (say 2x-3x speed). I had a good sense of what I wanted to see, so when I saw a clip I liked I would cut it from the episode and place it roughly where I wanted. I did this with all 13 episodes (ignoring the OVAs). After I went through all the episodes I had a lot of clips in rough position. I refined things from there, going back to get more clips when I needed. After that I added a few effects with some text and I was finished.

To render I create a new template with the technical specifications Anime Boston wants and I make an RC or release candidate. From there I send the video out to a select review group for comments (Mr. Skehill of the inimitable Quixotic United and my sister). I get comments from them and make various RCs until I am happy. That final RC becomes a release and I submit that video. This is a rough imitation of the software release life cycle.

Scene Breakdown I have a couple comments on various parts of the AMV . You can think of this as a textual director's commentary.

00:00-00:08: This is the part of the AMV I am least happy about. I was never sure what to put here and this just ends up feeling like wasted space. Originally I had put a bunch of establishing shots of buildings and countryside, but that was pretty boring. At least opening with a bunch of crying shots gets your attention.

00:17-00:00:20: These are flashbacks in the anime so they have a hazy border. It has the effect of making the animation quality look even worse, but I really wanted to use these scenes so I figured it was worth it.

00:26: It took me forever to find a clip that worked here.

00:32-00:34: I like the dichotomy of these two clips a lot and that vibe is what I try to hit throughout the AMV. The main drive of the song is everyone is acting normal in an abnormal situation so I wanted to highlight that wherever I could. The one drawback here is it spoils a bit of the surprise later on when we see her with the Gatling gun (0:53).

0:53-0:55: I think this scene works particularly well. It lines up with the song, it is pretty snappy with all the cuts, and the contrast between the destruction in the background and her being the hero is just right.

0:55-0:56: There is actually not a lot of action scenes in this series, with most of them coming from episode 1. Lucky there are enough clips for this AMV, but most of the actiony shots come from this episode and episode 13.

1:00: I went back and forth on actually showing people eating food when the song mentions it. I did not have anything better to use, but I wish I did. Mostly it just seems lazy to show food when the song mentions it.

1:06. This is the first effect I used. It is just text, but I had to cover up what is actually shown on the pager with a block of color. It is basic, but it gets the message across. Looking at it now, I think the text should be more digital.

1:15-1:16: Best part of the AMV in my opinion. Happy trumpets with a sad violent clip.

1:29-1:30: This is a subtle effect. Chise (the standing character) actually talks in this scene, but it was distracting to see. I effectively froze part of this clip so we could see the animation around the exclamation points, but not her talking.

1:42-1:43: Those familiar with the series will see Chise shopping here which is not congruent with the song. In the song Chise is effectively the singer so she would not be shopping, but her friends would be. That said it goes by quick so I do not think it would upset many people. There was also no other shopping clip to use.

1:56: I do not know what the Japanese says here.

2:01-2:02: The most complicated part of the AMV. Basically I repeated the effect from 1:06, but I had to animate both the text and the color block to move with the pager. It took a long time, but I think it syncs up quite well. I also like the humor of mentioning the AMV title here. Interestingly, I came up with this hashtag first and then I liked it so much I used it as the title.

2:25- 2:26: Ok, this might be more complicated than before. Effectively, I had to cut out part of the clip with the TV, and then overlay the hamster dance video where the cut out is. The tricky part is a character is moving right next to the TV so with each movement I had to change the part I cut out (the mask) so it would look consistent. On close inspection it does not look amazing, but perfect is the enemy of good so I moved on.

2:33: This is the second part of the scene from 1:15.

2:49-2:50: I actually uploaded the clip I wanted to show here to youtube and then screen recorded it to get the youtube controls. I then inserted that clip on top of a TV from the anime. The effect is nice and it is a bit of an inside joke if you can see the title and are familiar with the anime. On reflection I think I should have filled the screen with the youtube clip and not bothered putting it on a TV.

3:00-3:04: Originally I had a clip where Shuji (the guy at 0:09) was crushed by a giant wave, but I got feedback that a scene like this would work better and I agreed.

Conclusion Overall, I like how things turned out, but there are a few scenes I would tweak. Big picture, I think this AMV was hobbled by the source quality. I should be a bit more sure about what I have available to work with before I get too involved. Interestingly, the next project I am working on I have just about absolute control over. Look for that around July when Connecticon happens.

Wednesday 29 July 2015

My First AMV

It is true here it is spoilers and everything: view here, download here.

For a while now I have been thinking of doing one of these and I mentioned it as a goal for this year. I recently finished the main anime adaptation of Legend of the Galactic Heroes and it was very disappointing to me the series has such little visibility amongst English anime viewers. Granted its age and its MIA English localization probably play the largest role in its lack of popularity. That said I wanted to do a little something for a show more people should watch, to that end my first AMV.

For those not familiar with the format, an AMV is a series of anime clips set to music. Sometimes they tell a story, or showcase some action, or are just funny. I wanted to make an AMV that covered roughly the events of the first half of the series (episodes 1 - 53 to be exact). I did not want a flat retelling of events though so I themed it or focused it around the relationship between Reinhard (blonde hair) and Kircheis (red hair). To those not familiar to the series, they are childhood friends who set out to conquer the galaxy.

For the music I wanted something that fit the feel of the series. The show makes extensive use of famous classical music, mostly Beethoven. While not classical I went with Time To Say Goodbye, sung by Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocelli. I like the mournful nature of the song and the interspaced use of English. I did not want to go with a poppy contemporary piece as it would be jarring with the visuals of the series.

Scene Breakdown

Now that I have given a brief summary I am going to provide some commentary on parts of the AMV.

00:00-00:22, I wanted to start big to give a good scale the series works with. A shot of the galaxy to begin with and with each strum I narrow the shot until we focus on the ship of our two main characters and then the characters themselves. The preceding shots show a vast battle taking place until we fade out to the end result of the battle, lots of ship wreckage. Not a huge fan of the fade, but it does its job. These scenes are mostly from early episodes so we see a very young Admiral Reinhard.

00:25, Shot of the Odin, the capital of the Empire. Its not important that you know that, but series fans probably recognize it.

00:25-00:31, I wanted to establish that Reinhard is important within the Empire, but still not the leader. The scene shows him being honored for the battle we saw in the beginning.

00:32, Start of the flashback. Need to establish the long relationship between Reinhard and Kircheis that started when they were young.

00:38-00:46, This scene with the bully helps establish both Reinhard's aggressive nature and how Kircheis is always there to help Reinhard out. The rock beating scene also nicely matches up with the music. At times I think it is a bit humorous, but I resisted changing it.

00:47-00:58, These are some scenes set after the bully time frame, but still when Reinhard and Kircheis were young. I wanted to convey Reinhard ambitious nature and I like the imagery of the gun shooting into space that fades into his ship in full action. As you can tell I like fades. There is an important subplot to the series involving Reinhard's sister that these scenes are important to, but it is not important for the story I am telling.

00:58-01:12. Easy call here to tie Kircheis's death to the first "Time to Say Goodbye" lyric. It is perhaps a bit quick setup after the flashback, but it is really important that death and lyric are timed up well. This is a pretty big spoiler for people who have not seen the series and arguably the most important event in the entire series.

01:22, I went back and forth on including this somewhat gratuitous death clip. It is a bit jarring, but I think it works. Kind of quick flashback that Reinhard is contemplating.

01:25-01:43, Second flashback showing a bit more of Kircheis interacting with Reinhard and doing his own thing. As a side not we can really see the jump in quality across some of the early episodes in these flashbacks. After the series came out some episodes were remastered so the quality can be all over the place.

01:45, Its debatable if we need this shot of just the gravestone as the earlier scene basically covers what we need to do, but I like lingering here a bit.

01:49, The locket is a very important item to the series so I had to get a shot of it here. You can see it also includes his sister who is important to the story, but I ignore here.

01:50. Kircheis in the stars may be too cliche, but its from the series and bookends this section of the AMV nicely.

01:53-01:56, The music changes and I need to jump a bit chronologically and show how Reinhard has increased in power in the Empire. The scenes with the crowd accomplishes this.

01:57-2:01, This scene is a bit clunky. I want to convey again how in charge Reinhard is and setup the rest of the AMV, but we linger, perhaps too long, on planning screens.

02:05, I love this shot of Reinhard and all the ships engines. As a side note that is Mariendorf next to him. She becomes pretty important around the half way mark of the series.

02:06-02:13, This is the planet Fezzan, a planet not in the Empire nor the Free Planets Alliance (FPA). The two major antagonists in the show. It is one of the first planets Reinhard takes on his campaign. It is a relatively quick battle which I used to convey the size of Reinhard's fleet in action.

02:14-02:19, Some of the most well drawn scenes in the series. Bookends Reinhard's conquest of Fezzan.

02:20-02:25, Maybe the cheesiest part of the AMV. That is an actual scene from the anime so I went with it. Also you can see the locket again which is super important.

02:26-02:45, Lot of ships again. Start to show some large battles with the FPA, but nothing decisive.

02:52-03:19, Again we return to Reinhard's ship and then show his decisive involvement in a battle. Lots of FPA ships blowing up climaxing in a nice large explosion. I cheat a bit and take a lot of battle clips from across the series, but we need a lot of different shots here and frankly a lot of these battle shots look the same.

03:20-03:23, Good scene to show after Reinhard's great success. You can see how lonely he is on the empty bridge and it contrasts well with the first shot of him and Kircheis from the beginning.

03:24, This is Heinessen, home planet of the FPA, after being captured by Reinhard.

03:26-03:27, This is a shot of Yang Wen-li, Reinhard's counterpart in the FPA. He is super important, but not covered at all in this AMV. I wanted to at least give him a quick showing and I think these two rapid beats help introduce him as the adversary nicely.

03:28, Real cool shot of both of their massive fleets converging.

03:28-03:41, Start of the battle, lots of fireworks to show the scale, but nothing to show who will win.

03:41, Maps again! Its hard to convey how the battle is going so I went with maps (which the series likes using too) to show things going against Reinhard. This shot also has Yang in the middle.

03:44-03:51, Might be asking too much of a person not familiar with the series, but I need to convey the battle turning in Yang's favor. Showing the map of a fleet disintegrating, FPA ships firing, and a lot of Empire ships exploding hopefully conveys this. It might be difficult to get if you cannot distinguish the different sides ships at this point.

03:54, Great scene of the Empire ships moving to defend Reinhard's ships. Hopefully conveys how desperate the battle is going.

03:55, Another really excellent scene of Reinhard having the ships guarding his front explode.

04:01, And here we are end of the AMV. This shot is the best in the series and what motivated me to do this AMV. I love the giant imposing FPA ship bearing down on Reinhard. Its awesome and in my opinion, a a great ending with the sudden cut to black.

The thing about that ending scene is, its a massive cheat. The very next second that ship gets blown out by the timely arrival (in true anime fashion) of Admiral Muller's fleet. I admit its deceitful, but I really just wanted a nice cliffhanger to end on to motivate people to watch the series.

Tools Lets wrap up with a quick tool discussion. All of my editing was done with Sony Vegas 13. I like it a lot since its relatively simple to use. I am sure other editors like Final Cut are just as good, but I have been fiddling with Vegas for a bit now and I know how to do what I want. The only real issue I had was the video sources. I was using files in MKV format and Vegas cannot handle those files. I had to convert each episode I wanted to use from MKV to MP4. I did this using Handbrake which is dirt simple. It was a tedious work around, but it got the job done. I will leave you with a shot of all the clips in the editor. You can see I like to have a lot of clips lying around so I can mix and match and see what works.


Saturday 5 July 2014

Review: Knights of Sidonia (Season 1)

The very first review on the blog! This show just completed its run so here are some thoughts on it in the form of a review. Be prepared for some light spoilage.

Knights of Sidonia is a 12 episode space mecha following the pursuits of Nagate Tanikaze as he and others try and defend their massive colony/seed ship the Sidonia from the inscrutable Gauna. As such this is mostly an action anime in the same vein as Attack on Titan or The Pilot's Love Song. Let us get to the breakdown.


A lively show, the plot starts fast and the pace is pretty steady throughout. This is a show about people struggling to survive in a harsh environment against an implacable enemy and as such very little time is spent on fluff. Viewers of Attack on Titan will find much they are already familiar with. This season does not have an overarching plot, but instead has a few mini arcs throughout. Overall things are hard to predict and the suspense is high enough to keep you looking forward to the next episode.

Setting and Characters

As far as anime goes, the settings is farm fresh. Not many animes are set in space these days and furthermore not many pay service to the realities of operating in a vacuum. Sidonia does and in a big way. Major plot points revolve around the physics of acceleration and the difficulties in regards to resources of running a society in a closed environment. Characters are probably Sidonia's weakest point. Our main antagonist is a bit plain both emotionally and back story wise. The supporting characters (other pilots, officers) are a little better, but some fulfill your standard anime tropes : rival to the main protagonist, bubbly girl classmate, etc.

Animation Quality

The animation quality is high, but viewers may be put off by the heavy use of CGI for characters and the mecha themselves. I do not mind, but if you found Arpeggio of Blue Steel hard to watch because of this, you should probably give this show a pass. If this does not bother you then enjoy the high quality visuals on display here. The Sidonia looks fantastic, clearly this ship has been an evolving home for a desperate people for many hundreds of years. The mechs themselves are well thought out and their cockpits are the most sensible I have ever seen. Battle scenes are lush, dynamic, and well choreographed.


High marks in this category. The OP is a nice mix between orchestral military theme and high energy JPop. The ED is restrained and brooding and always a good finish to an episode. Music throughout the series complements the action or the drama well, but nothing ever stood out for me. Sound effects wise Knights of Sidonia has a knack for capturing just the right mechanical effects. Consequently all the mechs, ships, machines sound great. Voice work is pretty standard, no one seemed off their game. I do award high marks to the voice actor of the captain who just seemed a bit better than everybody else.


This is a well done show. If you like mechs, SciFi, or Attack on Titan give it a watch. If you do not like it by episode four you can probably drop it. I award it 18 lead bricks out of five oddly situated bear characters.