Paul Geromini

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Monday 16 July 2018

Girls' Last Tour AMV (Fifth Overall)

You can watch it here.

This was my second entry to Connecticon 2018, but it was not accepted. A bit of a different take compared to what I normally pursue, this one focused almost exclusively on a single episode of Girls' Last Tour, a fairly recent anime. The episode I used (episode 6) was my favorite of the series and is a great standalone episode even if you have not seen the series before. For the song I used "Fly Away" by John Denver. I am not a country music fan, but I felt this song matches a lot of the themes I was going for both literally (flying away from some place) and metaphorically (escaping).

Scene Breakdown

00:00 - 00:41: I really like the non-musical opening. It sets the stage of the world well (which may not be familiar to some of the audience) and quickly conveys the journey the girls are on. In general I think silence/non-musical scenes are underutilized in AMVs.

00:47: A bit too quick of a cut here, but there was no other way to get around it since the characters start talking right after and I like to avoid seeing that if I can.

01:08: Good sync up with the lyrics and plane image here.

01:12 - 01:13: It is hard to notice, but there is some lip movement here. I tried to avoid it, but it would mess with the story progression too much if I cut it. It is hard to notice so I felt it was ok to keep in.

02:10: More lips flaps here, but the scene was too critical so I kept it.

02:19 - 02:29: I am not sure I was able to convey that the pilot wanted to escape in these few scenes, but it was the best I could do with the limited options available. On the last scene (02:29) I actually froze the clip as they are talking during it.

03:04: I think the animation in the show is average, but I do like the faces they make from time to time.

03:34: I like the sync between the picture and the song a lot here.

03:58: Continuity error here with the propeller starting in the scene before, but being stationary here. I felt it was ok to leave in as most people would not notice and its not really a big deal.

Summary

Overall, I am happy it turned out as well as it did and I very much like how this piece is different in structure than what I normally do. That said, I am pretty bummed it was not accepted as I felt it was a strong overall piece, but I cannot say it was better than the actual finalists so I will just have to do better next year.

Bubblegum Crisis AMV (Fourth Overall)

You can watch it here.

This piece was my second entry to Anime Boston 2018 and my first entry Connecticon 2018. It was accepted at neither convention. This AMV is pretty normal given my past work and is indicative of my general style: poppy music, oldish anime, ironic lyrics, boarderline extreme violence. I happen to really like Bubblegum Crisis (the original OVAs, less so for anything after) and MC Frontalot (who is featured in this song, Robot Party by Supercommuter) so it was a natural fit to merge both.

Scene Breakdown

00:00 - 00:14: I like this intro a lot. Not a lot of musical cues and it sets the scene well. Perhaps I could have used some background noise, but I think the silence is cool and unusual.

00:37: There is a weird white flash here that probably works better in the anime than it does in this AMV. I thought about removing it, but it seemed best to leave it in so that scene would not become disjointed and look weird.

00:45 - 00:50: This is one of the first bits I put together and it inspired the rest of the AMV.

00:55: I consider this AMV to be mostly about robots tearing up a city, but it can also be seen as a stealth Knight Sabers AMV as they appear in the background from time to time. Some of the Knight Sabers appear in this scene for the first time in the AMV.

01:00: I thought the biker sliding during a spin out was a clever match to the "rotating" lyric.

01:37 - 01:44: Probably the weakest part of the AMV. I wanted to match the lyrics, but there is nothing available that quite did it so I was left with this.

01:48 - 01:50: I had to slow this clip down a bit so it would fill out the lyric, but it looks a bit weird because of it.

01:56: Another Knight Saber appearance.

02:18: I really like how "dance" and the guy flying line up here.

02:23: This is a Knight Saber "sword" here. Nothing else really matched.

02:45 - 02:52 : Pretty obvious Knight Saber scene here which fans of the show should recognize.

03:45: I considered ending with a tv screen turning off, but it it never worked well enough to use.

Summary

I spent a lot of time gestating this one and I like it a lot. I am surprised no one else seems to like it, but that seems to be more an indictment of my taste than others'. Overall I am happy how it turned out.

Sunday 1 April 2018

Space AMV (Third Overall)

You can watch it here.

Another Anime Boston, another AMV submission. Building off my last accepted work. This time I decided my best bet at acceptance into the finals was to be on theme. Given the theme was space I used a lot of modern/sci-fi anime for my first multiple source AMV. Specifically I used: - Planetes - Legend of the Galactic Heroes - Moonlight Mile - Space Battleship Yamato 2199 - Royal Space Force: The Wings of HonnĂȘamise - Freedom Project - Bodacious Space Pirates - Magnetic Rose

For the song I used Melody Sheep's Beyond the Horizon which I edited somewhat to remove a section in the middle that was not fit for my purposes. I would recommend giving him/her/it a subscription as they produce a lot of interesting musical content.

I submitted this to Anime Boston 2018 and it was accepted as a finalist in the "Other"category. It won "Best Concept", my first award ever!

Scene Breakdown

00:00 - 00:04: It just cannot be an AMV without a little Legend of the Galactic Heroes love.

00:05: This scene is unremarkable except that I had major difficulty with it in Sony Vegas. Specifically I had issues with Vegas trying to changes its frame rate. It was very frustrating and it would often render in a stuttering manner until I sorted it out.

00:017: I spent a long time trying to find the right clip for this scene. This was the best I could do.

00:18-00:19: I love this shot. It was one of the first clips I used.

00:39-00:40: Not a fan of this shot, but it had to do.

00:55-00:57: These clips are from Royal Space Force and they look gorgeous. This movie never seemed to got the acclaim it deserves both story wise and animation wise. A big miss with modern CG is organic looking shots like these.

01:04-01:23: I went back and forth a lot on this section between trying to actually find clips of Neptune and just showing planets. I think what I have works, but it lacking. I wish I did have some Neptune shots. I also am not so sure that section in the middle that flashes a bunch of planets (01:13-01:16) works. It just seems choppy.

01:32-01:34: This scene is from Freedom Project and it is one of my favorite shots in the series. The framing of the ship flying over the moon to the earth is this AMV in a nutshell.

01:41-01:42: They say you should avoid flappy lips in AMVs, which I agree with, but I made an exception because if it is just the button press it does not make a whole lot of sense.

02:06-02:08: Kind of a boring shot, but I did not have anything else to use.

02:09: This is where I cut about 30 seconds from the song. Have a listen to those seconds here. Its the only part of the song that would be hard to work with since its a very sudden tonal shift and their is some straight unautotuned voice over. I am pretty happy with my cut as it is unnoticeable to me.

02:27: It is really nice how the Yamato blinks out with the beat. That was a happy little coincidence.

02:34-02:36: This little jump of the spaceship with the beat is about the most clever thing I have ever done. I have a long way to go.

02:43: I went back and forth a lot if I was going to stick to just modern ships or show some futuristic designs like this one from Bodacious Space Pirates. In the end I wanted to show both the past and the future so I ran with it starting with this clip. It is also hard to find anime about the space program or even modern spaceflight. Related to that, I so wanted to include some Nadesico somewhere, but it is in 4:3 and would look weird with all the other widescreen clips. I think Nadesico will be my next project.

02:46: I may have overused the main characters from the Freedom Project.

03:35: The close out with the baby going for the star is great in my opinion and I get more Legend of the Galactic Heroes in.

Summary

Overall, the final product is acceptable. Given my previous work (like my Saikano AMV and Ran FMV) this piece lacks a fun juxtaposition of violence and upbeat tunes that I think characterizes my work (and my other, in this author's opinion, better second submission which I will write about latter). That said it is good to have an optimistic video every now and then and I cannot say I am unhappy about taking home an award. It is just weird that I won for a video I was probably the least enthused about.

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 10 July 2017

My Second FMV

I have finally gotten around to releasing my second FMV (Fan Music Video). You can watch it here. It was a first for me in that the source material is a video game. Specifically, Homeworld: Remastered (a remaster of the 1999 classic) and briefly Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak (A 2016 prequel).

Homeworld has always been very special to me. It is an excellently constructed game, with unique gameplay mechanics (full 3d unit movement), excellent graphics, strong art direction (see Peter Elson, the Terran Trade Authority Books, and this fan site). I have played it and its sequels many times and I have always wanted to pay tribute to it in some form

Here is what the finished project looks like:

This FMV was a huge technical challenge for me. I would have to capture almost all the video clips I needed (minus some cinematics) and work with three different styles (Homeworld Remastered, its black and white cinematics, and Deserts of Kharak). I did a lot of research and testing on various capture solutions, eventually settling on the excellent and open source OBS (https://obsproject.com/). While testing this tool, I found only recording at the highest quality (lossless) captures the vibrant color of the ships and backgrounds of Homeworld which is critical to the end product. This resulted in huge video files, about 100MB for every 5 seconds compared to 61GBs compared to my average size ~5GBs. Thankfully, Sony Vegas had no problems handling these large files. Painful as it was to work with all these large clips, it did allow me full freedom in selecting the shots I wanted as all I had to do was move the camera and record. This was made easy since both Homeworld games have a cinematic mode which hides the UI except for the pointer which can be hidden by holding the right mouse button down. All this freedom can be a challenge however as you get to decide what you want, instead of working from a set palette of clips. More freedom, but more indecision. It was a new experience in that regard as I had to have more of a director's eye rather than being given everything to start with. This does help cut down on all the time trawling though episodes to find what you need, but It is replaced by lots of recording and lots of thinking you are recording only to realize you forgot. For the story, I wanted to present the full journey through the first game so I took highlights from most missions, skipping missions that did not contribute to the main story. It was tough to get a few shots given a game is going on, but judicious saving made it easy to get most of the clips I wanted. Finally of note, the end product is letterboxed a bit. I did this because the cinematics from the first game are letterboxed and it was distracting to see the bars appear and disappear as the video went on.

I submitted this FMV to Connecticon 2017, but it was not accepted as a finalist. I was a bit bummed by that as I thought it was pretty good (biased though I am). I will take it as a challenge to submit a better one next year.

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

0:00-0:03: I love using voices from the source material and having a cold (music-less) open. This clip is actually frozen until the hyperspace window appears at 0:04. It was too hard to capture the mothership (the banana ship) and Kharak (the planet behind the mothership) standing still and then hyperspacing in one shot. You can see a tiny bit of the hyperspace window, but it is hard to spot (IMHO).

0:29: This shot comes from Deserts of Kharak. It actually has a bit more of a letterbox than the clips from Remastered, but it is not that noticeable (IMHO).

0:44: The next few clips are from an in game captured log of the attack on Kharak so it intentionally has static and a timer in the upper right. There is nothing I can do about it so I left it as is.

0:55-0:56: I love the explosion of the space station blending into the cinematic explosion. It works really well.

1:04-1:13: One of the weaker parts of the video if I am being critical. I had to introduce this ship (as it is very important latter), but it is not very interesting otherwise.

1:16: This clip is stretched a tiny bit since some of the UI actually crept in on the edge and I had to hide it. At long distances in Homeworld: Remastered ships get a border that cannot be hidden.

1:24: This is a cool shot of a lot of ships, but I have no idea how that ion frigate got so out of formation at the bottom.

1:35-1:36: I think the abrupt song transition from fast paced to slow is very well complimented by the shot selection here.

1:44: These are cryostasis pods which might not be apparent if you have not played the game.

1:54: This shot of the hyperspace inhibitor is actually not from the cinematic montage of enemy structures used in the previous clip. It will become important latter on so I wanted to set it up here.

1:58: We can start to see some of the great color usage in the game as it goes from a black background to a vibrant red here to orange and yellow as we go on. You can really see this gradual color change in the project picture.

2:13-2:17: Really cool shot of some bombers making a run on the Kadeshi needle. I setup to record just the bombers and got lucky one was destroyed during the filming.

2:17-2:20: This ship is an important story piece so I set it up by including it here.

2:23-2:29: Again, I got lucky here as the camera automatically zooms out to prevent clipping into a ship. It gave this great shot that goes from being tight on the fighters to wide as they break off showing all the capital ships in play.

2:31: Those are actually captured enemy destroyers in the background (there is an ingame capture mechanic). It would be confusing for someone not familiar with the game to see them up close, but it is far enough away and well obscured so I thought it was ok to cheat just this once. This was some of the first footage I recorded and I had forgot about that mechanic. Gamewise, capturing everything is always the correct strategy which is why it was heavily nerfed in the sequels.

3:43: I probably overdid it with carrier explosions as here is a second one.

3:47: This is captain Elson in his black destroyer. He is very important to the game, but hard to explain without words. I do not think I succeed in conveying that to people who are not fans of the game.

3:59: I love the strange angle the multigun corvette is taking as it comes into the shot in the lower left.

4:03: A great shot, but for this mission the head on approach is very costly. Two cloak generators in the middle of a tight ship formation is far more effective.

4:04: You can see the turrets on this heavy cruiser moving, but not firing. I am not sure if that was a bug, but I let it be.

4:10-4:12 Probably the hardest shot to get. I had to get both the homeworld and the mothership in frame. It took a number of reloads to get it just right.

4:13: This attack in Remastered is actually very different from the original as it is far more aggressive and reckless. Thus the Remastered version has a big difficulty spike here.

4:23-4:25: A very Michael Bay-esque shot here with multiple ships moving at multiple distances from the camera.

4:29-4:30: I got lucky with this shot as the missile strike destroys the fighter right on a music beat.

4:41: I think I should have held this end shot a bit longer. The song ends pretty quickly, but we need some time to decompress.

Conclusion Overall, I really like how this came out. I think it struggles a bit with some boring shots that do not make sense if you are not a fan or familiar with the game, but it was fun to make and a interesting technical challenge. Look for something more familiar for my next project.

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.

Sunday 24 July 2016

Another Video Project

Just like last year I have created another video for Connecticon. This time, instead of an AMV, I made an FMV (fan music video). This translates to using a live action video source instead of an anime one. Go on and give it a gander. It may not have won any awards, but I like it.

I approached this piece differently than my last one. At first I was planning on making a far more simple video than before. The last one was very drama/story focused and I wanted something a little less involved and easier to grok. Something more actiony and less reliant on knowing the story of a particular series. I already knew I wanted to use the song I went with after remembering its use in Metropolis. As far as the video source, I was not quite sure. I knew I needed something with a lot of action, but I did not want to do something very well known (e.g. Attack on Titan or Black Lagoon). I want my videos to not only be entertaining, but also to highlight less known works. That is when I remembered Ran. This is not the most obscure film, but it is not super well known or talked about either. Based on the Shakespeare play, King Lear, it is about a Japanese warlord who divides his kingdom amongst his three sons. Two of the sons betray the father who goes mad, only to be rescued by his third son. It is an engaging film, with vibrant colors, devastating battle scenes, and masterful direction by one of Japan's great filmmakers: Akira Kurosawa.

Initially, I was thinking that just setting the battle scenes to music would make a pretty good action entry. In preparation for making FMV, I printed out a copy of the lyrics and rewatched the film, taking notes and marking time stamps of scenes I wanted to use. As I started to string clips together I naturally progressed to a more story focused video, like my last one. The actions scenes did work well set to the music, but If I had used just those scenes for the whole thing, I would be stretched thin clip-wise. Kurosawa is a skilled director which means he is not one to linger for too long, so there is not a whole lot to work with. That is when I started going for more of a storytelling piece.

+Comments on Particular Scenes+

The cold opening (0:00-0:0:15): I really like the opening. Most AMVs/FMVs do not do that. They just go straight into the music and video. I toyed with making this part SUPER long because I like the idea of people sitting there wondering what is going on, but I did not want people getting too bored. It is a real fantastic scene from the movie and I just had to put it somewhere.

Start of the music (0:16) The dichotomy of the violent murder of the King's entourage and the feel good lyrics of the song is a really dissonant in a good way, IMHO. It sets the tone early on that this is going to be a weird piece of work, with the song and images constantly at odds.

Flashbacks(0:29-0:0:38) I wanted to put more in here, but there is very little time in the song to allow for that. This does an acceptable job of providing some back story, but it was a concern of mine that this would not be enough. It is hard to judge how understandable the story is since the audience is probably unfamiliar with the film, but I am intimately familiar.

King's guard bleeding out(0:55) Again, the song and pictures should be at war with each other. This is a scene I really like which highlights the dichotomy at plan.

King picks flowers(2:41) I love this cut. The King is really happy (in a mad way) in this scene, but it is totally at odds with the scene that came before.

Son comes to king's aid(2:59) It is a bit on the nose, since "Blue" in the context of the song is really about the singer's emotional state and less about the color, but as Bob Ross would say, it is a "happy little accident" that this scene lines up.

Son's death(4:07) This is a tough one since it is not immediately obvious what happened. In the movie all you hear is a gunshot from the distance, context which is lost given all you hear is the music. I left it in since it sets up the next two scenes, but I am not a huge fan of it. This is the real struggle of making these videos: trying to convey meaning with the scenes you have.

King's death(4:10-4:12) A big peccadillo of mine is flapping lips or any speech you cannot hear during an AMV or FMV. Unfortunately there is just no way to cut this scene to avoid that. Yet, if I leave this scene out the funeral procession next scene makes no sense.

That is it. It took about ~10 hours to do with minimal changes after I made a first draft. This was a lot quicker than the last one, but I had a lot less footage to work with and a much stronger theme. I hope you like it. I will try again next year and see if I can get an award this time around.

Friday 28 August 2015

Lets Get NASty

I want to talk a bit today about my storage setup, specifically my NAS or Network Attached Storage. I have been running my system for a little over a year now and have had no issues so it is a good time to give a brief half review, half description of setup. I started considering a longer term storage setup when the available space on my desktop began to dwindle. I am a bit of "digital hoarder" if you will, constantly butting up against my limit. When space is so cheap and ubiquitous why throw anything out? The problem with this is you always need to be increasing your capacity. At the time I was getting my NAS my several year old external drive had failed, another drive in my desktop was faltering, and the rest of the case was already filled up with other drives. I did not want to get rid of my existing drives and I also wanted a better solution than continuing to lock data to my desktop. Enter the ReadyNAS 104.

The first thing you need to know about NASs (NASes?) is that there are a ton of models on the market featuring wildly different prices and sets of features. You will need to determine what you want out of your NAS before you consider purchasing one. For me I had just two requirements:

1. Four drive slots. This allows for a ton of storage and is very flexible when it comes to determining your RAID setup. 2. Minimum computational performance, I do not need my NAS to be a file server or another computer. I need to put files on it and get files off, that is all.

With those requirements you can pretty much be satisfied with things at the low end of the market, hence the ReadyNAS 104. Your real cost on the low end here is going to be in drives. I went with four of these drives for a total capacity of 16 terabytes. Total (including the NAS) this ran me $1045.94. You could cheap out here and go for smaller drives or slower drives. From what I read 5600RPM drives work just as well, albeit slower. I went max size and max speed because I wanted a long term solution. There were at the time some rebates, but I do not remember how much they were for. As far as quality of drives this particular brand came recommended, but other brands are just as well regarded.

For setup I configured the drives in RAID 5 (~10TBs of space). Take a moment to read up on the different RAID options here. In my opinion RAID 5 gives you the best space efficiency (you lose about 1/4 of the capacity compared to 1/2 in some other configurations) and reasonable fault tolerance (you can lose one drive and not lose any data). I do not want to lose data, but then again it is not exactly mission critical. Actually formatting and configuring the drives takes about a full day so sit tight. After that there is not much other configuration to be done. Plug it into your router and it should assign itself a local IP address automatically. It would be wise to configure a static address in your router's control panel so its not always changing on you, but this is not required. You can access your system via its IP and (at least on Windows) it will appear like one giant network drive.

Of course since your NAS is basically a low powered computer you can run any number of programs on it. The ReadyNAS people helpfully have a site with some options. I myself jun run qbittorent for my torrenting needs, but there are some useful apps to be found. If you are handy with the command line you can SSH into your NAS and do whatever you want since it runs Linux.

For daily use a NAS is pretty helpful. Transfer times can be slow since I connect through mine wirelessly, but its not terribly slow. Think a few minutes for a couple GBs. It is certainly quick enough to stream video from itself to your computer which is what I primarily use it for. Although when initially transferring all your files to it I suggest hooking up an external drive. There are a few USB ports on the back so it can mount drives, but I could not figure how to connect it physically to my desktop.

In regards to configuration you can mostly roll with stock settings. I suggest disabling file snap shots, which can be a bit of a pain, but will save you a lot of space. I also recommend enabling SSH access (so you can fiddle with things yourself) and enabling "Disk Spin Down" to both conserve power and the life of your drives.

Overall a NAS is a little pricey, but it is a convenient way to get a lot of storage you can access from anywhere in the house. It also allows you to sleep safe knowing your files are backed up. Granted its not off site, but if your house burns down you probably have bigger things to concern yourself with.

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.

LOGH AMV Editor

Saturday 18 April 2015

Melting Metal:Attempt 2

When last I attempted this I was met with a decided lack of success. Whether it was a faulty microwave or a generally bad plan I will not pass judgement. Luckily, I was groomed to be stubborn and one failure was not going to dissuade me from my dream of controlling intense heat.

Thus we arrive at attempt two (try one):

What are we looking at here? My very own homemade foundry with a hairdryer for a bellows. Instructions courtesy of this youtube video. The general idea here is, put a bunch of coals in the foundry, turn on the blower, and hope it gets hot enough. The results were again disappointing. After about half an hour the foundry was at about "hamburger grilling" temperature and the zinc block still resolutely solid. I needed to get to, "melt your hand" temperature and that did not happen. Another failure, but an instructive one. This leads us to attempt two (try two):

For the first try with the foundry I had not filled it with coals, using only a conservative six coals or so. This time I could really amp the number up so I packed in as many as I could which was 21. I accomplished this by reducing the size of the crucible from a stainless steel pet food bowl to a tall shot glass. I also significantly increased the air flowing into the foundry by replacing the hair dryer with a leaf blower. The results were impressive:

And this was on the low setting. It is hard to see clearly, but there is a very hot glow from the foundry this time. The difference in heat and noise was immediate when I turned the blower on. With the hair dryer, the heat was tepid at best. With the leaf blower there was very much a fiery roar. Looking in from the top, the coals were glowing with heat within a few minutes. A marked difference from last time. The heat pouring out the top was, in the words of a person who never looked at a thesaurus, very hot. Worryingly, I found a part of glass blown out from the foundry. Regardless, I let the whole thing run for about ten minutes. After I turned off the blower, the sound died down and I took a look. Upon removing the lid I came to a few conclusions:

1. The coals looked like moon rocks.

2. I could not find the glass.

Digging around a bit I eventually found what was left of the glass:

Yes it seems I put too much faith in the $2.09 Walmart glass purchase I had made. Looking online it says glass does not melt until 1000-1500 degrees, but it could become malleable around 700-900 degrees. Since 787.2 degrees is the melting point of zinc, the metal I was trying to melt, this was not good. Lesson learned the hard way, do not use a glass crucible next time. What of the zinc though? I too was perplexed until I dug to the bottom of the foundry and saw it had pooled at the bottom as a liquid. Yes, sweet success never felt so hot. Moving quickly we were able to pour it into a coffee can and then to the mold. The liquid was so hot it burnt the label off the can, but thankfully the can was stout enough to not melt itself.

You can see the bottom of the mold was not good enough as the metal pooled out, but the general shape is there. I would call this a success.

What did we learn?

1. Glass is not a good crucible.

2. 21 coals and a leaf blower is enough to get 800 or so degrees of heat. I honestly did not expect it to get so hot. I really must get a IR Temperature Gun to see how hot I can get it. Also would be interesting to see if I can get the same results with less coals.

3. I need a bigger foundry cover. A number of embers slipped out via the edges and we had to constantly put out small fires and keep the ground around it wet. This should not be too hard to do, I can just add on to the cover I already have.

4. I need a better mold, with a better seal on the bottom. Perhaps investigate these sand molds on the same youtube channel.

Overall, it took three tries, but after some tweaks I got it. I look to make some improvements and give it another shot. You can find a few more photos in the album.