AMV Series: Patriotism

Watch the whole series (in order) here. Patriotism is an idea that got wildly out of hand and ended up being way more work than I had thought it would be. It started out as one AMV using Cannon Fodder from Memories. With this part of the movie being only about 30 minutes I was concerned that I would not have enough footage to fill a whole AMV. Therefore, I went ahead and got footage from Last Exile, a series I adore, as backup. Ultimately, as I was putting things together I realized I would have enough clips with just Cannon Fodder, but I still had the Last Exile footage waiting in the wings. It felt like a shame to throw out the converted footage so I figured I would just make two AMVs with the same song since it worked well for both. From there things began to spiral rapidly out of control.

I thought that, since I was using the same song, I could make six videos and then have a seventh video contain all six videos in it. After I had made five or so videos I started to organize this compilation video. From there I realized six videos in one frame looks kind of awkward. You really need nine videos. So then I decided on nine videos with one compilation video. This gave rise to an 11th video at the end to wrap things up. For good measure I made a small trailer to set the stage. You can consider that a 0th video or half a video.

Actual production of the videos was very straightforward. Each video took about two weeks of editing doing one to two hours a day. By the end I knew the song intimately so I knew exactly where and when I wanted things to happen. Each video follows a fairly standard formula:

  1. Setup
  2. High intensity set piece
  3. Story
  4. High intensity set piece
  5. Story
  6. High intensity finale

I kept the amount of footage I would have to look through to a minimum when I could. I intentionally only used one to two episodes from a series or a movie just to limit how much work scanning through video I had to do. I wanted to focus on lesser known or older anime as is my wont. I also added in Helsreach, which is a kind of animation, mostly because it has a very cool and unique visual style even if it changes halfway through. I originally was going to make a video with a playthrough of Valiant Hearts, but I felt the footage I could get would not be suitable after about an hour poking around with it. In general each video went through two or three revisions before I felt it was in a good place.

After about video three I started thinking about how I was going to present all these videos. Originally I thought I would just present them all sequentially with no comment, but that seemed kind of boring. I really had not seen anyone do exactly what I was doing so I figured I would swing bigger. From there I came up with the idea of The Beast, an ambivalent bureaucratic force, presenting each video as a vision of the future while allowing some interaction in between each video.

I am pretty happy with how each video turned out, but overall they are greater as a gestalt than on there own. I have lately been very interested in AMVs that build on each other and work as a series. 11 videos all using the same song and expressing the same themes, but using different footage, is just a very cool idea to me. Layer that on top of The Beast presenting each one with its own meta commentary and you have a very unique piece of work I am quite chuffed about.

Power Ranking (favorite to least favorite):

  • 2 – Last Exile
  • 6 – Helsreach
  • 5 – Skycrawlers
  • 1 – Cannon Fodder
  • 11 – Freedom
  • 7 – Dragon’s Heaven
  • 3 – Jin Roh
  • 9 – Knights of Sidonia
  • 10 – Jingoism
  • 8 – Gunslinger Girl
  • 4 – Under The Dog

I am not going to go through each video with a commentary as I usually do, but I do have some commentary like notes.

Battery 17 (Patriotism – 1)

  • 0:55 – 1:00 : I generally do not do fancy transitions like this, but sometimes the mood strikes me.

Riflemen of the Claimh Solais (Patriotism – 2)

  • I am very happy I finally made a Last Exile AMV since I love the show. This one came out great.

The Wolf Brigade (Patriotism – 3)

  • I never really felt like I got the relationship stuff right in this one. I think Area 262 (Patriotism – 5) delivers on that promise much more.

The Flowers (Patriotism – 4)

  • 1:17: You will notice every video tries to do something with the roar sound effect here. This is my favorite instance. Which is annoying since this is the weakest video of the set.

The Black Templars (Patriotism – 6)

  • Annoyingly the visual style changes halfway through this work and I thought I had all I needed before that happened, but I was wrong. I worked around it by setting everything to black and white, but alas it does stand out in parts.

Shaian (Patriotism – 7)

  • 0:24 – 0:37 : I am glad I got to integrate the live action footage from the OVA here. I think it works quite well.
  • I went ahead and used an upscaled version for the AMV, but the purist version is available for those who like such things.

Jingoism (Patriotism – 10)

  • Not a huge fan of the bars I used to separate the videos, but I went through a lot of options and that was the least bad one.

Freedom (Patriotism – 11)

  • 0:08 I really wanted Savio’s signature here, but I could not find it. The best I could do is this text from the government’s file on him.
  • I have an alternative version of this AMV here. Generally I just through these away, but sometimes I publish them just so people can see my thought process.

I hope everyone liked this idea. I certainly had a lot of fun coming up with the script and doing all these videos. It is very on brand for me to see such an odd idea to its bitter end. Do not expect me to listen to this song every again though.

AMV Anime Hobbies

AMV: Called to the Colors

You can watch the piece here. This was submitted to Rice 2024 where it was a finalist in Best Storytelling and Best Use of Space category. It was also submitted to Anime Boston 2024 in the Drama category where it was not a finalist.

I had two impetuses for this work, which both ended up complementing each other. One was a desire to flout rules. When I started work on it there was a contest rule somewhere that said “75% of the entry has to be set to the same song.” I thought it would be amusing to start with one song and then switch to another, while still being within the boundaries of the rule. The second impetus was to try and produce a work that was more challenging to the viewer. I would like to try and grow the artistic purview of the AMV by creating works that entertain, but also get people thinking. That may be a quixotic endeavor, but I have always admired and desired to emulate the windmill chasers of the world.

This work has some successes and some failures. I really like the intro. It creates an atmosphere that is then immediately broken while introducing the games I will be playing with color. It is basically the first quarter of an entirely different AMV. I then got to play with some SFX without music, which I like and makes the work more distinctive. As we ease into the real AMV I was mostly influenced by the last episode of GunBuster, which is almost all in black and white. I did a couple of tests with colored footage from other episodes and all the results were great so I knew it would work for a longer piece. I like pretty much everything until the last quarter where I struggle to introduce Noriko’s relationship with Kazumi. I do like the ending though. Song wise it was a clear choice to start with Over There, given its bombastic tone and galvanizing intent. When I Lost You by Frank Sinatra was a bit harder to find. I knew I wanted to do something with Sinatra, but it took a little digging in his catalog to find something I liked while also being short enough to fit with another song.

Overall, I really like how this turned out. It is certainly unique. Have I really conveyed the loss of innocence for a child soldier and gotten people to question the tools and stories governments use to enlist soldiers? Maybe not, but its pretty cool to see flashes of blue set against black and white.

Director’s Commentary:

00:14 : There was a weird black smudge for a single frame here that I removed. It took me a while to find, but it was unconsciously distracting until I did.

00:34 – 00:36 : I like how all the characters are introduced here, but I probably should have excised the two characters who never show up again. That said, maybe its good to show a spread of combatants here.

00:46 – 00:59: Most of these sounds effects are from Steel Panthers World at War, which is still a quite competent game despite its age.

00:59 : This is the sound of one of those paper cutter guillotines in use. I was never quite sure what to put here. I fiddled with some VCR noises (given we do rewind things in a moment) but I like the noise of this so I kept it.

01:47 : Sometimes, for mixed color scenes, I used a mask like on the picture here. For others I used the Vegas Color Corrector (Secondary) tool (see 2:55). I was a little afraid I was going to have to mask every time so it was quite a relief to find this color tool in Vegas.

02:28 : Masking mouths on old anime is tough, especially for me: an advanced idiot. I think this is just the best I can do at present.

03:48 : I get why I did this, but it seems kind of late to be introducing a pivotal character. Maybe I should have put her in the intro?

04:04 : Again masking is tough. You can also see her ribbon is not blue here. In the unaltered anime it is in grayscale as she is on a TV screen here. I did not want to add it in, but I can see it be confusing as it does break the color rules I have been following.

04:48 : I really like the ending here. Its quiet and reflective of the journey our character has taken.

AMV Hobbies

AMV: The Square

You can watch the piece here (and without SFX here). This was submitted to Rice 2024, and was a finalist in the Drama category.

While not a typical AMV, this Art Music Video was an interesting idea I wanted to pursue with some novel technical challenges to overcome. Overall, I am happy with the outcome. It is a good way to appreciate the many embellishments in the work and it is a modern take on how the Victorians may have experienced at the time.

Our primary medium for this work is the 28th Regiment at Quatre Bras by Elizabeth Thompson. It depicts the 28th Regiment of Foot from the British Army (under Wellington) in square formation (with focus here on one of the corners) during the Battle of Quatre Bras. As part of the Waterloo campaign (summary for visual learners) Wellington is taking his army to reinforce his ally (the Prussian army under Blücher). Together both Armies can outnumber and destroy Napoleon’s army. However, Napoleon has correctly identified this threat and has moved to destroy the Prussians first (in the Battle of Ligny) and after that he will turn to destroy the allied armies (primarily British, but also Dutch and ‘German’ units). This will be the Battle of Waterloo. Napoleon has dispatch Ney with part of his army to delay the allied army at Quatre Bras so they cannot join up with Blücher. At this moment in the battle Ney has ordered a cavalry attack. Infantry under threat from cavalry will almost always form square (minus some exceptions) with the front line kneeling to present a wall of bayonets and the second line shooting at the approaching horseman. The square provides 360 degrees of protection with no space for cavalry to get in-between the infantry. Horses will not charge into a line of steel so cavalry is relatively impotent against this formation. However, this kind of formation requires a great deal of training to execute properly under fire and it makes the unit very susceptible to artillery fire or other infantry. We can see a good example of this formation in Waterloo (1970).

The historical context having been covered, let us turn to the art itself. Painted by Lady Elizabeth Thompson in 1877 (62 years after the battle in 1815), it is one of the crowning achievements of her artistic career. Known for her careful research and a focus on individual soldiers her work has been reproduced an innumerable amount time. This piece is currently on display in the National Gallery of Victoria. More information on the painting itself here.

Over the summer I read Waterloo: The History of Four Days, Three Armies, and Three Battles by Bernard Cornwell (ISBN10 – 0062312065). A very engaging and readable account of the Waterloo campaign. While doing some additional reading I discovered Lady Butler’s work. It is an immensely captivating piece managing to record the intensity of the battle without sacrificing the detail of the individual combatants. After seeing it I knew I wanted to mimic how it would be to experience this work in person. You would not take it all in at once, but instead inspect small portions and cast your gaze slowly around the whole thing. It was a simple leap to add some music and sound effects to accentuate the piece. Although, to spoil some of the magic most of the heavy work is done by this backing track that plays throughout. In essence this is an extended cut of what you might find in a documentary on the battle.

On the technical front I used an image enhancing tool to add extra detail to accomplish those tight zooms. There are some decent high-res scans online, but I really needed a lot more detail as I would be zooming in very close. It took a couple tools, but I managed to get a very sharp image for close up work. I also used an audio separation tool to pull voices out of some films separated from their music. The results were mixed. Sometimes it was perfect, other times not, but I got what I needed. With a pile of audio, music, and a very detailed painting I simply had to sweep the camera around in Vegas and call it a day. There were a few tricky parts, but I will speak of it more in the commentary.

Directors Commentary:

00:00 – 00: 20 : I wanted to have people wondering what exactly they were watching at first so I started with just they sky, then I let the battle noise seep in, and finally you get your the first clue.

00:43 : “Now’s your time” is a quote from Wellington, but during the Battle of Waterloo.

01:07 : Great find on my part with this “Help me…” dialog. It is from Sharpe’s Waterloo, although its more comedic than tragic in the show.

01:26 : I like lingering on the detritus of battle. Armies of the era were so ornamental it contrasts well with the brutality of their engagements.

01:30 : Horrifying audio from The Charge of the Light Brigade (1968), an odd film, but the best representation of the charge we have. As an aside if you are interested in the Crimean War check out this.

02:49 : Maybe the most striking piece of this work is these two boys here. Have they lost themselves or is it relief at having survived so far? I struggled for a long time trying to figure out what would go here. The audio is from Zulu.

03:04 : So many times I missed this detail of the wounded soldier draping his arm around his comrade. Once I saw it late I knew I had to include it.

03:45 : Not a huge deal, but this subtle stop on the saddle is to work around an issue in Vegas. I wanted to curve the camera following a particular arc, but as far as I can tell, you can only instruct the camera to move in straight lines. I needed to avoid parts of the painting I would get to later so I ended up lingering on his saddle as a compromise, but I would have preferred something else. Audio is from the greatest depiction of a cavalry action on film. This funny enough is inspired by another of Lady Butler’s works.

04:16 : I really love the building climax here. The music is really coming into center stage at this part.

04:24 : I never could get the right reloading sound effect here. This is just a little too slow and isolated. It is the best I could do.

04:37 : Lady Butler can really capture eyes well. The man behind these two officers is saying so much with his.

05:07 – 05:13 : The screen used to flex oddly here until I eased us into the correct aspect ratio with the earlier pan. It is still a little noticeable, but cleaner overall. The payoff seeing the whole painting is really worth it.

05:13 : Right here is where I had the most issues in this project. As we switch to the museum I need to pull back so the art is just one more piece on the wall. I tried putting the high-res piece and the museum wall in one image and just using that, but GIMP was fighting me. Trying to scale down the image was causing a quality loss. What I ended up doing was using the high-res image until right here and then I switched to my combined image with artwork plus museum wall and then I continued to zoom out from there. To my eyes its seamless.

05:30 : I love the ending.