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.

Guns Hobbies

How To: Owning a Machine Gun In Massachusetts

Massachusetts has some of the strictest laws in the union when it comes to firearms (at least when this was written in December of 2023), but through some hard work and a lot of money there is a path to lawful machine gun ownership via the “Machine Gun License”. This is sometimes called a green card. If you are starting as just a normal MA firearms owner (which is to say you have a License to Carry) then this process is going to take about two years, although some of the steps you can execute concurrently. If you have no license to start with then add five or six months and ~$200.

First some background, machine guns federally are regulated via the National Firearms Act. They are defined as “any weapon which shoots, is designed to shoot, or can be readily restored to shoot, automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger.” Prior to 1986, anyone could buy a machine gun so long as they registered it with the federal government. In 1986 with the passage of the Firearms Owners Protection Act the registry of machine guns was closed (via the Hughes amendment). Today you can no longer register a newly produced machine gun. However, any gun registered prior to the closure of the registry is still legal to own and transfer. These guns are colloquially called transferables and this is the kind of gun you will most likely be trying to get. A machine gun is a NFA item. You may also hear it called a class three or title II weapon.

Before we get in to it, remember I am not a lawyer. Be sure you understand the law and what you are doing before you make a mistake!

These are the steps I took on the path to lawful ownership:

Step Zero: Acquire a vast amount of patience as it will be sorely tested over this process.

Step One: Acquire a Curio and Relics license. This is a type of Federal Firearms License (type three). The boon to this (outside of how it helps us to get a machine gun license) is the ability to ship firearms older than 50 years (or ones that are explicitly noted as curios) straight to your door without having to go through a dealer. Usually a firearm transfer must take place through a dealer (a holder of a federal firearms license) in your state. You need this license because MA law says it will not issue a machine gun license unless you are: “a bona fide collector of firearms” (General Laws Part I Title XX Chapter 140 Section 131 Part o). How does your local PD (who you will be submitting your application to) determine this? By asking for a C&R license. Even if you are not into machine gun ownership, this license is very useful for collecting so you should have it anyways. The law does not explicitly state you need this license, but I was asked for it and so have a number of other people.

This form is submitted to the government (the ATF). It costs $30 and will take about three to four months to process. If you complete the form properly and you are not a prohibited person the government must issue you this license.

Step Two: Now that you have a C&R license go ahead and submit your machine gun license application to your local PD. Each PD has their own policy regarding this license. This license is “may issue” so some PDs will not issue it at all. Some may require you to prove you are a bona fide collector (which is why we got the C&R license). Some may require nothing. In my case they required my C&R license and they wanted to do an in person inspection of my storage setup. Your mileage will vary. This will cost you $100 and will take about six months.

Step Three (OPTIONAL): You may wish to acquire a NFA trust. I got mine via this site. This used to be a workaround if your local police chief would not approve your form four (see step six), but now that is no longer required. It may make things easier for your beneficiaries if the trust holds your NFA items. It may also make things easier if you have a partner and wish to share your NFA items with them. There is no downside (aside from the extra paperwork) to putting things in a NFA trust to start with, but it can be expensive if you decide later on you want to transfer them into the trust.

Step Four: Now that you have your machine gun license and your NFA trust (if you wanted it) you will actually need to find a machine gun. This will obviously be the hardest and most expensive part. You will probably need somewhere between $8,000 – $10,000 to get your feet in the door. You can use this site, to judge where the market for your particular gun is at. The easiest solution is to find one for sale locally as then you can just do a private transfer. If you have to go out of state your best bet would be an auction house like Rock Island or Morphys Auction. If you do this then you will have to have the auction house transfer the gun to a local dealer who you will then work with. Buying a non-C&R gun out of state means you must transfer that gun to an instate dealer who will then transfer it to you. This will slow down the process by a month or two and will add $150 to $300 to your expenses. The local dealer must have an addition to their federal firearms license to transfer machine guns (Class 3 – Special Occupational Taxpayer (SOT)). One such dealer in MA is GFA Armstec. Make sure you have your dealer lined up before executing your transfer. You could also engage with a machine gun dealer like DealerNFA, but their prices will be high compared to the rest of the market. Remember, all the guns you will look at will be from 1986 or older which means they are grandfathered in and not subject to MA’s 1994 “assault weapon” ban. However, if you wish to purchase new magazines for your piece they must comply with the 10 round magazine limit (unless they are preban magazines).

Step Five: Once you have located a possible purchase, take some time to inspect it. If it is a private purchase, ask the owner about their use of it and any issue or quirks it has. Verify they have a valid tax stamp (example here) to prove legal ownership. Look at it in person if possible. If it is at an auction house, go to the preview day if possible. Always ask questions if you have doubts.

Step Six: Regardless of if you are doing a private transfer or working with an auction house/dealer you will fill and submit ATF Form Four. This form, that both you and the seller fill out, will tell the government that this gun is being transferred to you. Take your time and carefully fill it out. You will need to include a passport style picture and fingerprints. You will also be required to pay for $200 for the transfer. When the form is approved you will receive a tax stamp to prove your ownership. Finally, you must submit a copy of this form to your local police chief. This process can take eight months to a year. Check current wait times here. In some cases you can efile, but I had to submit a paper form. It took 11 months for that form to be approved. The completed form and tax stamp will be sent to the current owner (or dealer you are working with) who can then legally transfer ownership to you.

Step Seven: While you wait you will need to find some place to shoot. Many clubs in MA prohibit full auto. One such club that allows it is Harvard Sportsmen’s Club. Another is Leominster Sportsmen’s Association.

Step Eight: Insure your property. You now have a very expensive, highly regulated piece of property. It makes sense to insure it and you can do so affordably. I use Gun and Trophy Insurance. You can insure $50,000 worth of your collection for under $200.

Final Thoughts

Welcome to a very exclusive club. MA says there are only 306 active machine gun licenses as of 7/1/2022.

Finally, It is worth noting that if you ever move you will have to let the government know.