Ten years ago to the minute, I created my account on AnimeMusicVideos.org. It is not an exaggeration to say that this was a completely life-changing event, although I had no idea at the time what I was getting myself into, or how it would profoundly affect the course I now find myself on.
Although I’ve spent a good deal of time trying to block out a lot of things that happened in college, I remember joining the .org very clearly. It was my first week of college, still getting used to living on my own in my dorm room. I was (and still am) an introverted person, and while everyone else on my floor was spending their time mingling and making friends with each other, I was in my room, glued to my computer. I often wonder what it would have been like if things had gone differently that first week — if I had actually been intentionally social and outgoing. I probably would have turned into a very different person, for a multitude of reasons I won’t bore you with here. But surely my college experience would have been more immediately fulfilling. I don’t know if I’d want to trade it though.
Anyway. All that week I had been having major issues connecting to our campus’s Internet. I forget specifically what the issues had been, but it just wasn’t working, no matter what I tried. This was many years before I ever had a smartphone (in fact I had only just gotten my first cell phone a few months earlier), so all my Googling for solutions had to be done on campus computers, and then tried on my own, and if it didn’t work oh well, go back and look up more possible solutions. It was a major pain, and I had just about given up.
It was late at night, I had class the next day but I was journaling with my computer on, when I decided to try the Internet one last time…and lo and behold, it worked! What’s more, this was the first time I had personal access to Internet that wasn’t dial-up, as when I had lived at home that was really all we could afford (infuriatingly, the month after I left for college my parents sprung for cable Internet…still salty about that one).
To this day, I don’t know what it was that drove me to the .org that night, but that was one of the first places I went. I had been introduced to AMVs a couple years before by a friend who had found some random ones online and showed them to me when I was hanging out with him once, and although I went home all psyched up on them and even made a few (really bad) ones over the next week or so, it never progressed beyond that — having no way to share these videos with others and no real source material to speak of besides my PC copy of Final Fantasy VII and my hardsubbed copy of FLCL, I quickly got bored of the idea and more or less forgot about them.
Whatever it was, I discovered the .org that night, signed up, and dove in. I made my first video the next day and uploaded it, downloaded a bunch of videos with no real pattern to what I was looking for, and got involved in the community pretty much right away. This part I don’t have very much recollection of — going from someone who had no real history of watching AMVs or even anime to speak of to being deeply involved in the forums and IRC is still something of a miracle. Weirdly, the thought of doing that all over again fills me with a vague sense of anxiety; I don’t know if I have the social fortitude to insert myself in an established online community again, no matter what the context. But somehow, back then, I did.
I made friends, I made videos, I absolutely absorbed every inch and facet of ErMaC and AbsoluteDestiny’s technical guide, I posted, I downloaded videos…much of my first year of college is a complete blur to me as I spent most of my time obsessing over AMVs and the community. I couldn’t tell you what classes I took, or the professors who taught them, or what I learned at all, but I could rattle off all the videos that made a monumental and lasting impression on me in those first months. I could tell you the names of editors I met and made friends with who have been long gone from the hobby, and I could tell you that I spent more time talking in IRC than I probably ever spent socializing with people IRL.
I also remember I once made this really bad RahXephon video that Koopiskeva really liked (for some dumb reason), and a day or two after I released it I logged into IRC and the first thing he said when I logged in was, “Oh hey it’s the guy that made that RahXephon video” (or something similar). I remember practically dying of shock, because this was when I was still very new to the scene (only a couple months in) and my video was being recognized by one of the greatest and most popular AMV editors ever. After that he and I got to talking and I realized eventually that he’s just some guy that makes videos, but to me this was one of the most profound things that ever happened to me in my development as an editor. It didn’t really have an effect on my actual editing style or behavior, but from a social perspective I began to realize that most of the people in the quote-unquote higher echelons of the AMV world were perfectly approachable. I made many more friends after that day, most of whom are those that I became pretty close with, and continue to be to this day. (If you had told my 18 year-old self that Jay would one day be my best man, I’d have thought you were absolutely insane — but it’s funny how these things work.)
I went to ACen in 2007 and finally got to meet in person many of the people I had been talking with and who had been encouraging me and beta testing for me and just generally being awesome — and it was an eye-opener. All these people were so cool, they were friendly, and they were genuinely happy to meet me. I hadn’t made anything great — and looking at it now I had basically made nothing but crap — but that didn’t matter to them, they were just a bunch of people who got together because they all loved AMVs, and were happy to have another person join them.
As time went by I slowly improved as an editor, although it took years. I enjoyed myself every step of the way but being now on the other side of the last 10 years, I realize just how few videos in those first couple years were really worth anything at all. Perhaps more importantly though, I built relationships. I made friends that I could go without talking to for months (in some cases years), and when I would see or talk to them again it was like no time had passed. I began to really love AMVs not only as an artistic medium, but as a subculture — something with its own history, its own rules, its own style and language. This fascination was slow to developl but it has come to hugely inform my approach to the medium at all, and ultimately gave birth to both the Genome Project and this blog, the two creations of mine of which I am probably most proud. I also fell in love with someone in the community, although that (luckily) didn’t pan out. But it still happened, and the effects were far-reaching.
I could go on and on about the ways AMVs have had both subtle and blatant effects on my life, my relationships, my time, and my money. I could spend paragraphs explaining how, more than any other single thing, AMVs have shaped my taste in music in ways that nothing else could have. But I won’t bore you, and I feel that this short retrospective is probably enough IRL for one day. Suffice to say, there is probably no interest or hobby of mine that has changed me as much as AMV editing and viewing has. It’s to the point where it’s one of the main ways I identify myself — first as a Christian, second as a husband, third as an AMV editor.
I’ve seen lots of people come and go in the community — people whose interests changed, or who have moved to places that don’t allow them to be around us anymore, and too many who have, sadly, passed away. But I’m so grateful, at this moment in time, to be lucky enough to still be around, still engaged, and still contributing to the greatest community I’ve ever been a part of. It’s changed over the years, often in ways that I don’t like. But the fact that it’s still around, still alive and kicking, even if not on the .org like it once was, fills me with such joy. It excites me to see where it will go next, and I can’t wait to be a part of it.
Looking back and recounting my journey up to this point is only half of this post, however; you should know by now that any major landmark I celebrate or recognize also invariably comes with some sort of list attached, and this is no exception. Over the last ten years I have released, at the time of this writing, some 43 individual videos, and been involved in six MEPs. That’s a hefty amount of output for a single person, although nowhere near some people. Still, especially given that for three and a half years (from early 2010-late 2013) I didn’t release a single AMV, it’s pretty good, and if you remove that three and a half year section it translates to about seven videos being released per year that I was active — which, in my mind anyway, makes it seem like I’ve been a lot more prolific than I feel like I have been.
In any case, it’s a lot of AMVs to look through, but I decided that, to celebrate my 10 years of editing, I would do just that, and watch through all of my videos (minus the MEPs) from first to last, as a way to see how I’ve grown and as a reminder of where I’ve come from.
…I would recommend that you don’t do this for my videos, as the majority of the first half of them are pure, cringey crap that I’d rather forget exist. I will most likely not watch any of these videos ever again. Actually, most of these I hadn’t actually watched myself in probably a good 6+ years anyway, and after firing them up for the first time in a while it became crystal clear why.
Now, if you’re a regular reader of my blog you may have noticed that I pretty much never talk about my own AMVs, except in the occasional tangential reference here or there. There are a couple reasons for this, the first being that the point of this blog, insofar as sharing AMVs goes, is not to put attention on my own work, but rather to shine the light on others who, I feel, are more deserving and (usually) less visible. Second, and more practically, I don’t talk about my own work because, outside of my video descriptions (which, like most of my writing, can be quite verbose), I just don’t like to. I’d rather let it speak for itself and, more personally, I tend to suffer from low self-esteem when it comes to my AMVs; even if I end up liking them a bunch, I tend to convince myself that no one else does.
It’s stupid and wrong in a lot of cases, but it’s how it is and as a result I tend to avoid mentioning my own work here whenever possible. I’ve toyed with the idea of sharing my videos here before and I always come to the conclusion that it’s best avoided, as I utilize other channels for sharing my work that tend to be perfectly viable and effective while minimizing the compulsion for me to inject my own thoughts.
Not so today. I feel that a 10-year anniversary is as good an excuse as any to do a little personal evaluation, and although the very thought of posting this does make me slightly uncomfortable, maybe down the road I can look back on this and find it amusing or insightful or useful somehow. Or, barring that, maybe someone will watch some of these videos and like them, and that’s a good enough reason for me I guess.
In any case, I’ll be posting some of my videos from the past ten years. I played with the idea of doing a “Top 5” or “Top 10” and ranking them, and until the very moment that I typed these words I was going to do that, however I think the spirit of this post would be better served by doing a chronologically ordered list, of not necessarily just my favorite videos of mine, but those that were important for whatever reason in my development as an editor. Apologies, but the first year or so of my work will not be represented here just because of how bad I feel it is. I can’t stop you from looking it up on your own but I refuse to advertise any of those videos here.
I’ll try to keep my descriptions brief to keep this from becoming too self-serving, which is exactly what I don’t want to happen. If you made it this far, thanks for indulging me. At least now you get to watch some videos, right?
Although I can barely stand watching this video now (STOCK EFFECTS EVERYWHERE YO), it stands as possibly the most experimental thing I’ve ever done, and remains an achievement I’m still pretty proud of. It netted me two awards in 2007’s AWA Pro contest — the first Pro contest I’d ever entered — and marks one of the few times I feel I was actually really conceptually innovative with one of my videos. Although live action being integrated with AMVs was nothing new, there were hardly any videos that used original, self-shot live action at the time, and consequently this is one of the only videos I’ve made that I feel actually contributed something new to the AMV scene at the time of its release.
Interestingly, Koopiskeva was working on Twilight at the same time I was working on this, and I didn’t find out that his video would be using OLA as well until well after I’d already started my video. His was way more popular (and, well, way better), but mine came first and I’ll always have that :P
Safe and Sound
This remains one of my favorite videos of mine, although I don’t have much to say about it. It’s highly imperfect, and every time I watch it I notice several things that I would definitely change if I made this today, but I love the mood and there are lots of scenes that I think I chose perfectly. It was not a very loved or well-remembered video by those who kept up with my stuff years ago, and it’s not something anyone would ever seek out these days, but in a way I think that just makes it better.
Whatever Makes You Beautiful
Another one of my favorite videos that never got an overly great reception, this video was a watershed moment for me. This is probably the first video I released where I was starting to actually define my own editing style. It is very prototypical of the type of thing I’d make nowadays, and I can’t watch this one without noticing a bunch of things that I still do, although these days in a more refined way (hopefully). I still love this one, and although it was completely, totally unoriginal (and purposely so), it’s the first video in my catalog that I can point to as definitively “mine” in a stylistic sense.
I don’t know of a single person who actually admitted to liking this video, but to this day I still thoroughly enjoy it, and when it gets to the section where Haruko keeps opening the window I laugh every. Fricking. Time. Nobody else finds this video funny but me, I don’t think, and in every sense it’s a throwaway video that I made to pass a few hours, but I love it. I still regret not sending it to that year’s AWA Expo contest because I’m fairly certain they would have played it at some point and I would have loved to have seen that.
This was a deeply personal video when I made it, and honestly I wasn’t expecting to include it here when I started writing this list, however watching it now I find that it still resonates with me in the same way it did when I originally released it. It uses all the scenes you’ve seen in every other multi-anime video released 8-10 years ago, but I still really like it, and am glad I made it. The feels, man, they are real.
This was the first video I made that became kinda “big”, and for a long time was the video by which most people recognized my work. I don’t really like it nowadays — there are just so many stutters and graphical mistakes that I notice and cringe at — but I’d by remiss to not include on a list like this. Beyond that, as far as I know there are no other AMVs out there that do this — one continuous shot for the whole video. In that way I think this is probably the only other video besides d!gital me where I contributed something unique to the scene, although in this case, as far as I know, it hasn’t been replicated. I think that’s kinda cool!
This was the end of what, looking back, was a surprisingly solid run of videos that lasted about a year. This particular video was an extension of the editing style I’d started to develop in Whatever Makes You Beautiful — zoom-heavy with lots of blurs and camera shake. It was a rip-off, style-wise, of a lot of stuff that was coming out around that time, all of which traced back to Nostromo’s videos. All the same, I still really like this one, as I feel it’s more focused with a lot more storytelling than was present in other videos at the time of its release. It ended up becoming pretty popular, and that in spite of the fact that I never sent it off to a single con (that I can recall, anyway). Following this one…it was downhill for a little while.
Edited summer 2010
This is a video I always forget about because it’s not an AMV — it was my first and only real foray into using non-anime source material, setting the stop-motion movie Coraline to Radiohead’s “Climbing Up The Walls”. I edited this in 2010 for that year’s AWA Pro contest, and this was the last time I really touched an editing program for several years. It ended up winning Best Horror in Pro (an award that, sadly, I never physically received), and then I neglected to officially release it for three more years. As such, it was forgotten about by everyone who saw it originally, and might as well be still, as it’s been taken down from my YouTube account due to copyright claims on the music track.
I always randomly stumble across it once every six months or so in my videos folder, and it’s wonderful when I do because I love this one. I wish I could share it with more people but I’m also perfectly content making it a video that people will have to randomly come across on their own, and hopefully enjoy and stow away.
Hold Me Up
This is easily one of my favorite videos of mine, as it marked the beginning of two years of what I think is probably my best period of output. Besides that though, I’m still really drawn to the anachronism of this video — the low-quality encode, the ’90s anime, the ’90s music…all edited very simply and released 15 years after it had any right to be. It exists as a kind of window to the past, and to me it reminds me of the type of stuff I used to download and couldn’t get enough of when I was first getting into AMVs — all the classics, when they were still new to me. If I published a Top 5 for my own videos, this would certainly be near the top.
This is possibly the only video I’ve made where, looking at it now, I probably wouldn’t change a single frame. It’s not my absolute favorite of my videos, but I have trouble finding any ways I could improve it without sacrificing some other element in the process. This was also the first (and thus far, only) time one of my videos has won in its category at NDK, which was a totally surreal experience.
Victims of the Night
By far my favorite of all my videos, Victims of the Night is one I can watch again…and again…and again, and never get tired of. It has some of my best editing, but I think more than that what gets me is just the perfect synthesis of anime and music — this song was made for this anime, and vice versa. This video took the “old-school” thing I had started with Hold Me Up and Nothing’s Gonna Happen and made it a bit more accessible to a modern audience, and ended up being, imo, a really ideal blend of the two eras. I’m still looking to make something I like more than this; to date, it hasn’t happened.
I Was Happy
When I released this video, I was not expecting a particularly great reception, and in fact I was not expecting much feedback at all. I was right on both counts. This is a video that few people watched, and those that did weren’t all that crazy about it, but that’s okay. It remains probably the hardest video I’ve edited from an emotional perspective; the source material hit way too close to home for me, and the song did as well. It ended up being a very personal video, and the fact that few others seem to really enjoy it actually makes it a bit more special to me.
My Favorite Days
The final video I’ll list here is this one, definitely another one of my favorites. I’m actually finding myself with very little to say about it. I spammed this video to a bunch of different contests last year, and it was amusing to see its reception, because it was not consistent. It won Best Romance & Sentimental at Anime Expo, one of the largest cons in the country, but didn’t even make it into the Overload section (i.e. videos that are still good but not good enough to be in the actual contest) at NDK the same year. It was always weirdly hit-or-miss with how it would be received at any given contest. I will admit though, winning something at AX was a total surprise, and an awesome honor.
Welp, there you have it, probably way more about my videos than you ever cared to know. I promise I won’t do anything like this again for another 10 years at least. Hopefully this wasn’t too, uhh, self-indulgent or anything, but even if it was, this is as bad as it will get on this blog. Hopefully. Anyway, thanks for reading, and watching (if you did). Here’s to another fantastic 10 years of AMV fandom!