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AMVs: Easy as 1, 2, 3!

By Janet Houck     March 15, 2007


Screencap from Apocalypse Pooh
© N/A

Anime music videos, fan-made videos where music is paired to anime video clips, have a universal appeal, to the point where you can’t imagine a fandom convention (including comics, and sci-fi and fantasy, as well as anime) without some AMVs (anime music videos) being shown. Most anime conventions feature AMV competitions, where creators duel it out on the screen. Nan Desu Kan, for example, offers the “Asuka” for several categories, including Action/Adventure, Drama/Romance, Comedy/Parody and Category X, an ambiguous category for videos that showcase technical and artistic expression over theme. They also offer an award for using video game footage, as well as the general Best in Show award. 

Other conventions have AMV Iron Chef competitions, where creators duel on the fly with the same source video and audio, editing and combining these “ingredients” to create an AMV in their own style. These competitions can either be live, over the course of one to two hours, or over the Internet beforehand.  

AMVs were born from the Internet and in particular, DVD technology, which made acquiring raw and/or clean video sources easier. (“Raw” refers to straight-from-Japan anime; “clean” is any video without subtitles or other on-screen text.) That’s not to say that AMVs didn’t thrive during the heyday of VHS; “Apocalypse Pooh,” one of the earliest recorded AMVs, which mixed the classic Winnie the Pooh cartoon with audio from Apocalypse Now, dates from 1987. In fact, credit has to be given to these early pioneers, who had incredible skill with video and audio equipment, where splicing was more than just a click away. With the creation of home studio tools, such as Adobe Premiere and After Effects, iMovie and Windows Movie Maker, anyone with enough RAM and memory for uncompressed video and audio on their computer can make an AMV. That doesn’t mean that it will be a fandom-evolving video (such as Doki Doki Production’s “Right Now Someone Is Reading This Title”), but you have the tools to make something potentially special and cool. 

The Internet gave AMV creators an instant medium for distribution, praise and criticism, and somewhere to host their movies, although videos on free webspace sites usually exceed their bandwidth in days. The website central to the AMV hobby is titled appropriately enough, AnimeMusicVideos.Org. It provides how-to guides, a search engine for people to actually find your video, space for comments and rating on the basic criteria that videos are typically judged upon at competitions (e.g. lip-synch, clarity, theme, music, SFX), and hosting for paying members. 

Legally speaking, anime music videos float in the limbo of fair use laws. While creating an AMV isn’t a crime, as you presumably own a copy of the original media, distribution and possibly showing them lies on the line between private use (usually the definition of acceptable fair use) and public use, which requires permission from copyright holders. As AMVs usually consist of a hodge-podge of unlicensed and licensed properties, this is a very messy situation. However, as no property owners as of now have contested the right of AMVs to use their works, AMVs are seen as “street legal,” for now. 

The vibe among the AMV community is that AMVs are the anime equivalent of doushijin, original and fan-produced manga. They view their videos as fan tributes, as expressions of character pairings (fan-favorites or canon) and as providing new content deriving from the original source, such as a new ending. Several Japanese anime industry professionals have attended and judged AMV competitions at major US conventions, expressing their approval of AMVs, thus the AMV creators themselves feel that their videos have some legality. After all, many of these professionals found their start in making fan content. 

However, US distributors often hold the opposite position in regards to AMVs, to the point of sending cease-and-desist letters to creators and websites, such as Youtube and Google Video hosting anime music videos incorporating video content from anime series distributed by their company. This has bloomed over to the recording industry, with labels requesting the removal of videos showcasing their artists. The most notable case has been AnimeMusicVideos.Org being contacted by Wind-Up Records, which requested the removal of all videos containing music from Evanescence, Creed and Sleether. (Judging from the videos I’ve seen in the last few years, that would take out a huge chunk of videos. Angst is in.) Once fans of the bands and of AMVs heard about this demand from out of the blue, Wind-Up Records received a lot of hate mail. Rumor last had that they were threatening to shut the website down. However, AnimeMusicVideos.Org is still vigorously alive, along with the AMV community, blending the line between amateurs and professionals in animation. 

To round this up, I’ll include some of my favorite AMVs, past and present: 

  • Samuel L. Bronkowitz’ “Cowboy;” Trigun with Kid Rock’s “Wanna Be A Cowboy”
  • (NSFW) Shining Finger Studios’ “A Very Bootyful Christmas;” Various with Sir-Mix-A-Lot’s ode to the female posterior
  • Anonymous’ “Tainted Donuts;” Trigun and Cowboy Bebop with a really cool rap song
  • Studio Hybrid’s “Jinai and the Bugrom: Live!” AKA “Hubba Hubba Zoot Zoot;” El Hazard with Caramba’s “Hubba Hubba Zoot Zoot”
  • Shining Finger Studios’ “The AMV Before Christmas;” Various with Danny Elfman’s “This is Halloween” from The Nightmare Before Christmas
  • Nostromo’s “Galaxy Bounce; Pale Cocoon and Tweeny Witches with Andy Hunter’s “Life Light”
  • Doki Doki Productions’ homepage is http://www.doki.ca. I recommend “Hell0 Fairy,” “Right Now Someone Is Reading This Title,” and “Senshi on Springer”
  • (NSFW / 18+ for nudity/rape, so I’ll leave this one for you to find) Aluminum Studios’ “Perfect Blue;” Perfect Blue with The Police’s “Every Breath You Take”

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

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michaelxaviermaelstrom 3/15/2007 7:52:27 PM
The Japanese are handling digital content copyright and sharing much better than our corporations in the west are imo. The Japanese seem to understand rule #1 of good consumer affairs, which is DON'T PISS OFF YOUR CUSTOMERS. Where-as Here (in the West - Ed) they launch lawsuits ATTACKING CUSTOMERS?! (a history-will-record "WTF?!" U.S-corporate-moment if ever there was) _there_ they award prizes. ^Raise-Eyebrow. Norman Co-Ordinate. Personally I think the biggest problem with our corporations is that -They're Run- by CRIMINALS. Or at least the criminally minded with Mafia mentalities and mafia tactics (such as price-fixing - do they think we don't know the Recording Industry was taken to court for price-gouging and price-fixing and had to send off paltry compensation cheques to every U.S citizen a couple of years ago?) My point being because these organizations are run by people with criminal mentalities they tend to come to criminal-minded conclusions. Such as: "Americans will steal product X if they can" ..ergo the industry refrain and their rationale for sending Big Lou out with a baseball bat uh I mean sending if-you-don't-pay-us-a-couple-of-thousand-dollars-you-will-regret-it "no-sharing-mp3's! legal-letters") But personally, I do not accept their premise as valid. Though I understand -why- they think as they do. In fact I would stipulate they couldn't possibly come to any other conclusion primarily because they're applying their own criminal minds to the problem. They're effectively -projecting- their own criminal behavior onto the masses, and extrapolating that we'd behave as they would. Sitting next to me on my desk here is a Nine Inch Nails CD ("with Teeth" -Ed), Fred Gallagher and Rodney Caston's Megatokyo (american web-comic manga), Takami and Taguchi's Battle Royale, this months issue of Shonen Jump and Warren Ellis' New Universal. What these things all have in common is that IF their premise were valid, I would NOT have bought these things. After-all I could download them all for free. And as soon as NIN's new CD "Year Zero" is released, I will download it (I already have 3 tracks thanx to Reznor who himself released them into the wild this month) and then I will -buy- NIN's New CD, most likely at a Future Shop. (provided it isn't over-priced, which it won't be, if Future Shop and Trent Reznor have a say in it) and it will sit next to me on my desk, taking the throned spot his last CD has occupied. and this is _even though_ I will have (allegedly - Ed) downloaded it, just as I (allegedly - Ed) did with his last CD. Point being I -bought- every one of these things, in large part because not only didn't the authors piss me off with some retarded attack on their customers/my person, but they all went out of their way to treat us well, in some fashion. (whether it be by way of putting the effort into delivering a quality-product, how they've kept the price reasonable, or in how well they otherwise treat their fans) Megatokyo is offered FREE at their website, and it's quality product; in great part because of those 2 reasons, I wanted to pay-them-back and so I forked out $15.00 for Megatokyo. Reznor's With Teeth CD was on (permanent) sale, which is to say it was properly priced; consequently there was no perception of price-gouging and so I picked it up without thinking about it (at $9.99) Shonen Jump and New Universal are solid bang for the buck. Western corporations need to understand that there are a LOT of us that think along this axis. But more to the point, is how the inverse effects the sale. For us the number one reason We/I will REFUSE to buy a CD (or any other product) is if it is needlessly jacked up an extra 5 to 10 dollars. When they charge an extra 10 dollars for a new CD for some transparently manufactured money grubbing faux-rationale like "but it's 2 CD's!" (yes, nice try rupe-rect, problem is the second CD is either filler crap or excrement that was going to be cut from the album that you shoved onro a second CD for the _sole purpose_ of increasing the price so you could argue it was justified - nice try but all you've really done is create animosity towards you and the artist/band, where as if you're going to add an extra CD of filler and you -don't- increase the price, you have a guaranteed sale and you generate good-will) I and I suspect many others immediately process these things and see through them and will adopt a staunch, you-wanna-price-gouge-me-an-extra-$10-motherfucker? frack-you-RIAA-I'm-(allegedly - Ed)-downloading-it. $5 extra conversely is perceived as an let's-see-if-we-can-get-away-with-it-by-squeezing-every-last-dime-out-of-them RIAA pricing-strategy. I bloody HATE the record companies pricing strategies. if they pissed off with that and everytime I went to the store they were -ALL- $9.99 I would pick up what I wanted without even thinking about it. (which is precisely what I do with all CD's that I want that are $9.99 - I have no idea how widespread it is but that's the price-point at which I just grab the CD without thinking heavily about it) End of story. It's the extra 5 to 10 dollars that they try to con out of us that is the REAL cause of the circumvention of their sale; I know price-gouging stops me dead from purchasing more CD's. Every ..Single ..Time. Well, I appear to have run off on a rant tangent. (there's a point in there someplace. But you might want to find it - Ed) 'aye, there is, and it is this: The Japanese have the right idea (though it's not exclusively Japanese) obviously Sony hasn't figured it out, their PS3 price is not just too high, it's OFFENSIVE and insulting to the consumer. They've gone past that "this is a cool luxury item, and I am worth it" (previous Sony price-point) over to the "these dicks think I'm such a bloody retarded easy mark" animosity territory. The bottom line (to me) is this: The more fans are encouraged or even are left-alone-in-peace to mix, mash, and yes even _share_ your product, the more you will recieve FREE POSITIVE ADVERTISING for your product by way of word of mouth, the more you are seen to be benevolent and respectful towards your fans, consequently the more your fans will be inclined to BUY your product. The good-will generated pays great dividends with Western audiences, in particular. and we are inclined to support what we like with our cash. (hint: blowing our disposable cash is what our western consumer society lifestyle is BASED ON) The money's going to go *somewhere* mates, you want to be where it goes, yes? I hope Western corporations take a cue from the Japanese example here and treat their customers with more respect. ..yet somehow I doubt they will. They need a radical shift in how they think and behave. We are far more sophisticated and juste as consumers than they currently are able to understand. imo. - mXm
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