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A Guide: How to make an AMV

Hi everyone, my name's Captain Chiggs and I am here to share with you some tips for making AMVs and what, in my opinion, make up successful projects.
 
Disclaimer: Remember, nothing I say here is the "law of the land." Most statements are my opinions. I by no means claim to be the most prominent AMV maker (having only 3 projects which aren't very successful) or claim that making quality videos is a piece of cake. However, I do claim that I have a pretty good understanding of what I enjoy, and since I have seen quite a few AMVs, can say with confidence that I understand and reflect the consensus. Also, as a consequence of my previous statement about the difficulty of making AMVs, my videos are not anywhere near perfection; I try and make good videos which follow my guidelines, but it's quite the task, and things don't always go as planned.
 

What I plan to discuss:

1. More Introduction:

  • AMVs: what's an AMV?
  • Why make AMVs: quite the time sink.
  • I will never be able to make an AMV: me too, thanks.

2. Before you begin editing:

  • Software and technical stuff: what are the tools I need?
  • How to start (thinking about) a project: where do I begin?
  • Working with the clips: look at all these windows and buttons!

3. Getting down to work:

  • Making your clips work with the music: aw neat, this video looks like it actually took time to make!
  • What is flow: why we are using actual music and not white noise.
  • Emotion: these weebs actually have feelings!
  • Effects: FLICKER, TWITCH ON SNARES, GREYSCALE

4. After you're done:

  • Final touches: rendering, uploading, and other magic.
  • Your YouTube channel: please sub.
  • Contests and Festivals: the deadline is... yesterday.
  • amv: my thoughts on how this little subculture works
 

1.

 

AMVs:

 
By seeing this post, I assume the reader either visits amv regularly, has googled how to make an AMV and was directed here, or by some stroke of luck has managed to click on enough links to end up here, or here. Regarding the first two possibilities, you should already know what an anime music video (AMV) is. However, despite the first word in the initialism, there are people who create AMVs that consist of western media, video games, and real life clips! If you can make it work, I don't see any reason to not consider it an AMV or be able to post/discuss them on message boards such as amv or animemusicvideos.org (a great resource which I will touch upon later).
 

Why make AMVs:

 
For me, the motivation for making AMVs stems from watching videos on YouTube. After seeing some amazing work, I wanted to try my hand at the task. It became a wonderful side hobby and is very rewarding to watch something you have created and worked so hard on. I like making AMVs because it is something that can always be on my mind. I can think about which clips would fit great in which part of any given song. It demands creativity and discipline to create a great project, not to mention making a popular one!
It is important to evaluate why you make AMVs, because in the end, it is good to take a step back from any hobby and assess why you spend your time on it, what you have accomplished so far, and how to improve.
 

"I will never be able to make an AMV":

 
If you truly believe that you won’t get anything out of spending the time on making one, then I agree. It’s a time-consuming process and if you don't find it fun, you're doing yourself a disservice.
 

2.

 

Software and technical stuff:

 

Video editing software:

To make an AMV, you need some sort of video editing software. Here is a table representing my primitive knowledge about the most frequently used software:
Editing Software Free? Capabilities
Windows Movie Maker Yes Limited, can still make some good stuff
Sony Vegas No Everything you should need to make a great AMV
Adobe After Effects No Holy moly
 
My thoughts on Windows Movie Maker (I have used it before):
  • Pros: It is free, simple, intuitive and can get the job done through blood sweat and tears.
  • Cons: It's a pain to use. It does not cooperate with a lot of commands, crashes frequently, and is quite limited in capabilities. First, a click does not necessarily mean a command once your project gets too large. The software is slow and unresponsive which makes for a lot of frustration. Second, it crashes. This is bad. Data can get corrupted easily and often, so save early and save often! Finally, the interface is missing some essential tools to making AMVs. These are a trimmer, a dependable rendering process, and an easy to read timeline (I will touch on these soon). Additionally, there are some, albeit less essential, tools missing such as a masking tool, expansive video effects (video FX) arsenal, and markers (which are God's gift to Sony Vegas and Adobe AE).
My thoughts on Sony Vegas (what I currently use):
  • Pros: Everything you need to make a great AMV. A whole lot of useful tools, economic and adjustable work space, cooperative, and it becomes easy to use once the basics are understood.
  • Cons: Intimidating at first, you will need to watch some YouTube tutorials to learn the software in a timely manner, costs money, missing some advanced options which Adobe AE offers.
My thoughts on Adobe AE (I have never used it):
  • Pros: Just about everything Sony Vegas has to offer and more, extremely powerful and upgrades your arsenal of video FX, and expands your capabilities to mess with graphics.
  • Cons: Costs money, might not be worth the effort of learning if its capabilities are beyond the scope of what you want to make (however, there are some great videos out there which used AE), also very overwhelming at first.
 
My two cents: I currently use Sony Vegas and recommend it to anyone who plans on making an AMV.
 

Finding anime to use:

Here are my tips for footage used in your project:
  • Use high quality footage: Use 1080p or 720p footage. Anything below that will look unrefined on YouTube. This will give you larger files to work with, but is worth it in the end.
  • No useless subtitles or studio-credits: Obviously, unless you are having a character speak during the AMV (which works wonderfully sometimes), don't have subtitles in your footage. It looks unrefined and is distracting to the viewer. Additionally, if you are using clips from the opening/ending songs of shows, try and find versions where there are no credits. It looks cluttered otherwise.
  • Where to find episodes: A simple google search will probably lead you in the right direction, otherwise, PM me and I can help you out.
 

Additional Things you might want to check out:

  • Video converting software: You might encounter some problems with the editing software and the filetypes of the anime you want to use (.mp4, .avi, .wmv, etc...). The two I have are VLC media player and Aimersoft. VLC, which is also a media player and a powerful tool otherwise, works fine for converting your episodes to many different times of files. The downside is that you can only convert one file at once. It’s quite the task. Aimersoft is what I currently use. It is dependable, can convert batches of episodes, and is quite user friendly (I firmly believe in the importance of click-and-drag functionality).
  • Plug-ins for Sony Vegas or Adobe AE: If you see some cool effects that you want to emulate, do a little digging and figure out what the effect is called. Downloading is a breeze and the software does a good job helping integrate it.
  • Screen Capture Software: This one is only if you decided to roll with WMM. I mentioned its rendering problems. My first project was a complete mess. After I finished and rendered the project, there were glitches and audio problems. I didn't want to scrap my work, so I downloaded the free trial of Camtasia. I ran it in the WMM preview full screen and recorded it. It was a long process, but I could capture long, consistent chunks of my AMV and stitch them together in Camtasia. Hopefully you will only ever need free trials before you find some way to grab Sony Vegas or Adobe AE. Please don't use WMM, save yourself.
 

How to start (thinking about) a project:

 

First, you want to figure out what kind of AMV you want to make:

Note: This is my attempt to give guidelines to thinking about what sort of project you want to make. If you have a great idea and it fits into none of these categories, the don't think it won’t be any good. Go for it!
Note x2: These tips are also not in any order. It's not meant as a checklist, just a way of expanding your options!
 
The fundamental types of AMVs have/are:
  • A single anime
  • A few (2-4) anime
  • A mix of many, many anime
  • Multiple songs and multiple anime (possibly all the shows from any given year (god bless Animeography))
  • A multiple editor project (MEP)
I will be excluding discussing MEPs in this post since I don't understand how they operate. However, if you want to become a part of one, the project leaders are kind and willing to talk usually. Find a way to message them directly and go with the flow, some great MEPs have been made!
 
Furthermore, there are very broad categories of AMVs. The lines between categories are blurred though. This is my attempt at categorizing them:
  • Typical AMV: A project which stitches clips together using any amount of effects and transitions to music. This is by far the most common type of AMV.
    NOTE: the former uses one anime (series) whereas the latter uses a plethora of shows.
  • Text based AMV: A project which uses text (usually to the music's lyrics) as the primary effect. Most of the time, these involve text and still shots moving about.
  • An in-depth story AMV (sometimes call an ASMV for anime story music video): This one is more of a sub category of the typical AMV. These projects tell either the story of the show or some completely made up story all together. These can range anywhere from minimal effects to complete intervention bringing together characters from different shows into the same world.
  • Miscellaneous: I know it’s a little of a cop out category, but some AMVs belong in their own category.
My two cents: once you have song picked out, listen to it a ton. An AMV should be something you put a lot of time in. You want to make sure you can listen to it repeatedly while editing. Also, doing this allows for you to figure out what you want to do where. For me, the anime I have used came after deciding upon a song. Remember, there is no order to thinking about making an AMV, just do what makes sense to you!
 

Working with the clips:

 
Note: This mini section is based around using Sony Vegas and making an AMV around one or a few anime. It is what I have done in the past to find clips.
 
LEARN THE BASICS OF THE SOFTWARE BEFORE DOING ANYTHING. Believe me, trial by fire works, but understanding your capabilities helps when thinking of ideas. How can you think of what to make when you don't know your tools? There are some great tutorials for any editing software on YouTube, just search and find one you like!

Here are the steps I use when picking clips for an AMV:

Make sure you have an idea of what you want to make. Do not expect yourself to pick out quality clips without a general idea. Get the big picture down first, then when finding clips work out the smaller details.
  1. Convert your episodes to a usable filetype (.wmv works just fine in Sony Vegas)
  2. Import the episode into organized media bins in Sony Vegas (find something which works for you, an organized project is more efficient and less frustrating).
  3. Move one episode to the trimmer.
  4. Open the episode in an external media player such as MPC-HC or VLC. Put the sound to 0% and watch the episode at x2 or x4 speed. You need to pay close attention to the episode to fish out what clips you want to use (it helps having dual monitors).
  5. When you find a clip, go to Sony Vegas's trimmer and ctrl+g to where the clip is, then drag the video onto the timeline.
  6. Repeat this step for however many episodes you want. If ever you want more clips afterwards, open the trimmer and an external media player, and re-do the process.
  7. Then work on the project, constantly moving video clips around the timeline to build the AMV.
My two cents: The trimmer is your friend.

3.

Note: This section talks about what makes up a quality AMV. It's natural for a section like this to be more subjective than what I have discussed earlier. Remember: this is my opinion.
Note x2: I will be giving some examples of AMVs which accomplish what I am about to explicate. I will not post "bad" examples of AMVs, that wouldn't be nice of me. I will leave it up to you to see poor examples yourself.
Note x3: Check out an older post on the subreddit by u/skater687 titled "Taking your AMVs to the next level" which outlines a similar idea, but in a different way. A few of the examples I use in this post are also used in his. He has great things to say!
 

Making your clips work with the music:

 
The first thing someone notices when watching an AMV is how the clips are synced up to the music. This is something the watcher can evaluate without even finishing the video. Now, I am not asking you to map out every beat of the song, then shoehorn the separate clips inside. I am, however, asking you to find where the song changes intensity, tempo, key, tone, etc and work around them. I have seen many AMVs composed of one scene in real time and one song. These can be pumped out on the daily and don't require any amount of feeling or skill to make. This doesn't mean the quality of an AMV is proportional to the time it took to make, you just need to put some effort into the project. Some key points:
  • Listen carefully to your song, find where it changes, find where big moments are, and reflect that in how you move from clip to clip.
  • Having a rhythm to sections of your AMV is a good place to start. Don't use a cookie cutter to make your AMV, but rhythm helps with clarity, and people like clarity.
  • Using the marker tool in Sony Vegas to label beats is such a fantastic tool. Use it and learn to love it.
  • Another way clips can match the music is by making the characters "sing" with the music. This can be done dramatically, but usually it is done for comedy. This is difficult to do well: a lot of editing is required to make it seem real.
  • Vary the length of you clips. Extensively using clips which last over 6 seconds is hard to do well. It results in boring and uninteresting sections of the AMV. Keep it immersive!
Examples of using clips well with the music:
 

What is flow (and a shitty roller coaster analogy)?

 
Music is about expressing feelings. There are ups and downs. Every song is a roller coaster in one way or another. At the peak, there is a lot of potential energy, at the bottom, a lot of kinetic. It isn't clear and exact for every song, but is something to discover before making an AMV. Flow is about emotion moving in one direction or another throughout the AMV. This is vital. Some key points:
  • Intros set the starting point: will the roller coaster begin at ground level, get chained upwards, then fall and let gravity do the work? Will it start high up, and fall immediately and intensely? Will it be propelled forward from the station at high speeds? Set where you begin with an idea of where the AMV will go.
  • The build can make any emotional impact greater: This build doesn't have to be the chain lift sort either. A slow-moving coaster which is suddenly propelled excites great thrill as well.
  • What you do after the climax matters: Use the momentum you have gained from the climax! Twists, turns, hill, and drops at high speeds are awesome. Don't waste the effort you have put in getting high up!
  • The finish is a very important thing to keep in mind: You want to leave the watcher satisfied: that is what will bring them back to watching your project repeatedly. A premature finish is a drag. Again, get your money's worth: a lot of time and effort was put into getting the coaster up to top speeds, let it slow itself down on the tracks, not the station's break system.
Find what emotion you want to invoke. Watch how other creators have done the same thing. See what you liked and what you didn't like. Improve on what they did and make your own AMV so that if you found it on YouTube, you would want to watch it!
Examples of good flow almost always have good emotion, so I grouped the examples for both sections below.
 

Emotion

 
Emotion goes hand in hand with flow in my opinion. Flow is just moving emotion and tone. Some points:
  • Understand the emotion of your song: Again, know your song and where it goes emotionally.
  • Pick clips which are appropriate: This is key. When you are searching for clips, understand what emotion you want to invoke. Is it thrill, sadness, nostalgia, confusion? Ask yourself if you can convey your intended emotion with not only the anime you choose, but the clips. This is probably the most difficult thing to do. It is hard to find the right place for any given clip. It is impossible as a creator to be fully satisfied with their project. But this dissatisfaction is what propels you to change things up to better suit what you want.
  • Can you show the emotion without the music? This is tough. After finishing your project, play it with the volume down. Are the emotions you want to provoke still evident without the music? If yes, you are doing a great job, and the music will only add to the experience. If not, evaluate if you have picked the right clips and have put them together in a cohesive way.
Examples of very apparent emotion and good flow:
Note: My personal favorite AMV out there is tan(x) by the same guy who make Into the Labyrinth. I think tan(x) does everything so well, I find myself watching it almost weekly.
 

Effects

 
When I talk about effects, I am referring to anything from transitions to overlays to video FX and back again. Do not overdo the excessively distracting effects if you want to tell a story or invoke an emotion. Yes, there are some great muscle-flexing AMVs out there which are works of art, and have a ton of hits. But only a very, very select few I consider quality videos that I keep finding myself coming back to.
If you want to learn how to use an effect, Google it. Believe me, Google has all the answers.
Here I will touch upon a few effects I know about and what they can do, and how to use them effectively.

Zoom:

  • The general zoom function can be used as a transition into either a new scene, or a new clip from the same scene, just magnified.
  • Pair it together with a blur function to get a nice composite effect. Also, consider different acceleration rates of keyframe animations (go to the "Changing the interpolation curve between keyframes" drop down menu) to change things up, or get the nice "bounce" effect you see places.
  • Be careful with the quality of your video: if you zoom in too much, you will begin to reveal the pixels of the video. This is a no-no.

The fade in/out:

  • This is a fantastic tool. It is quite vanilla and easy to apply, but adds a great deal to slower sections of your project.
  • Can also be used as a hype tool for building the climax.

Masking:

  • Masking is awesome if done right.
  • Takes a long ass time to do, but if done well, it is hard to over-do.
  • Typically a transition tool.
  • Adds speed and urgency to very intense moments.
  • I'm a huge sucker for that thing where people go into characters' eyes over and over again. It’s awesome.
  • A fantastic example of an AMV which uses a ton of masking very well:

Flash of white transition:

  • Be careful with this effect. It is easy to use and easy to abuse. If the white flash transition is used too often, the AMV becomes literally unwatchable; it makes for very unpleasant projects.
  • If you use the white flash transition conservatively and efficiently, it can make for a dramatic transition, which is awesome.

Twitch:

  • Use in moderation, it gets old very quick. That being said, if you use it twice or three times, it adds subtle emphasis, which is a great thing.
  • Don't base your entire project on the twitch effect to add pizzazz, it will end up tacky and uninteresting.

Slide Transitions:

  • Again, use very frugally, otherwise your project will appear like a power-point presentation.
  • Works very well for certain combinations of clips which have a symmetry axis you can abuse.
  • This video uses a slight variation of the slide transition which I am a huge fan of. I think it looks real cool. The same video here uses slide transitions well again.

Other miscellaneous WMM transitions:

  • Stuff like moving from one side of the cube to another, strip transition, and the bubble transition thing don't belong here. Just don't use them please.

No transition effect:

  • Holy moly. Something which took me a long time to figure out is that not every single transition requires a fancy effect. DO NOT BE AFRAID TO JUST SWITCH TO A NEW CLIP, YOU DON'T NEED AN EFFECT FOR EVERY TRANSITION.
  • If you are provoking an emotion effectively already, think about what an effect will add.
  • Some of the most popular AMVs out there don't use many transition effects. You don't need to be fancy and flashy to succeed!

Slow-Mo:

  • This is hard to do well. Anime is usually at 23.something frames per second. Slowing down the scene will appear choppy if it is done too much.
  • Be careful! Choppy frames will grind down on the momentum you are picking up.

Twixtor:

  • The hardest effect to use in my opinion. It is what makes Into the Labyrinth look so smooth.
  • There is a whole process that goes into accomplishing making Twixtor appear natural.
  • The payoff, if you do a good job, is awesome. You can slow down the clip as much as you want which is huge.
  • Examples of what Twixtor looks like:

Grey-scale:

  • I have no idea how I feel about moving to grey-scale. In principle, it should work wonderfully if done right. However, I have not yet seen an AMV which uses grey-scale very well. If there is one, please let me know!
 

4.

Final touches:

 
After making your AMV, find somewhere at the end to slip in the song and anime used. I believe it is good to put these things in both the video itself and the YouTube description. Additionally, you can put the name of the AMV and your channel name (I will talk about this more down below) in the video as well.
When you are happy with what you have made, it is time to render and upload your AMV! It's as easy as shooting fish in a barrel (deceivingly). There are a lot of things which can go wrong during this step.
  • Render to the appropriate video quality of the clips used. I wish I could tell you more about what each nuance regarding video quality is, but alas, I don't quite understand it myself. I usually go with the default quality Sony Vegas has set out for me.
  • WATCH THE RENDERED VIDEO A FEW TIMES. Sweet Christ of the verdant forests, make sure everything went smoothly. There will be something you forgot, you did wrong, or that glitched up in the rendering process. I have found myself having to cut off some frames here and there because they didn't show up in the preview window.
  • Make sure the quality matches what you want. Check out the properties of the video file you have made.
 

Your YouTube channel:

 
Okay, now this is where my subjectivity begins to show again. I will say a few things about the nature of posting AMVs on YouTube and how you operate your channel. REMEMBER: this is my opinion, do whatever you want, I am just explaining what turns me off.
  • Don't have an intro independent of the song, this isn't a Call of Duty trickshotting montage: it is out of place for AMVs in my opinion. I just want to watch what you have made, then I will decide to remember your channel name. To me, it seems like people who put introductions at the beginning of their videos want to be recognized and popular. That is okay to want, but the method doesn't work. Become popular for the quality of your AMVs.
  • Add the like/subscribe button to the end: I don't understand this aspect to YouTube videos personally. If you make good content, I will subscribe. I guess it acts as a reminder for people who don't subscribe often, but I guess it's up to you to decide whether you want to add it.
  • Commenting on other videos to trade for subscribers: Again, do what you want to do. Just really think if that's the audience you want.
  • The disclaimer thing people do in the video description: I have no idea if it is effective in any way, but on most AMVs on YouTube, there is an excerpt about how none of the footage/music is their own. I do it and haven't had any copyright strikes yet! However, correlation does not mean causation!
  • Take a look at the copyrighted music on YouTube: Take a gander at what music is free to use. This is to prevent the possible removal of your video, which sucks.
 

Contests and Festivals:

 
Something great to do is to submit your AMV to a contest or festival. Projects are evaluated and compared. There are several awards for different categories. It is a wonderful opportunity to get exposure, and see how the community regards your work! Some notes:
  • Contests information is posted sometimes on amv and is always on the animemusicvideos.org calendar.
    • Make an account on animemusicvideos.org, you can submit your work to get critiqued and advice on the message boards! It's a great site.
  • Always always check out a contest's rules and regulations. Sometimes your project won't meet the criteria they set out. If you are unsure, there is always someone to contact with questions. Ask early and ask often!
  • Keep an eye on the deadline. I mean, this is a life skill which can be applied to many areas. Just don't procrastinate. If you are finished and satisfied, submit early!
 

amv:

 
Frankly, this subreddit is awesome. If you have any questions about making AMVs, someone will almost always be cool about helping you. Also, always post an AMV you have made here, it’s another source of views and comments which is invaluable. Some notes on how the sub works:
  • When you finish your project, and come to post here, ALWAYS put the [I made this!] flair on your post. Be proud of your hard work, tell people that this is something you have made.
  • For more attention on the sub, put the AMV's name, the anime used (or if it is a mix) and the song name. I find myself checking out AMVs here based solely on the anime they used, or the song they used. It doesn't hurt to add them, so do it!
  • I think it’s a waste of title real estate to put (HD) or (1080p!) or that ASCII BS you see everywhere. Again, just my opinion.
  • I have mixed feelings about the "this is my first project" deal some people post in their title. I guess it’s an indirect way to (if they didn't explicitly) ask for advice. Additionally, I think it is totes dope to ask for advice in the title explicitly (along with the other information).
  • Be kind if you are going to comment and give people advice. There is a HUGE difference between being helpful, and being rude. In academia, when peer reviewing thesis papers and research papers in general, it is good to say 3 good things to every bad thing you see needs fixing. This is more of a general tip for giving criticism. People will always take advice more seriously if they believe you are genuinely interested in helping rather than blowing off steam.
  • Look for contests here! I wish the mods would pin contest information on the subreddit. But for now, there are some dutiful users who post information about deadlines.
 
 
Alright, I think that just about wraps up everything I wished to say here. I hope you have found this helpful in some way. I tried to address the questions that remained unanswered when I first picked up the hobby. Good luck and have fun making AMVs!
If you have anymore questions, PM me or comment on the post. I will try and answer any confusion/expand on some ideas which are unclear.
Edit: mishaps and wrong ideas (whoops)
submitted by Captain_Chiggs to amv