AMV SECRETS REVEALED (or not)
I often get questions from people as to how I make AMV's, how to get started, what to use, stuff like that. So hopefully what I set forth below will help someone a little, or at least give people an idea of what goes on "behind the scenes" of making an AMV!
First off, before I even get to anything technical, I want to talk about the approach that I take to making an AMV. I look at it just as one would a film; there has to be a story and a soundtrack in order for it to be interesting. It there are lyrics, then that is your script; viewers will hold you to those words they hear.
I screen a lot of music. I have a long commute to work, so I have almost ninety minutes a day to listen to music that I might find suitable for an AMV. I have a few criteria for a song: it must be under five minutes (short attention span society here) and the lyrics must be clear. People enjoy movies much more when they actually understand them; the same goes for AMV's. If it is a soundtrack, then it must be a strong one that conveys a feeling (such as the action in Yuriseed or sadness in Breaking) very well.
If you have ever taken a screenwriting class (and I have, although not with AMV's in mind), one of the first impressions they make upon you is how vital it is that the audience become interested in your character. You have only a few minutes in the beginning to grab their attention. Whether it is by presenting some sort of mystery, emotion or setting that gets their attention, you have to do it quickly. This same principle applies to AMV's. Bored people will click that little "X" and your AMV is history before it's finished. A really, really good example of this is the beginning of each Star Trek: The Next Generation episode. The formula they have here is perfection. Watch a few and see the pattern.
Ultimately, my goal is to make the viewer feel something if they watch my AMV's. Whether it's an upbeat emotion to Cutie Couple or a more somber feel like Breaking, I want viewers to see a story, something that builds into an end, when they watch each AMV. Therefore, when making an AMV, I plan the course of the "plot" so to speak, and re-arrange scenes to go along with that storyline. Sometimes it means cutting clips I like, because they don't fit in. I never use a clip just because I like it. I use it because it works within the story itself.
On to the technical! First of all, I have to say only use fansubs as a last resort. No one wants to see subtitles in an AMV; if you manage to avoid that, the encode quality is still poor. Case is point is theYami Bo footage in my A Moment AMV- it sucks rocks next to the Utena DVD footage. Secondly, put all the credits and self-salutes at the end. It's annoying to see all the grandiose fluff at the front. If someone is interested after they see your AMV, they will watch the credits. If not, you have at least spared them some annoyance.
My best advice, and where I learned most of what I do, is go to the AMV org site and read the guide that VicBond007 made. It's very helpful. Also it has links to most of the programs I use below.
So what stuff do I use? To rip DVD's- I use DVD Decrypter. Then I run the VOB files through DVD2AVI and then save out clips or the entire VOB file into a project file using AVISynth. From there, I go to Virtual Dub and load the project file I previously made. Using VDub, I strip out the sound and select my clips. I also do framerate conversion if needed. I usually save out my clips as AVI at 29.97 fps.(Sometimes I keep them at 24 fps, but they run so slow in my editor, it's annoying). I use the Lagarith lossless compression, which eats up huge chunks of drive space but looks really good. This pays off later when the final file is converted and compressed yet again. The better your source footage looks, the better your AMV will look in the end.
Then I fire up my really outdated (please don't laugh too hard at this name) program called Video Explosion to do the editing. I can rip music from CD's from within the program- you do not ever want to use an MP3 file for your soundtrack. If you have an MP3 and nothing else, convert it to a .WAV format first.
I have used Premiere Pro, but I truly find it annoying and for what I do, overkill. The only AMV I made with PP was Kakumei Love Song. Sometimes I will use it just for a clip and then import that clip back into my original editor (example: reversing/slowing down video). Since I don't make techno/dance videos that require more flashy effects, I don't have a great need for Premiere, thankfully!
In the old days, I made my video, and saved it out as an AVI file. It was huge- anywhere from 500-900 megs. To get it to the point where people could view it, I used the TMPGenc program to make it into a standard MPEG-1 file. That way anyone could play it. Now I just use the WMV encoder in my video editor. The quality isn't bad, due to the original source files being so huge and high quality.
I also use Macromedia's Fireworks program to edit stills, make animated GIFS that I drop into the video, or make up credit pages (I use it a lot for this site too). I hate to think of its demise now that Adobe has it but I'm quite sure it will not survive.
Until March 2006 (which means all my AMV's so far as of this writing),
I used my home-built AMD XP2600 with a gig of RAM. The video card was
an ATI Radeon that had all sorts of goodies, tv in/out, all that, and
it handled video well. What really tied up the CPU was rendering. When
I converted those VOB files to AVI, that's the only thing that slowed
my baby down.
That's it- it is work, but also very rewarding, and I encourage you to try it!