Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Tube Is Good And MEPs Are Bad

As noted, I make too many AMVs. Or, more accurately, I have made too many AMVs, such that I still average over 1 VPM over the total length of my career despite being nearly retired for large parts of 2006 and nearly all of '07, '08, and '09. The normal reaction is to look at that back catalog and say, wow, there's probably a lot of crap in there. Yes. There definitely is, almost certainly more than even I'm willing to admit. But that's kind of the point.

I have an overdue reverence for Robert Rodriguez, mostly because he has a knack for making cool movies, but also because he spends his commentary tracks not talking about his artistic vision, but about production tricks and how he's made his DIY ideals into an actual production process. The commentary track to El Mariachi is a bible for anyone who thinks they don't have the resources to do what they want to creatively, and towards the end of the opening credits, Rodriguez comments that he had a great advantage by making movies on home video before going to film school, let alone actually filming anything. His quote: "I believe every filmmaker has about thirty bad movies in them, so it's better to shoot on video and get them all out of the way, so that you don't shoot them on film and waste all your money."

The point is not, oh, go make 30 crappy videos (or 30 crappy 80-minute video movies) and magically become better, but that practice is a very real part of becoming better at any craft. You get better at making movies by, surprise, making movies, and you get better at making AMVs by making AMVs. You need to have the technical basics as well, and you need to have an idea of what's worked in the past, too, but Rodriguez still went to film school despite all those video movies he made in high school; they may only take you so far, but the guides and watching previous videos shouldn't be just skipped. If you want to make better AMVs, you need to make AMVs.

This is where the Tube comes in, obviously. You can dump whatever the hell you want on it, and if THEY think it sucks, no harm, no foul, delete and learn from it. The next part should also be obvious: this is why MEPs are bad.

MEPs are bad because they take nearly as long to produce as AMVs, but are not AMVs and do not teach you how to make AMVs. What MEPs teach you is how to make 30-60 seconds of sparkly crap. If you want to know why the well is running dry on the .org, look no further than the MEP forum, and how many thoroughly needless projects are underway. If you want to know why your work sucks now, look at your prod history and see how many MEPs are up at the top. MEPs are nice for building community and making something that everyone can feel good about for 30 seconds before going on to the next one. They suck balls, though, at making better AMV editors.

Your frame of reference as an editor is not infinite. You have to train yourself to focus and concentrate on long projects, especially to see the video as a coherent whole where the end follows up logically from the middle from the beginning, and where the beginning sets up how the video flows in the middle and how it concludes. In a MEP track, everything is compressed, and it becomes more difficult to maintain the focus on building a full video -- especially when it's so easy to drop the project and say "screw it, I'll just do a track for Project Timewaster instead".

It also doesn't help that MEPs are easier to come up with than AMVs. For a MEP, usually someone else has picked the music, and maybe the anime depending on the project, and all you have to do is come up with some bare-bones editing concept. You don't need to watch anime and listen to music extensively, which is required for doing regular AMVs. Rather simply put, MEPs mess up your focus frame and let your source concept synthesis abilities atrophy. They don't make you better, and may actually make you worse. Stop joining MEPs, and stop starting new ones.

Yes, I've done them as well, but in my archives, two of the three that I've been involved with fit this pattern. I got to pick all my own tracks for all of them, but AMV Hell is the king of focus busters. The Graveyard handed out general concepts in advance and was, for reasons outside of my control, a huge waste of time in the end. Conet is the only exception: godix invited participants that he knew would meet standards, told them to select-from on a large database of tracks, and told people to come back with something cool. The only pick points might have been the shorter track length and the competitive compulsion among everyone but doki to break the video in a visually distinctive way....but then again, you look at the editors involved, and most of us have a history of that anyways, hence being asked to do this.

As I work my way back into the hobby, it's something to be aware of as much as for anyone else who wants to develop: stay away from short videos and stay away from MEPs. They're nowt helping.

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