PMVs: A Guide by Party_Grunt

I’m Party_Grunt. I’ve been editing AMVs and PMVs for the last 3 years. If you watched Anthology II and saw 2012 A Pony Odyssey, or saw the Bleach intro remake Peach, you might have seen my work.  A few months ago I was asked to write a guide about making a PMV, however school and other priorities delayed that until now.  Since that time, I’ve come to the conclusion that making a how-to PMV guide is impossible. I don’t feel that I (or anyone for that matter) really have the authority to tell anyone there’s a proper way to make PMVs.  Because of this, I feel as though this article’s purpose is more as a tip sheet for to-be editors, or those who are still unsure about where they want to go.

This guide is directed at editors who wish to make standard PMVs, rather than YTPMVs or gag PMVs.

PMVs

What are PMVs? Sounds like a simple question, but they may go beyond what most people think. In my definition, they are a creative work, with varying styles and complexity. Fundamentally, they are a combination of video timed to audio, usually music. Standard PMVs are the most general category, encompassing almost all standard AMV type videos, while a YTMPV defined by KnowYourMeme is “various clips from tv shows, movies, commercials, and other video sources, but the clips are sequenced to fit to a beat. Often, they are set to the tune of a song from a video game soundtrack or keygen music. Other times, original compositions are created”. A gag PMV is a PMV usually made for satirical or comedic purposes. These types of videos aren’t exempt from the following guide, however the information may not be as relevant to them.

On the sliding scale of complexity, you have simple videos of show scenes stitched together to music at the bottom,  complex effects and filters around the middle,  painstakingly masked and composited scenes somewhere above that, and completely custom animated videos at the top.
Editors may spend anywhere from a few hours, to tens of thousands of hours on a single two-and-a-half to three minute video. In terms of time spent, the scale is exponential. Every little added bit of complexity may add minutes, hours, or days to a video’s work time. However, once a video is released, the excitement, joy, and sheer relief are worth it. Nothing says “payoff” than watching your inbox explode with comments after releasing a video. So with that, I’ll start with some thoughts, advice and tips that I’ve learned over the years of editing, broken up by topic.

           An example of the complexity of After Effects

Effects

This is probably thought of as the most “sexy” element of video editing.  It’s almost without fail that anyone who makes it past using Windows Movie Maker or iMovie is going to start making videos that would give a blind person a seizure.  There’s this desire to make videos with as much text, colors, filters, earthquake, and the bane of editing: TV simulator. My advice when it comes to effects: Use wisely, make them meaningful. For most people, less is more.
Let me modify that a bit. Except for a few cases where tons of effects can be put together with a common theme that adds to entire piece (perhaps such as editing a piece of club music, where the theme IS “club”), effect overload ruins a video.  Honestly, nothing makes me want to stop watching than seeing TV sim used over and over (don’t get me started on why I can’t stand TV sim’s abuse). Effects are like alcohol. They are fine in moderation, but when they are filling in for substance; your video’s direction is just as lost as someone who downed half a bottle of vodka.

Timing

Timing is one those things that will absolutely make or break a video in my mind. If the video is mistimed to the audio, it can be very obvious to the viewer and will break any immersion or momentum  It is perhaps the most crucial piece of video editing that one must learn early on. Generally when running about 24 FPS, you want to perhaps have your visual cues one to two frames AFTER an audio cue (assuming you’re making cues by waveform) with leeway of about + or – 1 frame.
Missing the timing is so bad because it completely throws the viewer off. When the viewer expects something to happen at a very specific point, they usually don’t appreciate the unbalance of the audio and video not syncing at an important point.  This isn’t a concrete rule by any means, and there are certainly circumstances where breaking the timing once or twice in a song will be a positive.

Timing can be done for effects, transitions, or action in a clip. How you do timing is really situation dependant. Though sometimes trying different timings can make a huge difference on an end product. Usually however that boils down to artistic creativity. The one thing you don’t want to do is be lazy with your timing.

Clips and themes

The appropriateness of clips varies greatly by subject and creator. I will say that placing completely random clips in on the timeline in of a song you can’t think get ideas about or because there’s an instrumental  there is a terrible idea. My suggestion is to follow what I talk about in my next section, themes. One other thing: it’s popular to use sonic rainbooms, rainbombs, and other crowning points of awesome in videos, but please, I implore, don’t just use them because they’re available. Use them when it’s clever to do so, or fits the narrative, overuse can make a video boring once the awesome has run out.

Depending on the situation, a good idea is to follow a theme. For example, if editing a club type song, flashy lights and bright colors, quick cuts, and scenes of dancing work well together. On other side, a slow song works better with a muted pallet, slower transitions, and footage with less action (or slowed down action).

Dash spreads color to the land from Dash’s Determination by GlitzerAMV

Stories (optional)

My three favorite PMVs, Dashes Determination (by GlitzerAMV), The Stars Will Aid in Her Escape, (by mmmandarinorange), and Flutterbet (by Fenster), involve stories you can follow, whether sung or implied. In the case of Dash’s Determination, Glitzer was able to relay a story about Rainbow Dash, how her personal flaws made her nearly lose her friends and her lifelong desires, and how her determination allowed to her succeed. All in an instrumental song. This editor masterfully relayed a story that could be picked up upon and understood through the visuals (an important part of a successful story) rather than words or the description. They used a chronology of clips of Dash and color saturation match the varying mood of the song. In my mind, that, and the sheer attention to detail of the entire thing is why it is one of my favorite videos. It’s also criminally under viewed, seriously, go watch it!

Likewise, mandarinorange’s visual interpretation of the lyrics from Cosmic Love relate a story told from the song, to the relationship between Luna and Twilight, in a fashion that almost makes the song seem like IT was written to describe what’s on screen, rather than the other way around. Similarly, Fenster’s Flutterbet makes a superb usage of footage and timing, making the viewer think that the song was written to describe Fluttershy’s transformation from shy weakling to a force to be reckoned with, a retelling of Hurricane Fluttershy.

“I took the stars from my eyes and then I made a map…”  from Stars Will Aid in her Escape by mmmandarinorange

A story isn’t always a necessary or desired aspect of a PMV, but when done properly, it can certainly leave an imprint on the viewer, making them want more. As seen in the examples above, a story can made many different ways, either through visual sequencing, or the lyrics of a chosen song. They require imagination and vision in their creation and interpretation, elevating them almost to an artform. Its my view that a video with a well relayed story will have much more artistic impact than one without.

Software

The arguments of the best editing programs are always fun to listen to, especially when you know better than to believe in something so petty. My view on the subject is that the best editing program is unique to each person. Some people like me excel in the complex but limitless world of exclusively using After Effects (unless you are me, don’t use as your main editor, use what its title suggests it’s for), where there is no one to hold your hand, and everything must be done from scratch. Some prefer to use Premiere Pro, Avid Composer, or Final Cut. Many use Sony Vegas, especially as a move up from their starting editing. And of course there’s always Windows Movie Maker and Apple’s iMovie. Choosing an editing program is a very personal matter, and must be done by the editor.
I would put that the main reason for upgrading your editing suite is to allow yourself finer control over your final product. Many of the top tier editing programs were developed for professionals who are creating broadcast quality pieces of work. Unless you need some of the capabilities, or you wish to create broadcast quality PMVs, a simpler editing program will usually suffice.

A few thoughts on choosing a program: your program choice will NEVER make you a better editor, only allow you to reach more of your potential as you learn it. Trying to make a video with a program that has more choices than you know what to do with when you haven’t even got down the basics will only lead to tears.
Another thing:  the more complex the editing software, the more complex the editing, also the more time involved.