A piece of internet history: AMVs

The inspiration for the following article came after reading the news of the death of James Kaposztas, a name that for many means nothing but which, in a sense, is important as he is the author of the first prototype of a category of videos known today as AMV.

Before this news I had not given importance to this category of videos, even if they represented hours and hours of musical pastime in my adolescence at the dawn of the birth of Youtube, in an era in which being a "youtuber" was not yet a job and videos were created more for the pursuit of entertainment than for notoriety or monetization.

There's a lot to talk about on the subject, so I'll try to be as clear and concise as possible.


Let's start from the beginning: what is an AMV?

AMV stands for “Anime Music Video”.

They are short films made up of music mounted on images and videos taken mainly from anime (but today also from video games, films and television series). Through video editing the author of the movie combines the video with a piece of music of his choice in order to create a real video clip. However, since these are works that manipulate other original audio and video works covered by copyright, AMVs are illegal if not duly authorized.

There is no limit to the reasons why these videos are created, it's simple pure freedom to compose something as you like, which can be a visual representation of a text, a tribute to a series that we like and so on.

Anyone can create an AMV, as long as you have a computer and a good dose of patience. But the most capable editors, who don't just paste images together, are also able to insert animations and/or special effects that can create, for example, the illusion of making characters move against backgrounds that are different from the originals. With a good deal of programming knowledge, you can get some amazing results.


But who is the person behind this unusual, shall we say, invention?


James Kaposztas created his first AMV by linking two VCRs together to sync scenes from the sci-fi anime Space Battleship Yamato to the Beatles song "All You Need Is Love" in 1982, when he was 21 years old. Today hundreds of editing programs can be used to edit a video, while James at the time could only count on a few and scarce resources.

Currently, the video is still available on Youtube, even if the audio of the song is absent.

Kaposztas' disappearance was confirmed in a tweet by editor and co-founder of Anime.com Inc., Michael Pinto. During his lifetime, Kaposztas was a staff member of Otakon, one of the largest anime and video game conventions in the world, for 22 years, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Kaposztas told The Japan Times that he saw creating AMVs as a way to share his hobby and practice editing, as he was a communications expert at the time. While not many fans would make the effort to use VCRs to create anime music videos in the 80s and 90s, that changed in the early 2000s as both the rise in popularity of Japanese popular culture in the United States and the transition to digitally created AMVs. AMV screenings and contests are now a staple of anime conventions across the United States.


I think it is right for all of us to give a respectful salute to this man who unknowingly gave birth to an alternative way of editing videos. It's always challenging, of course, and it doesn't matter that you can't make a profit, also because that's not the ultimate goal of this kind of video... but the fun behind the idea that combines images and songs, trying to physically compose what we imagine in our while.

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