Kevin Caldwell AMV Remasters
7-1-2020: All remasters initially released. I have plans to redo the 2 Kodocha videos in HD once the Japanese blu-ray releases, and I may redo the Phantom of the Opera video once the US blu-ray comes out.
About this project
This project is a remastering of all of the AMVs of Kevin Caldwell. These remasters are intended to be as accurate as possible to the original videos, while using the best available source footage.
Kevin Caldwell created some of the most beloved AMVs of all time. But every single one of them was only available as an ugly, low-bitrate, low-resolution MPEG file. Before being encoded to MPEG files, they went through many other transformations between various analog formats. Most of this was simply due to limitations of the technology at the time. Fans suffered through such low quality files because it was all that we had. But over time, expectations change, and it has become increasingly difficult to enjoy these videos without being distracted by the huge macroblocks, noise, and lack of clarity. Even Kevin himself wasn't particularly satisfied with the state of downloadable video at the time.
VHS looks bad enough - I can't stand those blotchy, low-res, "downloadable" MPEGs that I've seen. - Kevin Caldwell
I ultimately remastered these videos for myself to enjoy, but would also like to share them with all fans of AMVs.
About Kevin Caldwell
Kevin Caldwell was a hugely influencial AMV creator who was active from 1996-2000, creating 12 AMVs during that time. He occasionally made posts to the AMV mailing list and attended a few conventions, but aside from that, not much is known about him. When he retired from making AMVs, he essentially cut himself off from the AMV community. I have made efforts to contact him in regards to this remaster project, but I was unsuccessful. It has been said in the past that he does not wish to be contacted regarding his AMVs, so I suppose I will leave it at that. All quotes and historical information here are taken from his posts on the AMV mailing list.
Blu-ray footage was used whenever available, but several of the sources have only been released on DVD. If some of these anime ever get blu-ray releases I may update the videos, but honestly, I don't think most of these have any shot of ever getting released on blu-ray.
The edits have been kept within 1 frame of the original videos. Perfect frame accuracy is not possible because the originals were made from analog field-based sources with the fields blended to display at 30 frames-per-second, which isn't going to match up perfectly with modern progressive video at 24 frames-per-second. Some of the videos use special effects such as masking. While it is impossible to perfectly recreate some of these effects, I have attempted to do so as accurately as possible. My goal is for these remasters to be so accurate that no one would be able to find any flaws in them.
Some people may find that timing seems off, or lip sync seems off. The higher quality footage can make the videos feel quite different, mainly due to the copious amount of blended frames in the originals. You may also just be remembering the videos as better than they actually were. Feel free to compare the remasters frame-by-frame against the originals--you should find that they are accurate.
Finally, the software used to recreate these videos was DaVinci Resolve (free version), and GIMP. Computer specs are: Windows 10, Intel Core i3 6100, 8GB RAM, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 750 Ti with 2GB VRAM, and a 1TB HD purchased solely for storing the footage.
You can download all 12 videos in the highest quality either through bittorrent or via the animemusicvideos.org links. Some of the videos may not be available on Youtube, and the quality on Youtube is significantly reduced.
- The Hazardous Sabre Dance
- Beautiful Life
- Media Vita In Morte Sumus
- Phantom of the Opera
- The Twist
- Harvey the Wonder Hamster
- Chantilly Lace
- Sleep Now
- Caffeine Encomium
The Hazardous Saber Dance (June 1996)
I started out creating my videos with a cheap JVC VCR with insert editing and a low-end laserdisc player.
I created my first one four years ago before I had even been to a convention simply because I heard that A-Kon was allowing all contestants to obtain a copy of the entries, and I wanted to watch some.
This video features the anime El Hazard: The Magnificent World, along with "Sabre Dance" from Aram Khachaturian's ballet "Gayane".
This was the first video that I remastered, and it nearly caused me to give up on the project before I even got started! "Sabre Dance" has been performed by so many different orchestras, and appeared on so many different sound tracks, that finding the ONE particular version that Kevin used in his AMV was nearly impossible. Fortunately, some file sharing networks from back in the day are still alive and kicking. Thanks to Emule and SoulSeek, I was able to download and listen to more than a hundred different files trying to find the right one. I finally did find it, though I would end up having this same problem on several of Kevin's videos.
Technically, there isn't much to say about this video. It was his first video and was edited on a VCR, so we really can't expect much from it. It is quite charming though, and there are a several moments where scenes sync up to the music rather well. Aside from basic cuts between different clips, there was one or two instances where the speed of a clip was changed. The only other technique used was pausing the footage to create freeze frames.
For a first video, it's not too bad. It seems to have been decently planned out for the most part. Interestingly, no footage is used from the final two episodes of the anime. Perhaps he simply did not have all of the episodes when he made this video.
This is the only one of his videos to feature a title card at the beginning. I'm not sure if this is something that Kevin added, or perhaps it was added by the convention staff at A-Kon. I just copied the original title card over to the remaster, because I thought it creates an interesting juxtaposition against the 1080p crystal clear footage that follows it.
Goldeneye (May 1997)
In 1997, Kevin would submit two videos to A-Kon. Judging from the complexity of the videos, I would say that this GoldenEye video was created first, because the editing techniques used in it are more basic.
This video features the Vampire Princess Miyu OVA along with the theme song from the James Bond movie "Goldeneye", performed by Tina Turner.
This... is not a good video. Kevin thought so too, saying "My ultimate shame comes from the truly awful Goldeneye/VP Miyu video."
I honestly can't tell if this video is supposed to be serious, or if it's more of a tounge-in-cheek comedy. The basic premise seems to be showing clips of a girl with yellow eyes whenever the song says "Goldeneye". There is also a point where the lyrics say "Denied" while a clip is shown of a character's eyes falling out of the sockets. Denied. De-eyed. If that was his intention, I must say, it was a moment of genius amidst the rest of this mediocrity.
The editing techniques are barely more complex than his first video. There is one clip that is played in reverse. Another clip is paused in the middle of the clip to extend it. That's about all there is to say about this video.
Beautiful Life (May 1997)
This other video that Kevin Entered at A-Kon in 1997 was much better than the Goldeneye video. This video uses only the first episode of Golden Boy with the song "Beautiful Life" by Ace of Base. The level of editing here was much more technical than what he had done before. We see lip syncing, speed changes, seamless looping of clips, and freeze frames in the middle of clips. I'm not sure if I'm more impressed by the fact that he did this video on a low-end VCR, or the fact that he managed to make an entertaining video to this nearly four-minute song using only a single episode of anime.
I was stunned to hear that I had won the Best Technical award for my tribute to Isaac Newton's first law. Getting the timing down using nothing but a cheapo JVC VCR with basic editing features was an exercise in masochism, but I'm glad that someone enjoyed it.
Following A-Kon 1997, Kevin would upgrade his editing equipment.
Now, I'm using a nice SVHS VCR and a higher quality laserdisc player.
The exact model of VCR he was using was a Panasonic AG-1980. This was a high-end professional VCR, and it still costs hundreds of dollars to buy one today.
I suspect that he also had access to some equipment that would let him do a crossfade, as his next two videos each contain a single fade.
Media Vita In Morte Sumus (May 1998)
For 1998, Kevin premiered two more videos at A-Kon. Again judging by the complexity of the editing, I would guess that this video was the first of the two that he made that year.
This video features Neon Genesis Evangelion along with the very cinematic sounding "Media Vita In Morte Sumus" created by John Barry for the film "The Lion In Winter".
While this video was never one of my favorites, I can appreciate the technical skill on display here. The video starts out slowly, but ends with a barrage of rapid-fire cuts between different clips. It has many speed changes, and one clip even changed speed multiple times, requiring me to go frame-by-frame to get the timing right on the remaster.
Phantom Of The Opera (May 1998)
I consider this video to be the pinnacle of linear editing. I have never come across another AMV that was edited on a VCR which is even half as technical as this one. It really looks like it was edited digitally. I remember years ago, when I first found out that this video was edited on a VCR, my mind was blown. Then, when I began remastering it and I could see first-hand exactly how complex some of the editing techniques are... well, my mind was blown again. This is one of my all time favorite videos, and I am seriously in awe of what has been created here.
This AMV features "Magnetic Rose" from the anthology film "Memories", along with a remix of "Phantom of the Opera" by Harajuku.
The editing here is highly technical, and everything is synchronized to the music perfectly. What truly made my jaw drop was when I came across a single clip that ran at 3 different speeds at different points, and had the middle section of the clip seamlessly removed. Also, the strobe effects demonstrate NLE-like editing despite it being done on a VCR. You didn't see anyone else achieving this kind of timing on a VCR back in those days.
While I remastered this from Blu-ray footage, the final clip of the AMV came from a special feature that was not present on the Blu-ray that I had, so I had to take that clip from the DVD, and it looks noticably worse than the rest of the video. It has been brought to my attention that there will be a US Blu-ray release of this anime soon, so I will probably be able to put out an updated version once that is out.
Neither of these last two videos won any awards at A-Kon, prompting Kevin to submit them to Anime Expo, along with his "Beautiful Life" video from the previous year. Anime Expo had three categories (Comedy, Drama, and Action) and Kevin's videos won all three categories. This prompted Anime Expo to create a new rule the following year limiting each person to two entries. This complete domination of the largest AMV contest in the world at the time helped to put Kevin into the spotlight.
They had three categories. I had three videos that didn't completely disgrace the musicians, the animators, or the audience. Yes, one of those had won the most minor award at A-Kon the year before, but I wasn't sure what that truly meant, since the judging/voting there seemed so wacky at times. I did not expect to win a single thing.
After that, Kevin finally switched over to non-linear editing on a PC. XStylus on the AMV Mailing List noted that Kevin was using a Pinnacle DC30 capture card. This particular card retailed for $999, and included a copy of Adobe Premiere 5.1.
On Non-linear editing versus editing on a VCR, Kevin stated "I must admit that it is much more satisfying to spend 2 hours to get a clip looking right only to have the computer munch something, forcing me to redo it. I can't really say that it's allowed me to finish videos more quickly, but it does allow me to tweak stuff to a much greater extent than the old VCR method."
The Twist (June 1999)
Kevin released three videos at A-Kon in 1999 and it's not really clear which one was actually made first. So, first I'll talk about The Twist, since it seems to be the simplest of the three. This was made for a special contest at A-Kon, where editors were supposed to create a video using "The Twist" by Chubby Checker. There were only 3 entries in the contest, and Kevin's video utilizing Kimagure Orange Road was the winner. This is a really fun video, and one of my personal favorites.
Of note, at least some of the footage Kevin used for this video contained subtitles, so he edited around the subtitles when possible, and zoomed in on the footage when they couldn't be avoided. There is a moment in his original video where you can see the edge of a subtitle still visible on screen.
Harvey The Wonder Hamster (June 1999)
This video was part of the first Multi-Editor project that I am aware of. "The 8 faces of Harvey" project was simply a series of (apparently 7) AMVs all featuring the song "Harvey the Wonder Hamster" by Weird Al Yancovic, with each one using a different anime character to portray Harvey. Kevin's video featured Maru-chan the squirrel from Kodomo no Omocha.
While it's a fairly short video, it makes good use of some effects that wouldn't have been possible on a VCR, such as masking and transitions. The effects are all well executed, and I had never even realized that any effects were used until I started remaking this.
Chantilly Lace (June 1999)
With this video, Kevin went back to an anime that he had previously used--Golden Boy--and set it with "Chantilly Lace" by the Big Bopper.
He mentioned that this video was thrown together in a weekend before the A-Kon deadline. This video doesn't use any special effects, but it does do lip synching and makes heavy use of the kinds of precision editing and speed changes that are made possible from digital editing. He felt this video was clearly superior to his previous Golden Boy video, remarking to someone who was trying to download the former AMV: "I'm just surprised that someone is seeking Beautiful Life. It's just so... obsolete. I made Chantilly Lace for a reason, y'know."
Sleep Now (July 1999)
Right after sending three videos to A-Kon, Kevin had two more brand new videos ready for Anime Expo the following month. The first of these used Key The Metal Idol with "Sleep Now" by Hughes Hall.
Famously, Joe Croasdaile (Maboroshi Studio) also entered a Sleep Now video at Anime Expo that year, using the anime Serial Experiments Lain. Both videos made it into the finals of the Anime Expo AMV contest. Kevin's video ended up winning the drama category, though both videos are excellent and there are many people who find Joe's video to be the better of the two.
While I have personally never been a fan of Kevin's Sleep Now video, the editing is some of his best up to this point. It's a very solid video, and he utilizes some simple and unobtrusive effects to enhance it.
Engel (July 1999)
Using Evangelion along with the song "Engel" by Rammstein, this video won several awards at Anime Expo, including Best Overall. This video would end up being, perhaps, one of the most well-known AMVs of all time. At the very least, it was Kevin's most popular video. At the time, the lip synching was considered to be among the best that had ever been done.
I personally feel that this video has not aged well. Furthermore, I would make the argument that I think Kevin probably rushed this video out right before the convention deadline, and probably didn't even finish it to his own satisfaction. I have no proof of this other than just my own observations while remastering it. Some of the scene choices leave me questioning what he was trying to do. The lip sync is really not that well executed. Many of the edits are very lazy, in a way that I didn't see with any of his other videos. I don't really mean to put this video down, because I know it is beloved by many. It truly was a great video at the time, and still is today. It just feels incomplete to me.
This video has actually already been remade at least 2 times that I am aware of. In 2004, someone remastered it from DVD footage. It was a rather accurate remaster for the most part, although they changed some clips near the end of the video. It was generally not well-received at the time, for a variety of reasons. In 2006, someone remade it again while significantly improving the lip synching. Again, some clips near the end were replaced with other clips. These "missing" clips actually came from special 30-second episode previews that weren't present on the US DVD releases. My remaster does include all of the correct footage though, making it the first completely accurate remaster.
Believe (July 2000)
In the year 2000, Kevin made his final 2 videos, sending both of them to Anime Expo.
Believe is an interesting video. It is a favorite of many AMV editors and fans. In fact, it is my favorite AMV of all time. It was somewhat controversial at the time of it's release though, with some people commenting that the effects were distracting, and Kevin even expressed his disappointment with how the video turned out. It ultimately did not win any awards at Anime Expo. Perhaps this video was just ahead of it's time?
Sure, it's not a perfect video, and there are things that could be improved. Some of the effects might be a bit overdone, and I question some of the clip choices near the end. But taken as a whole, this video is nothing short of a masterpiece. Even forgetting about the effects, the editing itself is spectacular, and is in a class above any of Kevin's previous videos.
It is quite probable that Kevin used Adobe After Effects for this video, although it is entirely possible that it could have been done with just Adobe Premiere and a decent image editor.
I initially was not planning to remaster this one because the heavy use of effects makes it less clear cut whether I'm remastering it "accurately". With the other videos, it's mostly just a question of displaying the correct frame at the correct time. It's either right or it's not. But with a video like this, it's just not going to be exactly the same, no matter how close I can get it. I ultimately decided to just give it my best shot. I'm really glad that I did, because I got to see my favorite AMV in a way I have never seen before. I ended up spending about as much time remastering this video as I spent on all of the other videos combined.
I do have to admit that towards the beginning of the video, there were 3 spots that I had trouble finding the footage that Kevin used. One of those was an image of a clock, and I eventually discovered that this image was taken from Kevin's previous "Chantilly Lace" video. Next, I was unable to find the image of the stars that appear in the background. While I did find several shots of stars in Battle Athletes, none of them matched up with what appears in the AMV. It's possible that it could even be a composite of multiple images. For this, I ended up taking a frame from Kevin's original version and cleaning it up and sharpening it some, and then using a particle generator to add back some detail that was lost. I'm fairly satisfied with how that one turned out. Finally, there was a clip showing a heart monitor-type effect. This is definitely not from Battle Athletes, and I was not able to figure out where it came from. I ended up recreating it from scratch. If you look at my version side-by-side against the original, it is clear that they are not the same, but I do hope that it is not very noticable. But if anyone knows where the heart monitor scene came from, please let me know!
Caffeine Encomium (July 2000)
Kevin's final video is nothing short of a masterpiece. The hyperactive Sana-chan from Kodomo no Omocha fits perfectly with the lively William Tell Overture. The synchronization of anime to music is some of the best I have seen, even to this day. Unlike Believe, which was a showcase of special effects, this video keeps things much simpler. While it does use some effects and masking, it is mostly hidden from the viewer. This video was made over the course of two weeks before the Anime Expo deadline. It won the Comedy category, but unfortunately neither of Kevin's videos would go on to win best of show. Despite that, these last two videos remain favorites of many AMV fans.
Regarding stepping away from making AMVs, Kevin mentioned the stress of finishing videos in time for contests was a big reason for his decision to quit.
Two this year, but last year I actually made FIVE which doubled my total at that time. I guess that I'm just slow unless I have a convention to cram for. That procrastination induced "mad rush" is the only thing that can make me complete a video, yet that stress is the main reason why I'm stopping. Go figure.