How to Make a Sakuga MAD

last pLast updated 16/06/2020

Sakuga MADs are animation highlight reels, made to collect, celebrate and appreciate the work of animators. There can also be craft put into the making of these MADs themselves as they can give the viewer a way to experience animation they may have seen many times before in a new light. Good MADs highlight the effort that goes into animation and can make you look at a body of work in a different light.

I thought it could be interesting to talk about how I make my videos, some editing techniques that are common in Sakuga MADs and what, I think, makes a good Sakuga MAD.

Contents

Glossary

Technical Stuff

Making MADs

Conclusion

Glossary

AMV– Stands for Animated Music Video. A video where clips of animation are edited to music.

MAD– Stands for Music Anime Douga, another term for AMV.

Shot– An unbroken section of a scene with no cuts. E.g. The opening shot of Star Wars shows a Star Destroyer following a rebel ship.

Cut– Means one of two things in this article. Can mean the same thing as a shot, or mean to splice a clip in editing.

Technical Stuff

Editing Software

It’s good to have precise control over cuts when you’re editingediting. Animators don’t usually draw whole scenes, usually only animating a couple of shots at most. So you need to make frame perfect cuts to avoid using more or less of a shot than you need. A lot of basic editing software can’t do this and can only cut on second marks. This can create a problem where you either have to cut a clip short or include frames from the following shot before the next clip you use.

I use Adobe Premiere but programs like Sony Vegas and Final Cut are also great for MADs. They’re straightforward to learn how to use, especially since these videos rarely need anything outside of straight cuts. Another a reason to use better editing software is to:

Render in 24 Frames Per Second

Traditional animation is produced at 24 frames per second. Western and Japanese animation can be done on 1s (24 fps), 2s (12 fps), 3s (8 fps), 4s (6 fps) and so on, but animators are almost always given 24 frames in which to insert their drawings. Some editing software can only render videos at 25 or 30 fps. Rendering animation at incorrect frame rates creates a “ghosting” effect where frames blend together and reduce the clarity of the animation. You can see a difference in the clarity between my first MAD and my later ones since my first one was rendered in 29 fps and the rest in 24 fps.

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An example of ghosting.

It’s also popular to render anime in 60 fps. In tests I’ve done, this option is better than rendering at 25 or 30 fps as I’ve seen little to no ghosting, but it’s a matter of taste if it looks better. Since animation is produced for 24 fps you aren’t gaining detail or frames in 60 fps, although in some circumstances backgrounds pan more smoothly at 60fps.

Frame progression in 24 fps vs. 60 fps.

Watching anime in 60 fps does look smoother. However, it can alter the timing of animation as it spaces out frames at irregular intervals. This makes 24 fps the most accurate frame rate to render traditional animation at, and 60 fps a less accurate but possibly appealing alternative.

Uploading and Copyright

AMVs are in a legal grey area. It isn’t clear if they fall under fair use and MADs are taken down frequently. However, Sakuga MADs have some “protection” in that animators tend to like them and they effectively work as advertisements. Animators often share Sakuga MADs and they can inspire them in their work. Bahi JD got into animation by watching them. Given this and the fact that they’re niche, it’s unlikely you’re going to get sued for uploading them.

At most you should expect to have videos or potentially your channel taken down. That is, unless you continually upload the same video after it has been taken down- that’s resulted in a lawsuit before (albeit the people uploaded entire episodes, not AMVs) (1). It’s also a bad idea to monetise Sakuga MADs as this is more likely to land you in legal trouble.

When you upload a video to YouTube it automatically checks the audio and visuals against a database. If YouTube finds that a part of your video matches copyrighted material it will apply the restriction the copyright holder has specified for it. For example, the video may be blocked in certain countries. If the copyright was recognised in error you can dispute it but in Sakuga MADs it will rarely be a mistake and disputing the copyright can get you in bigger trouble. If the copyright holder has specified their material is blocked globally you can get a copyright strike which will limit what you can do on your channel (e.g. not be able to use custom thumbnails on videos). Get 3 strikes in 3 months and YouTube will shut your channel down.

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The YouTube page on copyright.

There are things you can do to reduce the chance of automatic copyright strikes on Sakuga MADs though.

  • Make an alternate channel to upload videos to before you upload it to your main channel. This way you can see what copyright restrictions will be placed on it without endangering your channel.
  • YouTube doesn’t usually recognise unedited video clips if they are under 20 seconds long and usually won’t recognise unedited audio if it’s under 1 minute long.
  • If a long video clip is recognised try switching around the order of the shots.

Keep in mind these are from my own experience and in relation to automatic copyright strikes. If copyright holders find your video they can and most likely will manually put restrictions on it or take it down.

It’s not a good idea to include clips with nudity either. Some MADs have gotten away with it but YouTube’s policy on nudity is stricter than its one on copyright. I uploaded a clip from the 2nd Gurren Lagann movie that had breasts in it in and got a community guidelines strike. This limited what I could do on my channel, stopping me from uploading videos over 10 minutes long and choosing custom video thumbnails. You only need 2 community guidelines strikes within 6 months to have your channel shut down.

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An example of restrictions that can be put on YouTube videos.

On a less legal note it’s good to include a written disclaimer about animators you credit saying they are not necessarily accurate. Animators attributions on Sakugabooru or other fan sites can be incorrect. Also, keep in mind that posts on the booru with a presumed tag are usually guesses by users with no official confirmation. If you use a clip with a presumed tag it’s good to put a “(?)” next to the artist’s name to point this out.

Making MADs

Subject Matter and Audience

The Sakuga fandom is a small but dedicated fanbase. There are many MADs about popular animators like Yutaka Nakamura or Yoh Yoshinari. MADs that tread familiar ground are still valuable. They can introduce these animators to more people, generate interest in the fandom and can include recent animation that wouldn’t be in older MADs. On the other hand discovering new animation is a big part of the fandom, so MADs about unique topics can be more appealing to people already into sakuga.

A playlist of 23 MADs about Yutaka Nakamura. There is only 1 MAD on YouTube about Norifumi Kugai, another great animator. However, it’s interesting to see how different channels edit MADs on the same subject.

A MAD’s subject matter can affect its audience and therefore its expectations. If you’re making a video about a popular subject it can be good to see what others have done to avoid repetition. If you’re making a video about a rare topic it can be good to do research to represent it well. Having a clear idea of your subject matter and audience can help you decide how to edit your MAD. It probably wouldn’t be good to use dub-step in a James Baxter (A Disney animator) MAD or edit a video about Disney character acting the same way you would one about action for example. The subject matter should inform the tone of the video.

Song Choice

Songs can set the tone and pace of MADs. They can complement the animation style, the feel of the clips and/or the subject matter to make the video nice to watch. Using music directly related to the animation, like the opening theme to an anime featured in the video, is an easy way to make a song feel appropriate. Even if a viewer doesn’t like the song, using one that suits the subject matter will help the video feel cohesive.

Magnil’s decision to use music from Lupin III in his Hayao Miyazaki MAD works because the MAD features clips from the series and the song suits the tone of the clips.

Editing Techniques

Sakuga MADs are highlight reels set to music. Cutting shots short, speeding them up or down, or making other edits within shots may be necessary and can be used to great effect. But if your goal is to showcase cuts of animation it can help to show clips in their entirety with little in-shot editing. This is where using several editing techniques can help as they let videos flow without requiring you to cut MADs in a way you’re unhappy with.

Here are some editing techniques often used in Sakuga MADs:

  • Match Cuts– When you cut from a subject to something visually similar to it. In his Yoshimichi Kameda MAD BlueSakuga used a match cut to transition from a clip from The Sacred Star of Milos to one from Towa no Quon (as well as in many other places), matching two streams of fire to hide the cut.

  • Themed Cuts– A more general type of match cut where you group together clips with similar themes. They can share animators, subject matter, studios or so on. In my Naruto MAD I grouped together clips animated by Shinji Hashimoto and Shinya Ohira because they have similar animation styles. Using match cuts can make clips feel connected, even if they’re from different sources.

  • Editing to the Music– Making a cut, or syncing an action in a scene up, to the beat. Sakugaboygogogo’s video below does this really well. Too much cutting on the beat may force you to cut down clips a lot however if that’s something you want to avoid. Even if you don’t cut on the beat it can feel nice to use clips in relation to the feel of parts of a song, like using quieter drama scenes during slow sections.

  • Wipe Cuts– When you use elements in a scene to make a wipe transition. If an object in a clip flies in front of the camera you can make a cut on the first frame where you see past the object and cut to a different clip. This can make it look like you’ve used a transition without obscuring the animation. There’s a wipe cut when a bird flies across the screen in my Sport Sakuga MAD.

  • Non-Sequiturs– Clips that don’t have a direct connection to the clips around them. This can make them stand out.
  • Story Structure– The placing of clips in a MAD. For example my Kenichi Yoshida MAD begins with a character heading out on a liftboard. In the second verse you see her fall off and the video ends with her being rescued. These clips are progression markers and bookends, giving the video a sort of linear story structure. Something I used to do more was cut scenes at a certain point and continue them later on in the video to make a sense of continuity.

Different MAD creators use these techniques to different effects. Some use fast editing to make a MAD that’s more music video-like, others make slow moving montages that show every frame of the animation and some make videos that are a mix between styles. There’s no “correct” way to edit videos, but using a mix of different editing tecniques and understanding the effects they have on a video can make a MAD more entertaining to watch.

This isn’t to say good MADs are edited with these techniques or even that there are rules Sakuga MADs should follow. However, in my experience, MADs that feel like they have some kind of intention behind their edits are more entertaining.

Choice of Clips and Research

The best resource for Sakuga MAD creators is Sakugabooru, which has 1000s of cuts of animation you can download. But it’s good to do research outside of the booru as it doesn’t have everything. You can also search on Anime News Network, MyAnimeList and 18.atwiki for the animators who worked on specific series. These sites sometimes also specify which episodes animators worked on.

If you’re making a MAD about a particular series, it’s good to look up fight scenes, opening and endings on YouTube they often have good animation.

It also helps to ask fans of series’ about well animated scenes or watch it yourself to not miss out on good sakuga. More research can give you a better selection of animation to choose from and help you not miss clips that might be expected in a MAD.

If you’re after more resources for finding sakuga I have a section in my article Sakuga Starter Kit about it. You can find that here.

Conclusion

It feels weird to write about making Sakuga MADs. You don’t have to be taught how to make AMVs, people who make them usually feel their way around how to do it. But I think it’s unfortunate that people like Sakuga Daichi, BlueSakuga, ibcf, and a lot of other creators do smart editing and independent research that seems to go mostly unrecognised.

There can be a lot of time and effort put into Sakuga MADs. The right editing can make great animation look more amazing and can evangelise the craft and fandom of sakuga to outsiders. I made this post to show some examples of the thought process and work that can go into these videos. Sakuga MADs can be entertaining, and artistically constructed, ways to discover great animation.

To finish, here’s a playlist of some Sakuga MADs I enjoy:

4 Replies to “How to Make a Sakuga MAD”

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