Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Raw Provision Update

Like a lot of things in this world, things evolve, including fansubbing. It's what makes fansubbing better, and also much, much more annoying. In this update, raw provision gets a slight edit (and so soon from my original post on RP).

As was mentioned in the original post on raw provision, cappers in Japan are required in order to record the television show on-screen to be streamed onto the hard drive. Japanese cappers, like their American counterparts, label the files they distribute. American cappers usually label with some sort of distribution group. Japanese cappers, on the other hand, label their files generally with a "Trip ID" which allows people to find files captured specifically by them, as some Japanese cappers are known to have files with exceptional captures with good filtering and lack of artifacts from the capture. The Trip is basically an anonymous handle that people use, like on instant messaging programs, forums, chat rooms, and multiplayer games, which generally provide a mask of anonymity.

Unfortunately, as with all copyrighted material, copying and capturing falls under copyright laws, and according to several raw providers and fansubbers, Trip IDs have been cracked on a fairly wide scale with Winny, and to a smaller extent Share, and apparently several cappers have been arrested or have been threatened with arrest for their activities. As the result, many cappers have either dropped capping or left Winny and moved to Share. A third p2p (peer to peer) program for raw provision has also come out, Perfect Dark, but it is still in its infant stages.

So, the updated list of programs used for raw provision are as follows:
Winny (diminishing/being phased out)
Share (fairly reliable, though may also follow Winny soon)
Perfect Dark (rising, but not used widely)

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Guide to Fansubbing Positions and Requirements: the Raw Provider

For every fansubbed anime episode that has been released by a group, the episode must come from some electronic source, whether it is from a television broadcast that has been captured onto a hard drive or a DVD source that has either been purchased or ripped into an ISO file format. Without the raw video, there is no anime release. That video must be obtained somehow, and that's where the raw provider (RP) comes in. For DVD ISOs, the role is pretty simple: just download the DVD image of the anime or movie that will be subbed, which will go to the encoder for processing. However, for television captures, however, there are many different cappers (people who capture the anime video straight from broadcast) in Japan who use different hardware, different codecs, and different filters on the raws before they make the episode available for download. Because the episode from different cappers are essentially different and can vary greatly, raw providers must download from different cappers/sources to choose the best video quality. This choice is usually made in collaboration with the encoder. However, several main things to notice with raws is whether the image has been over-sharpened (or warp-sharped), over-blurred, and if there are any nasty artifacting, shadowing, interlaced frames and the like. It usually the encoder's call on what raw to use, however. The RP just narrows down the selection for the encoder.

There are a few sources for obtaining raws. Since the episodes are Japanese, raws will not be found on American or English-based p2p and other file distribution networks like e-mule and the like. The raws will only be found on Japanese distribution programs like Share and Winny. There have also been .torrent sources from "raw groups." These groups have been generally discouraged by many veteran groups, but they are still used by smaller groups that look for quick workable raws, but not necessarily the best. Another requirement for raw hunting is high download bandwidth since so many version of an episode need to be downloaded. As an example, I hunted for Kanon (2006) episode 01 downloads when the anime first came out, and I easily downloaded 4GB of different raws from different sources. Pretty high bandwidth is required for uploading the final few raws to the encoder or group FTP for a final decision on the raw. At times, the encoder is also the raw hunter, which cuts out an upload step to the FTP, but there's still the step of uploading the work raw to the FTP, which still requires a fairly high upload speed. The encoder will be discussed in detail in a later post, which will explain this part of the process a little more.

All in all, raw hunting isn't difficult, though I've only been able to get Winny to work and it's generally enough, but it isn't a trivial, either. The RP needs to provide good workable raws to the encoder. There's a limit to what the encoder can do to fix up bad raws, so if the RP gives crappy raws to the encoder, the final video will still look bad regardless of what the encoder does.

Required applications: Winny, Share
Required knowledge: knowledge of quality encoding, eg. the ability to spot encoding problems with raws
Other requirements: high bandwidth download and upload to send the raw to the group ftp or encoder. Probably has the highest bandwidth requirement of all staff

Monday, May 14, 2007

A More In-depth Guide to Fansubbing Positions (Introduction)

Looks like my last entry on here was about two months ago.

Anyway, for the next few entries, I will go into some more detail on each position, the requirements, the tools needed, and the various "standards" that should be met for each position.

The layout will be tentatively the following to help build up a more detailed working knowledge of the fansub group:

Translation Checker
Quality Checker

with some attention to the distribution hierarchy as well, though what I already covered in the previous entry more or less described everything.

Monday, March 5, 2007

What Goes Into A Fansub (aka. an idiot's guide to fansubbing)

Fansubs, as defined by Wikipedia, is
a copy of a foreign movie or television show which has been subtitled by fans in their native language. It is most commonly used to refer to fan-translated anime videos that are shared amongst other fans.
To put it slightly better, fansubs take a show that has been aired in a non-native language (and usually in a non-native country), translate the dialogue, put the subtitles containing the translated dialogue with the captured video, and [re]distribute everything to a native language-speaking audience. In the case of anime, after the video of show has been captured during airing, the dialogue is translated into English (primarily), the subtitles are put with the video, and both the video and subtitle package are redistributed to the English-speaking audience.

The total fansubbing community that exists today for anime is notably large for an online community. As was mentioned in my last blog entry, the number of people in the fansubbing community who download fansub releases is not insignificant, and neither are the number of people who are involved in the fansubbing process to create the very releases. In order to be able to fully describe this somewhat convoluted network of people, probably the best way to describe the whole community is to "classify" the community in a three-tiered hierarchy of sorts: staff, distro, leechers.

Staff: These folks are the very people who create the fansubs. While process varies from group to group in how the original product gets to the final product that is the fansub, there are core similarities among all groups that go into a fansub release. (Here, I will address a general overview of the process, and the people involved with the fansub and their jobs. I will address the specific details of each "job" in future posts.)

Almost always, fansubs are coordinated on internet relay chat (IRC) where various staff members communicate among themselves to get the work done. In almost all fansub groups, more than one person works on any one series. In some projects, a few people may take on more than one job, depending on staff availability and the person's skill level. However, I will go through the different jobs that is involved with a typical fansub production.

Raw Getter/Provider: When the original show is broadcast, the show is captured and encoded into a "raw" format (or untranslated, original video capture). In the case of anime, the raw is captured from a television stream in Japan. The raw is usually thrown up on a file sharing network (Winny, Share) and the fansub group grabs this raw as the start for the production of the fansub. Depending on the group, there may be a person who is specifically dedicated to acquiring these raws, especially if especially clean raws are desired by the group or project leader who is in charge with the logistics of the project. Other times, a random raw will be obtained by another staff member without regard for the quality of the video.

Translator (abbreviation: TL): The job that the translator does is self-explanatory: translation. The bare minimum the translator will do is dialogue translation, which is the translation of what's spoken in the show. Depending on the translator and the group, background dialogue or voices, and signs that appear may be translated. The translator is the real driving force behind any fansub group, since only when a translation is available can the rest of the fansub happen. Translators are the most important resources in fansubbing, since it is a very specialized job, requires some form of fluency (which takes time and resources to become fluent), and decent, reliable translators are very difficult to find, much less recruit, since there are so few. The translator produces a script (usually an electronic .txt file) that contains the translated dialogue and other relevant mater called a TL script.

Translation checker (abbreviation: TLC): Translation checkers are also self-explanatory: they check the original translation in the TL script to see if the translation is accurate. Obviously, familiarity in Japanese is required. The TLC is used only when needed, since translators who are exceptionally fluent in Japanese and English should be able to produce accurate TL scripts. Sometimes, the TLC (aka translation check) occurs after timing.

Once the TLC has gone through the script, the following route the script takes varies from group to group and the staff that works on the series. However, the same core people are involved with the handling of the script.

Editor (abbreviation: Ed): As is usually put by many in the fansubbing community, editors take the Engrish from the TL script and molds it into English. These guys handle all rewordings of dialogue as needed, including grammar and spelling corrections, dialogue pacing in text, and characterization of dialogue (eg. giving a rough edge in the subs to characters. Depending on the group, the editing phase can occur before or after the timing phase. An edited script is produced.

Timer (abbreviation: T, though rarely used): The timer has the task of creating an substation alpha (.ssa) or advanced substation alpha (.ass) script based on the .txt dialogue script. Typically, a program like Aegisub is used to help with the task to produce a timed script. The timed script contains code that displays the subtitles at the appropriate times with respect to the audio and video when characters are speaking. Timing can occur after or before editing and translation checking.

Typesetter (abbreviation: TS[er]): The typesetter applies subtitle styling (font style, font size, subtitle coloring, etc) to the dialogue subtitles; and creates text and uses styles text via .ssa/.ass override commands associated with various signs that many appear in the video, as indicated and translated by the translator. Typically, typesetting occurs after translation checking, timing, and editing, and before encoding.

Before encoding occurs, other jobs are done to the episode or series to various degrees depending on the group.

Styling: Styling involves the font selection, font sizing, and font coloring of subtitles. Styling also occurs for various signs including episode and next episode titles, series title (if AFx isn't used), and signs that occur in various scenes in the episode. Typically, styling is lumped under the typesetting department, since it is also a one-shot job for a series. However, there have been credits for styling that weren't performed by the typesetter. Styling is one of the three primary factors (along with encoding and translation) that leechers use to decide what series to download and keep.

After Effects (AFx[er]): Some signs and text effects cannot be reproduced practically and accurately without many, many lines of .ass/.ssa in the script. Depending on the group, AFx may be used as a substitute to direct script typesetting. AFx may be used consistently for each episode. In this case, AFx falls under the typsetting department. However, there may also be AFx specialists who focus on signs outside the typical simple sign and subtitle job requirement that require particularly large amounts of FX work.. AFx is also used to create "logos," basically a group videostamp that occurs with the opening title sequence to the show, including whatever effects that may be applied to the original opening. Logo creation is generally done only once over the span of a series. However, some groups may completely overlook AFx in order to keep the subs simple and to release the fansubbed episode faster.

Karaoke: Most fansub groups include a karaoke of the opening and ending songs associated with the series. Karaoke requires separate translation, timing, styling, and application of effects and separate staff from the typical episode work may work on the karaoke. There may be specialized karaokers that will work on karaoke, or several people (including the timer and TSer) will work on it. Depending on the group or the people working on it, AFx may be used for the karaoke to apply special effects that would be difficult be implemented through .ass/.ssa.

Once all of the basics have been done to the episode, the episode goes through a quality checking (QC) and encoding phase. The encoding/QC order will vary by method and order, but here's the rundown on both jobs:

Encoder (abbreviation: En[c], rarely used): The encoder is the guy who puts everything together after all the work is done into a final release. The encoder also touches up raws as needed before the final encode to make it look cleaner and nicer while dealing with various raw quirks, like 120fps raws, h.264 in .avi containers, and the like. The encoder also deals with encoding "artifacts" and various other problems that may arise in the video. Audio processing and reencoding also falls under encoding territory. On top of his work towards the encode that becomes the final release for the group, the encoder may also create a "working raw" for the staff which works as a template on which all work will be based on: scene timing, sign positioning/coloring, etc. Depending on group/project procedures, the encoder may also make an QC encode (basically an encode of lower quality compared to an actual release) for the QC phase, though there are groups that do softQC, which is basically QCing the episode with the pre-QC script and a work raw. Some groups also have the encoder make high quality encodes of fansubs before a release called release candidates (RC). These RCs are potential release versions, but if there are problems with them, the scripts are altered and the encoder reencodes another RC.

Quality Checker (abbreviation: QCer): Quality checking is the phase where all errors are weeded out of a fansub before a final release. QCers check for all possible problems with the fansub that would fall under all categories of the fansubbing process: translation mistakes or inaccuracies, editing mistakes like grammar and spelling, timing mistakes like mistimed or missing lines or sub bleeds, typesetting mistakes like bad fonts, colors, sign positioning and movement. and encoding problems like blockiness, ghosting, embossing, double-exposure frames, artifacts. However, the very basic function a QCer must be able to do if one is to be worth his/her salt is grammar- and spell-checking. The QCer does not usually alter the script that has been used, but rather produces a QC log, which is a record of all mistakes he has noticed or think is a mistake, which is then applied to the script towards the finalization of the release. (The reason why will be addressed later on an article on the standards of QC.) While QCing requires a familiarity with the work that goes into the fansub and familiarity with all the possible problems with a fansub release, QCing is also a good entry-level position in a fansub to start out as to learn the ropes, learn what the "standards" for each job is (which will be discussed in a future entry), and to eventually branch out into other positions in fansubbing. QCers may also check the episode again in RC checks before release.

Once the RC has been approved for release, the episode is considered finalized and ready for distribution. This is where and when the episode hits the second tier of the fansubbing community.

Distribution (aka Distro): Distribution of a fansub release occurs on three levels with distribution. Distro, at least in how I would define it, is aimed strictly at mass and efficient distribution (uploading) of a fansub release.

XDCC bots/providers: Since fansubbing is centered around IRC in the development of fansubs, fansub groups also have IRC channels where they and other various people also hang out/idle/lurk that may not be group staff. IRC is also one of the first places where the fansub release will end up in--and the fastest way to get it. XDCC bots are programs (like iroffer) run on computers that log on to IRC with the strict purpose of distributing a fansub release to people on IRC. Downloading is basically like a straight WWW download or a straight file copy. Typically, XDCC bots are donated by people (legit bots) to strictly serve a group's (or multiple groups') releases. Some bots may be donated from college students where their .edu lines can afford very high bandwidth speeds, or from people who own/rent servers that can also distribute the files for them. The latter, though, requires a monthly fee, which is generally from donations from people who download from those bots. There have also been stories of hacked bots, where computers that have had the bot software installed without the owner's knowledge of it happening.

The pros of distributing and obtaining releases through XDCC is the potential for extremely high rate of speed the transfer can occur. On an .edu line, I have been able able to get speeds as high as 3MB/sec! Another pro is that the ability to set up the bot fairly easy. Also, if you do downloads one at a time from XDCC bots, you don't get hard drive fragmentation that occurs with torrents. The cons of XDCC is that generally, unless there's an archive of releases, the XDCC bot only has recent releases, so it's only a temporary initial method for distribution. Two other cons are that the XDCC bot can only upload to so many people and that the bandwidth is only as good as the connection to the bot. Some bots I have download from can be as bad as downloading on dialup. Despite the fact, XDCC is my preferred way of downloading... at least when the traffic isn't too bad on a bot.

Torrent/Dedicated Torrent Seeders: Torrents use a distributed peer-to-peer (p2p) protocol that downloads the file piece by piece in no real specific order. Torrents require a tracker to keep track of everyone who is downloading the file and a client like utorrent to be able to open the .torrent file and download the data pieces for the file. Not only are there trackers like http://a.scarywater.net, but there are some sites like Tokyotosho and Animesuki that list the different fansub torrents. This probably the simplest and largest mass distribution method of downloading anime. However, multiple torrent downloads result in fragmented hard disk drives. Torrents also require uploading while download, which can gimp download speeds if the user is not careful. One large downside to torrents is that it is a communal download, meaning that in order to successfully download a torrent, the equivalent of one copy of the file(s) that is being downloaded must exist, or a seeder must be connected. If not, a complete file will never be downloaded successfully, unless a seeder gets on. In order to prevent such a scenario from happening with a fansub group's releases, dedicated torrent seeders in the distribution channels of a group are given the task to keep full copies circulating on the torrents. Torrents are especially good for small fansub groups who do not have any XDCC bots to help with archiving and distribution.

Direct Download (DDL): A relatively new method of distribution has appeared in the fansubbing scene: website-based episode downloading. Like XDCC bots, DDL is basically a straight download of a file through websites off webservers. The pros of the DDL is the speed of the download without the hassle of uploading. However, DDL speed is also limited by the connection. Generally, DDL costs a significant amount of money, since it's off of webspace. Secondly, those who host DDLs must be aware of when a fansub becomes licensed and remove the fansub from the server, or face potential problems like copyright litigation and C&D orders and general bile from the company hosting the site. Generally, I avoid the DDL, since I have problems with web browsers locking up and the like.

Once the file has been loaded onto .torrent, XDCC bots, and DDL sites, RELEASE!!! The floodgates open and people come in to download the latest release from the group:

Leechers: These people are generally those who are not involved with the creation of subs and distribution. Generally, the consumers of fansubs, who give nothing else back except for the little bandwidth through .torrents and file servers. Otherwise known as the "masses," they are the unseen faces that download the 300k copies of Naruto for personal use and watch the fansubs in anime clubs. They also donate small amounts of money to fansub groups and bot/webhosting to help with the costs of fansubbing, like group ftp dumps and webhosting; and distribution XDCC bots and DDL services. At times, they may donate money to help staff with various hardware issues (especially if they're college students), but such occurances are very rare. Leechers may also help with the distribution of various anime releases (as well ad music/soundtracks) through file servers (fservs). However, these are secondary distribution methods that are not run or coordinated by the group, and fservs are usually very slow, which does not fit the fast distribution methods that true disto is. Usually, file servers (plugins to IRC chat clients) are used as ways to get special voice statuses in IRC channels, which can aid in obtaining priority queueing and file downloading in other file servers.

But in all seriousness and honesty, fansubbers like me are glad to be able to work on shows and to share our love for the various anime series which are released every day. We fansubbers do thank the leechers and appreciate their support during the course of our work. There are a few rotten apples who demand their weekly crack, but in general, they're obedient little boogers ;o

Now, the legal part to fansubbing.

Yes, fansubbing is illegal, because it involves taking original and copyrighted works from Japan and re-releasing them (albiet in an altered form) to a general public. What makes fansubs able to operate nothing short of impunity is that the United States government has no obligation ton enforce copyright in the US since the animation companies are foreign, and the Japanese comapnies that produce the anime in Japan must file lawsuits in the United States, which would involve hiring expensive lawyers to do work in the US. However, with fansubs, there is an gentleman's agreement between fansubs and the companies that license the fansubs that the licensors do not persue after fansubs with legal actions as long as the fansubs stop subbing and distributing the licensed work. Most fansubs had historically complied with this agreement, subbing unlicensed shows only, but a larger number of groups continue to sub and distribute after licensing. At times, distribution compines like Bandai and, infamously, ADV send C&D (Ceast & Desist) letters/orders from lawyers to make fansubs stop. However, the general tolerance and symbiotic relationship between fansubs and American distribution companies has allowed for the fansubbing community to survive for so long.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Current State of Animation in the US and Where Fansubs Fit (a personal view)

So much for attempting a one-article-a-week habit. But to be honest, I'd run out of material to write on pretty quick.

Anyway, onto the main thrust of this entry.

For most of my life, animation in the United States has not been reguarded highly as media outside the child demography for the last twenty-some years. Animation production has reflected a this focus in that a majority of animation produced are aimed at children in the form of after-school and Saturday morning cartoons. And most of those cartoons are mostly about over-the-top superheroes or randomly humanized animals. Animated shows like these are always limited to a few genres that have been done and done again to death. Generally in the superhero department.

Admittedly, there are a few animated works that are aimed at adults, like FOX's The Simpsons, King of the Hill, Futurama, Family Guy, and American Dad, but they are all more sitcoms, which basically means stagnant character development, single-episode arcs, and instant gratification. On top of that, the production value of these types of programs have severely fallen off in recent years. The almighty Simpsons is in its 18th season, but the humor has since fallen away to mostly random acts of randomness on routine gags. Futurama has been cancelled. Don't get me started with Family Guy and American Dad. But let's just say this: the cast of American Dad is a ripoff of the cast from Family Guy with a severe helping of post-9/11 nationalism and Family Guy attempts to take the Simpsons' randomness to a level that doesn't help a society that is already concerned with AD[H]D. King of the Hill is actually decent, but it does get annoying at times with its brand of Southern humor. If you want a real story with animation, the American mainstream media is not a place to look. Even Cartoon Network fails to produce anything significant with the Boondocks, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, etc. (Yes, there is the rest of the programming on Adult Swim, but hold on, if you will, since AS will be discussed in a little bit.)

The movie theaters have not been good with animation either. The blame falls mostly with Disney, in my opinion. If anyone a decade ago were to be asked what company they would associate with animated movies, Disney would be high on the list, then perhaps followed by Warner Brothers. Unfortunately, the animated movies Disney produced was almost always geared toward children the Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Mulan, The Lion King (although it was a significantly darker movie), and Peter Pan. The recent movies produced solely from Disney have not changed audiences either. Fantasia is an exception to their production, but it's mostly about animation put to music, so (though it was marketed as animation for adults) it doesn't really qualify as true animation geared for adults in the conventional sense. Pixar, before being acquired by Disney, was a deviation from from all of that. It addressed more mature topics like lonliness (Toy Story) and it had significant character development (Monsters Inc.). Dreamworks had a nice adult-oriented parody of fairy tales on top of an entertaining storyline for children with Shrek.

Unfortunately, the advances in animated film is severely limited in what animation can be, especially if the analogy between live action movies compared to live action series is used. As a gross oversimplification, movies (or at least /good/ movies) barely have room for a storyline in the 90-180 minutes it runs for. There is hardly any way to delve into a world any more without making a sequel or a spinoff series. For animation, neither is really possible. Sequels are generally straight-to-video, and very rarely are series made for both live action and animated works. Not all hope in animation series has been lost, though.

Enter Cartoon Network's Adult Swim. For the last several years, CN has had long-running series (around 20+ episodes per series) that has done just that: dive into worlds of animation that could only be dreamed of or be done with huge budgets. And it targets the right audience. Not the children, but the adults who are still interested in animation. Actually, it's been noted fairly consistently that it captures the 18-34 age range that television media has highly coveted for years on end. There have been one note and two outstanding problems with CN's AS, though. The first note is that almost all of the series on AS are imported anime with English dubs. And that causes problems, at least to a guy like me, who has been a fairly avid fansub watcher/fansubber. The first problem is that all of the decent animation is imported. The other junk on adult swim are typical of the lagging and low standards of animation series of the US. The second problem is the anime CN has chosen to air are generally historically popular (Cowboy Bebop, Trigun) or are generally appealing to a wide fanbase (Naruto, Bleach -- both also popular in Japan). The series aired are not great by any means, at least to the most loyal fanbase, but it does have wide appeal. At least wide enough to at least give anime a more mainstream appeal that was not made retarded from the yesteryear Pokemon and Dragonball Z days. Perhaps a day when CN decides to show Haruhi will be a day when anime is not considered to be a fringe subculture. I'm fairly satisfied for now that Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex 2nd GIG has been aired, though. But that brings me to the last problem with animation: voice acting. This is problem primarily lies with dubbed anime. No matter what series it is, the voice acting is always flat and always lacks any sense of real character that was conveyed from the original Japanese audio. It seriously sounds like they're just reading the dialogue off a script for the very first time.

I have yet to see a series that has done a decent job with voice acting. Ironically, the voice acting in American animation is significantly better. I find it amusing, since the character in anime is already given to the voice actors, yet they still do a bang-up job. They really don't seem to have much enthusiasm for characters (or studio soundproofing in quiet neighborhoods). Rarely do voices rise above a shout even under hurricane conditions and voice inflections are rarely there. But even a recent dub of Kumou no Mokou: Yakusoku no Basho (Beyond the Clouds: the promised place) I got ahold of sounded absolutely artificial and hardly nostalgic, perfect material for a relative lack of inflection. The emotion just wasn't there. A lot of fansub enthusiasts have expressed their reservations about the English dubs and quite a few have labeled them as blasphemous. I just prefer my subtitles with japanese audio. The voice acting for animation still has a long way to go before I'll watch it dubbed.

A second issue with imported anime is that some do not get the rightful treatment it deserves. The prime example I can come up with is Mononoke-hime (Princess Mononoke) and Kamikakushi (Spirited Away). These Miyazaki masterpieces are naturally deep and stunningly beautiful, but it seemed that Disney, who licensed the titles, couldn't keep their grubby hands off the work and absolutely Disneyfied to the point where they impact of the movies are completely lost. This is a smaller reservation, mostly blunted by the existence of subtitles, which partly avoids this problem.

Despite my personal reservations with dubbed/imported anime, it's becoming more and more mainstream. The local Best Buy has about one full aisle of anime. Not bad, considering it has one or two aisles for individual genres for live action movies and television series. I have recently learned, though, that anime still has a stigmata attached to still to a large public. I can fully understand how it's so, since even I was one who saw the very stigmata before I was fully exposed to anime. Just to clarify: ANIME IS NOT PORN IN ANIMATED FORM. It's media as valid and versatile as any other live action media. Yes, anime can be porn (which is called hentai), but so can live-action stuff you can find just about anywhere on the inernet. Unfortunately, a discussion with purple_mo from the other day said that the very mention of him watching anime got him funny looks and free-associations with such negative connotations like pervert to just outright immaturity. Shows can be as immature as Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel and Rizelmine or it can be action-packed as 24 or the X-Files and Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex. The creativity can be used or abused. Animation is just a means to express it.

So... where does fansubbing fall in? Well, it falls in where the American animation industry has failed. In my opinion, it has failed mightily. Especially since so many fansubs are being released to fill in the gap of the lack of quality animation in the US geared towards the adolescent and adult crowds. Fansubbing is fairly complex network (to be discussed in a later entry.. probably the next one) and it basically brings in animation currently airing from abroad (usually from Japan) and translating it for the English-speaking (or English-familiar) masses, though some fansubs do exist for languages other than English (though it seems to be in significantly smaller numbers). The number of people who watch anime is not insignificant. Some of the most popular subs, like Naruto, drew hundreds of thousands of downloads just through torrents just for one sub group, AnimeONE and/or Dattebayo, generally whichever episode comes out first. Then imagine the secondary downloads through local university networks and other filesharing programs like E-mule.

Fansubbing is basically rebroadcasting across borders. Yes, it's a huge grey area involving copyright protections and international laws. However, over the years, fansubbers and the companies have developed a mutual understanding/symbiotic relationship of non-intervention. Recently, Bandai Visual Entertainment was reported to have released a trailer/promotional video of Haruhi thanking the fansubbers and fansub community for making the series popular--it was initially overlooked by American companies for licensing. Generally, if a series is licensed in the US, the fansubs who worked and released the series stop all future work and distribution. The companies that distribute the anime don't crack down on fansubs. This is a huge contrast to what the MPAA and RIAA are doing these days. However, there are always parties that don't like these gentleman's rules. The classic AnimeJunkies letter to Urban Vision was one example. Another has been ADV who had been very iron-fisted with their enforcement of copyright through C&D (Cease and Desist) letters to torrent trackers and fansub groups (though lately, I haven't heard much from them). MFI (Media Factory Inc., a Japanese production studio) sent a letter to animesuki.com to stop linking to MFI works and fansubs, which caused a fairly big initial uproar, but has since died off.

Over the years, fansubbing has been fairly been quiet with a few blips. However several fansubbing veterans have expressed concerns that the real spirit of fansubbing (making fansubs because people like the show, not for internet popularty) has been disappearing. While there probably won't be a discussion on this anytime soon, the latest surge in the type of groups (and English subbing groups based outside the US) may prove to be a testing ground for future fansub/distribution studio relations.

Monday, January 29, 2007

What the hell is this all about? (aka. my history with fansubbing)

I have no idea. But the thread in AnimeSuki (http://forums.animesuki.com/showthread.php?t=42265) has prompted me to start this spinoff blog from my main blog. This blog will primarily focus on a pretty big hobby of mine: fansubbing and fansubs. It'll probably be a mish-mash of various entries on anime fansubbing and fansubs, if I ever decide to make good on updating this blog (refer to http://chaos4everxq.blogspot.com and note the time delay between my entry in January 2005 and the entry following that to know what I'm talking about).

Ideally, this blog would be about:
1>fansubbing: the ideas behind it and the requisites of a good, great, excellent, exceptional subtitling job; and how to fansub: the methods and requirements for the various jobs in fansubbing. Actually, I'll be limited to a few job positions, for obvious reasons to be stated in a little bit.
2>fansubs: not to be stressed as much, but this would most likely fall under brief anime reviews. I won't go for an episode-by-episode synopses here, unless there's a series that really catches my attention. Definately no screenshots. There are plenty of sites that do that. You might as well go find the raws if you want those. And you can get them on Winny or Share. Or http://www.tokyotosho.com or http://www.tokyotosho.info.


Enough with the formalities and establishing ground rules. I'll most likely be breaking them before the month is out. Here's a bit of my background in the fansubbing scene:

My first animation experience was with Astroboy on Canadian television when I was a wee kid in elementary school. After that, I ran into Full Metal Panic! and Serial Experiments Lain in college, but I was still not fully aware of the existence of this so-called anime (though I had heard of this mysterious entity). My Singaporian friends introduced me to Last Exile and Naruto early 2003 despite my continuous ridiculing, and I promptly ate my own words. I continued to watch anime and leech via bittorrent until around late summer of 2004 when I donated my office computer bandwidth to Anime-Kraze in the form of the XDCC/iroffer bot A-Kraze|aoi_sora when they had a severe bot shortage. (I think most of their bots were hacked boxes, and mine was the only one of two? legit boxes.) Anyway, I eventually discovered that aoi_sora was actually bad japanese, and the name was eventually changed to A-Kraze|aozora. It still serves for the most part. 5.7-ish TB contributed and counting. It may be the slowest XDCC bot to ever grace the fansubbing scene, but damnit, it's the little bot that could.

I finally decided to jump into fansubbing late 2004. I initially tried for an editing position with manga (go figure), though I certainly knew my English was nowhere near editor standards. I
then joined up with Anime-Kraze as QC (Quality Checker/Quality Control). It was certainly a very enlightening experience in discovering really how fansubbing worked, and it also improved my English quite a bit (or so I'd like to think). It also trained me to finally see what everyone meant by "good" subs and "bad" sub work. After several months of QCing for Kraze (a group of really great folks), real life grabbed me by the throat and fansubbing/QCing was not a priority anymore. QCing, imo, was a great segway into knowing what was out there in the fansubbing world, but I just couldn't keep up with the group demands (which, imo, also cut into trying to learn a new job). What really broke the camel's back, as they say, was QCing Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid for Bakakozou and moving out away from home. I was effectively inactive July 2005, and I stepped down from QC August/September 2005. Many other fansubbers would sniff at six months of fansubbing. I would too, but I QC'd about 50-60 series episodes/OVA episodes by a rough and conservative first order approximation and two or three movies (feel free to correct me, Kraze, if you guys still have the logs). Series worked on include Monster, Samurai Champloo, Gankutsuou (1 ep), Otogizoushi (1 ep), Tsubasa Chronicles (season 1), KARAS (ep 1), Inuyasha Movie 3, Kumou no Mukou Yakosoku no Basho, Xenosaga, Speed Grapher, and a few others.

I continued to distro despite stepping down, having disappeared from the scene for about a year to deal with research and graduating (yes... I'm still in grad school... but I'm graduating this semester!). Because of my foreseeable graduation day, I had entertained the notion of getting back into fansubbing toward the end of 2006. Though getting back into fansubbing as QC would have been very tempting, I had determined that it would be nice to create something for a change, instead of being that poking finger behind the non-QC staff. I had been experimenting with the .ASS scripts on and off since the winter of 2005. I hated timing, though I liked doing karaoke styling, computer's too crappy to do high calculation encodes, and my English still sucks. So I figured that typesetting would be my next job.

Actually, I had always wanted to do typesetting ever since I got interested in fansubbing back in 2004. I had hoped that I would return to fansubbing after I defended, but what really drove me back earlier than I had expected was the airing of the show Kyoshiro to Towa no Sora (or Kyoshirou to Towa no Sora -- Kyoshirou and the Eternal Sky), which is a supposed sequel to Kannazuki no Miko, a personal favorite series of mine. As much as I'd like to work with Kraze again, this was one series I could not pass up. I am now currently working as a typesetter with We're IN Denial (aka WinD).

Oh yes... contact... you can usually find me on the Rizon IRC network irc.rizon.org. I usually idle in #anime-kraze and #windfs

And the clock ticks on for the next entry...