Sunday, 19 August 2018

ConBravo 2017: Day 1 Plus

I was not able to attend ConBravo in 2018 - but I had yet to tidy up my recap files for 2017. So let’s get on that... if Linkara can post his ConBravo2015 AT4WLive in June of this year, I figure I’m good. ^.- Usual disclaimers apply: Quotations may have errors in due to my typing speed, so don’t take them as fact, and ensure you’re getting things in the proper context. If you want to see info from ConBravo 2016, or ConBravo 2015, go to those links.

Expect mostly vocaloids and comment section info for this post.

(Commission from Jakface)
I arrived at the Con shortly before 7pm, coming with my wife from Stratford via Georgetown. My first stop was the Marketplace, to ask for three character commissions. (Two "Epsilon Project" and one "Time Untied".) I also picked up the Steins;Gate Manga #1 and a figurine, plus I overheard an interesting conversation - people at the booths are limited in terms of what they can bring due to space, so bring male T-shirts, since women will usually wear guy’s shirts but guy’s won’t wear women’s shirts. (Women’s shirts actually account for you having breasts.)

After close to an hour there I headed to VIDEO PRODUCTION 101, which had started about a half hour earlier. That’s in a separate post mentioning ALL the video panels (101/102/103). By 9:30pm I was in THE GARDEN THAT IS YOUR COMMENTS SECTION.

The entire point of this panel was said to be teaching to not ignore if there’s a problem. Tackle it, deal with it to the best of your ability... don’t let your garden get ugly. Sorry, aside from Silver August (aka Jem) I don’t remember who the panelists were, enlighten me if you can.


Someone asked about a die hard group of fans who may pile onto a newcomer (laying on hate when s/he may simply not understand). Response: “I would still probably apologize to the guy who just got attacked, then I would also personally scorn the other ones. Because I don’t just run a YouTube channel, I also run the main website with an active chat where I will talk to people. They know that I will scorn them. I don’t need you to fight my battles.”

Even if you don’t respond in videos as they come out, read and respond to those who require it or sprinkle “thank yous” to demonstrate interacting somehow. We’re assuming you’re still able to “micromanage” that community, to “control” it, in quotes. You can water the flowers, water the field and grow what you want. Don’t let a seed grow into something bad, don’t let it expand. There was a reminder that it depends entirely on what you’re putting out (one panelist does pokemon videos, dodging hate bullets there) and your tolerance level (do you care about spoilers).

Female audience member: “Would you want to clear hate comments or still have some to help you learn?”

Response was to keep some on the way, to find out if you can handle it; if you can’t you may not survive in the long run. If they’re attempting to be constructive, respond saying if you asked in a nicer manner, you’d get more positive feedback. Also they provide some grounding in reality. It depends also on your own personal perspective - one panelist gets amusement out of hate comments.

Audience question: “On being a victim of bullying?” Perhaps the reason they make hateful comments is if they’re miserable.

Response reiterates it is pivotal to not ignore the community that you are growing. If you are putting your opinion out there in some fashion, someone is going to disagree... but someone is also going to agree. If you are making what you want to make, focus on that, the people will come over time.

Panelist really wants to fight the myth of “ignore the comments”. What inspired this panel was being very vocal talking about things growing up... no recollection of getting a lot of bullying for it then. Perhaps presented it in a positive manner? So can’t give advice for that.

Question: What if you have a more toxic fan base that’s adjacent to you that cascades in because you share the same genre?

The pokemon video panelist remarked on how there is toxicness in the community “made worse by [our channel] being AntiHack”. If one calls out hackers a lot, can be a toxic fan base as a result. “I haven’t had that bleed over, though he knows that we exist, has liked some of our videos”. “The most we’ve ever had is ‘why waste your time playing properly’. I simply explain to them, we play the way we feel it was designed.”

Things can be very rough at the start. Learning where you went objectively wrong, even if it’s your comment. Note: If fact says you are wrong, that’s it, but if it’s an opinion you are never wrong. As long as you don’t give up, and try to improve yourself, it will get better. Back to Garden symbolism, with a watering can, this is your content. Whatever you put in and are feeding the garden is what you give them as entertainment. If you tend to your garden right, you will grow the pretty garden. Unless you want the other kind of garden.

Some final thoughts: “This is going to take time, money and I don’t know, bananas.” A healthy community will require patience. Weed is only a classification that’s dubbed by other people. You decide what is or isn’t a weed. Dandelions are pretty, they’re edible. Closing Statement: The garden is your community. Visitors will see the house, they will see the content, and you, because it’s still visible (maybe, depending), but they will also see the garden.

That wrapped up at 10pm, I hung around to 10:30pm for “Vocaloids: The Making of Pitch-Perfect Robots” in the same room after. This was headed by “Crusher-P” (Cien Miller) a guest panelist, in from New York City that morning.


Hatsune Miku is turning 10 years old in August 2017. Vocaloid is a computer program, like Siri (text to speech) but meant for singing. Developed by a country in Spain in 2001, in connection with father of vocaloids who is Chinese. Debut with LEON and LOLA. And nobody cared. (Well, people kind of cared, see the soundtrack for the movie “Paprika” in 2006.) Then Keito, and the English vocaloid “Sweet Anne”, and it was a guy in Japan (Wataru Sasaki) who said “we’ll make it cute”, and that’s Miku. Still nobody cared because nobody really understood what it was or how to use it, but videos got so popular.

Crusher-P's Vocaloid Panel
Crusher-P’s 12 year old self (back when full anime eps were on youtube) found this one song, “Packaged”. Then came Len and Lin, then a documentary on youtube (about 13 minutes long) about how vocaloid was more than just a program, it was becoming a phenomenon. So many elements were helping make it a subculture.

There are different eras of vocaloids with different expectations and qualities. From 2007-2009, it was an era of exploration. Nobody had standards, everything sucked, but it was cool. Lots of hits that people don’t listen to any more. (“Story of Evil” where Len died are her favourites, she’s not a fan of him.) HotTopic now has mystic messenger stuff in their stores, that’s quick, it took longer back then.

The Version 3 engine in 2010 is when it got really popular in the West, and then the community exploded. Crusher-P had a love/hate relationship, downloaded a version, deleted it... then vocals sounded more and more human, higher quality. Version 1 had five vocaloids, Version 3 had 64 vocaloids. But capitalism at it’s finest, everyone was illegally downloading, exporting different voices to instrumentals, less new songs. In the self-sustained community we have now, there’s a different kind of revolution going on, with all of character, program and voice exploding.

Crusher-P showed the setup for Version 2 (in her opinion the best version), with the sideways keyboard. There was lots of controversy and riots, and copywriting issues. In terms of “come for Miku and stay for the music”, in Japan they could put songs in games, and holographic concerts. (An audience member brought up Miku on David Letterman.) The most American thing they thought they could do was replace Miku’s leek (not a spring onion, those are tiny) with a bacon-wrapped hotdog.


And then we’re here, in 2017, and Miku’s chinese voice bank is coming out. This past February, Crusher-P went to Japan during the snow festival. Crypton Future Media INC, the official licensor of Hatsune Miku, is based in Sapporo. Going there and experiencing it “I felt like I was in the home of Miku”. At the office, Miku figures are plastered everywhere, and the receptionist could speak in perfect English. There are now 100 other vocaloids in various languages, but it was very clear as to why Miku is the household name (and why GUMI isn’t, even though she’s Crusher-P’s favourite). The other vocaloid marketing isn’t on par. There’s a lot of reasons for that.

“No professional musician will drop 100 bucks on an anime character that makes noises.” (“That sounded weird.”) Producers want to invest into something powerful that will get them further along in their career, and for anime characters, the marketing didn’t work. Miku is more a virtual idol, she’s a diva, she’s a star... that’s why vocaloid was raised up to a giant boom, and also why it’s died (because no one knows what’s going on).

Commission from Gen Ishihara
After being in the Sapporo office, Crusher-P went to Osaka. She found the office of the people who made Gumi and Gackpo (Internet Co, Ltd). “It was the most quiet meeting I’ve ever had.” (And it’s very quiet and very clean in Japan.) There was only one thing in the giant meeting room, a giant poster of Gumi, but it was serious business. In the meeting Crusher-P told them how Gumi is probably the most popular English speaking vocaloid, all the songs have at least a million views... but “we don’t really hear from you guys too much”. They talked about Gackpo v4, and she didn’t know there was a v4. She suggested a Twitter for Gumi, and it happened five months later. Maybe 3 tweets, but A for effort.

Next day was an 8 hour long meeting with Yamaha, the company that licenses or handles vocaloid and development. Lots of talking. (Noted how business styles in Japan are different. Americans won’t do it if they think it won’t sell, whereas in Japan it’s more “okay, okay”, less standing up to criticize - depending on where you are.) Crusher-P and the person with her had a long list of things that “needed changing”. Once again, the company was really open to all the different ideas, like “Try posting more often.” And they do. It’s not good videos, seems randomly posted, but they try.

Yamaha did have vocaloid stuff everywhere; next stop was AHS (AH-Software Co Ltd), who are trying to get into Germany now. One side of their company was all decorated in vocaloid, and the other side was blank. Because the sun coming in would ruin posters. They also have a joyous twitter that’s supportive of other companies.

As far as Crusher-P herself, two and half years ago she wrote an original song, ECHO, for Gumi English. (She played a few minutes of it; it has over 17 million views.) The song changed her life, as her first real big return to the vocaloid scene, and around the same time English vocaloid changed too. English lyrics started to catch on. Miku English sucks, facts are facts, but people were more willing to explore. (“I don’t think it was Echo, but it played a little bit of a part in how things changed” and it did play in a mall in Japan.)


Vocaloids have been gaining more in the West than Japan. Chinese vocaloids have had problems, beautiful designs and beautiful voices, but with the president of a company who takes the money and spends it on a strip club. (The company had to be reinvented again.) Don’t reach out on the website vocaloidotaku.

For Korean vocaloids, SeeU and Uni (“I love her, she’s so pink”), everyone in Japan had tension. Then the SeeU voice provider landed in jail because she blackmailed somebody. (She’s out, but likely no plans to continue with anything.) For Ruby, English, tan skin, it’s the first time in the history of vocaloid that the entire Western community agreed on anything - Ruby doesn’t belong to anyone (voice provider Misha, and programmer, freelance project). An issue is it takes thousands of recordings for one pitch in English, versus a hundred for one pitch of Japanese.

As Ruby was freelance, two companies wanted to take her in. PowerFX, a long term company who had made Sweet Ann and Big Al (they had to remake him twice) versus Crypton, the company who made Miku. They went with PowerFX, to have full control of the design, wanting a Dominican reflection in Ruby... most English speaking vocaloids are white, all the same, blue eyed blondes. (And jackets, they all have jackets.) Ruby was different, pink hair, tan skin... still a jacket. More sporty look?

There was controversy here too. At AnimeExpo 2014, Misha was a guest, they had a whole documentary they shot, but what they didn’t know was that on the other side of the reveal card wasn’t their Ruby, but what some called a “plagiarized image of the singer P!nk”. Everyone in the world was angry, but she had to forge on, everybody boycotted PowerFX, SaveRuby happened, and we got the original Ruby back.

There are Skype sounds in some Sonico recordings that come up in some of their recordings. And for opera singers there’s a vocaloid named Prima, and Tonio who does male parts. But we’re in Limbo; people suspect Version5 is going to come out soon, as every 4 years there seems to be a new version. Crusher-P says it better not come down any time soon, there’s so many changes they should implement first.

Commission from Ursula Gray
She opened the floor to questions at the end. Someone asked if she was representing a company while in Japan; no, just herself, and she was with someone else (a “notable name” also). No critiquing with Crypton, in Osaka (with Gumi) constructive criticism, and with AHS it was so straight down to business they started with “what do you think of our product”, “what did you say with Yamaha”. Someone asked about favourite colour; salmon.

Did she have trouble working with the vocaloid program initially, and what pushed her to make a whole song?

Crusher-P offered apologies, it was basically “I want to be cool too”, teenage angst, a desire to be involved. Which was also the reason she started drawing in middle school. For ECHO, she did write both the music and the song. Someone asked about how to come up with rhyming and themes. Response: “Lyrics that rhyme and make sense is a new chapter in my life.” She said she has a song coming out soon of a secret government of bunnies. No consistent way of writing music.

Does she write on sheet music? No, she can’t read notes; “you have to see it visually”. Imagine this hand doing low notes, and this hand doing high, imagine that the base line is a river, and then underneath that river is a parallel river with the melody notes... she has trouble explaining. As to tracks, she writes in FL Studio sometimes. And that was about it.

(For more on Vocaloids, I also went to a session at Anime North in 2016. I do like music as well as animation.)

The time being 11:30pm, I went to have a look in on the Pub Quiz with Nash (which started at 11pm) but they were in the midst of tallies, so I didn’t hear any questions. I got back to the hotel for midnight. One takeaway from the sessions this day was people saying they “want to be part of the community”, which is kind of interesting - because I didn’t really have a community? For either song parodies or personified math serials, I wasn’t trying to be part of a group, that sort of came later (if at all).

Saturday morning, I got to the Con before 10am, when everything was starting, lining up for the “Nostalgia Critic Q&A”. That will be in a separate post. Which takes us to 11:30pm and the “Better Roleplaying Q&A” - which is what starts off this next post. Feel free to comment on anything more specific to what's already happened below!

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