William Chow's Personal Web Page

The year my Anime Evolution 2005 story.

Below I have some of the photos of great times that were had. Feel free to click on the thumbnail to enlarge it.

My Role This Year

This year, my concentration was going to be in programming. Last year, I was in executive staff being in charge of the volunteer staff. We had about 80+ volunteers for a 2000+ attendance convention. Although not perfect nor quite exactly the way I wanted it run, it worked and basically allowed me to see and learn much about how Vancouver conventions are run internally. I have volunteered at Anime Expo and San Deigo Conventions before so I know how they operate during con time but some now, I was able to see what happens before the con.

So this year, I wanted to many things which were brought up that we thought might be really cool to do. One was to do a "Name That Tune" anime game show. Another was to set up a huge screen so we could play Halo 2 on. Another was to set up a REAL (defined below) karaoke. So I jumped on board as the panel coordinataor this year.

Planning The Con

The job as the panel cooridinator was not a difficult one as the title would have it. However, what exactly is the role of the panel cooridinator? What exactly is the domain of my responsibility? and where does it become part of someone elses department. I guess that never was really defined at the start and for the most part never really became define even at the start of the convention.

I ran two panels at Sakura con 2002 and I got nothing from the Sakura Con programming head. I ran panels at V-Con and again, got no correspondance from the programming departments. So, it comes as a bit of surprise for me to be chasing after panelist for a lot of paperwork and correspondance. I am sure it is important in various degrees and I am sure it would make the panelist happy to a point that the convention cares about "their" welfare as well as the conventions. But for the core and heart of it all, the panels that were brought up from the panelists, were good to go. Give them their stage to be on, the rest comes together.

When working with different people in conventions, I have always had problems with things like micromanagement. It is a common problem. I encountered this problem before and it was happening to me again. However, instead of getting angry or instead of letting my work or department suffer because of it, I maintain a very completist and very "end result justifies the means" attitude. We all know what the we need to do when the convention is on and the panels are happening, so as the saying goes, "Let's get the show on the road!"

Event Preparation
Ok, I was all excited about hearing what was possible at SFU and what could be done from last year's convention. Using what was said last year on the forums, at the Assault and Flattery, and in the video games room and even in my store, I hear what a lot of convention attendees and staff and volunteers and even my customers all gave me good feedback for this year.
My first idea was a game show. The attendees need more event like things to go to. Cosplay is always big but other than video/AMV rooms, there really wasn't a lot else. Things like Idol, and performance type things were great but we needed other skill testing contests. And not just sitting down contests like Magic or video games. So thus, I thought of a "Name that Tune" game show.

Actually, the "Name That Tune" idea came from the 2003 Sakura Con, however the version they ran I thought was poorly arranged. It had a heavy mixture of only the new songs, and a lot of it you could have only known if you did illegal downloading. So I was going to have to improve on this and make it different so it would be fair to more people. In my game show, I made sure I picked songs evenly distributed across the last 7+ years of anime. I picked anime that was commerically available and released by companies so there should be no reason why someone could not have rented it from a video store/online, or bought it from a retailer, or saw it on TV.

To also make it more fair, I had special bonus rounds were the themes where the songs would be related in some way and the scores would be reset so everyone would have a chance to win a prize. This year I chose, "The SONG is in ENGLISH", "The Guitar Solo" and "Game Music".

This year I also wanted to do something like the "Music Mixture" game they had on a Japanese show called "Hey Hey Hey Music Champ". The contest consisted of playing 4 songs simultaneously, you had to guess a song out of the mess of music. After mixing the songs together, I realized that 4 songs at once might be too hard, so I switched down to 3 songs simulataneously.

Last year I was also running the Video Games room. One of the biggest complaints mostly from my staff was about the game "Karaoke Revolution" for the Playstation 2. It is a singing game made by the company who brings you "Dance Dance Revolution" and "Para Para Paradise". The compliant was the music from the games was repetitious and loud and distracting and basically made it so everyone had to shout at each other to communicate. After all, how many times can you hear teenaged girls singing Britney Spears before you go crazy? And you gotta admit, Super Eurobeat starts sounding the same after a few hours listening to it.

So this year, I decided to make Karaoke Revolution a panel where I can "isolate" the singers in to a room and let them sing to their hearts desire. And you know it kinda worked. Likewise, I made the decision to move my Para Para arcade machine away from the video games room into the hallway. I know it seems logical to put the arcade game into the video games room, but this will now make the noise level in the arcade room more normal. Also since the maps and the location of the video game rooms detached and separated from the rest of the convention made it hard to access. So it was decided I move the machine to where my panel rooms were to give it more exposure.

Last year in the video games room, we tried to go multiplayer networked Halo 2 but that didn't happen. We did do some simple one Xbox and 3 player Halo but the 14" screens were just too small. Last year we tossed around the idea, why don't we use one of the unused video rooms and make use of the projector to give us big screen to do split screeen. After all, last year Fast Eddie was having some kinda of video party and he was doing a video game party where he was using the big screen for game competitions. So the idea is not a new one. However, I thought it would be really cool to hook two adjacent rooms to the Xboxes so we could have two machines with 2 screens doing 8 players on the big screens. Sounded easy enough as long as you didn't need to deal with the beauracracy of requisitioning the equipment. But I didn't let that detail worry me too much initally and I was glad I waited.
The last major event was an actual Karaoke. Now, I have been to other conventions to have a look what other people claim to be karaoke. I pulled an article out of the Georgia Street newspaper. Karaoke is a Japanese word meaning "silent symphony". It started with a party farmers using a old railway car in the middle of nowhere as a place they could sing and not disturb their neighbours. Ok, back then they didn't have high tech of today so it was people were singing with pieces of paper. Although the Japanese industry it is often customary to have the audio only version a song on the CD-single and on many of the records they released during that time so they had no problems singing their favourite songs.

So what I have been seeing in other conventions for karaoke is actually live performances where people bring instruments and play and sing (an Idol thing), people singing along with the vocal version (a sing along thing), an accapella (another variation of an idol thing), and usually the best of the best will actually sing with the no vocal version and not need a piece of paper in front of their face singing (real karaoke).

Personally, I only just started to do karaoke boxes. These are enclosed rooms (hopefully) with a TV that displays the lyrics and a machine to play the vocal-less songs. So I wanted to duplicate that experience at the con. A REAL karaoke.

I spent the better course of a year visiting karaoke web sites and going to Lux Karaoke in Vancouver. I bought and borrowed what ever karaoke videos that I could. I assembled them all into a Celeron 500mhz computer with a lot of hard drives. I spent hours upon days renaming file names and sorting them by artist and eliminating the duplicates. I spent a lot of CPU time converting DVDs and AVIs down to standardized MPG format. I spent about a month learning PHP to build the web browser-like interface. I took several weeks on the internet looking up pictures and biographies for each of the major recording artists. Finally, I had a server that had over 1300+ popular songs from the 70's, 80's, 90's and even the new millinieum. Almost everyone should be able to find something in there they can do.

On With the SHOW!!

Last year the Karaoke Revolution game was well played and almost always had a crowd huddled around it. So this year, it was no surprise that first panel slot on Friday, the room was near capacity at 130+ seats. Many spectators were reluctant at first to try it out, but after my performance of "Beat It" from Michael Jackson, they quickly gained some confidence to come forth.

The audience was capitvated by some of the outstanding performances, entertained by some of the "side shows" and truly tolerant for those who belong with eliminated idols like William Hung. But the audience was able to follow and hum and sing along with the brave souls who stepped up to the mike to sing in front of them. There was 3 mixes of Karaoke Revolution so I just changed them about every hour so that the songs won't get repeated too much. The shows went along pretty smooth although Friday's show it was obvious that the SFU speakers were bagged. On Saturdays show there were a few people who got confused and disappointed when my staff allowed the audience to switch discs which was bad because it wasted much time rebooting the PS2. And on Sunday there was a speaker clipping problem but that was solved with some equipment swapping. It was great entertainment for several hours in the afternoon. It was painful in some cases to hear how bad some of these people were but it was fun. I would do it again.

The game show had a delayed start because the computer that I had it on failed to boot up. Due to the transport by truck, the ram and the CPU was shaken loose from their slots. So after some quick trouble shooting we got it working. Thank god. Although I had the files on a portable USB hard drive, I didn't have Cooledit for the music mixture.

The game ran very well. Everyone in the audience had their chances. There were many bonus rounds which allowed many people to win. There was one clear winner in the crowd but there were enough bonus rounds to yield 5 different prizes to different people in the audience. It was well attended, but could have been better attended if it acutally started on time. I had fun being the Master of Ceremonies. I would love to do it again next year.

The best show that ran was Karaoke. I would have to admit that start was a bit shaky since it was up to a volunteer Randy to set it up since I was still doing "Name That Tune" across the hall. However, when I arrived, the room was literally packed with even a line up to get in. I got there the computer system was not set up exactly right and not running exactly right but it was running and that was all that mattered. Unfortunately, I could not make the changes needed as the queue already had eight to ten songs all queued up and waiting. So the ability of CD/mp3 input was not available and could not be installed at the time. Sorry to all those who brought CDs, the equipment just didn't work. However, we managed to get the USBs working and thus anyone who brought USB jumpdrive stick MP3 players were able to load their songs in.

There was some awesome talent out there. But the biggest and/or memorable performances had to be:

a) the entire room joining in Queen's "Boheimenian Rhapsody". I wasn't there to see this but Randy was totally floored at how everyone knew the song and were following along. Sure, people can say that singing Idol is hopefully like performing to a brick wall, nobody makes a sound and nobody complains when you sing. But a karaoke box is not like that. If you never been to one, then you of course would not know this and are thus learning the lesson now. It IS about the audience. It is about getting them excited as you are. In Karaoke Revolution when you are singing well, the crowd gets bigger and cheer more! I know some con-goers were expecting a quiet audience to sit and take what they sang (good or bad) and clap afterwards. Well, we had Anime Idol panel just for you. This is a karaoke box.

b) the 5 N'Sync guys. Oh it only just started with the one kid, but his friends joined him at the front and they got the girls going with their version of N'Sync. That was cool.

c) a cross-playing Mr Sailor Moon Stars doing "Man I Feel Like A Woman", that was so fitting!

d) a goth doing a seductive Madonna for "Like A Virgin"

e) 3 guys with guitars coming in to perform a song entirely in Japanese. They played and sang it all without papers or a prompter. These guys were true contenders for an Idol contest.

f) Johnston's performance of "Welcome To The Jungle", certainly proved the point that you have to sing (in his case yell) into the mike and it doesn't produce feedback. He was SO loud, I was surprised the speakers didn't blow up.

g) Johnston also did an awesome job of "What A Wonderful World". He was loud and he even got that quiver in his voice which was nice.

h) The goths doing "Ready Set Go". I blame Kuraki Fans for not subtitling a NON-vocal version of the song probably because they were too cheap to buy the real CD Single with it on it. But this is a song that doesn't go through a karaoke filter well, as it sounds the same with it on as it does with it off. The poor girl had no hope in hell in trying to out sing L'arc-en-Ciel's vocals, But she did a good job nevertheless. And yes, for those who thinking do it yourself, I did do a non-vocal Anzen-Chitai (Alan Tam also did a version) "Red Wine".

i) Some girls doing "1/3" from Siam Shade, because this one of the Japanese songs that the karaoke filter DID work on, and you could actually hear her sing. She also did well. On that same note, the guy who brought in his USB Crusier MP3 player did load up an "November Rain" by X-Japan. He and his girl, did a good version of the song and almost was loud enough to outsing Hide. The only thing about their performance was that they were not singing into a piece of paper; also only a few people in the audience knew enough J-Rock to know who X-Japan even are. So in short, good performance, but nothing special for the audience to watch. Although, there was a guy in the back of the room holding out his cell phone doing the Telus "Here I Go Again" thing.

j) A couple had me upload from their USB MP3 Player, "November Rain" from X-Japan. Some guy in the back was doing the Telus Whitesnake commerical with his cellphone. Other than that, the performance was less than stellar as they sang into a piece of paper for most of the song. I give them points for originality and bravery.

Actually, I just remembered. On Sunday morning I was on the Millenium Skytrain line heading up to SFU. There was two little girls with their mother across sitting across from me. One of them pointed me out to her sister, "Hey Hey, that is Mr. Karaoke!". Wow, I didn't realize my fame already travelled that far!
The full playlist and play statistics and comments on the various preformances are here.

  My Booty This Year

This year, the only big thing I wanted to do was get some autographs from Rune Sasaki. I missed her last year, and I really really wanted to avoid the dealer's room. Well, I did avoid the dealer's part of the dealer's room because I did get food and some sleep in there.

Crusher Joe, she played the voice of the female lead character, Elfin.

Five Star Stories, she played one of the fatimas.

In Gundam G, she played the character Manin.
In "Super Dimensional Century Orguss", Rune plays the main female role of Mimsy. This is her favourite character role. This is probably the rarest thing I have from Orguss. It is the Memorial book from the Laser Disc Box Set of Orguss, now signed by Rune.


The Aftermath!!

Well that was a wild weekend. I was lacking sleep, fluids, and food. The one thing I thought I had accomplished was getting a bunch of books autographed by Rune Sasaki. Stupid thing was, the bag that the books were in got misplaced/stolen out of one of the panel rooms. So that made that a rather mute point. But after running and hosting over 28+ hours of karaoke, I can say that was fun. I don't know if there would have been many other people who could have tolerated all that amuteur singing.

I have had some good feedback about the karaoke room. It definitely made the difference for a many con-goers on a what normally would be a dull Friday night or a nice late night cap for Saturday night or even an afternoon jaunt on Sunday.

Sure, I will always have complaints about room accoustics, audience participation, and of course room ventilation. But this is SFU and not a whole lot can be done with a bomb shelter turned into a school. I am glad that I was able to create some good memories for some people and make their Anime Evolution 2005 experience more enjoyable and more entertaining.

I look forward to taking account to several issues we had this year about equipment and song logistics and incorporate them for next year.

Ending Conclusions

Karaoke has gained a lot of different definitions due to the exposure from different groups and cultures. With the advent of technology more different permutations are possible. I will outline a few notes that people have commented about in the forums. These are my opinions and nobody others. And because they are my opinions, please do not treat them as the rule. These are just my observation from a person who has experienced it, and since experiences are very subjective to intereptation, it is possible to derive many meanings.

Audience is too loud. A common problem with karaoke boxes. You have the person who is singing. Everyone else in the room is sitting round. If it is song they don't know or don't care, then they start getting bored. When you are bored, you start doing other things, which unfortunately talking is one of them. Of course, with the volume on the singing jacked up, you have to yell to be heard. So here you have a situation where one person is singing and another person yelling. Times this by more people, then this becomes a mess. Now, I don't expect to yell at my friends at a karaoke box to shut up and let me sing. Likewise, when I was in China singing karaoke, the other guys in the room were drinking wine and beer and they were yelling and singing in their off-key drunken way; and it was not bloody likely I was gonna tell them to shut up. So, if you expect to come up and perform to a captivated audience, then a karaoke box is NOT your venue. This is not an idol contest.

Singing Your Own Songs. I have been to many karaoke boxes in my time. I have never ever seen a karaoke box that has the ability to bring your own Laser Discs or your own tape or your own CD or your own MP3s and play them. Although, Mike's Karaoke did have a tape deck so maybe tape input was possible. Now, many of these places like Konbiniya and Sing-Sing has staff manually changing LDs so theoretically it is possible. However, logistically speaking, it maybe to difficult to cue the song and start it up. You may be able to convince the staff to change it for a price, but since most karaoke boxes you are already paying for the room time who wants to pay more for song you could have sang at home? Besides, it would have been cheaper to do an accapella of the song. So again, this is not a night club where you can bug the DJ to put a song on. Real karaoke boxes are like automated vending machines, don't expect a Coke machine to vend you a Pepsi.
Playing to the crowd. Your friends are watching you when you sing. So hamming it up is part of the fun. One of the best examples I remember was when Rob and James were doing "Jungle Love" by the Time. First, it was not on the karaoke box play list, so they did it accapella. Secondly, they were doing the dance "oh we oh we oh!".

I stress again, if the audience gets bored, they start doing other things which can include talking and other things... So getting them to sing along or laugh as you try to do your Madonna or Michael Jackson is a good thing. At the convention, a kid started doing "Everything I Do" from N'Sync by himself. Soon, his four friends joined him on stage and they did an N'Sync thing which really got the audience all fired up.

On that same note, another couple came up to sing "November Rain" by X-Japan. They stood in one place and sang into a piece of paper. Granted, they did a good job with the song, but the audience was bored. Either because a) the singers were ignoring the audience by looking down at a piece of paper and b) most of them didn't know who or what they were singing, c) they used a non-karaoke version of the song and it is hard to out sing Hide in MOST of X-Japan's songs.

Don't get me wrong. I have tried to "Little Kiss" from ASAP, "Cha La Head Cha La" (Dragonball Z OP) and "Breakaway" by Big Pig/Alan Tam by standing there and reading lyrics off my Palm Pilot. I have seen Colin destroy a Card Captor Sakura song and another X-Japan song doing the same thing. You know can safely say, I looked stupid...

You don't have to sing in Japanese. Ok, karaoke is a Japanese word and it was invented in Japan. But that does NOT mean you have to sing Japanese songs! Alright, I have watched lots of anime and taken some Japanese, but it won't take 2 sentences for a Japanese person to know that I can't speak the language worth shit. So what makes me think I can sing any better? It is hard enough for me to sing in English, why do I need to humiliate myself more doing a song in a language I barely understand? Just because it is a Japanese venue like Konbinya and 70% of their songs are in Japanese, it doesn't mean I have to pick one of them. Sure, I have tried and totally failed on songs like "Crazy" by Max; "Invoke" by TM Revolution"; "Liar Liar" by B'z and others. Only with the help of a Japanese speaking person like Daisuke, I was able to "backup" on songs like "Ai Obiettemosuka" - Macross Minmei song, "Suki Sa" by Anzen Chitai (Maison Ikkoku OP) and "Hello Sadness" Maison Ikkoku OP.

So in short, do something you know. It is more entertaining to see you do a good job, rather than tolerate you doing a bad one.

Going with the FLOW. There is no science, pattern or strict laws about karaoke. Sometimes the best karaokes the are the ones that just happen on the spot and something spontaneous comes out of it. You might be singing the lyrics right, then all of a sudden an inspiration/perversion comes to you. You decide to act on it and something different and often funny happens. The art of adlibing is important in karaoke. Here are some examples: Sekai Juu No Dare Yori Kitto by Miho Nakajima with Wands (Elick had no idea how sped up the song was but he did an awesome job adjusting to it), Forever Love by X-Japan (guys were starting go goofy during the long instrumental), Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now - Starship (started ok but when we found out we couldn't hit those high notes of Peter Cetera so the song went to hell), Fly Me To the Moon - Frank Sinatra (again started ok, but we started passing the mic around and then Dan said something about "ass" and then song went to downhill), YMCA - Village People (started the song fine but the lyrics somehow became YRU(gay)? )
Courage. There is a couple of my friends who will come to karaoke but they will never sing a song. It isn't that they can't find a song they like. No. It is they lack the humility to grab the mic and sing; whether their voice was good or bad. I find singing karaoke even amongst my own friends, sure builds up my confidence. So it doesn't make public speaking as hard. It also makes me more tolerant to about how bad other people can be too, because I know I am not that good at singing either.
Audience Participation. This is a party, not a solo act. So songs that get everyone into the group groove is perfect and should be encouraged. Here are some examples of how charged up a song becomes with audience help: Take On Me - Aha, and Bohemiean Rhapsody - Queen.
Learn how the equipment works. I don't know if it just the newer generation of kids are stupid or they just don't listen to instructions. The microphones typically have an on/off button on them. So when you start singing and you aren't hearing yourself, one would think to look at the mic and flip the on/off button. No....

Also, I tell these people that the microphone is not a penis. You sing into it. Don't try to put it into your mouth. Don't be afraid of it so you hold it to your chest. Point it to your mouth, about 2 fingers from your mouth and sing like you mean it. Otherwise, we will have mic volume problems which leads to other problems like feedback. Then they sit there can complain the mics don't work. Sheessh people, blame the USER, not the equipment!!


If you are wondering where the rest of my karaokes are, they are located on my web page at http://www.anikionline.com/hobbies/karaoke/index.html.