Loki on Pteryx

Loki is a reknowned and beloved vidder on Tumblr and Youtube (and even old school LJ). She’s an absolute titan of Supernatural, producing well over a hundred vids just in that fandom alone. I came across her in Captain America fandom and I’ve been a firm fan ever since. For this piece, I asked her to sit down with Pteryx, one of the group of mainly Russian vidders who have transformed vidding over the past decade with their rhythmic soundwork combining spoken word, percussive sound fx, and (often) breakbeat & build tunes. This innovation, combined with their mastery of syncopated “velocity” cutting patterns, raccord, and blockbusting cinematic affect has made Russian vidders some of the most exciting artists vidding today.

This interview has been translated from Russian by the endlessly talented Loki herself. I have minimally edited and rearranged for flow.


Loki: Pteryx is one of the most popular vidders in fandom, not only Russian, but English speaking as well.. She’s been making videos for more than five years and she has worked with many different fandoms, making us smile with her crack videos and cry over her dramatic ones. Her channel has thousands of subscribers and millions of views. She began with Torchwood, continued with Sherlock BBC, X-Files, Doctor Who and most recently Captain America. She’s not stopping anytime soon. She frequently makes multifandom videos, and of course she’s famous for her yearly mash-up cinematography videos.

Loki: Describe yourself as a vidder in a few words.

Pteryx: Drama-queen! *laughs* Pain, more pain and alcoholism! I definitely know how to set the tone to the interview.

I always had images in my head when I was listening to music.
I’ve always had this way of thinking.

The Beginning

Loki: Tell me how you started. How did you get your username – Pteryx?

Pteryx: I got it because of the forum dedicated to the books about Tanya Grotter (Russian fanfiction books inspired by Harry Potter). I wanted to participate in the discussions and first I wanted to use “Tigra”, but that one was already taken. I was so angry! So I decided to make up something that would be unique. At the time I was kind of on an ancient Greek kick, loved writing and in one of my stories there were these creatures that could fly and the name I gave them was based on the greek “pteryx”, so I decided that no one would think of using that one. And then I was too just lazy to make up anything else and I kind of got used to this one.

Loki: Did you know anything about editing? What (or maybe who) inspired you to open the application and just begin?

Pteryx: Going back to the very beginning, I can tell that I was a fan of music videos since I was a kid. I really loved cartoon openings and the opening credits to tv shows. I remember as a kid that I used to watch those with my mouth hanging open and it was so exciting. I always watched them, even if I already knew every clip by heart. I still remember opening credits to ‘Chip ‘n’ Dale’ and ‘Buffy’.

Pteryx: I always had images in my head when I was listening to music. I’ve always had this way of thinking. And then I started watching music videos on MTV.

I had to do something with my emotions

My first fandom music videos were for the tv show ‘Heroes’. I watched the show itself on tv because I didn’t have a good Internet connection, but I could watch YouTube at school. Then it was 2009 and I kind of fell into the hole that was ‘Star Wars’, again. This fandom is kind of always there for me, so I watched fanvideos I found on the Internet. Back then I didn’t even think about trying it myself, I just like to watch and consume. I mean, I did try to edit before 2011, but I had a very simple machine, and it wasn’t powerful enough for video editing. And then in 2011, when I stumbled upon ‘Torchwood’, I had to do something with my emotions, so I decided to do it through videos. I guess it was the first fandom that inspired me so much.


Loki: What program do you work in? What was the very first thought you had when you opened it?

Pteryx: After MovieMaker, with a very simple and friendly interface, I worked in Ulead Video Studio. It was a pretty simple program too, so I just clicked the buttons. But when I first opened Sony Vegas I just closed it.

Loki: Bullet point for me your process of creating the video.

Pteryx: I don’t have one work-for-all scheme or algorithm, but at first everything happens in my head. When I have an idea, I always start to think about music and clips in my head. I think about the whole thing for quite some time and only then I open Vegas and start actually editing. I start with music; sometimes I cut it right away, sometimes later. The process is always different. Then I start cutting clips. Now I do it a little bit differently, but back then I used to work with the media library.

Loki: Editing a fanvideo, we usually work with already altered footage one way or another. Personally, I think that you kind of have to alter the footage even more, even if just a little bit. For example, color correct it maybe just a little bit. There’re lots of opinions about it, rules of color-coding and how it influences the idea and emotion in the video etc. Tell me about your color work. It’s especially interesting because you’re not just an editor, you’re a fanvidder, because you work with already color corrected footage.

Pteryx: Personally I think that you can leave everything as it is, and I usually color correct everything last. I mean, I want to make something that I’d like without the color correction. The colorings I usually use are neutral and natural, I just add contrast and saturation. I love purple tones. I guess you can notice that watching my videos. And then I just work with each individual clip on my timeline depending on the original color correction, because different footage has different color correction and I try to even everything out.



...there’s always one theme and one idea

Loki: Sound editing is another interesting topic. I know a lot of people who really loved your sound editing in particular. Especially your work with extra sound footage, sound effects and voice-overs. You always add different sounds. Tell me how you structure the story in your videos from the point of view of dialogue and how you choose voice-overs.

Pteryx: I usually choose everything depending on the general idea of the video, whether it’s for multifandom or not, there’s always one theme and one idea. Sometime it’s hard to see, but it’s always there. All the voice overs work for that idea.

Loki: One more question about sound effects. How you choose different “bams” and “wooshes”? Does it depend on the theme of your video or do you try to keep the tension with the help of this tool?

to add emotion, to smooth transitions, to underline that jump

Pteryx: I can’t remember why I started doing that in the first place, but I do remember that I started using sound effect from the very first video. I don’t think that if a video doesn’t have any sound effects at all then the video is bad. I don’t care actually, I watch the video, the whole picture. Personally I add sound effects because I need more drama. “Booms” are my kind I guess you could say. I add them to almost everything. Personally I use it to add emotion, sometimes to smooth transitions, to underline that jump between a calm song or sequence in the video and the tenser continuation.

Loki: Do you use only those sounds that you can get from your source or do you use sound effects libraries at all? For example, Sherlock BBC has a lot of “Sherlock” sounds, especially during sequences of his deduction; another example, Captain America, has more “fight” sounds, etc.

Pteryx: I use extra sound effects, but it really depends on how much free time I have and how lazy I’m being at the moment. I have a huge archive of sound effects. Sometimes I use something particular, sometimes the source sounds are enough.

Loki: How long does it usually take you to finish a video? I guess this is one of the most popular questions a vidder can get. Let’s say we live in an ideal world where you always have time for vidding. Is it easier for you to finish a video as quickly as possible, while the idea is still fresh in your mind, or you can stretch out your work and it won’t affect anything?

Pteryx: Well, the idea will be there, that’s for sure, not matter how long it takes me, but I can lose motivation. I obviously won’t work on a two minute video for a month or something. I always want to share an idea in a video and if I go on thinking about it more than two or three days it kind of gets boring. I mean, I already finished it in my head, you know? So I try not to take too long.

Loki: Every vidder has their own working algorithms. Is there anything that surprised you in terms of how someone does something? Like, using a tool or something. Personally, I was surprised that not a lot of people know how to use trimmer in Sony Vegas. For me it was pretty much the first thing that I learnt how to use.

Pteryx: Yeah, it was surprising for me, too. I was shocked that people put whole episodes on the timeline and cut it there. My program would freeze. Another thing for me is that no one uses media libraries, people don’t even go there. I also don’t use explorer in Sony Vegas, I just open up a folder on my computer and drag files to Sony Vegas. I really like how cassaravi does it. She once spoke about her workflow on ask.fm. She uses the same library method, but she screencaptures movies and tv shows she’s watching and she knows immediately what episode she needs just by glancing at all those jpg previews.

2016 was all about division


Loki: Speaking of mixing the music and smoothing out the transitions, you can hear it in your mash-up videos pretty well. You use at least three music tracks, different in mood and emotion. Tell me about the process of creating a mash-up video. This is your fourth year: do you start preparing right in the beginning of the year, or is more chaotic in the last months?

Pteryx: Let’s take my latest video as an example. As I already said, the biggest part of the editing is in my head. When I watch movies during the year, I subconsciously notices different moments, scenes and clips, beautiful shots, camera work etc. I can’t control it. The same way I can see that some particular themes are discussed more in the film industry than the others. For example, 2016 was a year when the topic of division was very popular. It was very obvious, in many movies and tv shows. The two biggest blockbusters of the year were based on the topic of division.

All of this just stays up in my head. And then in the autumn I start trying to tie everything together. This year I wasn’t very motivated. In 2014 I really wanted to realize this idea, so I took the preparation much more seriously. 2015 was a very difficult year for personal reasons, so I finished the video mostly out of spite. It was some sort of protest on my end, like, I did it anyway, no matter how hard it was. I received very different feedback to that 2015 mash-up. First, there wasn’t a lot of comments, there was very little emotion from the viewers. All the comments were about clips and scenes and people asked me why I didn’t include this or that fandom even though I actually did. For a creator the feedback is everything. This year I wasn’t very motivated, a lot happened in my life. I started working on the 17th of November; I remember it clearly, because I messaged pingvi and said that I hadn’t even started yet and she said that I wouldn’t make it in time, but I did it.

Loki: How do you choose movies? Do you check website and movie lists?

Pteryx: This year I checked the 2016 movie list on IMDB. Obviously there’s a list of mandatory movies – big hits, big premieres. I don’t even question it, I don’t even consider not including such movies as ‘Captain America’ or ‘Batman vs. Superman’, you know? Other movies I have to choose.

Loki: How many movies do you watch in a year?

Pteryx: A lot. I watch all the premieres, go to the movies and everything. Besides that, I watch movies to my liking. All in all, more than fifty a year, I’d say.

Loki: How do you choose music for the mash ups? There’s always different sequences in your videos, for example there’s drama, action, and usually the very last sequence of your mash ups videos is very inspirational and full of hope. How do you choose music for each of those sequences? Do you try to use only the new and latest music released in the year, or does it not matter to you?

Pteryx: I choose what I like. In the beginning I thought about using new music but I realized very quickly that a year can be not very generous in terms of cool music. So my choice would very limited, and consequently it would influence the quality of the video. So I rejected this idea and started choosing everything and anything that I thought would fit well. The most important thing for me is that music would fit the idea.

Loki: I can’t say that you’re a one-fandom-vidder. But you can definitely see how there was fandom periods in your work – Torchwood, Doctor Who, Sherlock and Captain America. What do you think about it? Do you have a main fandom at the moment?

Pteryx: I think of myself as a multifandom vidder, even though strictly multifandom videos isn’t something I make pretty often. Vidding is a way to express myself. A particular fandom is just a way of tracking this expression, I guess. Like, right now I’m into this or that. I’m still very much into Captain America. I still have a few ideas I’d like to make. But Torchwood is definitely in the past.


Loki: You are a very open and easy going person. What is the vidding community like for you? Is it just a community of vidders who support each other? How can you describe it? Is it easy for a newbie to get into it? What do you think about collaborations?

Pteryx: I was just asked this question the other day and my knee-jerk reaction was to answer, like, I’m not IN the community. laughs I can’t tell you anything because I feel like I’m not exactly engaged. I sometimes feel like an outsider even. Right now a lot of people copy each other so it’s hard to tell one from the other.

Loki: Who influenced you the most in the beginning? Who inspired you?

Pteryx: The very first vidder whose work I fell in love with was xWPrisonLoveMx. Also StygianFilms: there’s no color correction in their videos, there’s no extra sound effect. I also love katrindepp’s work. There was a time when people compared us a lot, especially when we were making videos for the same fandoms. It was a bit annoying, and I felt bad especially for her. Of course, Pingvi.

Loki: People sometimes ask me how to start making videos. Quite often what they mean is that they’re afraid people won’t watch their videos and they won’t have any subscribers. I try to explain that you should start doing it for the right reasons. If you like it, just do it, don’t try to chase the numbers.

A lot of vidders pay a lot of attention to analytics and statistics. The statistics of your channel is quite impressive. The most popular videos on your channel are Sherlock, Captain America, Doctor Who, mash up videos, so the fandom are pretty different. Do you think it’s possible to guess if the video is going to be popular? I mean, no matter what they say, feedback is very important to people, especially those tiny numbers, especially if it’s such a huge project as a yearly mash up video. Is there any way to predict if the video is going to blow up?

to start you actually have to start

Pteryx: Speaking about newbies, I think you should start because you like doing it. Because why else? And to start you actually have to start doing it. Speaking about more experienced vidders, I think you could apply the same methods and mechanism that work in the industry nowadays. Like, previews – it’s important to put a pretty picture as a preview for your videos, so the viewers can see that you actually put in some effort. Before you couldn’t upload custom made previews on YouTube so there were random screenshots on your videos, and from the experience I can say that if there was a random blur as a preview people didn’t watch my video. So it’s really important. Another thing is the title. You need to motivate the person to click and watch the video. So all these mechanisms actually work and can be applied to fanvidding as well. The number of subscribers actually work too. The number works for you.

Loki: In conclusion, what advice could you give to those, who want to start making fanvideos? Besides “just start”, do you have any more practical and applicable advice?

do what you love

Pteryx: I won’t give any advice to those who always wanted but never tried. I mean, come on, if you really wanted to do it, you would have already started. For those who actually did start – be more open and talk to people. Right now it’s much easier to put yourself out there. Don’t throw links to your videos left and right asking and begging people to watch it. Wait a little bit, your audience will find you. Do what you love. Upload your work and post it on different themed communities so like-minded people can watch your videos. Participate in collabs and challenges, and just have fun!