Virtual idol Hatsune Miku packed the house (or at least, Panel Room 1A24) at New York Anime Fest/New York Comic Con on Saturday afternoon, as hundreds of fans lined up for a chance to see the blue-haired cartoon girl sing—and were treated to the premiere of a new Miku video that hasn't even been shown in Japan yet.
Hatsune Miku sings using Vocaloid, a computer voice synthesizer based on a real singer's voice, and she dances with the help of Miku Miku Dance CGI animation software. Fans can use MMD to make their own Miku videos; you can see a sampling on Niconico's Vocaloid page.
Toshihiro Fukuoka and Masataka P at New York Anime Fest
Chief Executive Editor of ASCII Media Magazine Toshihiro Fukuoka began the panel by showing some early Hatsune Miku concepts. "At the beginning, it was not so much music as voice and sounds," he said, and then he played a video of trains entering and leaving Shinjuku station. A set of bell-like tones heralded the arrival and departure of the trains. "Those sounds are used in the Hatsune Miku software," he said, and sure enough, he played a clip of Miku, and you could hear the bells along with her voice.
Then he played a sample of the Koi-Suru Vocaloid. "What we have is the take zero, the very first one," he said. "Her singing is terrible, the tempo is off and the sound is off." Then he played what sounded at first like fragments of a voice, before it coalesced into an actual song. "This was us just playing around with the music," he said.
To show what the software is capable of now, Fukuoka showed clips of Hatsune Miku, sometimes accompanied by the other virtual idols Rin, Len, and Luka, singing the theme from Star Wars, a song from Phantom of the Opera, J.S. Bach's "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" and the traditional Japanese folk song Asagao Bushi. Four Mikus appeared onscreen at once to sing a choral version of "Castle in the Sky," and fans cheered for an Alice in Wonderland musical, created by Oster Project, and a Hello Kitty cartoon.
Fukuoka then coached the crowd to say "Kyaaa Masataka" to welcome Masataka P, a creator of Miku Miku Dance videos. "At the beginning, when we used the Miku songs there was one picture that might move a bit, but there was no video," he said. "Then a programmer created the tool we could use to make the moving pictures. After three days of no sleep, he created this program you know as Miku Miku Dance." Masataka showed a screenshot of the Miku Miku Dance software.
He then showed some videos made by Japanese and American users with the MMD software, finishing with the world premiere of "Eden," by Atols, a very stylish video featuring a silvery Miku in a stark, white field, then in a fast-changing series of landscapes. The video was available at the show and will be uploaded to Niconico in the near future.