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CODES AND CONVENTIONS OF MUSIC VIDEOS BY ABI SHAW
What are codes andconventions? The codes and conventions of music videos are the different techniques used to construct meaning in them. These techniques can be divided into two types; technical and symbolic.
Technical Techniques Technical – how meaning is conveyed using technical equipment e.g the way the way camera angles are used, different types of shots, sound either diegetic and non-diegetic sound, the pace and style of editing, and the genre.
Symbolic Techniques Symbolic techniques are ways of showing meanings beyond what you can see for example through, facial expressions, gestures, poses and mis en scene.
Reasons for codes andconventions. • The audience can become familiar with a particular genre, as they get use to recognizing the different conventions within a genre. • It provides a structure that the audience can understand. • To ensure the lyrics of the song fit in with the video, of how we’d expect it to be.
The codes and conventions The conventions of a music video vary depending on genre of music. However, the general conventions include; The Style The Camera The Editing Techniques The Sound (non diegetic and diegetic) Mis en Scene – props, lighting, costume – hair and makeup, location/setting, and colours. Notions of looking - stereotyping
Performance Performance – Performance is when the music video consists mainly of the artists performing in the video. A good example of this is ‘Beyonce – Love on Top’ were the video shows the artist continuously performing the song and there is no narrative or any other scenes in the video. This style of music video isn’t as common, as music videos that are solely dedicated to performance are not that popular, because target audiences would not be able to engage with the song or video, however this example is used costume and lighting to display the performance in a creative way making it more interesting to watch.
Narrative A Narrative music video follows a story line, there are two types of narrative Linear and Fragmented A linear narrative starts a story at the beginning, goes on through the middle, and ends at the end. A fragmented narrative is one that doesnt. An example of a linear narrative is ‘Katy Perry –’Thinking of you’ as it plays a story from the beginning to the end.
Mixture Mixture – which is a combination of performance and narrative this is usually found in music videos as it is hard to have a pure performance or narrative, by using both performance and narrative the video can be made more interesting and enjoyable to watch for example In ‘Kelly Clarkson’s’ video – ‘Since you been gone’.
Cameo Cameo is were a band or artist features in the narrative but does not perform . A good example of this is ‘Drake and Rihanna’ – ‘What’s my name’ were both artists in this case play apart in the narrative but do not perform.
The Camera The way the camera is used is crucial in producing a music video. It can have and create different effects by the different Angles, and Movements. In general every music video uses a variety of camera Shots, Angles and Movements to create different techniques and to make the video different and unique in its own way, to other music videos.
Camera Shots Music videos feature a number of shots for various reasons, to relate with the audience by expressing thoughts and feelings, but also to show the viewer what is happening. Certain shots that you would normally find in a music video include; Very Wide shot – This is were the artist is shown visible (barley) but the emphasis is still on placing the artist in the location/setting. Wide shot – This is were the artist is shown taking up most of the shot but the location/setting is still focused on. Mid shot – this shows the artist from his/her waist to head, and focuses mainly on the subject but still giving an impression of the location/setting.
Medium close up- this shot is halfway between a mid shot and a closeup, showing the artist from chest tohead. Close up – this shot shows the artists face or can show an object that the artist is holding, or something were the camera focuses closely on. Extreme close-up – this shows the artists face extremely close , for example eyes, or mouth to identify something it can have the effect of showing the audience the artists thoughts and feelings or even showing a lip sync commonly used in music videos.
Over the shoulder shot – this is a good shotused , specifically in narrative based musicvideos usually when the artist is acting andspeaking to another person you tend to see anover the shoulder shot to display theconversation , or to show something thecharacter is looking at. Cut in – this shot can be used in music videos to show something that the lyrics might be saying for example I will shoot you with my gun ‘ and a gun comes in’ It shows the object in detail, similar to a n extreme close up, but used very quickly, or and object that relates to the subject or narrative. These shots are the basic shots you expect to see in most music videos, however there can be some more creative ways of displaying a scene through different camera angles…
Camera AnglesThe way the camera is positioned determines the angle of the shot. There are manydifferent camera angles used in the production of music videos to convey different images.Examples of camera angles are;Eye-Level – this is a very common view beingthe real world angle that we are all use toseeing, it shows subjects as we would expect tosee them in real life. High Angle – This is were the camera shows the subject from above, and the camera is angled down towards the subject, which has the effect of making them appear less powerful, less significant and or even submissive.Low Angle – This is were the subject is shown frombelow, giving the impression of being morepowerful o r dominant.
Birds Eye – this angle is showing the subject/ scenefrom directly above, and its is completely different andcan be from an unnatural point of view which can beused to add a dramatic effect or showing a differentspatial perspective. It can also show the positions andmotions of different characters and objects, enablingthe viewer to see things the character might not see. Slanted – this is when the camera is slanted also known as a Dutch angle were the camera is purposely tilted to one side so the horizon is on an angle, this is creative in making interesting dramatic effects. Dutch tilts are also popular in MTV-style video production, where unusual angles and lots of camera movement play a big part. Camera angles play a huge part in emphasising the artist or to show emotions and expressions. Other camera angles that are simply the most common in music videos , are close ups, showing the artist lip syncing, and extreme close ups were lyrics can be linked to visuals.The camera never stays on one shot for longer than 3-5 seconds.
Camera Movements The camera moves to follow the artist or to show the performance of the artist. These movements include panning and tracking. A director may choose to move action along by telling the story as a series of cuts, going from one shot to another, or they may decide to move the camera with the action. Some examples of camera movements are : Pans – This is were the camera scans a scene horizontally. The camera is placed on a tripod, which operates as a stationary axis point as the camera is turned, often to follow a moving object which is kept in the middle of the frame. Dolly/ Tracking- This is were the camera is mounted on a cart which travels along tracks for a very smooth movement. Also known as tracking.
EditingTechniques Final cut pro is the music video editing software that we use to edit our music videos. Editing is the process that concludes the making of the music video. When you edit, you cut scenes down, add special effects and add the track to the music video etc..The editing consists of the following things: -Jump Cutting -CGI effects (the process used for generating animated images by using computer graphics). An example of this is in the music video, ‘Sweet Dreams- Beyonce .’ The background has been added on . Additionally, the effects in the second picture have also been generated using computer graphics. -Parallel editing- (A method of cutting between a couple of scenes or stories that are happening at the same time.) -Also, adding non- diegetic sound is also part of the editing.
Sound Sound consists of two main forms diegetic sound which is already present in the film and non - diegetic sound which can be edited in. Sound is absolutely essential in any music video as this is the main reason for why people watch and listen to them, to gain a sense of art via different artists’. Sound, like footage can be edited to create different effects and variations to the normal vocals that we hear.Sound Parallel sound is when the musicmatches the mood of the video. An examplewould be if the song was slow then the videowould also be slow to go with the mood of thesong. Also, if it was a sad song then the videowould also be sad. Some music videos havediegetic sound, where they include sound fromthe surroundings, such as birds, police sirensthat make the video seem more realistic.However, the music itself is non-diegetic sound.
Mis en scene =) The Mis en scene for music videos focuses on the lighting, props, costume, hair and makeup, location, and colour these elements usually depend on the genre of the music video and the style. These elements are also important in contributing towards the chosen genre. They are used to convey the importance of the people in the music videos. They are also used to represent certain characters in different ways. Lighting – how the scene is lit / artificial lights/ side lights Props – performance equipment, band merchandise Costume - certain outfits Hair and makeup – style of the artist Location – concert halls venues, streets etc Colour - Specific colours representing a mood
Lighting - The Mis en scene creates some of the thoughts and variations associated with a specific social group, for instance; The lighting in a music video can create different views by the way the scene is lit , it allows the audience to recognize the genre and style of the music video. A bright light draws the viewers attention, but a scene can be lit by using – natural lighting i.e. from the sun or existing light sources, or by using artificial lights, Strobe lights and colored lights you would most likely see in a dance pop/hip hop videos, but be very rare in say country type music videos . You can see the use of light differ according to the genre in these 2 examples ‘Forever and Always by Shania twain’ – which is country music, and a famous dance pop song ‘ Release me by Agnes ‘which is dance pop.
Mis en scene is clearly exhibited through the use of lighting in the video – ‘Labyrinth ft Tinie Tempah– Earthquake’, demonstrated by the flashing lights which are in sink with the beat, its also effectively done through the lights being very computerized, however they stand out by the use of the colours, and the different shapes and sizes creating different effects. The lighting stands out as the rest of the scene is low key lighting with the odd artificial spot lights used to emphasize the genre hip hop/rap.
The angle and direction of the light can also determine the genre of the video as it gives the audience clues about what time of day the scene is taking place. For example in the video Delilah ‘Go’ the video is very dimly lit showing that it is night time. The quality of the light in a scene can also hide or reveal things and influence the viewers reaction for example in Delilah - ‘Go’’ The use of lights have been used very effectively, the light isn’t as focused, enhancing the artist and making the background less important, but relevant at the same time . It makes the audience aware of the main subject, and at the same time allows the video to be continuous and watchable due to the lights effect. In this particular video where the artist is walking down the street, the street lights and lights from buildings that are blurred and out of focus this allows the audience to focus mainly on the artist. it can also be good technique in producing films making a particular scene more interesting, and state the time of day, and enhance on a specific subject or object. This is done in kidult hood – the scene were it is raining and the lights are out of focus in the background, to focus on the character. This is a good technique when showing the audience 2 different scenarios, in the same scene in the foreground or the background or as a split screen, usually referring to one another. The lighting also plays a part in showing the time laps, and can be used effectively to pass a time in a music video or film. In music videos lighting is a highly priority because how the music video is lit influences how the audience perceives the production, values of the video and therefore the quality of the video.
Props - In most music videos sometimes props are used to illustrate the narrative, and when linking the lyrics with visuals, props are commonly used. The props in a music video add to the entertainment side, and can be used in a fun imaginative way. One music video that uses props to make the video more entertaining is ‘Telephone – Lady Gaga ft Beyonce’
Costume! The costume is usually used to represent certain characters in different ways. Different artists would also wear different clothes to represent what there are portraying in the music video. An example of this is with Lady Gaga’s music videos. She often wear dramatic clothing to go with her extravagant image. One video in particular is ‘Bad Romance’Another music video that displayscostume well is in the video ‘When Iwas a youngster by Rizzle Kicks’.Costume can also illustrate thenarrative, and can relate to whatthe song is about. This is shown inthe video were the costumes arereflecting the song, and have beenused to create a imaginative, funvideo also adding to theentertainment side.
Hair and Make-up The way an artists hair is, is done for a purpose, it can also show a character’s personality, or be done as a way of attracting the audience. Depending on the target audience. Hair like makeup is really just about style, and fashion and what’s in. It’s important that the appearance of the actor/ artist is of good quality as they will be looked at by the audience. Hair and make-up can be displayed in many ways for many different reasons. Here are a few examples of how makeup and hair can give an impression. Bold and bright makeup, and big hair can be used to show a person is fun and the artist stand out. ‘Rihanna Red’ is the talk of the public, and you can see that hair can influence the other people, and also advertise products.
Location The location, and scene of a music video can not only show the audiacne were the artist is, but also can decide on the genre, for instance locations for instance the beach, or in a car, at a party, these sort of locations you would usually find in a dance pop music video, Due to the happy and lively feel they give. If the music video was say filmed in a street, or modern house, these are the typical locations you might find a gang, and you would relate this to grime/Hip-hop type video. The location influence the genre, but also be chosen purposely to relate to the song. One example I picked out was a music video by ‘ Drake – Headlines‘ the locations are very much hip hop related, and you can tell the difference between this video and say a dance pop video for example - ‘ Katy Perry Teenage Dream ‘
Colour Colours are shown through almost everything in a music video, lighting, costumes, hair, makeup, locations, the way the camera is angled also plays a part in positioning the colours we see in music videos. Colours are used in everyday things and we generally see the use of colours throughout music videos displaying normal day life things. Colour can also be interoperated though to represent a feeling or mood or to signify a certain thing. For example some videos can be in black and white showing no colours, this can be a way of showing a time lapse for example flash backs, and suggest something that happened in the past. It can also be purposely done to show an emotional scenario for example a good example is Beyonce – if I was a boy, it shows the relationship between two people, the hole video is in black and white this suggests that the relationship is on and off, and the audience can recognise this due to the colours. If this video was shown in normal colours the actual narrative and relationship wouldn’t be so significant, and wouldn’t appear so important. This is a good example of were the colour can really add to the atmosphere, and what the video wants to show the audience.
Notions of looking - Notion of looking elaborates upon stereotypes and labels that you may associate with a certainStereotyping artist or group. These stereotypes are usually taken advantage of in many music videos in order to appeal to specific target audiences. A good example of a music video that does this would be ‘KeriHilson’s Knock you down ft. Kayne West, Ne-yo’ , whichmanages to question the dominance of females. Towards thebeginning, we see an intimate hug where the male leans awayportraying a cool and steady stance, while, the female looksvenerable. This ideology allows males to idolize this masculinebehavior as it guarantees a form of supremacy, this is enhancedas Keri lies seductively on the bed which questions whether sheis a sexual object that lures in the male audience.Nevertheless, this perception is altered when Keri is the resultof male confrontation. Keri stands tall by maintaining herposture that women idolize. This is then reiterated through thelyrics, ‘cause boy you came around and you knocked medown’, the fact that it’s written in past tense signifies the end ofthe relationship. Her dominance is then shown , this is followedby, ‘just get back up when it knocks you down’, demonstratingher resilience and power to change her current circumstances.From these levels, it is clear in saying that Keri is moredomineering as she looks down upon her partner.