Technical Codes in Music VideosPresentation Transcript
Music Video Style
“Nice video; shame about the song…”
Music videos can be so memorable that upon
hearing some songs, we immediately think of the video or
its iconography or feel.
Some memorable videos have really help to sell
songs which are in themselves really forgettable.
Some Madonna fans even admit to having forgotten
some of her songs as there were not associated promo
videos for them; other songs would have been best
forgotten but for their corresponding video!
Can you think of mediocre songs which have a great music video?
When analysing pop video it is important
to consider the technical codes which
are used to construct both the video
itself and the representations inherent
As with any moving image text, how the camera
is used and how images are sequenced will
have a significant impact upon meaning.
Camera movement, angle and shot distance all
need to be analysed.
Camera movement may accompany movement
of performers (walking, dancing, etc) but it may
also be used to create a more dynamic feel to
stage performance by, for instance, constantly
circling the band as they perform on stage.
Livin’ On A Prayer
See Dead or Alive
The Close Up Predominates
As in most TV, this is partly because of the size of the screen
Also because of the desire to create a sense of intimacy for
It also emphasises half of the commodity on sale (not just the
song / single / album, but the artist, and particularly the
John Stewart of Oil Factory states that he sees the music
video as essentially having the aesthetics of the TV
commercial, with lots of close ups and lighting being used
most prominently for the star’s face.
Take a Bow, Madonna, 1994
Carol Vernallis (see Required Reading pack)
“A video must provide a flattering depiction of the singer
lip-synching the song.”
Unlike the grammar of cinema camerawork, music
videos “make us as aware of the edge of the frame (and
of what we cannot see) as of the figure itself.”
“Music videos (often) frame the body inappropriately.”
Untitled (How does it feel)
1999 Virgin Records America
Director: Paul Hunter
The most common form of editing associated with the music promo
is fast cut montage, rendering many of the images impossible to
grasp on first viewing thus ensuring multiple viewing.
There are videos which use slow pace and gentler transitions to
This is particularly apparent for the work of many female solo artists
with a broad audience appeal, such as Dido.
Watch the video’s for Coldplay - ‘Violet Hill’ (dir. Mat Whitecross)
and Radiohead - ‘No Surprises’ (dir. Grant Gee). Consider how
pace has been used to establish mood.
On February 11, 2007, OK Go and Trish Sie took home a Grammy
award for "Best Short-Form Music Video" for their music video "Here It
In 2008, Damian Kulash said that the band had not produced the
YouTube videos as part of any overt Machiavellian marketing
campaign. "In neither case did we think, 'A-ha, this will get people to
buy our records.' It has always been our position that the reason you
wind up in a rock band is you want to make stuff. You want to do
creative things for a living."
Editing and Digital Effects
Often enhancing the editing are digital
effects which play with the original images
to offer different kinds of pleasure for the
audience. This might take the form of split
screens, colourisation, slow motion and of
course blockbuster film style CGI.
Watch the video for Radiohead ‘Street
Spirit’ (dir. Jonathan Glazer, 1996).
Jonathan Glazer on Radiohead's Street Spirit (1996)
"With Radiohead, it's very much about convincing Thom Yorke
of your ideas. But once he's chosen you there's not any interference
- he wants you to go off and be experimental. I'd had this idea for
ages that I'd seen in nature programmes, where they'd film an eagle
flying at 1,200 frames per second then cut frames out to slow it
down. It's a technique you see in every second ice-cream
commercial nowadays but back then it was new. …..
In the end, I'd spent so much time filming shots of breaking glass
and nuns jumping off trampolines that I hadn't got the right
performance out of Thom. I had to cut the video together with black
windows inserted where he should have been. But the record
company liked what they saw enough to arrange for me to go to
Germany a few weeks later to film Thom singing. In the end it
worked out. That was the film that, creatively, got me up and
"Work It" is a hip hop song written by
Missy Elliott and her producer Tim
"Timbaland" Mosley for Elliott's
critically acclaimed fourth studio album
Under Construction (2002). The song's
musical style, and production by
Timbaland, were heavily inspired by
Old school hip hop from the 1980s,
and includes a portion which samples
Run-D.M.C.'s "Peter Piper".
Video directed by David Myers
Look again at ‘Dark of the Matinee’
by Franz Ferdinand for more post-
The video features the band dressed as
schoolboys, dancing in an automatic, almost
possessed, fashion and miming along to the main
vocal track. It was inspired by Dennis Potter's
television play Blue Remembered Hills (1979).
The finale of the video also takes several visual
cues from the "Dry Bones" sequence in Singing
Some videos are shot in black and white or
monochrome with tinted tones for effect:
To create a certain mood or ambience and an ‘arty’ feel (see
Herb Ritts’ videos such as Madonna’s Cherish or Janet
Jackson's Love Will Never Do – He was a fashion
To create ‘authenticity’ for the artist / band – serious act or to
show they come from the ‘street’ and have limited budget
(even when it’s not the case) to help with audience
Some videos use both, the change within the video
often carrying meaning but for diverse reasons, some
narrative-bound (See use of colour in Michael Jackson’s
Black and White Vs. Colour
Short film by George Lucas which can be seen at Disney Land (still?)
Shot in 3-D, it “features Michael Jackson as a renegade commander in
outer space who is eventually able to liberate his evil enemy with
music. Significantly, Jackson's singing and dancing work to colorize his
foes, so that the arrival of his music transforms them from monochrome
badness to Technicolor goodness – a feature of Captain Eo that may
not be lost on the show’s sponsor, Kodak”.
From Goodwin’s Dancing in the Distraction Industry
Can you think of other
videos in which a
change of colour helps
to propel the narrative?
Can you explain why
monochrome (sometimes tinted)
has been used in these videos?
Black and White Vs. Colour
Mix of saturated and distressed colours and black and white combined with a
“damaged tape” look.
"Stupid Girl" is a song by Garbage, released as a single in 1996, taken from
their 1995 self-titled debut album. It became Garbage's highest charting
single in many territories, including in the US Billboard Hot 100 and in the UK
Singles Chart, where it peaked at #4. Its success was driven by an innovative
music video and cutting-edge remixes which gained massive airplay across
The video for "Stupid Girl" is a performance piece, inspired by the title
sequence from David Fincher's 1995 movie Se7en. The clip was shot in just
four hours entirely within a warehouse. Bayer cut the film into pieces, and
soaked it in his bath, applying deliberate fingerprints and abrasions to the
footage before putting it back together by hand.
… of an artist
… of a music genre
…even of a music director
The familiarity with a certain iconography helps audience recognition.
What might be the advantages of this?
Individually or in pairs, think of specific artists, music genres
(hard rock, indie, R&B, ‘Emo’ and Goths, New Pop, Hip-Pop
and Rap, Pop …). Choose one and brainstorm the
Richard Dyer has noted:
“ a star is an image constructed from a range of materials”
(Richard Dyer 1979)
Andrew Goodwin has written:
“ Characterisation, fiction, and perhaps even narrative itself
exist in popular music at the point of narration, outside of the
diegesis of individual songs, live performances, or video clips,
through the persona of the pop star.”
(Andrew Goodwin 1992)
Construction of a Pop Star
These materials include
the songs (their lyrical themes and musical
the record covers (singles and albums and the
image of the star they present),
media coverage (from interviews about career
and private life through to tabloid gossip),
live performance (the image through the stage
the music videos, which may draw upon the
image presented in each of the other aspects.
Re-construction of Image
Each video may also draw upon its
predecessor both in reinforcing the star’s
existing image and in taking the image
on further, perhaps in new directions.
Thus, music videos will act as a
showcase for the star’s talents and play
a significant part in the construction and
maintenance of their image.
Task: Image Management
Imagine you are a manager for ---------. You feel that
your client is ready for an “image transition” or
needs “image management” for some reason.
How would you go about managing that ‘evolution’?
Create as many details as possible to make your
scenario realistic. You might want to choose an
existing artist who would benefit from such a
transition or create one from scratch.
Your task is likely to involve a bit more than a new
video… You need exposure…
Follow-up task: Tracing the evolution of some
stars’ image seen through and/or managed
through some of their videos
Madonna – too much material?
If you have another idea, ask first!
In pairs or individually, students
research the evolution of a pop star.
There should be annotations /
explanations to go with the screengrabs.
Look at developments in their life, desire
for a bigger/ older/younger audience;
change of music record company etc…
Goodwin: “Star-texts intersect with video
He says that understanding the star’s persona
is a central element to reading videos. He also
talks of a certain ‘manipulation’ of the
To be completed as Home Learning