Codes and convention

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  • 1. Codes and Conventions of Music Videos
  • 2. Narrative When watching a music video, it is rare when approaching something which is completely dedicated to a narrative, as the artist usually takes part in the story line whilst performing the lyrics directly towards the camera. Nevertheless, there are some music videos interlinked with films, linking the two industries together as they both promote each other. This is a result of having the music played in a film as non diegetic sound, which is used as mood music, this promotes the song as it may appeal to the target market, encouraging them to buy the CD. This process works vice versa as well, as scenes are taken from the film and placed within the music video, a clear example of this would be, ‘ Club can’t handle me right now ’, by Flo Rida ft David Guetta. In this particular case, Step Up 3 is being promoted, this is understood as an extensive use of club and dance scenes are visible through majority of the music video. Meanwhile, Flo Rida mimics this club atmosphere, allowing the viewers to gain a sense of this hyperactive setting. The artist also reflects a particular scene, where both, characters from the film and Flo Rida release bubbling champagne in order to portray dominance. This form of intertexuality, creates an immediate liaison between the film itself and the music video, as they both reflect the genre of Hip Hop and RNB. The narrative displayed in this music video corresponds with the narrative exhibited in the film, both expressing the passion and love for dance that is indescribable. In order to enhance this message, whilst the club becomes alive, you will notice how the flashing lights are in beat with the music and the dancers, a typical convention, common within the genre of Hip Hop and Dance. However, this technique is not common with slow genres of music, yet they still manipulate light, as the intensity of it can reflect the mood. A good example of a music video that does this would be, ‘ Heavy in your arms ’, as the minimum use of light reflects this harsh tone and emotion portrayed.
  • 3. Performance Likewise, it is also quite rare when finding a music video that completely dedicates itself to the performance excluding live video clips. This is due to the lack of engagement that sometimes comes when watching an entire performance, while hints of narrative entice the audience as to what will happen next. Nevertheless, The Big Pink - Dominos had a continuous performance whilst engaging the viewers through their intense ways of performing, enhanced through the slow motion clips. This implies that each single moment is significant in portraying the adrenalin that surges through their blood when creating a wall of sound. This being the reason why Dominos has become popular among viewers. To enhance this dominant, empowerment experienced on stage, there is a continuous cut to an ice figurine crashing down, symbolising the impact of music and the supremacy that it presents before us. Similarly, the famous icon Beyonce had managed to indulge in a complete performance in Single Ladies whilst demonstrating a provocative dance all throughout the music video. This outlook immediately creates a female icon for many women whilst entertaining the male half of the target audience. This may create a stereotypical ideology of the artist as an object through the sex appeal. Yet in theory, the black costumes and the lyrics themselves demonstrate governance and authority which encapsulates the viewers in awe. This has been continued right through to the lighting as flashes of intense light adds to this enigmatic dominance. The image on the right just demonstrates this, ‘hard to get’, message implied throughout the music video as each movement is executed with precision and control, the reason for which Beyonce appeals to many of us toady.
  • 4. Performance and Narrative It is obvious in saying that the normal convention usually associated with any music video happens to be a mixture of both performance and narrative which is clearly exhibited through Paramore’s Decode . The narrative, like Flo Rida’s, ‘Club Can’t Handle me right now’, is from an existing film, in this case, The Twilight Saga. Similarly, the mysterious elements from the film has influenced a gothic atmosphere upon the rock, indie artists, demonstrated through two forms of intertextuality. As you can see below, the band are making use of the character’s dominance and by reiterating their movements and body language, they have managed to convey this power through out the music video. This has been magnified through the low key lighting which enhances this dominant but gothic ambience. Rihanna and Eminem’s ‘ love the way you lie ’, also evolves into a narrative which plays along side a performance. The music video executes a message of love and whether it exists in some couples, as people endure hatred and anger. This symbolism is continually magnified through the constant visual aspects of fire and this acts as a significant metaphor throughout the lyrics. A good example of this is in the bridge that elaborates on how trapped the relationship is which has been emphasized through the mise-en-scene as there is no escape within the small enclosed house. Both artists in this music video perform with a relatable understanding, as Rihanna demonstrates a hidden sorrow whilst Eminem conveys a hatred that advances until the end of the music video.
  • 5. Notion of Looking Notion of looking elaborates upon stereotypes and labels that you may associate with a certain 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 Keri Hilson’s Knock you down ft. Kayne West, Ne-yo , which manages to question the dominance of females. Towards the beginning, we see an intimate hug where the male leans away portraying a cool and steady stance, while, the female looks venerable. This ideology allows males to idolise this masculine behaviour as it guarantees a form of supremacy, this is drastically enhanced as Keri lies seductively on the bed which questions whether she is a sexual object that lures in the male audience. Nevertheless, this perception is altered when Keri is the result of male confrontation, which is clearly demonstrated in the image below where Kayne falls. Meanwhile, Keri stands tall by maintaining her statuesque posture that women idolise. This is then reiterated through the lyrics, ‘cause boy you came around and you knocked me down’, the fact that it’s written in past tense signifies the end of the relationship. Her dominance is then concluded as this is followed by, ‘just get back up when it knocks you down’, demonstrating her resilience and power to change her current circumstances. From these levels, it is clear in saying that Keri is more domineering as she looks down upon her partner.
  • 6. Mise-en-scene Mise-en-scene focuses on: lighting, props, costume, setting, characters and colours all of which are essential for creating the right atmosphere and ambience for any music video. This is perhaps one of the main contributions towards determining a specific genre as mise-en-scene creates some of the ideologies and variations associated with a specific social group. For instance, dark lighting is likely to appear in a gothic video, although, it would seem rare in a pop video. Mise-en-scene is clearly exhibited in the video Airplanes by B.o.B ft Haley Williams, demonstrated through the flashing lights which are in sink with the beat of the base. This continuous use of colourful lighting also contrasts really well against the black setting and overall low key lighting. This manages to emphasize the two very different genres of grime and indie merging together to form a piece of music that broadens the target audience, reasons for which this song is really popular. When examining the simple setting, we realise that this is a strong connotation of the music itself, this can be considered as parallel sound as the lyrics speak of the past and how music was simply there as a form of identity, ‘ back when I was rappin’ for the hell of it but nowadays we rappin’ to stay relevant’. However, the lighting manages to create the setting, which acts as a metaphor for the significance of music as it enlightens even the dullest of places, it this case, the bland settings. This idea of referring to the past is then taken further as there are clips of scattered images where we see Haley moving within them, attempting to salvage the passion and simple love that many had for music, instead of focusing on the financial politics of it all. This example just demonstrates how mise-en-scene can encapsulate the narrative and portrayal of a music video, which is why those who take advantage of it manage to stay successful.
  • 7. Editing Techniques Editing incorporates transitions, shot lengths, filter/effects and overall sound effects. These are all essential for the flow of a music video as it makes the viewers attentive and intrigued as to what may happen next. A good example of a music video with good editing techniques would be Beyonce’s Sweet Dreams , as the transitions between each clip are barely noticeable. Consequently, there is a smooth flow that includes a range of different perspectives (camera angles) that allow the viewers to gain the full dream like indulgence. This dream like essence is then integrated in the filter/effects as visible in the image below; this mirrored effect symbolises the ‘guilty pleasure’, that is hard to escape from as there seems to be no escape from the maze like dream. Once again we have parallel sound, although it does not incorporate lighting, instead the cuts are in time with the backing vocals, with the constant chanting, ‘oh’. This also adds to the flow and movement of the music video that ensures that the viewers are not bored. This leads to yet another vital convention for any music video, where each clip must have a maximum length of three seconds in order to continue grasping the target audience, making sure that they are still engaged. Lastly, we have the importance of sound editing, as we notice Beyonce’s overlapping voice clips and harmonies that give the music a certain depth. This is then accentuated through the constant echo, giving the illusion of listeners being trapped in the song, magnifying the dream-like experience. The editing techniques exhibited in this music video is just one example of how certain clips are manipulated to create a narrative and atmosphere, similar and as important to that of mise-en-scene.
  • 8. Sound Sound consists of two main forms including 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. The Time - Black eyed peas demonstrates how vocals can be manipulated along with simple beats to create a modernised interpretation of the original. The robotic filter enhances this modernised feel that contrasts with the normal vocals, along with certain short, repetitive phrases, ‘and I owe it all to you-you -y -y – you’. Towards the ending of the song, we hear plain, spoken lyrics which still add to this dominant present of the artist due to the persistent riff. This conveys the well edited melody present in the background. This then leads to the non- diegetic sound of machinery that is used as a transition between each verse/chorus, for example, where Fergie is suddenly faded out as if a technical error. We then manage to grasp the fluency of the backing track, which contrasts well with the effects upon the vocals. This music video weighed against the original is exceptionally distinct due to its pure diegetic sound as it is in an actual film, ‘ Dirty Dancing ’. This diegetic sound consists of the crowd reacting towards the entertainment including the voices of the characters. Unlike, the original however, the Black eyed peas chose to mute the club reactions towards the atmosphere in order to focus on the music presented by them, instead, viewers are shown the visual response of the audience. Both songs may vary, but they magnify how the use of sound can impact the same song. This has been concluded as both songs have very different target audiences to one another.
  • 9. Camera angles, movement and composition Like the other microelements, Camera angles, movement and composition are essential in portraying an essence in any music video, distinguishing one genre from the next. For example, in a pop music video, you are likely to see mid shots and long shots that are relatable to the audience, whereas a rock music video may consist of low shots to portray dominance via levels. However, the main reason for different camera shots is to gain the full experience as the viewers are able to witness anything and everything from a music video, from the setting to the artist and dancers. A good example of a music video that manipulates the use of camera shots would have to be Willow Smith’s Whip my hair as the camera jolts in time with the music, this illusion immediately corresponds to the party vibe that has been implied through the lyrics and dancing. This just demonstrates how the camera movement can reciprocate the atmosphere portrayed in a music video, as a still camera could contribute towards a depressing, gothic film. Another very good camera composition technique that is very effective, is where the artist is seen through various angles and put over one another with certain layers translucent. This enables the viewers to see everything without missing a detail, enhancing the fact that something of great significance is occurring. In this music video, unlike others, there is a consistent use of extreme close up’s on the artists’ face whilst singing, this can also be considered as a low shot, as Willow looks and sounds domineering, despite her young age. There is also an intense light emerging from the corner of the screen that enhances her dominance, as she seems to sparkle in comparison to the plain, white background. However, these short exposures to the extreme close up’s flash on the screen and happens to keep in time with the melody of the upbeat song, resulting in a good flow.
  • 10. The End