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Codes and conventions

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  • 1. [DEFINITION]MUSIC VIDEO: A short video/film accompanied by a specific song, generally used as a marketing deviceCODES& CONVENTIONS: A set of features familiar to a specific type of media, used to communicate a particular messages or impressions behind an idea to a target audience *Technical codes include: camera angles, sound, and lighting while Symbolic codes include: language, costume, character actions
  • 2. Music videos can be separated into five main categories; the category they are put into depends on a number ofthings such as the genre of music and the lyrics within the song itself as they can influence what is thenshown in the videoThese categories include:+ Performance+ Narrative+ Cameo+ Animation+ Mixture…the codes and conventions which make up these music videos, vary depending on the category it comes under.When determining this category, a number of aspects are taken into consideration. For example camera,specifically looking at the type of shots being used as certain categories use certain shots more often thanothers. Further aspects include sound and editing where the main thing to take note of is the synchronised jumpcutting used to match the track being promoted, regularly used within most of the categories, changes in soundlevels, split screens and CGI also come under sound and editing. Mise En Scene is also an important area tolook at as it contains the use of props and costume amongst other things, which, alone, both provide and reveala lot about music videos in general e.g. it’s genre. In general, however, music videos tend to include theartist(s) being shown performing, edited to fit to the pace of the song.In addition to the mentioned categories above, music videos can also be described as videos of disjuncture.Videos defined by this term are completely abstract; there is no clear link to either the music, lyrics or songtitle. Once there is no visible link to the song, in any of the ways previously mentioned, the video is at apoint of ‘disjuncture’ from the song. Examples of these types of music videos include Spike Jones’ video forDaft Punk’s ‘Da Funk’ or any Radiohead videoAnother thing commonly used in music videos, especially those of narrative category, is the ‘notion of looking’which is basically when a music video elaborates on existing stereotypes and labels. In order to appeal tospecific audiences, these stereotypes are regularly taken advantage of e.g. in ‘Keri Hilson ft Kanye West -Knock You Down’ -through Keri Hilson’s role, females are portrayed as clingy and needy; this is shown throughher affectionate actions towards Kanye West’s character, i.e. the intimate hug at the beginning of the video.At this point in the video, males are portrayed as more dominant and powerful in comparison to females as itseems as though Keri Hilson is weak and needs a man; this dominance is shown when Kanye’s character moves awayfrom her embrace in a cool and steady way. In contrast to this, later on in the video, their roles are switchedas she has her back turned to Kanye whilst he is falling back, suggesting that males are weaker as he is nowchasing her. The use of past tense within the lyrics of the song emphasize this reversal as they show us thatshe is moving on after the end of her relationship.
  • 3. PERFORMANCE:In general music videos from this category consist of either the band or artist performing their track. Looking at thesevideos in closer detail, they can be whittled down to two types -band/group performances and solo performances.Within band performance videos, close -ups of lip -syncing are inevitable. In addition to this, it is also common to seeunusual camera shots or angles being used (e.g. the use of micro cameras attached to the neck of a guitar) in order to showthe groups mimed playing of instruments. Sweeping crane shots are also often used to film stage scenes as well as thereaction of the crowd toward the staged performance. Solo performances, on the other hand, are similar to group performancesin the sense that they include a number of the above elements; however, in addition to these, they tend to incorporate theuse of choreographed dance routines -enhancing the repeatability of the song, and also appealing to audiences as they aremore likely to remember it (this is demonstrated within a number Lady Gaga’s videos).In order to capture the attention of consumers, the main singer will often look straight at the camera, directly engagingviewers and allowing audiences to feel involved. Otherwise, a lack of engagement with the camera would result in viewerslosing interest in the content of the video and, therefore, in the song. In relation to the concept of PLASTIC POP, TVtalent shows such as, ‘The X Factor’ take advantage of these conventions in order for contestants to appear professional andexperienced.NARRATIVE:The music videos associated with this category usually incorporate some form of storyline to co-inside with the track.However, saying this, narrative videos are never completely dedicated to a narrative as the artists (s) often disrupt thecontinuity of the storyline by singing directly to camera.Looking at the success of these videos, in order to fully market or advertise the band/artist and their song, they tend tofeature a narrative that is more idealistic than realistic; this is due the assumption that a realistic storyline wouldbecome too boring for audiences to watch after the first few viewings. The narratives within these videos almost alwaysinclude parallel editing which is when jump cutting is used, throughout the video, between scenes/stories to give off theimpression that they are happening simultaneously.In some cases, the narrative behind the video interlinks with film. This is an increasing trend with music videos and bydoing this creates an immediate link between the music industry and the film industry, allowing them to promote one anotheras the music will, presumably, be used as a soundtrack for the film and vice versa; the intertextuality between the film andsong therefore encourages people to buy both products. In addition to this, the type of film acts as a reflection of thegenre of the music video e.g. in ‘Flo Rida - Club Can’t Handle Me’ both R’n’B and Hip Hop are being reflected by the streetdancing based film ‘STREETDANCE?’, this is the same when it comes to the genre of video/song as, again, it too reflects thenarrative of the film e.g. a fast song would be used to reflect the storyline of a fast paced film whereas a slow song wouldbe used to reflect a sad film.When looking at narrative music videos, Mise En Scene plays a much bigger and important part in comparison to the othercategories. This is because there is more that needs to be clearly represented in order for viewers to fully comprehendwhat’s going on. In addition to the earlier mentioned link between film and music, Mise En Scene is also often used tocreate a theme in relation to the film e.g. the Mise En Scene in ‘Madonna - Beautiful Stranger’ reflects the historicalperiod of the sixties which helps the video with its intertextual link to the Austin Powers film
  • 4. CAMEO:This is basically when the band/artist features within a narrative without actually performing. Videos from the FooFighters are prime examples of videos from the Cameo category.ANIMATION:These videos can either be done digitally or by using stop-frame animation. CGI may also be used to generate animatedimages with the use of computer graphics as well as the use of a green screen and any other additional computer effects.*CGI : Computer Generated ImageryMIXTURE:This is when a music video is both performance and narrative based. In these cases, the categories have been joined inorder for the music video to have a better chance at success among consumers. An primary example of this would be the 2010release ‘Eminem ft Rihanna - Love The Way You Lie’ which features Dominic Monaghan and Megan Fox as the two people involvedin its aggressive natured storyline as well as both Eminem and Rihanna performing in front of a burning house.Overall, the video portrays a message of love and challenges whether of not it can exist in abusive relationships wherehate and anger is present. Looking at the video, this message is magnified through the constant use of visual effects inreference to fire; this acts as a constant metaphor throughout the lyrics. In addition to this, the artists behind the songreflect the actors within the narrative e.g. the advance in hatred Dominic Monaghan goes through is mirrored throughEminem’s movements and lyrics as well as the way he says them –by doing this the artists become part of the videos story,acting as the narrator as well as the participant, creating a direct link to the characters and allowing viewers to relateto both narrative and performance parts of the video in the same way.In some cases, rather than simply illustrating the lyrics or sounds a director will combine categories in order to‘amplify’ both through unusual ideas and creative approaches. Saying this, there is still a direct link to the song,whether it be through the beat, specific parts of the lyrics or song title.See Spike Jones’ video for Fat Boy Slim’s ‘Praise You’
  • 5. OTHER ELEMENTS:Camera:This includes camera shots, angles, movements and composition, all of which are regularly used to create emphasis on the artist, theirlocation and even their emotions. General camera shots and angles include establishing shots, long shots, mid-shots, close ups, extremeclose ups and both high and low angles. When looking at music videos, it is clear to see that the use of close ups and extreme close ups toreflect the words of the song through lip syncing is a common trend. Furthermore, general camera movements, consist of pans, track shots,tilts and overhead crane shots -which are used to follow the physical actions of a performer(s) such as running, walking or dancing.Lighting:Lighting is an important factor when it comes to music videos as it helps to provide the tone; it also plays a part in delivering theintended messages or representations behind the song or video idea. For instance, the use of natural or bright lighting can make somethingseem welcoming or angelic while the use of dark lighting creates a lot of shadows - making something seem scary or even give off theimpression of something being evil; using lighting in this way is more commonly known as ‘expressive lighting’ and is a key feature inmusic videos. Saying this, lighting can also be used to represent the genre or mix genres in a song, e.g. in ‘B.O.B ft Hayley Williams –Airplanes’ the use of bright colours alongside the, overall, low key lighting of the video reflects the two musical backgrounds of theartists involved (B.O.B –Grime, Hayley Williams [Paramore] -Rock) therefore broadening its audience. As well as this, lighting can bemanipulated to suit the pace of a song e.g. it can be used in flashes to suit the beat of a fast song or used minimally to intensify anemotion of a slow song. In addition to this, lighting can emphasize a certain mood or theme.Sound & Editing:The editing process of a music video includes controlling the length of a shot –by either shortening or extending it- adding transitions,filters/effects and any forms of special effects (SFX) such as CGI or split screens. Within music videos, editing is mainly used to make itseem as though the events it consists of, flow - and this is done through the use of jump cutting which is used frequently in music videosto show a sudden change between scenes or shots. In addition to this, music videos are usually edited so that they match the beat or rhythmof its track, which, in a way, act as its guide lines. In some music videos promotional aspects are more effective; this is due to the factthat their editing moves so fast that it makes viewers feel the need to re-watch it which therefore makes it more likely that viewers willwant to own the track being promoted. Music videos can also use editing to overlap voice recordings, allowing the song to gain depth.Looking at transitions, as well as creating an alternate effect to a cut, they can also be used as a way of representing something, e.g. a‘fade’ transition can be used to represent a flash back or memory. As the four element being described interlink, lighting effects such asstrobes or flashing can also be linked to CGI and are commonly used within dance videos to enhance an atmosphere. Using the length of ashot is another way to show a representation, e.g. in the music video for ‘The Big Pink – Dominoes’ (a full performance video) their‘intense’ performance is enhanced with the use of slow motion clips which imply that each moment is significant. However, for many musicvideos a shot doesn’t tend to exceed a duration of 3-5 seconds. Going on to look at sound, editing is heavily linked to this area in thesense that it is used to alter sound levels and also to add sound effects. When looking at music videos, the mood of the song usually actsas the basis behind the overall tone or storyline of its video, e.g. a sad song would follow sad storyline, this is usually known as‘parallel sound’. As a general fact, all music videos include non-diegetic sound and this is because the track is added in.Mise En Scene:This term refers to the characteristics within a music video, such as props, lighting, the arrangement of performers, costume and setting -amongst other things. Mise en scene focuses, mainly, on the importance of representing something, such as a character or object, in eitherone or a number of ways –this can be done through symbolism and the use of colour, some of which are associated with specific genres. Aswell as this, Mise En Scene is used to convey specific messages to the consumer, e.g. the importance of a character and is consideredessential when creating an atmosphere or tone. The use of costume within Mise En scene is also important as it reflects both the mood andgenre of the song; it also has the ability to influence the trends within an audience as the artists/band act as their role models. Costumemay also be used to keep up with a persona, a prime example of this being Lady Gaga.
  • 6. OTHER ELEMENTS: IN GENRESThe genre of a music video can usually be determined by its use of the four previously covered areas. For example, aspecific camera shot or movement can be associated with a specific genre or video category (performance, narrative etc-)*Looking at specific genres:POP:This genre often incorporates the use of various bright colours, flashing lights and creative settings into its videos and, overall, aimsto appeal to a younger, more teenage orientated, audience. This is because many existing Pop artists are also young, meaning that theiraudience will be able to relate to the lyrics of their catchy and upbeat songs. In addition to this, many of the outfits worn in thesevideos, in the past, were classed as ‘innocent’ in the sense that they weren’t revealing. However, in more recent years this commonly usedtrait has slowly been challenged by the changing generations of Pop artists, as it is becoming increasingly popular for them wear outfitsor costumes that expose the majority of their body. Performances have also become more provocative, a prime example of these points beingRihanna. Older Pop artists such as Madonna, otherwise known as the Queen of Pop, and Britney Spears have also adopted this trend in orderto keep up with the success of younger artists as well as maintain the attention of an older, slightly more male based, audience. Lookingat lighting, Pop videos regularly use artificial light –creating a ‘bleaching’ effect on the face(s) of the artist(s) making them seemageless and also giving the overall video an enhanced look. In terms of camera shots, close ups are often used to show happiness or, whenusing extreme close ups, purity and innocence; other commonly used shots include mid shots and long shots which are used in order tosuccessfully portray the largely narrative based videos within Pop. These shots can also reveal the personality of the artist; this isshown through a number of Lady Gaga’s videos.R’N’B / HIP HOP:The videos from this genre don’t usually follow a storyline. Instead, they are largely centred around the artist(s) involved in the song.The location of these videos remain simple, usually focusing on party atmospheres within clubs, parties, and generally glamoroussurroundings where alcohol is present. Within these surroundings, popular brands of clothing and jewellery, expensive houses and carsoften make an appearance in order to exaggerate the star persona of the artist, usually, shown through long shots, establishing shots and,when focusing on particular objects such as jewellery, close ups. Attractive women shown in a sexual way (wearing revealing clothes anddancing provocatively) are also a common convention within these videos and along with the inclusion of other elements such as money andcars, their presence appeals to males as it makes them want to be like the artist so that they can lead the lifestyle that portrays wealthand power. Saying this, in the past R’n’B and Hip Hop genres were largely male orientated; however, with the introduction of artists like,female icon, Beyoncé both male and female audiences are targeted -males through the sex appeal behind her and her provocative choreographyand females through their aspirations to be like her. In addition to this, black is repeatedly used within R’n’B and Hip Hop videos toshow dominance and looking at ‘Beyoncé - Single Ladies’ this is shown as she and her dancers wear black costumes -asserting her authority.This emphasises Beyoncés role as a female icon, further reinforced by the precise actions of her dance routine.INDIE / ROCK:Videos from this genre are similar to those of Hip Hop in the sense that they too use simple settings -however, they tend to be a lotdarker in comparison to the glamorous locations of Hip Hop videos. In addition to this, the content of the video is usually centred aroundthe artist/band so that they are shown throughout; key instruments in association with the genre, such as guitars and drums, also featurein these videos which is the reason why most of them are performance based. Looking at the different shots, extreme close ups, close upsand long shots are common and are often used to show the use of instruments or an intense emotion or facial expression on the face(s) ofthe artist(s) –which isn’t normally of happiness as these videos tend to relate to the feeling or message behind the lyrics of the song.In terms of Mise En Scene, dark lighting is commonly used to emphasise or reinforce the emotional aspects of the song lyrics. As well asthis, as the majority of Rock videos are performance based, footage from concerts, gigs or rehearsal studios are regularly used in orderto create a sense of authenticity; during which, low angle shots and levels are frequently used to show dominance and power.