Technical Codes in Music Videos


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Technical Codes in Music Videos

  1. 1. Music Video Style Technical Codes Camerawork Editing
  2. 2. “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?
  3. 3. Technical Codes 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 within it.
  4. 4. Camerawork  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.
  5. 5. Livin’ On A Prayer See Dead or Alive
  6. 6. The Close Up Predominates  As in most TV, this is partly because of the size of the screen and  Also because of the desire to create a sense of intimacy for the viewer.  It also emphasises half of the commodity on sale (not just the song / single / album, but the artist, and particularly the voice).  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.
  7. 7. Take a Bow, Madonna, 1994
  8. 8. 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.”
  9. 9. Untitled (How does it feel) D’Angelo 1999 Virgin Records America Director: Paul Hunter
  10. 10. Editing  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 establish mood.  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. Violet Hill Dancing Poloticians Radiohead
  11. 11. 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 Goes Again". 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."
  12. 12. 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). Street Spirit
  13. 13. 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 running."
  14. 14. "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- production effects. 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 Detective (intertextuality)
  15. 15.  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 photographer initially)  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 identification.  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 Captain Eo) Black and White Vs. Colour
  16. 16. 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?
  17. 17. Can you explain why monochrome (sometimes tinted) has been used in these videos?
  18. 18. 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 world.  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. (from Wikipedia)
  19. 19. Iconography…  … 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 associated iconography.
  20. 20. Star Image 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)
  21. 21. Construction of a Pop Star These materials include  the songs (their lyrical themes and musical structures/genres),  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 show)  the music videos, which may draw upon the image presented in each of the other aspects.
  22. 22. 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.
  23. 23. 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…
  24. 24. Follow-up task: Tracing the evolution of some stars’ image seen through and/or managed through some of their videos Choose from:  George Michael  Christina Aguilera  Britney Spears  Lilly Allen  Rhianna  Kylie Minogue  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 clips”. He says that understanding the star’s persona is a central element to reading videos. He also talks of a certain ‘manipulation’ of the audience. To be completed as Home Learning