Thursday, 22 January 2009

Year 13 Media Music Video evaluation - EXEMPLAR

As part of the AS level media course th e course work I completed was 'print'- the front cover, contents page and main double paged article for a Sunday Supplement. The A2 product completed was a pop video. As part of a group of three I directed, shot footage for and edited the piece.

Part One
Initially, once deciding on a song for the pop video promotion we sketched a number of possible ideas and concepts connecting to the music. The song, 'Clubbed to Death' by Rob.D combined both a contemporary, rhythmic, strong bassed dance theme with an enveloping of a classical element. It was decided by record label - Multiply- to have the song released on black label record, a method to test the song's success'. The song would be given out on a limited amount of (black label) [Often used by up and coming dj's, unsure of how their song will do] records, the record company distributing only to djs in large or underground clubs. Based on its success of black label sales and the large amount of requests for the song in these clubs, it was decided by the record label to have it released as an official single, breaking the official charts being the next main objective. The single had a subsequent high rate of airplay on radio stations such as the alternative Xfm ( London), Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights on the national Radio 1 and Kissfm ( London). This guaranteed it a future public release to the general public.
Looking at various artists similar to Rob D in the music industry aided our research into the market our product shall be aimed at. 18-30 year olds with an interest in the club scene, or generally interested in alternative dance music (which is very popular at present with artists such as Jakarta staying at number 2 in the official top 40 singles chart for three weeks) would be an ideal audience to consider when designing and casting for the promotional video. Jakarta, however, has the advantage of the song's link to academy award winning film, 'American Beauty', for the piece that is remixed on the track features in the film. Luckily, having the video aimed at the mass market of those between the age of 18-30 means less of a limitation on our approach and a wider response who will buy the single from having watched and enjoyed the video and its song.
A pop video was needed in order to aid the single's publicity, most of all to make a bold statement alongside this contemporary, hard hitting, dramatic piece of music that is 'Clubbed to Death'. 'Clubbed To Death's success has a sole dependence on how the target audience receives the song, how much airplay the song will receive and whether or not the pop video (as main promoter of the song) will get much play on target satellite and terrestrial channels. Tying in a social message to the pop video was an initial idea that we stuck by. '.. .artists do not invent nature but merely hold it up to a mirror'. [Oliver Stone in Screen Violence, ibid, 1996, p237] The fact that such messages are hardly ever approached by dance videos in particular is advantageous in terms of the video standing out from others and appealing to the target audience.
Primarily, our ideas were to either have the video based around a state of ecstasy and bliss or shear hopelessness and despair. These themes connecting to the themes that Rob D appeared to portray in the song. The d.j wanted recognition for his song as opposed to his face. We cast two actors in their mid twenties [An element to allow audience association with the characters to capture the targeted audience] to 'face' the scripted arguments and violent scenes for the video. Our main objective was to have the video concentrate on two individuals who led the narrative based. By placing the main protagonist in a number of landscapes and using diverse camera angles/ positions and movements in these environments we intended on producing a video that defied usual pop video conventions. We aimed to bring the audience in, share the protagonist's pain, frustration, loneliness and her freedom [Although a restricted, eventual shattered bliss. ]
Once planning was underway our production team would regularly meet to discuss concepts and imagery for the video. Days of exploring possible locations were particularly beneficial as we too had a camera on hand to experiment with various shots and concepts, always considering how it could be placed in the video. Barren council estates, places of ruin [Namely Battersea Power station] and large empty, desolate areas were influential in our thoughts and ideas [We were soon able to channel our ideas down from the broad array of themes such as drugs, violence, claustrophobia, vulnerability, solitude and escapism.]. The situation was to be a dingy, tight scene of domestic violence and melancholic distress combined with an escapist route to rapture and euphoria.
Many storyboards were made, aiding our concentration on certain themes and issues, we had to abide by the 3 minute 40 second guideline the song secured. By editing the storyboard footage we introduced more concepts such as the tunnel section in the song [A montaged sequence of various tunnel- like environments, enforcing ideas of claustrophobia, a searching for an exit and need for hope and the light], which not only provided some variety to the video concepts but was also an aesthetically interesting camera movement to involve for the audience. An act in full consideration and satisfaction of audience wants, but also a sequence that connects successfully to the music. Such shots were achieved on shoot days organised amongst our production team before the assigned on-location shoot day.
Many primary ideas were used in the final piece. For example, dissolving a darkened drain into the dilated pupil of our protagonist. An ambitious concept though one we successfully achieved once we had shot and edited the piece. However, there were some ideas that had to be rejected. Our envisaged scenes of the camera at the end of a syringe going into a drug abusers arm, the use of the escapist route through drugs with the protagonist having the camera attached to her arm- portraying a state of deliriousness. These ideas were unachievable because of inability to provide the resources needed to perform such a task. Films such as the hard hitting, gritty 'Trainspotting' and 'Basket ball Diaries' and documentaries all inspired certain concepts. The crafty, slick camera angles of 'Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels' also provided some influence for ideas. All of these movies were particularly successful, so using them as an inspiration for our pop video would aid the wanted success to help sales of the single. Analysis of pop videos and its industry proved to be of some influence though we investigated more into ways that our pop video could defy what the industry has already churned out. Although there were a few ideas that were rejected, the movies did plant an interest with domestic violence and gritty, shocking ways of dealing with it.
Once the on location shoot day was over editing the footage started. Editing was one of the most difficult stages of production. [A process that also proved quite rewarding as we jigsawed the fragments together ]Careful consideration went into the cutting of shots to the beat of the music, the placing of vital concepts and their sequences in the correct places and the juxtaposing of elements such as the harsh reality of our protagonist with her escaping, yearning imagination
In conclusion, the pop video should boost the sales of 'Clubbed to Death'. A punchy, fast paced pop video- adding to the kick of the song. An element that would grab the full attention of the audiences (of clubbers) who started off the song's success in the clubs. The single should succumb to the predicted high sales that 'Multiply' had aimed for, provided that the targeted market receive the product well.
Word Count: 1, 179.

Part 2
'The music video serves to the image of an artist or band to maintain the visibility of performers in the absence of personal appearances''.
We sought to create a video on a par with the dramatic song, this being a visual impact serving the image of the song, resulting in a promotion for the track as opposed to the artist, Rob D who would prefer to remain low profile.
'The process of music making and selling can't be separated, and the rise of video promotion makes it clear that the relationship has always worked in reverse too- record sellers are also concerned with production. They produce the images (styles, personalities, visual appeal) to match the sounds'. [Stuart Price, Hodder and Stoughton, 1997]
This is a matter that was taken carefully into consideration when drawing up our main objectives for designing the promotional video. To have domestic violence as a main issue in the video was a factor that was not to create a moral panic [Simon Frith, 'Youth. Leisure, and the politics of rock 'n' roll'] but plant an awareness (for the audience) of the distressing issues occurring behind closed doors. A serious issue not often approached in artist's promotional videos. An approach that is unconventional to the usually light-hearted and jocular d.j pop video. For this reason it should receive more airplay and general interest from people who are awoken by a bold narrative that is presented in this video.
The objective of the video to promote a social understanding meant that the audience the video is aimed at is an active audience who are ready to question the text, as opposed to the passive audience (which most present products are aimed at- an audience willing to absorb the material, not questioning the text). The theme of domestic violence provides the narrative element of the video. The active audience identifies with the protagonist. This woman is the victim of a partner's abuse and violence;
her physical endurance and suffering take place in their four-walled, compact flat. The black and white, grained effect for the flat footage sets the mood for her melancholic life, particularly so when it is juxtaposed with shots of her in a cornfield, or in an empty field or with wild horses. Reality conflicts with the ideal dream; a concept portrayed with structure and narrative. The protagonist is hit and falls to the ground. The chain of events that follow are that which had led up to her being hit. These black and white images are part of a rhythmic montage [One of the five streams of montage founded by theorist Tudor commenting on Eisenstein's 'Montage'] with images of freedom, escapism and relief flashing in the opening sequence in relation to the heavy bass music. [Essentially in the pop video we are making a political and social statement This is an approach similar to the use of montage that Tudor researched and found useful for political propaganda activities. As opposed to the conventional pop video that almost never uses intellectual or overtonal montages.]
In relation to the challenging issue of domestic violence there is some use of horrific and haunting images to convey melancholic messages. For example, corpses and children in barren landscapes. One image was projected across the protagonist's desperate and gaunt face, of tulips with barbed wire- a juxtaposition posing the gentle with the harsh- a halting of beauty and any potential blossoming. The portrayal of our protagonist's searching and yearning mind juxtaposed with her trapped reality is an impending of the images splashed across her face. This image is continuously re-visited. The sun rising represents the glimmer of hope, though its abrupt suppression using a dissolve, from which the risen sun consequents to the girl's eye, back in the flat and dismally in the black and white grain. Even the lively colour has been banished.
The editing is conventional- when the bass plays, the shots are cut to the beat. When classical music is more prominent in the piece the shots are more gradually cut and dissolved. The editing is also connected to the message, fast paced at the dramatic sequence when the protagonist is being hit. The cuts are rapid and jerked during the argument and smooth during the images of escapism and freedom from her reality. The convention of using the dissolve to connect the subject matters is one that is used by many pop videos at present. For example, the connection is made between the image of the girl stood over a sink full of dirty dishes, her face bruised and gaunt and when she stares, emotionless (bearing and extra-diegetic gaze) at the mirror. The camera moves at a speed that connects well with the music (which has increased in pace). It stops in a dark, dirty cup which dissolves in to the first of the tunnels in the sequence. The urban and the rural settings vary in speed and colour. Each of the tunnels meanders into another, again at cuts and dissolves reflective of the musical beat. Her mind is no longer an image of calm and peace but of manic seclusion.
Camera angles, positions and movements are explored in the pop video far more than conventional videos in the music industry. For example, one shot of the girl [Used in conclusion to the black and white council flat sequence and to begin an overtonal montage of winding tunnel shots], a reflection of her in a collapsed state where the camera slowly zooms out to reveal the reflection on an old television screen, is symbolic of her repression and loneliness. Her violent partner and her own weariness trap the girl and she has given up on herself. The use of a sequence of point of view shots to present a searching mind, running and alone- although lifeless and motionless in reality her mind searches for an escape, it's chaotic and there is no way out for her . The audience is then hit with the graffitied words, 'When times are shit, don't give up hope'. Although the audience are faced with the question is there really any hope? Particularly after they have experienced this girl's world. A cyclical journey of harsh reality and the yearning, escaping mind (an approach not often uptaken by the conventional aesthetically pleasing, image based pop video. Ending this polysemic notion of messages is an evaluating harsh, brutal reality. The protagonist still suffers physically (as portrayed in the flat) and now mentally (portrayed in the tunnel sequence).
Promoting the dramatic song and producing a pop video that equals in this impact was fulfilled. Whether or not it will successfully promote the artist and song is yet to be known. Using a number of images brimming with social arguments, violence and suppression, we created a polysemic video that defies the usual conventions of the pop video. This defiance was as a result of narrative and its cyclical journey. We used the simple of convention of creating a black and white, gritted indoors (in the melancholic, claustrophobic flat) and the colourful outdoors in the yearning, hoping of the protagonist's mind. The pop video constantly returns to the black and white images in the flat- either of aggression, horror or sadness allowing an ambiguous open end; although there is a return to the black and white flat, the audience are left with just the image of her in a state of happiness- on a broken television screen.
Through this defiant genre of pop video it ought to be successful and therefore gain the profit that the record label aims for with an original promotion. However, considering its survival in the media and the pop video's dependency on airplay on channels such as MTV, etc there is a possibility that it could fail when placed in the industry.
Word Count: 1,134

Part 3
The main motive behind the production of our pop video is to make profit. However, the ideology is alternative. It was a co modification of a sub culture- we wanted to achieve a dramatic social statement and have this ideology propagated to our target audience.
'Jakatta' is the name of an artist producing a similar genre of music (to our artist Rob D) and signed to the dance record company. Ministry of Sound's 'Rulin'. Rulin often release their artist's track on black label and, depending on this success, open the track to the public. ' Jakarta' (the American dj 's title) is similar to Rob D in that he too samples pieces (classical and more) eventually creating a dance track. Jakatta would be a direct competitor of Rob D due to their similar styles, similar record labels and target audience.
The pop video for Jakarta's song, 'American Dream' uses a female protagonist. She is, however, in a nightclub amongst other clubbers. The pop video automatically refers to the target audience, whom would mainly be club goers. There is a gratification of consumers associating and identifying themselves with the enjoyment of those within the text. Jakarta's advantage (regarding more methods of promotion) lies in the fact that Ministry of Sound, the owners of his record label, also own the music magazine and clubs nationwide. These elements aid and ease his promotion and overall publicity. Rob D, the artist of 'Clubbed to Death' and member of the dance label 'Multiply' relies on a solid pop video to successfully promote his track. The record label aims for profit after having organised production of the track and the pop video. We used domestic violence as a main narrative issue. An issue not usually addressed in pop videos, especially the dance videos aimed at audiences of 18-30, when the rate of marital violence among those under 30 years of age is more than double the rate for the next older age group (31-50). The protagonist who falls victim to this violence experiences a mental release and state of escapism. As a result of this narrative approach, the audience consuming the piece would (through diversion) escape and become part of our video- releasing them from everyday pressures. Through the pop video's bold confronting of domestic violence and a female protagonist's victimised suffering, we enforced a personal relationship between the empathising audience and our victim.[ According to The Uniform Crime Report of The Federal Bureau of Investigation, 30% of women killed in the United States die at the hands of a partner. In 1990, more than 1200 women were killed by their partners.] A sense of personal identity for members of the audience was achieved, exploring their personal problems having viewed the pop video's polysemic approach. Most importantly our pop video provides surveillance, a fresh, bold awakening for the audience as to what is going on in the world, behind closed doors. [Such an approach can be described as the Uses and Gratifications theory]
The journey that the audience experiences during our unconventional pop video, results in self-actualisation for audience members [An element at the top of Maslow's hierarchy of needs.]. There is a realisation of self-potential for the audience, having compared their own life to that of the female protagonist in the video. This approach is also used in the promotional video for The Prodigy's 'Breathe'; an impactful video from the alternative dance act, it deals with elements of madness and claustrophobia using cramped and dark mise-en-scene and shocking subjects. Played on MTV and The Box music channels in the run up to its release in around 1998 it became a top 5 hit. Now there are channels such as MTV dance, KISS and Q that, too, would be suitable for the genre of music that 'Clubbed to Death' falls under, on which pop video can be viewed by target audiences.
'These examples of the totally contradictory readings of the same programme item provide us with the clearest examples of the way in which the 'meaning' of a programme as a 'message' depends upon the interpretive code which the audience brings to the decoding of the situation' (Morley).
Our pop video is essentially about suffering and a subsequent release and escape. This theme is approached boldly, with the use of many symbols to represent escape and suffering. Morley's theory can be applied, therefore to the pop video, for it is these shots that can be translated in a number of ways by the audience. The use of narrative is an unconventional approach for a promotional pop video, particularly when each element of the real and surreal contradict one another [Though the used convention of having the walled reality as black and white and having the escape in colour would have allowed the audience to clearly identify what the protagonist deals with and what she yearns for in her mind]. To maintain audience satisfaction we involved what may be described as 'aesthetically pleasing' aspects. Intertwining the unconventional social statement with the conventional need for eye satisfaction. For example, editing the camera angles, etc to the beat of the music.
Due to our concentration on wanting to get the 'Messages' across, the pop video does not result in a product that can be defined as 'aesthetically pleasing'. There were some shots that were very beautiful and satisfying to an audience's eye, for example the sunrise. However, this shot was meant to express this message of trapped escapism, hence, the subsequent dissolve into the black and white, gritted close up of the protagonist's eye- now in the flat. This juxtaposition of two shots, each conveying contradicting messages, often occurred in the pop video. Montaged sequences were also used to transmit messages. This approach can be compared to that of a similar sequence in 'The Basketball Diaries'. A 'First Independent' release, it is a young movie with dark messages of violence and drugs. It too has a main protagonist who suffers the most, in this sequence he recalls the first time he took heroin. 'It was like a long heat wave through my body. Any aches or pain, sadness or guilty feeling was completely flushed out' he voices over the recollection. The images are of him, running in slow motion through bright, colourful fields. A haunting panpipe plays, the camera fluidly running with him, the audience, therefore sharing this sensation.
The sensation experienced by audiences watching the sampled sequence from 'The Basketball Diaries' is too felt by the audience viewing the promotional video for 'Clubbed to Death'. Although the dream like sequences could be described as calm and 'palatable' it is not a 'sugaring of the pill of reason'. The audience endures some suffering through empathy for our female protagonist and subsequently shares her elation and sensation when in the openness and natural environment.
The subject of domestic violence is one of great importance in modern day society. It is an issue never usually dealt with nor confronted in conventional pop videos, yet on average each year, women experience 572,032 violent victimisations at the hands of an intimate [(Ronet Bachamn Ph.D; U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, "Violence Against Women: A National Crime Victimisation Survey Report," January 1994, p.6).] If the song is successful and requests for the pop video's viewing prove to be of a high rate then this results in a profit-making institutional-consumption paradigm. This will be an accomplishment for we will have fulfilled one of the main objectives behind the promotional video- to successfully promote the song, consequently gaining profit. Of real achievement is the product itself, it is a polysemic presentation of alternative ideology. It alternatively contains a narrative but unconventionally this narrative is led by the addressing of a bold topic of domestic violence and its entrapment behind closed doors.
Word Count: 1,130.

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