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Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Evaluation 4. How did you use media technologies in the construction and research, planning and evaluation stages?

Conclusion to this question
In conclusion, the range of technologies I have used has made my research, production and evaluation stages a great deal easier than it would have been in the era I am actually paying homage to in my products! Such technologies have enabled me to produce work of a standard that school students would only have been able to dream about then. It has been particularly useful that a lot of the programmes I have been using can export files into other formats that various other programmes can recognise. Without this facility it would have been very difficult to co-ordinate work done at home and at school.

If I were to do this project again, I could make it even easier on myself by using my phone a lot more, as it has access to the internet. If I had used my phone more, I could have kept track of my blog more regularly and therefore been able to upload posts more regularly. This would have saved me a lot of valuable time.

It would also have been easier with access to Premier Pro at home, as I would have been able to edit footage more regularly and make sure everything was completed in good time. However, this was not possible, as my laptop does not have the space to facilitate Premier Pro.

Overall, the technologies I have used have helped me create a range of interesting visual media which is appropriate to, and likely to appeal to, people of today who are used to being bombarded by sophisticated media products.

Perhaps the only disadvantage I can identify with all of this is that the technologies available mean that editing can always be done with such ease that it becomes difficult to reach the point where the decision is made that a product is complete and in its final form.

However, despite this, I still managed to complete my products in time and I certainly would not have been able to produce my advanced portfolio without the full range of the technologies outlined.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Evaluation 1. In what ways does your media product use, develop or challenge forms and conventions of real media products?

My Music Video
When creating my music video, there were many elements of other 80s and New Jack Swing music videos that influenced my filming and editing decisions. Bobby Brown’s music video Every Little Step (1989) was one of the first music videos I looked at for my pre-production research. Every Little Step contains a variety of shots with each one being no longer than three seconds. The quick edits are very much in time with the upbeat song and they usually reinforce the drum beat.

A particular moment, which I like, where exactly this happens, is right at the beginning. The video starts with a slightly low angled long shot of three women walking in a triangle formation, whilst the first four bars of the song are played. Before we hear the first vocal line from Bobby, a short yet distinctive snare drum solo occurs. During this drum solo, there are three quick shots which rapidly alternate between the long shot of the three women and another long shot of Bobby and two male back-up dancers in a similar triangle formation.

In the song, Summer Love there are rapid snare drum solos, as well as a quick, distinctive keyboard motif that occurs towards the tail end of the verses. Influenced by the direct correlation of the music and editing in Every Little Step, I edited my footage in a way that directly correlated with the beat and melody of the drums and keyboard. During the quick snare drum motif at the end of the first verse after the line, “I said this must be summer love,” I edited six shots to fit in this short space of time and tried to make each shot appear in unison with each hit of the drum (similar to the editing in Every Little Step). In my opinion, this worked really well and added dynamics to my music video. It certainly worked a lot better than the one long shot of Heidi spinning, which I originally had placed during the drum solo. I felt that if I continued editing my footage in a similar way to this, I would do justice to the song, Summer Love, as it is highly rhythmical and I have the control to reinforce these rhythms through my editing.

According to Andrew Goodwin, in his book Dancing in the Distraction Factory (1992), he explains what he defines as the typical characteristics of music videos. One of which being that there is a relationship between the music and visuals, which usually are illustrative, amplifying or contradicting. When looking at my music video and Every Little Step, it is clear that there are moments when the editing choices made (visuals) were determined by the beat of the music. The quick shots made during the drum solos in both mine and Bobby’s music video, are what Goodwin would describe as the visuals typically amplifying the music.

Other products I have looked at are music videos and recorded concert performances from Michael Jackson, who incorporated much silhouette imagery in his work. We see his iconic silhouette imagery in music videos such as The Way You Make Me Feel (1986):-

Jam (1992):-

In the Closet (1992):-

and You Rock My World (2002):-

There was also enlarged silhouette imagery in a live performance he did of Smooth Criminal as part of the History Tour in Munich (1997):-

Recorded clips of this silhouette imagery in the concert, was used as part of a professionally made video montage of Michael Jackson, which became the music video for his song Cheater:-

Inspired by this stunning silhouette imagery, I too incorporated silhouettes into my music video. I achieved this by placing a shadow screen in front of an overhead projector and then directing Heidi (a drama student and dancer who stars in my music video) to get as close as she could to the screen, which created a clear, detailed silhouette of her figure. It was very similar to the imagery typical of Michael Jackson’s work.

In his music video In the Closet, there is a dance break towards the end of the song, in which we see Michael Jackson in silhouette performing improvised dancing, which he does often in his performances.

Much of the choreography which Heidi performs in silhouette is improvised and there were very few moments in which I instructed her movement. The reason I did this was because I did not want Heidi to appear to be dancing with restriction; I wanted her to feel completely comfortable with the movements she was doing and able to do what she wanted, following her own intuitive responses to the music. Michael Jackson did improvised dancing for similar reasons and this influenced the choice I made with Heidi during filming.

In Michael Jackson’s video, Jam we see a silhouette of his profile as he lip syncs. I too used this idea with Heidi. I directed her to stand with her left side touching the screen so that we could see her profile. She then did some lip syncing and this was very similar to the imagery in Jam.

I think the silhouette imagery in general is very visually powerful because all attention is on the body movement of the model. There are no distractions, such as patterns or designs on the attire, nor can we see any distracting facial expressions. There is also a sense of mystery with silhouettes, as the identity of the model is hidden, and I think it is a creative way of representing a performer, being very different from the standard shots of performers in a full light (such as the shots we see of Bobby Brown in Every Little Step).

I had also done some research into a New Jack Swing music video, Always Thinking, by the short lived band, Aftershock. There was an element in the video that I had not come by before - several moments when the lyrics quickly flash up and scroll across the screen. I thought this was effective because it seemed to create such pace to the music video and fitted very well with the upbeat song. I thought using a similar idea in my own music video would be similarly effective, especially because the song, Summer Love, is of a similar style to the New Jack Swing song, Always Thinking.

Therefore I used Adobe Photoshop CS3 to create some text which presented some of the lyrics of Summer Love. I used the font ‘Lucida Handwriting’ as the lyrics in Always Thinking are also represented in a handwritten style. Then on Premier Pro, I enlarged these texts so that they fitted across the whole screen, and I added a scrolling effect to them. The edits were very quick, as were the edits in Aftershock’s video, and I planned to show these lyrics only occasionally throughout my music video, as the lyrics in Always Thinking are not shown too often either, and seem to have greater impact because of that.

Throughout the editing process, our media class regularly had feedback sessions. The majority of my class (which included some of the younger members of my target audience) said to me that the scrolling lyrics did not work at all because it clashed with the other colourful and eventful shots, and just caused a distraction. Therefore, I discarded this idea and used other inspirations to help me create my music video.

My Album digipak and magazine cover

Concluding question with theory

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Andrew Goodwin's Theory (in relation to my music video)

Andrew Goodwin in his book Dancing in the Distraction Factory writes about what he defines as the characteristics of music videos…

1. Music videos demonstrate genre characteristics
(e.g. stage performance in metal video, dance routine for boy/girl band)

In order for my music video to fit in with the 80s genre, I know from researching other pop music videos of the 80s, that my video needed energetic choreography, ‘cheesy’ moments and a very weak or no narrative at all. The 80s decade is now looked upon as a decade of vibrancy and enthusiasm; I want my music video to represent this and have done so by making every shot colourful (and a different colour to the shot beforehand) and using quick edits to keep the energy and pace alive. I have included no narrative; just colourful and entertaining footage which are typical of other music videos of the 80s.

2. There is a relationship between lyrics and visuals
(either illustrative, amplifying, contradicting)
The visuals in my music video both illustrate and amplify the lyrics. An example of when the visuals illustrate, is in the first verse of the song and the lyrics say, “And I was bouncing on my feet,” whilst the visuals show Heidi doing the ‘running in a very bouncy motion. When storyboarding my music video, I knew I wanted a ‘bouncy’ dance move of some sort to go with these lyrics.

There are also moments when the lyrics say, “Summer Love,” and heart shaped hand gestures are made by the protagonists of the video or an image of a heart appears on screen. Towards the end of the song, the lyrics say, “Kissing my baby, driving me crazy,” at which point, Heidi blows a kiss to the camera and does a crazy dance, literally illustrating the lyrics. This was also planned in my storyboard.

Also, a lot of the lyrics in my music video appear as if they are being sung by either me or Heidi. So, I suppose this is a way of amplifying lyrics, as they are not only being heard but also being seen by the audience. Because the song is very rhythmical, there usually is an edit after every phrase sung in the song, so not only is there a relationship between the visuals and lyrics but also with the rhythm as well.

3. There is a relationship between the music and visuals
The visuals in my music video are either illustrating or amplifying the music. For example, there is a very distinctive bass line in the song “Summer Love” I have listened to the bass line carefully at the start of the second verse and have edited footage of Heidi’s silhouette according to the beat of the bass. Different coloured shots of Heidi appear on screen at the same time a note is played on the bass, amplifying its rhythm.

A similar moment, when I have made the visuals amplify the music is once again during the second verse and there is a frantic synth motif on a keyboard. During this musical motif, I have used the same shot and repetitively ‘horizontally flipped’ it back and forth and when the keyboard motif has ended, the shot goes back to its original position. I particularly appreciate it when music videos do this, as sometimes when listening to a song, you do not always pick up on some of the instruments playing. I have become very familiar with the song ‘Summer Love’ as I have been working with it for several months and it was only recently during the editing process of my music video that I noticed the short and frequent keyboard motif. It seemed so subtle at the time, but now I am glad I have recognised it because this has effected my editing positively.

In the song, there is also a distinctive drum beat and guitar motif. There are shots in my music video showing myself playing the drums and guitar in sync with the music. I have also created a little cartoon character playing the horns when the horn solo starts. These shots are literally illustrating the music as they show the instruments used in the song.

4. The demands of the record label will include the need for lots of close ups of the artists and the artist may develop motifs which reoccur across their work (a visual style)

There are certainly a lot of shots (all close up, mid and long shots) of myself, who is representing the figure of Michael Jameson (the artist).

Looking at my magazine cover and album digipack with my music video, the vibrant colours and silhouette figures in dance poses are both reoccurring motifs across my three pieces of work. When making each of these it was important that they all linked together in some way so my target audience can recognise my visual style immediately. If I were to be a successful and popular music artist, my colourful visual style and silhouette imagery would probably become iconic to my name.

5. There is frequently reference to notion of looking (screens within screens, telescopes etc and particularly voyeuristic treatment of the female body)  
Heidi wears big sunglasses in my music video which refers to the notion of looking. The sunglasses perhaps could symbolise the idea of taking a closer at things, such as the meaning of the video, the moves of the female dancer and the clothes in which the female protagonists wear. However there are no sexually suggestive shots of the female body as this does not really fit in with the genre of the music video. There are moments when Heidi also pulls down her shades and looks directly at the camera creating a more intimate relationship with the audience.

There is also a lot of symmetry and colours within the music video, some people may interpret this as looking through a kaleidoscope, as these elements of the video are not dissimilar from kaleidoscope imagery.

6. There is often intertextual reference (to films, tv programmes, other music videos etc)
The costumes used in my music video have reference both to 80s and New Jack Swing artists such as MC Hammer, Abba, Madonna, TLC, Michael Jackson, Rick Astley, Guy etc. The dance moves are typical of Bobby Brown and Michael Jackson whereas the colourful and vibrant themes of the music video is a big reference to the 80s decade in general.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

My Camera

During production, I recorded my footage on my Sony Handycam. This was my own camera, which was a small size, therefore easy to carry around. It was a lot easier to use my own camera because then I had access to it 24/7, as sometimes the school cameras were not always available because other people were using them. Though my camera was probably not of the best quality, as the footage produced was slightly grainy, I wanted this purposely because I was trying to create an artificial retro appearance in my music video and the slight graininess of the footage added to this effect.

Editing Diary (Heidi and I)

Editing this footage
When editing this footage, I was beginning to think that perhaps there is too much colour in my music video and there may need to be some shots which are not as colourful, so there is a nice contrast in the colour and also so the audience are not bombarded with it. It was once again down to a bit of trial and error on Premier Pro.

It did not take me long to come up with a perfect effect. All it took was some simple adjusting of the brightness and contrast of the shot. I set a high contrast to give the colour a vibrant and intense appearance, whereas I made the brightness a lot lower so the colours were not washed out.

Shooting Diary (Heidi and I shoot)

Myself and Heidi shoot
Today, I captured footage of Heidi and me in the studio. I thought it would be nice as the two of us star in the music video to have footage of us together lip syncing and dancing. This time, I did not bother with the big, photographic light as I will be colouring this footage anyway and I found that the light did not make any significant different, therefore for this shoot I just used the normal studio lighting.

Heidi wore similar clothing to what she had worn in the last shoot; I wore my red harem pants, a red suit jacket with padded shoulders and a trilby. I filmed footage of both of us performing Bobby Brown/New Jack Swing inspired moves, I also got a shot of me in the foreground lip syncing and Heidi in the background dancing. We then swapped position.

This formation of us two was inspired by Rick Astley’s Together Forever music video. The idea is so simple yet very effective.

Shooting Diary (heidi shoot)

Heidi Shoot
I returned back to the studio to capture some footage of Heidi doing some cheesy 80s dancing and some lip syncing as well. I managed to get hold of one of big photographic lights and place it upon Heidi. This gave a subtle warm glow upon her, which I liked.

I wanted Heidi’s costume to be simple, yet appropriate to the genre of the music video. This is because Heidi is a very good dancer and too much of a complex costume may distract an audience from the movement she performs. I looked at various pictures of 80s fashion, which influenced Heidi’s costume. She wore some black leggings, stripy, colourful socks, a bright red top (all typical of Madonna to wear), big sunglasses (typical of Rick Astley) and a trilby (typical of Michael Jackson). The trilby is also more of a tribute to the New Jack Swing era, as a lot of New Jack Swing artists of the late 80s wore trilbies.

In this shoot, I did not use a tripod, so I had to be careful that I did not jerk the camera too much and when I wanted a moving camera shot, I tried with care and not make it look really amateur. This was quite a challenge and most of the time the camera wobbled far too much. Therefore, I myself had to act as the tripod and I attempted to keep the camera as static as possible. These shots were not too bad; however it will be a challenge sifting through all this footage in Premier Pro and trying to pick the right shots to use in my music video.

However, my model Heidi was brilliant; she turned up on time, was filled with energy and enthusiasm and had learnt the lyrics. I am pleased have chosen someone reliable to star in my music video.

Editing Diary (guitar shots)

Editing the guitar footage
I have edited some of the guitar footage with the threshold effect, however to add a bit of variety, I wanted to add a different visual effect that still was colourful and appropriate to the 80s theme. I was hoping to create something similar to a neon glow effect as after looking at some images of 80s fashion, artwork etc and also talking to people who were youths in the 80s and appreciated the trends of the time (people who are part of my target audience), I discovered that neon colours were very iconic of the 80s era.

80s Ghostbuster music video
Elements of the 80s fashion
 After doing some experimentation with the various video effects on Premier Pro, I found setting the solarise effect to 100 (video effects panel > stylize > solarise) made a very vibrant and glowing appearance, and I thought this was perfect for my 80s theme. I then had to add the colour replace effect once again, otherwise the solarise effect was just a plain looking dark blue.

(Top) Solarise and colour replace effect. (Bottom) Threshold and colour replace effect

Shooting Diary (guitar shots)

Guitar Shoot
Today I captured some footage of me playing the guitar. This shoot originally was not planned, however I felt there definitely needed to be another instrument, as well as the drums, as the song ‘Summer Love’ is very rhythmical and a collaboration of different electric instruments. I captured the footage in the photography studio, which is a small room with white walls. I did this because I did not want to have a distracting environment as I want a lot of my audience’s attention to be on the array of colours I am creating in my music video, rather than the detail in my shots.

In this shoot, I captured a basic long, mid and close up shot of myself playing the guitar and the studio light was a good source of light, which did not make the shot too grainy. This was a successful shoot and I hope it is just as successful when I come to edit this footage.
mid shot, close up shot and long shot
My costume was inspired by the female New Jack Swing group TLC (backwards beret) and MC Hammer (red harem pants).

Shooting Diary (silhouette shoot)

Silhouette Shoot and editing the footage
Inspired by a number of Michael Jackson music videos and the iconic iTunes adverts, I have recorded some silhouette work.

To achieve this effect, I used a shadow screen from the drama department and placed an over-head projector a few metres behind it. Heidi (a talented dramatist and dancer) placed herself between the screen and projector. She placed herself as close as she could to the screen which created this beautiful and detailed silhouette of her. However although the silhouette looked really good, the colourless screen looked really washed out compared to the rest of the colourful footage on Premier Pro....

Heidi dancing in silhouette
On YouTube I found a specially made music video for Michael Jackson’s unreleased song, Cheater, and at the very beginning of the video, there is some really nice colour, silhouette work and inspired by this I want to create something similar.

I used the ‘colour replace’ effect on this footage and set it to 100 which gave this beautiful appearance. I then did the same to other pieces of this footage and put them all together like so…

I am really pleased with this, as it looks both visually powerful and entertaining.

I also captured some of Heidi’s profile in silhouette, whilst she did a bit of lip syncing. This was great, particularly because Heidi’s energy and enthusiasm really fits in with the 80s style. As you can see I also used the colour replace effect on these pieces of footage as well. 

Friday, 8 April 2011

Editing Diary (drumming shots)

Editing the drumming footage and creative decisions
I was having second thoughts when editing my drumming footage. Though I did take extra care considering the mise-en-scene in my lounge, when looking at the footage properly in Premier Pro, I realised that the lounge setting was not exactly working. The reason why I shot the footage in my lounge was to give it an amateur feel, as I was trying to make something which my audience could relate to. From the various music videos I have looked at, I just liked the idea of having people lip syncing and ‘rocking out’ in domestic environments as I am quite certain that any audience member will watch the video and then reminisce about a time they too ‘rocked out’ or had a dance in their lounge or kitchen.

However, it simply was not working for the genre of my music video. I realised that if I really wanted to coin the 80s style, I needed to insert bold and vibrant colours in my footage to give it an artificial appearance and move away from anything too realistic. Both my magazine cover and album digipack are full of vibrant colours; therefore it is vital that I keep my music video within this theme as well.

The threshold effect I used with my images for my digipack (partly inspired by Andy Warhol’s Pop Art) worked really well, so I thought inserting a similar effect for my footage would be good and appropriate. So after experimenting with the various video effects on Premier Pro, I finally achieved the effect, this is how I did it….

I went to 'Video Effects,' then stylize

There were a number of different effects I could choose from but 'Threshold' was the one I wanted. When I set the theshold effect upon the video clip, this is the look I got...

In the 'Effects Control' panel, I set the theshold meter to about '100' which did not lose too much detail of the footage.

I then went to the 'Video Effects' panel once again, but this time I chose 'Image Control' and chose the 'Colour Replace' effect. In the 'Effects control' panel this brought up a colour grid, so I could choose the colour I wanted to make the clip. I then set the colour replace meter to 100, which gave a full blast of colour onto the video clip. I repeated this procedure to other pieces of footage as well...

I think the effect really worked and makes the mise-en-scene appear a much more artificial world. It certainly works better than the footage’s natural colours and also detracts attention away from the domestic setting.

The threshold ‘Pop Art’ effect was inspired a lot by Madonna’s 80s album, Celebration. On it, is her face coloured in with the threshold effect. Its artificial appearance is very typical of the 80s. I was also influenced by The Autumn Society’s (group of illustrators and artists) recent exhibition, ‘80s Pop Art Show. The group set up an exhibition of work reminiscent of 80s cartoons, films, games etc. The work was stunning and elements of the threshold effect were certainly used.

Madonna's Album Celebration

Autumn Society's 80s Pop Art Exhibition
Andy Warhol’s Pop Art has been another great inspiration to me as well, particularly for my album digipack. His work is very much in the style of the threshold effect and I love how most pf his pieces includes repetition of an image, but each one in different vibrant colours. This kind of style influenced my digipack a great deal.

As well as using the threshold and colour effect with my drumming shots, I hope to use the same effects for various other pieces of footage, yet I have used the threshold effect in some still JPEG images…

I am really pleased with discovering the threshold effect on Premier Pro and I am looking forward to the completion of my music video and seeing all this colourful footage together.

Shooting Diary (drumming shots)

Drumming Shoot
Today I did my first shoot for my music video. I set up my electric drum kit in my lounge and played ‘Summer Love’ on the nearby speakers so I could play the drums to the right pace. I got a variety of shots from placing the camera at different angles…

I also made sure that, in order to maintain a plausible Verisimilitude, the mise-en scene did not show anything too obviously modern. I made sure that everything in the camera frame was believable to be in the 80s. I also considered what I was going to wear. I knew that padded shoulders (from images of Abba, Guy, Bobby Brown) and backwards berets (from images of TLC  and MC Hammer) were particularly popular in 80s/New Jack Swing fashion, so I raided my wardrobe and found an appropriate black suit jacket with reasonable big shoulders and also a chequered patterned beret. I thought these would be perfect to wear as part of my outfit for the drumming shots.

The reason why I shot the footage in my lounge was to give it an amateur feel, as I was trying to make something which my audience could relate to. This idea was inspired by various music videos from both the 80s and more recent times. There are shots in them with the protagonists either playing instruments, lip syncing or dancing in domestic environments, something which I am sure everybody has done in their life. In particular, I am sure the people who are part of my target audience (who are now aged between 30 – 50) will have had parties, dancing or band bashes in their lounge to 80s music. 

Freddie Mercury lip syncing and dancing in a domestic setting in Queen's I Want to Break Free video (1984)

People air banding to Feeder's Just A Day in Feeder's Just A Day music video (2001)

P Diddy lip syncing and dancing in a garage setting (though not exactly clear from the screenshot) in P Diddy's muisc video Bad Boy For Life (2001)
However, there were moments when I had trouble with the lighting. During the filming of the moving camera shots, there was a flare of light from the lounge’s window which affected the vision of the shot. When it comes to editing this particular footage, I will either try to tone down the lighting or just cut out these bits of footage all together.

Next time I film, I will take extra caution about where I am placing the camera, so there is no flare of light from windows etc.

Overall, I am really pleased with how this shoot went today. I have managed to capture a variety of footage, so I will have lots to edit and experiment with in Premiere Pro. I think the biggest challenge will be is trying to get the drumming in sync with the song, however as you can see from my preliminary exercise I have already had experience with this.