Styles, Conventions and Techniques of Music Videos.There are many different styles and conventions music videos can have, these usually reflect the genre or tone of the music track itself. To either fit with the beat, or to create a narrative, or to showcase an artist's talents. In this post I will explore the various differing techniques that existing music videos use to promote their music and their image.
Performance, in-concert and 'live' footage
This style of music video includes footage of the artist/ band performing live. This technique is used to showcase the band/ artist performing their talent, this creates an image for them, in which they can market themselves and sell records. It also shows the audience insight into what the artist/band is like in a performance and could promote a tour and make the audience want to see them live. This is why in an in-concert music video they show the reaction of the audiences enjoying themselves, to attract more people to attend the tour.
An example of this is Coldplay's Fix You, it showcases one of their tours in which they performed this song, however in the music video the audio recorded version would have been linked up with the lyrics. They also show the audience singing along and getting involved within the performance, which would attract viewers to attend a tour.
Another example is Papa Roach - Between Angels and Insects, this is different because it's not an actual concert tour, this is still a live performance however which showcases the bands talents by them performing 'live'. Bands who use instruments usually use this style of music video because it showcases the all the members of the bands talent, giving each instrumentalist a chance to be seen. It can also be said that most bands of the 'rock' genre use this technique as it can give more edge to the band and delivers the bands tone more effectively. Additionally when it's a controlled live performance instead of a tour, the band can get clearer footage and close ups of the band playing their instruments, they can also use effects and produce a narrative. This has an effect on the audience because the idols of the band, tell a story themselves and connect with the viewers on a personal level, rather than a live performance where they are connecting with a larger audience, rather than behind a screen one to one.
Narrative and Interpretive
This is where a music video offers a narrative or some interpretation to the audience of what they lyrics are about, a story can be constructed from the lyrics or a section of the lyrics, (usually the chorus as the repetitive part of the song) and create a literal expression. This can be done in different ways, sometimes it can contradict the lyrics or consolidate them, however mostly it helps tell a story for the audience to understand and interpret. This technique can be used on a personal level for an artist to highlight a key issue in society, by giving the lyrics a clear narrative, it is in a sense telling the audience how to interpret the story and giving them something to think about.
An example of this is Kelly Clarkson's Because of You. This tells a story from the main title and lyric of the video which is 'Because of you' expressing she blames someone for something. The music video begins with her fighting with her partner, it then pauses and reflects back to when she was a child and her mother and father used to fight and argue, showing her dad also not taking much interest in her. This could suggest a narrative that she blames her father and her parents relationship for the issues she has in her relationship, and she witnesses their fights and arguments in hers. This gives a deeper and emotional meaning to the story, it can engage the audience by helping them to either relate to the narrative or sympathise with it. It could help the viewers understand that this is an issue in society that needs to be addressed, in additional it could help the audience connect and understand the artist more as a person.
Another type is a surrealist music video, this is where the video is often unconventional, and don't necessarily match with the lyrics. It's where the video in a way, doesn't make sense, can be rather confusing to an audience, but enticing to see where it leads to. This technique is often used to attract a certain type of audience, a quirky or edgy audience which would be interested in hearing more music from an artist that produces a music video like this. It also leaves it open to interpretation and makes it interesting to see others views on the music video, this can open discussions on social media which then create a buzz about the music video, and results in more views.
An example of this is Naughty Boy - La La La, there is some reference to the lyrics from the actors, however the video itself does not make sense, it shows multiple things going on which don't always add up. This captivates the audience and makes them wanting to watch what happens next and see if they can make sense of it themselves, additionally attracts a specific audience that may be interested in this type of style, the music video reflects the song and the song doesn't have specific lyrics that make sense, therefore the specific audience may be attracted to this type of music and after seeing the music video, they would be likely to watch more from this artist.
Impressionist videos usually acquire the emotional tone of a song rather that a literal meaning of the lyrics. Often linked to the 19th century movement 'impressionism' which was about how the artist felt about the world rather than making recordings about the world. This makes the music video's more artistic in a sense that it possesses elements such as soft lighting and edges and following colours. This technique can be used to express how the artist is feeling about a certain situation, the emotional tone is therefore open to the audience for interpretation and what they get from this music video. The impressionist technique can also be used to celebrate the art of editing and use of lighting and effects, possibly to show the difference between a high budget music video and a low budget music video, or to possible show the artist making more effort and carefully deciding what kind of message they are willing to portray. This type of technique keeps the audience interested and engaged with what's happening, in a sense the tones and soft lighting mesmerizes the audience and thinking 'how did they do that' in terms of editing. Which could be the exact reaction the artist wants to deliver, a different style of music video that keeps the audience questioning how and why, also the viewers can appreciate the beauty of it.
An example of this is Taylor Swift's - Style, this music shows a silhouette of the artist with images of a forest/ nature tone reflected onto it. It's simple using light and nude colours, it almost feels soft, and something that is fragile, which gives the music video it's impressionist, artistic edge. The editing techniques by using a mirror and disguising the mans face with the artists female face, it creates curiosity for the audience of how did they create that look.
Music videos often refer to other subjects or issues so shed light on them. It can be a reference to a film by using real footage from the film thus creating a synergy element. They can also allude to another character, event or a historical/ cultural reference. Parody's are often made of songs, this 'takes the mick' at the original matter in the music video, which actually promotes the song further. This link to a pastiche which in turn is a light-hearted imitation of another band or artists style, furthermore artist may pay respect to an event or another artist that had influenced them, this is a homage. This technique is used to cross reference and link fact to fiction, from characters in a film, to real celebrities, from parody's which cause controversy or to pay respect, from artists that want to produce a similar videos to maybe one of their idols, this technique is used widely by artists all over the world.
An example of Synergy is the music video to 'See you Again' this makes reference to the films Fast and Furious, it features footage from the film which in a sense advertises what audiences can expect to see. It also pays homage to someone who was lost from the film, paying respect to a death which occurred to one of the actors, they use CGI and past footage to construct a final farewell to their colleague. This technique has an impact on the audience because it gives them a chance to in a sense say 'good bye' to a main character and an idol, it is in a sense a gift to the fans.
An example of a music video which alludes to characters and events, by also creating a parody is Eminem's - We Made You. This video makes reference to several celebrities like Ellen, Kim Kardashian and Jessica Simpson, also makes reference to films like Star Trek. It can be seen as a parody because of the 'poking fun' at other media texts and other music video created by celebrities like Britney Spears. This technique is used to create interest and controversy, for the audience it opens up a discussion which can be seen on social media, it then attracts further audiences who wouldn't normally listen to rap but maybe this type of video interests them. It is also humorous and engages the audience with something they can relate to, e.g. the mocking and views of celebrities.
Animation is another type of style a music video can used, it can give the audience more than on screen acting and a film-like story line. Animation enables a music video to include all sorts of imaginative things and environments, it's different and takes a lot of work to link the animation with the pace of the animation. This technique is often used to tell a story in a more interesting way, one that the viewers will enjoy to watch, animation opens up the door for creativity, seeing what you can make from different materials and tell a story through those materials rather than using actors. This offers a different type of way of telling a narrative, it absorbs the audiences attention as it is not what they are used to seeing from a music video.
An example of this is Bruno Mars - Just The Way You Are, which includes stop-motion animation. It shows an animation created out of the reel of a tape record, this links to the idea of music and creates a theme for the video. It is different which interesting to watch how a story can be told for items rather than people.
Another example is The Fray - Heartless, it features a drawing coming to life telling a story through this, it also showcases the band playing their instruments in the form of animation. This technique could be used to offer something different to the artists audiences, to keep it interesting, animation may also be a more effective way of telling the story, in this example, it tells a story through people and animation, as if the actor is writing down his emotions and they are coming to life.
Lip-Sync, Miming and Playback.
The majority of music videos that feature the artist include some form of lip syncing, this can come in the form of miming the track or in the form of what is called a playback. This enables the artist to change the pace of the song, for example a slow mo or fast version, to fit with the lyrics or beat of the song. This technique is the most popular because it is the artist promoting their song and singing their track, they are the face of their song and therefore can market it better this way. This technique is also used if the artist is moving about a lot or in a variety of different scenes where it is easier for the artist to use a miming track.
An example of miming is Jess Glynne's - Take Me Home, in this music video the artist is singing to the camera throughout and even though it may not be adventurous or fast moving it does create an intimate connection with the audience to feel the emotion that the artist is feeling.
An example of playback is Christina Aguilera - I turn to you. In the scene when she is in the rain on the street her voice is in slow motion, however the background is moving in real time. This gives the effect that she is in her own world, everything is moving in real time but she is slower than it. This would have been recorded with her miming the lyrics quickly so that it could be slowed down to fit the scene.
Cutting to beat
Cutting to beat is another technique used in music videos, this is where you cut the shots of the footage to match the beat of the music, as a result it provides a rhythm to the edits. An example of this is Eminem - Rap God, it changes the scenery based on the beat in the music, there is a clear correlation between whats happening on the screen and how the rhythm is formed. It has the effect of keeping the audience engaged, it is in a sense mesmerising to see how the cuts are made and to what section of the beat it is being cut from. This technique is often used in songs that have a fast beat, so a rap song would be the perfect fit to reflect this type of edit. Usually it cuts between shots that the audience have seen before, repetition is key when using this technique so that the audience can recognize and be familiar with certain scenes used, it keeps them engaged, it allows them to associate certain scenes to the chorus and verses.
Post- production effects
This is the use of visual effects in a music video, there are many reasons to use these effects, to attract or impress an audience and make it memorable, standing out from other music videos. It also broadens the audience range, some who may like the production effects may not like the actual music track, but still choose to listen to it because of the visuals. An example of this is TLC - No Scrubs music video, they use post production effects in the scene with the flying camera, also using the large screen behind them to put footage on, which wouldn't actually be there. It makes music videos more than just a background for a track, it tells a story but also sells the image of the band by the clothes they wear you can tell what time they are trying to portray. The walking on the wall is another effect they use, to reinforce this 'science fiction' theme. This technique is often used in higher budget music videos as it can create things that you would not normally be able to create, for example with this video's science theme, the post-production effects allow the artists to make a music video as realistic as possible. This then has an impact on the audience because it's interesting to see something that is impossible or currently not existing become possible by using these effects, it could also reflect the type genre of the artist, as in many of TLC's other music videos they use post-production effects for example; Waterfalls and Unpretty.
Effect : Split Screening
An example of an editing technique is split screening, this is where multiple images are shown on the screen at the same time, they can be changing images to look as if they are interfering with each other, it is one of the many production effects that are there to impress or engage. Multi-imaging is different, split screening is however the modern equivalent as the non-linear editing makes it easier to edit. An example of this is Semisonic - Closing Time, in this video one side of the screen shows a females day and the other side showcases the band's performance. The lead singer becomes involved and it tells the story as if he is trying to find her, in the end they both end up in a club, however he still doesn't find her, he comes out the the split screen becomes one when he meets his friends outside the club. This technique stands out because it gives the audience two sides which they have to focus on to try and find out what the story is about, it also provides the viewers with a choice of which story they want to follow, giving the audience more than just a music video, but a short film. This engages the audience because it allows them to interpret the story in whatever way they want, it could also make the audience want to watch it several times to understand the story further and therefore the artist is receiving more views. This technique could also be used for the bands advantage to showcase themselves as artists but also be able to tell a story with actors at the same time, which is evident in this music video example.
Effect: Chroma Key
This effect is where a green screen or blue screen has been used in the music video. The unwanted colour area behind is then chroma keyed out (removed) so that the second layer of images is visible. These images can be used to distort the background to something else, either a location or a certain colour background. This is evident in the music video Beautiful Liar - Beyonce and Shakira, they use a green screen to change the scenery to make it look as if they are in a different location in each shot and to extend the location to make it look as if they are the only ones in that large area of space. This technique is creative and allows multiple backgrounds to be used, it can place the artist in different scenes and can provide them with a different image in each shot, usually used to in a sense 'market' their look. It impacts the audience by making them feel a certain way towards the song, for example in the Beautiful Liar music video, in the slow verses of the song, the colours are dark and gloomy, where as in the fast pace parts, they are bright, it provides the audience with an interpretation and a theme, the viewers can understand the music video better this way.
Seen again in the music video for 2 Become 1 - Spice Girls, this music video it is more evident that a green screen is used to make locations seem realistic. It gives music videos the possibility to look as if they have been filmed anywhere in the world, it also advertises these locations as well as the bands image.
This is the use of different camera angles, pans, tilting, tracking and crab shots to show movements, it can create excitement for the audience by providing an 'in the action' shot, as if the audience are there with the band or artist. An example of this is the music video for Childish Gambino - Heartbeat, the camera is tracking his every move from various different angles, which shows the environment this music video is occurring. This technique allows for low angles and high angles to show dominance of the characters involved, as there is no dialogue to show this. As it is mainly based in a car there are various shots of the character looking in the mirror and then from his shot looking in the mirror, using a range of camera movements to entice the audience within the story line, while listening to the music track. By using this technique it provides the audience with a range of perspectives, from the main character to the co-character, it also shows the area in which this music video is taking place, covering all areas so the views can get a feel of the tone and emotion of the music video, this is key to engaging the audience. It also fits with the beat, similarly to the 'cutting to beat' effect, it keeps up the pace with the music video and keeps it interesting, when the fast pace chorus comes the audience is curious to of what can happen next; highlighted clearly in this example below.
Camera angles and Shot types
This where various shot angles and lengths are used in a music video, similarly to camera movements it gives the filmmaker an opportunity to create a feeling and tone for a media text. This technique allows to show different elements of mise-en-scene delivering a broader perspective of the story line to the audience. This is evident in the music video Rihanna - We Found Love, the variation of angles and shot types tells the story from the character perspectives but also people on the outside looking in. It invites the audience into this couples world, following the action camera shots places the audience 'inside' this world, it may engage an audience to the extent that they watch the music video a few times and associate this song with the video and watch the music video for the story rather than the song, this increases music video ratings and pushes the song to the top of the charts, this can be very effective for the artist.
In music videos the mise-en-scene is arguably the biggest factor, the way the scenes are structured is what carries the story on. Without any dialogue it enables the filmmakers to construct a story thought the lighting, objects and settings connect to the music to create a meaning and tone of the song. To deliver feelings of love, passion or anger to the audience. The story it creates has the power to highlight key social issues or promote a political message, the mise-en-scene is what the audience will associate the artist with, for example Lady Gaga is known for having quirky, and out of the ordinary music videos, this attracts a certain type of audience to her music. Therefore it shows as a positive way in which an artist can market themselves and their image, how they was to come across to their fans.
The use of mise-en-scene in the music video for Beyonce - Pretty Hurts, captivates the audience into a social issue that is not always addressed in the media. The mise-en-scene used tells the horrific tales of the beauty industry in a almost beautiful way, the lighting is dull when it is behind the stage of the beauty pageant, and when it is on the stage, it is bright and glamorous. It makes the audience interpret it without realising what they are watching, they know it is a negative feeling, when the models prepare for the beauty contest.
Another music video which I think shows a crucial mise-en-scene is the music video Daughter - How. The video lighting is dull to begin with to show the feeling of the character's distress, it then becomes brighter when the character leaves the house and gets out of her sadness. The mise-en-scene tells the story of escaping your worst feelings, and how it is portrayed through the scenery of beaches and bright places, emphasises this.