Music videos are so 80s/90s, right? They belong with the era when MTV screened wall-to-wall vids instead of 'reality' TV? Try telling that to the millions who bought Gangnam Style; were they really simply loving the music? 1.6bn (and still climbing) have viewed the video on YT, not to mention the many re-makes (school eg, eg2), viral ads + celeb link-ups (even political protest in Seoul) - and it doesn't matter how legit it is, this nightmare for daydream Beliebers is making a lot of money, even from the parodies + dislikes. All this for a simple dance track that wouldn't have sounded out of place in 1990 ... but had a fun vid. This meme itself was soon displaced by the Harlem Shake. Music vids even cause diseases it seems!
This blog explores every aspect of this most postmodern of media formats, including other print-based promo tools used by the industry, its fast-changing nature, + how fans/audiences create/interact. Posts are primarily written with Media students/educators in mind. Please acknowledge the blog author if using any resources from this blog - Mr Dave Burrowes

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Blogging on 'Exemplar vids'

Start of 1 of my vid analyses: Hyperlinks,
wider research, sub-headings, top summary
There's no single right way to blog on individual videos you've looked at, but you do need to be clear on what sort of points/details you're after, and the overall purpose of undertaking this work.
Remember, you've got 3 years worth of IGS/StG student blogs to help you as well as this blog.
I'll set out the minimal expectations at the bottom of this post, but first...

QUICK LINKS:Music video examples tag; 
Pixies: Bagboy (individual video analysis); 
Pixies artist case study; 
Hetero-normativity: exploring a theme through multiple videos; 
Music videos I've selected + blogged on for raising useful issues 
Some female fronted bands

  • Its a basic principle of any Media Studies coursework brief that you cannot create a suitable text without developing a thorough, detailed familiarity with the key codes and conventions of a particular format
  • Even if you want to try out some unconventional ideas, you're still assessed on your research into and knowledge of format and genre conventions for the R+P mark, the production mark, and the Evaluation (the 1st of 4 Qs is specifically on this)
  • The A2 exam also requires you to be able to critically discuss your use of conventions
  • This research is central then to your A2 coursework and exam (the first section)
  • What you're trying to do then is to build up a knowledge of the common codes + conventions by examining a range of individual examples, and eventually summarising these with specific examples for any convention you cite
  • You'll also find you come across some interesting, useful ideas you can build on yourself
  • You'll find at every stage of the coursework I'll be asking you to detail genre conventions (the media language of your chosen genre's videos) - that includes the editing and drafting stage, plus the Evaluation

  • The more the better is the basic principle, just always remember to blog on any vid you've been looking at, picking out the particular points from it you want to focus on
  • While you can do many brief posts on specific aspects of specific vids, you are expected to thoroughly evidence your research into the conventions with a series of detailed posts which also reflect your grasp of semiotics, general media language, plus audience, narrative and representation terms, theories and issues (good practice for the 1st section of the A2 exam)
  • At an absolute minimum you should analyse + blog on TEN general examples plus TEN genre examples
  • Start with general examples: your 10+ egs should be from 5 or more different genres. We will look at a wide range in lessons as we strive to develop an initial grasp of the media language of music videos. This work should be completed over the summer; you could easily work through it NOW!
  • Before delivering a pitch for your initial coursework idea you need to look in detail at at least FIVE genre examples + make an initial assessment of the MVid genre conventions of your proposed track
  • Once groups are established and agreement reached on a track, more detailed work needs to follow on: at least FIVE more individual examples from the chosen genre. Once in groups you share posts, so between you your group will have analysed a number of genre examples.
  • Later in the year you undertake similar research into digipaks (a specific type of CD cover) and magazine ads for CDs/digipaks
  • SUMMARY: So, for the more detailed posts, at a minimum thats 10 general examples from 5+ genres; 5+ genre egs to inform your pitch; 5+ genre egs to inform your work on the final group idea. It should be apparent that you should keep looking at examples and, even if its just one detail, blogging on these. Even at the editing stage you can keep picking up useful ideas from existing vids.

conventions are contradictory: note examples of where you do and where you don't see each convention you've noticed. for example, some 'concept' videos have no relationship to the lyrics, though most vids do - to be able to make this point with authority you need examples of each to back your point.

  • Do note that whilst I've put a minimum for the number of detailed posts, you can, just as with the AS, also make many more brief posts, highlighting even just one single point/idea if you wish
  • I'll give you a long list below of things you can consider; I don't expect you to cover all of these, but I do expect you to cover many of these. 
    • RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN VISUALS + LYRICS: there isn't always a direct connection; you can also get 'concept' videos or pure performance vids. Are certain words represented literally (or symbolically); do we get the singer playing a character delivering the words, etc?
    • GENRE CHARACTERISTICS: spot anything which is likely to be specific to this genre? You are marked on 'shooting material appropriate to the task set'.
    • INTERTEXTUALITY?: are any other texts or aspects of wider culture referenced?
    • PERFORMANCE, NARRATIVE AND/OR CONCEPT?: which of these is it (often 2 are combined, so whats the balance between the two if so?)?
    • PERFORMANCE STYLE: Most vids feature some performance, if only lipsynching. Note details such as: static or moving camera; shot variation (smaller locations limit the range of possible angles); verisimilitude? (is it a convincing performance - looks like a genuine live performance - or does it look fake?); what instrument/s (including mic stands) are shown?; are these plugged in (are there visible wires)?; is the band movement, or any dancing, typical for this genre (eg headbanging!); how complicated or varied is any dancing (are there some steps repeated frequently; do you think the amateurs you might work with could achieve this, or only professionals?)
    • LINEAR, CLOSED NARRATIVE?: If there is a narrative, is it linear or non-linear; how much or little of Propp, Todorov, Barthes and Levi-Strauss' theories could you apply to this? (Use this post if you're a bit hazy on their theories! The 1st Word doc in it has summaries of each of these) Is it a closed or open narrative (do we get narrative closure)? Vids sometimes use non-linear open narratives to help make them better suited to multiple viewings. One of the things you're marked on is 'editing so that meaning is apparent'.
    • LOOKING/MODE OF ADDRESS: are there any references to 'looking' (maybe mirrors, photos, the person on a TV screen etc)? Does the singer and/or characters look directly into the camera lens? (this can create a sense of direct connection with the audience; as the uses and gratifications theory would have it, building a personal relationship)
    • STAR TREATMENT: is the singer or any one person particularly singled out? What shot types (or balance in the editing: keeping returning to shots of this person for example) are used to single them out?
    • AUDIENCE IN VID?: are there representations of the audience within the vid (the age, clothing codes etc need to be noted)? Although most bands have little direct physical contact with their fans, its vital to create a sense of personal engagement, and representing fans within a vid can be a useful means of signifying this.
    • REPRESENTATIONS: Discuss representations, eg of gender, age, sexuality, ethnicity, nationality. You need to carefully consider representation issues when developing your own idea (and have to discuss this in your Eval too). Linked into this:
    • MALE GAZE?: Laura Mulvey, a feminist film critic, argued in a famous 1975 article that women are mostly used on screen as eye candy: we get shots of their bodies, often isolated shots of legs, cleavage, rear etc, but often they say or do very little, and are not as important within the narrative as the male characters. She called this the male gaze: women are on screen for the sexual titillation of the male audience. How would she judge this vid? (note that other critics disagree: Carole Clover looked at the same (horror) films as Mulvey and highlighted the key role of the final girl. Post-feminists argue that females are not passive victims; if they're been portrayed in a sexualised manner its because they wish to express their sexual confidence). I've blogged on this regarding Lady Gaga and Nicole Schersinger vids.
    • PACE + ANY VARIATION OF PACE: Do you continually get long or short takes, or is the video edited to fit the variation within the track? (Do you see faster-paced editing at certain faster-paced sections of the track? Is there a pattern, eg a change in editing style at the chorus or whenever a guitar solo is repeated?) We'll discuss musicologist theorist Carol Vernallis' take on this. You are marked on 'using sound with images and editing appropriately'.
    • SHOT VARIETY + NO. OF SETUPS: This is linked to locations (below), but more specifically how many setups are there? What this means is distinct sequences of filming, for example in different parts of a single location. More generally, you could comment on the shot variety (or lack of). Older videos tend to have much less shot variation than modern examples, but there are surprisingly lazy, really limited examples still released, even by major artists. Have a look at my brief analysis of the Nicole Scherzinger 'Right There' video for example. You are marked on 'using a variety of shot distances as appropriate'.
    • ESTIMATED NO. OF SHOTS: You could attempt a rough estimate of the number of shots to help illustrate the variation of pace across different videos
    • FX: What FX or transitions can you see? You are marked on 'using varied shot transitions and other effects selectively and appropriately'
    • LOCATION/S + MISE-EN-SCENE: Comment on the location/s and how important they are/it is for exposition, anchorage or verisimilitude. Note also costume, hair, make-up and other props + aspects of the background. You are marked on 'seelecting mise-en-scene including colour, figure, lighting, objects and setting'.
    • SUB-CULTURE?: As Hebdige argued, there are many sub-cultures based around music genres, with distinctive hairstyles, fashions, facial expressions and body language, dance moves etc. Can you detect any aspect of that here?
    • NOTABLE SHOTS/FRAMING: You're marked on 'framing a shot, including and excluding elements as appropriate'. Did you spot any shots you thought were cleverly framed, or that if they were frozen [ie freeze framed] and hung on a wall would simply be impressive? Some of the best video directors, notably Anton Corbijn, started out as photographers and produce some stunning shots.
    • DIRECTOR STYLE: You may begin to notice some director names appearing repeatedly: there are a wide number of well-known music video directors, each with their own distinctive styles. The music business generally leaves it to directors to come up with ideas, not the bands themselves, so you can fairly safely put any stylistic touches down to that director. Anton Corbijn, for instance, likes to use multiple camera types (modern HD and lower resolution older cameras too); mix signifiers of different time periods together; often uses B+W; uses layering in a very particular and inventive way... We have several Director DVDs with the work of individual directors that I highly recommend borrowing (you could use some of their vids for your sample analyses). So, note any distinctive aspects of style ('personal aesthetic' of these auteurs) you spot
SUB-HEADINGS ONLY (you can copy/paste any you want to use, or just create sub-headings to reflect/organise your findings or themes YOU find useful)
  • MALE GAZE?: 
  • FX: 

  • You are marked on blog presentation, and I expect you to use clear sub-headings; you'll need sub-headings to enable yourself to quickly find points from vids you've examined. Your sub-headings can be any from the list above (in CAPITALS, bold, a different font + colour to main text)
  • You need to grasp right from the start that screenshots are extremely important, as you should know from your AS work. You need these not just to illustrate your points in posts on individual vids but also for vodcasts and the Evaluation Qs. Rename the screenshots so you can quickly find the right one, and save in folders. I suggest names like '1-15 LA CU singer' (thats the time in the vid + what it illustrates: a low-angled close-up of the singer, a common convention)
  • You might also want to 'rip' the vids you look at so later you can use clips from these in vodcasts and Eval Qs; see
  • Note that when you're in groups and copying posts you need to check that your blog settings are compatible: if you've gone with different colour backgrounds you might find the text appears invisible (black text on a black background for example). If you make sure your blogs each use the same colour background you won't have that issue.
  • Every detailed post should start with 6 bits of info [set out below], with the video being discussed embedded below, then your written analysis following. Avoid long paragraphs. Ideally, you should provide the 6 bits of info + embed the vid even when making some brief points on a vid
  • Make any URLs into clickable hyperlinks.
  • When it comes to comparing vids and discussing the conventions (or a particular director/band's etc style), vodcasts will be the main approach, tho' eventually you need a post with a clear written list of conventions.
  • The 6 bits of info for any post are as follows (note I've added hyperlinks; you could make the track into a Wiki hyperlink, ditto the genre!), with the 2 most important details in LARGE size; you may not always be able to find director name, but many vids have wikis with this - and you can google track name artist name video director (and, yes, I've used seven - lyrics can be useful too):
ACT: Periphery
YEAR: 2010
DIRECTOR: Eric Haviv
GENRE: Prog metal
MAIN AUDIENCE: M 15-24; significant F 15-24 appeal?

This is down to you, but it doesn't long to do a quick google and see what else you can find on a vid beyond simply watching it. You could note simple things like the no. of YouTube hits, or some of the comments. You could simply add hyperlinks to a Wiki entry on the vid (many have individual entries). Better still, you could actually read some of the Wikis, blog posts, newspaper + mag articles you might come across from a little research, and include some quotes/points from these. You shouldn't generally simply copy/paste chunks of text as that doesn't tell the reader anything about what YOU know. Always provide clickable URLs (better as words, as with the Periphery link above) for any source used, and "" or a different font/indenting to distinguish quotes.

Researching music video conventions should be an enjoyable experience, and you've got freedom to pick which examples you want to look at. Even if its not one of the minimum number of detailed posts, get into the habit of posting, even just a brief point or two, when you watch a music vid and notice something potentially useful or interesting. You can look forward to producing some interesting vodcasts such as the one below!

As I do most of my blogging at home in my own time, I generally don't have the time to follow any detailed template myself, but through the links below you can see a variety of examples of analysis of vids.
The A2 Eval Q1 is on conventions, and you could browse this post to find links to past vodcasts and Eval vids plus general pointers on discussing conventions. This one gathers together hyperlinks for all the posts I've done on the media language of vids. You can also find past student vodcasts comparing/discussing vids in the playlists at
Then there's this post, in which I consider how one difrector uses layering (and created a vodcast to demonstrate the point).

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