Wednesday, 13 September 2017

R+P Post 2: Myself as a music consumer

My first memories of music are various Beatles and Smiths songs played by my dad around the house, but the first band I really latched onto was the animated Damon Albarn-led project Gorillaz. I initially discovered them through my obsessive collecting of 'Now That's What I call Music' compilation discs around the age of 9-10. On 'Now 61' the fourth track of the first disc, in between Coldplay and The Black Eyed peas, was 'Feel Good Inc.', a song which I can pinpoint as the first time I ever compulsively fell in love with a song I had discovered myself. It was funky, disturbing and even had a rap verse I enjoyed - which was a rarity at the time as the biggest rappers on the radio were Tinie Tempah and, both of which I associated with my primary school bullies. This song also introduced me to the idea of listening to albums as a whole, as my parents bought me the 'Demon Days' album containing the song for my birthday. Even now I still love the album and would call 'Feel Good Inc.' arguably the most important song in my music taste today.

The cartoon aspect of the characters and their animated music videos is also one of the things that may have appealed to me as a child, as unlike the other music videos I had seen which tended to be either heavily sexualised, dark and disturbing or focused on performance, this was like something I would actually watch for fun. The lyrics were also more escapist and surreal than much of the drugs/sex/partying themes that I was used to from the radio. While I wouldnt say that the target audience of Gorillaz is children, I do believe the reason that they (from my experience) are one of the bands most cited by people my age as a childhood favourite is because of their animated music videos and cartoon image. While the artist/band I will be creating will not be animated, looking at how this aspect attracted me to Gorillaz shows the importance of image, and how it can help an act appeal to it's target audience.

When I was 13 I still mainly listened to the radio, which was at he time increasingly saturated with bland, shiny Electronic Dance Music which even at the time I hated. It didn't help that in my personal life I'd been going through fairly typical early-puberty problems like mood swings and incredibly strong emotions I had never really experienced before. The band that helped me through this phase was Weezer, with their two 90s albums 'The Blue album' and 'Pinkerton'. Discovered through following online music critics, these two albums were my first experience with music I could personally relate to. 'Pinkerton' especially had several songs which applied to me so directly that it instantly became my favourite album, and was also the saddest album I had ever discovered up to that point. I even played it to some of my best friends, who all unanimously said it was terrible, which only gave me a stronger connection to it - It was MY album, and it seemed to me that only I could truly relate to it. I listened to 'Blue' even more, as it was more upbeat and catchy, and I bought physical copies of both albums on the same day.

In terms of audience, I believe that Weezer's specificity means that they gained a fairly small but extremely loyal fanbase. Despite both albums being made in the 90s the lyrical themes still appeal to the same audience of slightly angsty teenagers - those who want music they can relate to, but without having to be part of the typically more theatrical, melodramatic world of emo. One of the main reasons I enjoyed the band so much was because of the ideas of both companionship and correlation - they proved to me that I wasn't the only person to have my feelings, and therefore it helped me feel less alone.

These days I listen to a huge amount of music, so much that it should be impossible to pick a song that I can call my current favourite. '1979' by the Smashing Pumpkins and 'Gold Soundz' by Pavement are both contenders, but ultimately it is most likely 'Sober to Death' or 'Bodys' by bandcamp project Car Seat Headrest, both from the album 'Twin Fantasy'. When researching the background of this album earlier this year I realised that if I wanted to I could release music online for free and it could still reach as many people as a major label pop-song. 'Twin Fantasy' an indie rock album that feels incredibly nostalgic, yet something that could only have been made in the 2010s (It was released in 2011).

The lyrics focus on the real-life relationship between the singer and an older man may not be and while they are far from personally relatable to me, they are written are orchestrated in such detail that by the end of the album you feel as if you know everything about the life of the singer, making the album really appeal to anyone who is willing to listen to it. It also differs from much other music as it seems completely unconcerned with creating and maintaining an image, due to the personal nature of the lyrics. It's the musical equivalent of a really great teen movie, the difference being that this was made by a actual teenager, making it seem even more genuine. While i mainly listen to the album for companionship in the same way as Weezer, it's also partially rooted in escapism, as the album is  a hopeful window into an idealistic future for me, and in an increasingly stressful world that kind of optimism is just what I need.

R+P Post 1: My A2 Group

I'm in a group for the music video A2 project with Sayo Ajoje and Aisha Farah. We're planning to meet at least two times outside of our media lessons, during lunchtimes. Hopefully we will have a roughly equal input into the group, and will have our strengths in different areas for maximum effect. I would identify my main strengths as conceptual and performance, as I have more experience with these areas in comparison to the technical side of the production.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Evaluation Q1 Did you enjoy the main workshop shoot day? What roles did you take? What were your best bits and why?

I massively enjoyed the shoot day, and found it a thoroughly interesting experience which was unlike anything I had ever done before. It was eye-opening to watch professionals working in different roles such as our cameraman Robin and our director Dom. It was also very interesting to see the many different aspects that must work together to produce a music video, especially in regards to how advanced the lighting was. Below is a time lapse of the shoot day:


Me in role as Graham
My main role was as a performer, specifically in the role of Graham, the drummer of the band Echosmith. Out of all the performing roles in the video I believe this was one of the simplest to perform, as most of my performance involved me sitting down and playing the drums, with some basic close-ups. I had a small amount of experience playing the drums in the past, so I found this to be a fairly easy role to adapt to, although my best performances were the result of following advice and encouragement from our
performance director Jasmine. I also played Graham in the group dance shots in the remake, which were easy to shoot as there was no specific choreography that I had to follow, and there was a very fun atmosphere, meaning that I never felt awkward or uncomfortable when dancing.

Me in one of the group dance scenes (I'm in the same
Costume as Graham.)
When not in front of the camera I took on several different other roles. I helped encourage performers from behind the camera. I also manned the clapperboard for several dozen shots, as is visible in some rushes such as below:
Me slating a take of shot 12
I also got the opportunity to act as a cable basher for our cameraman, and to observe the make-up artists at work. Overall, the shoot was incredibly enjoyable and I found it much more fun than I had been expecting. It felt much shorter than the (around) 7 hours I believe it actually was, and definitely gave me a lot of valuable information for my A2 project. Overall, my best bits were likely the drumming performances I did and the dance scenes at the end of the video, as I really enjoyed these and I think I did a good job with them.

Evaluation Q2 What have you learnt from participating in each of the prelim tasks 1,2,3 and 5?

Prelim Task 1: Complete an Audition Video

The first prelim task was to create an 'audition video' for the role(s) we wanted to get in the music video shoot. This video was massively fun to make, as I created it with two of my friends, Tom and Jack, who made the filming process very entertaining. This audition video gave me an idea of how to lip sync convincingly, and while this didn't come in useful for the video shoot due to my role of Graham not requiring a lip-sync, it will doubtless still be useful if I appear in a music video in A2. I also learnt how to 'get into the groove' of a song on camera, and how to keep moving in rhythm, which were both vital to my role of the drummer. The audition video is inserted below:

Prelim Task 2: Learn and practice your performance

Our director Dom positioning us on set.
I attended all of the performance sessions, ran primarily by our performance director Jasmine, and these sessions helped me develop my performance in a number of different ways. It made the physical movement of the shoot day seem less challenging, as we did a lot of exercises, such as dancing in a number of different ways. The sessions also let me improve the energy and passion of my performance through games that revolved around these things, such as 'Woo-Ha'. I also learned how to channel different emotions into a more realistic performance in these sessions, which although i din't use on the shoot day, will undoubtedly be useful for my future performances. I was also given some advice in these sessions about how to improve my performance as Graham, such as what posture to sit with and what facial expressions to use.

Prelim Task 3: Help to plan and organise your costume

My drummer costume
Me in my 'standing' costume.
My costume was decided on and put together in a number of costume meetings held during lessons, with my final costume consisting of a checked shirt, black skinny jeans (Which were my own contribution to the costume.), a blue tie, smart black shoes and a black fedora, with a black blazer also worn for some shots. This is not exactly what Graham wears in the video, but it is very similar, and works well in the video. These sessions taught me the importance of costume, an area I hadn't even considered for the video, which I now realise it one of the most vital visuals present in the music video format, as it is a major signifier of the genre of a music video, and gives the audience an idea of the personality of the artist. 

Prelim Task 5: Complete the Remake Edit

An example of a shot which I believe is graded very
similarly to the original video.
Me in the process of editing
Although I had observed it in passing during the shoot day, it was the edit of our remake that really made me realise just how many different shots there are in a typical music video. I had expected the edit to be fairly simple, and although the only real difficulty I faced was when I had to attempt to sync footage of our singer, Sian with the lip-sync of the original video, the whole took a very long time. The edit taught me just how often and quickly shots change in a typical music video, and the grading process taught me how to make a video look somewhat professional. The way I did the grading was quick and efficient, and I believe it looks similar to the original video at many points.

Evaluation Q3 Are you pleased with the footage and your finished edit? Is it how you expected it to look? What works really well and what would you change?

I'm very pleased with the finished edit and the majority of the footage that was shot. I believe that everybody played their roles effectively and passionately, and the shots look for the most part, very similar to the original shots. Even when a shot was unusable or missing, I was able to effectively compromise this in my edit, usually by zooming in other shots to give the effect of a close up. My finished edit looks very similar to the original video, and is therefore a success in my opinion. It is inserted below:

The finished edit is also similar to what I had expected it to look like, as it looks similar to the original, yet at the same time has some limitations which I had predicted would slightly effect the look of the video. For example, in the original, I believe the camera is of higher quality, although the camera we used for the remake was definitely still high quality.

I think that the best aspects of the remake are the group shots, which I believe capture the joyous atmosphere of the equivalent shots in the original, as can be seen in a GIF below. I also believe that the lip syncing is very convincing throughout, to the point where it can easily be imagined that Sian, who played Sydney in our remake is actually the singer of the song.

If I could re-do the shoot session, I would focus on making sure that the darker shots in the original videos are shot with the correct lighting, as many of these shots in my remake had to be artificially darkened through grading, which in my opinion doesn't look as good as the shots which were filmed in the darkness.
An example of my attempt at using grading to darken a shot.

Evaluation Q4 How do you think your prelim experiences will impact on your approach to next term's music video coursework?

Next term I will be required to create my own original music video for a (non-hit) song of my choice, so much of what I learnt by creating the remake video will be valuable. This includes:

  • How to work with actors, as I know how demanding a shoot can be for those in front of the camera. 
  • I am prepared for the scale of the shoot, as I now realise how many different shots are required to create a typical music video, which I had largely underestimated before the shoot.
  • I can estimate how long the editing process will be (although I assume it will be longer to edit as there is no template to replicate.), which will help me organise my time when I come to this stage.
  • I now understand the importance of using lighting, costume and performance to connote the genre of a music video.
  • I now understand how to work with actors to bring out the needed emotions and to ensure chemistry on set.
  • I know how to organise a shoot board in order to maximise efficiency on set.
  • I now realise what skills I need to work on developing: The technical side of the production, such as lighting, camerawork and sound and also the theory and history behind music videos, which will undoubtedly help me understand how to create an entertaining, competent music video.
Our group photo!

Saturday, 1 April 2017

This blog is now closed

I have completed the AS media project and so there will be no more posts on this blog. I hope you enjoy reading the existing posts!