27 July 2010

Other examples of student blogs... for inspiration...

This is not perfect but demonstrates well how to embed technologies and really document your journey over the whole production process.
See Emma's music video blog.

This blog got a top level 4 for research/planning and for evaluation. Do have a look.
Alex's music video blog.

20 July 2010

Key features of Music Video - Starting points for your analysis of music videos

The points below should help you to analyse your chosen videos in a more focused way. Use them to get started. Start building up marks.

  • Music videos work around 3 codes - music, lyrics and iconography. The relationship between these codes is key to understanding how music video work. Take some time looking at whether the video illustrates the lyrics or not, and in which ways, as well as whether the video helps you to understand the lyrics better or not, and in which way. Does the song belong to a particular music genre and does it come across in the video?
  • Music videos are designed to provide pleasure in order to keep the viewer (particularly the intended audience) watching and to encourage repeat viewings. How is it achieved? How are the performers shown? What do YOU LIKE about the video? Can you screengrabs favourite shots and comment?
  • Explain whether the video is primarily performance-based, narrative-based or concept-based, or is it a hybrid? Explore how it is done and presented. Look at Lauryn Hill's Everything is Everything for example.
  • Does the video refer to / draw upon other texts (book, film, other video, advert...)? Is it a parody or tongue-in-cheek video?

Getting started now - UPDATED

Having read the great advice from Pete Fraser, it is imperative that you start your research now over the summer. You also need to start your Video project blog to chart your early thoughts, which bands / titles you have in mind (remember the advice about using MySpace to find bands). Discuss which genres of music you're interested in working on and find existing videos for this particular genre so that you start getting a feel for its conventions.

You should upload music videos that you like / are relevant and explain why.

As usual, start your blog and send me the url so that I can link it to the main blog. Remember to also put a link back to the main video project blog. Add a picture of yourself to your profile. Add any interesting links that you use or find useful. You probably don't need the Followers gadget, so get rid of it for better clarity. Do use labels to organise your posts more clearly and to allow the moderator to navigate your blog more easily.

You will be expected to come back in September with a selection of 2 to 4 titles so that you we can discuss them and agree.

To sum up, what you need to do now and chart on your individual blog is:
- research potential tracks - link them to your blog; explain why they would be good choices and what the bad points might be;
- research into similar products (artists and record labels, album covers, artists' websites, music videos, artists' looks/ fashion and iconography)
- exploration and analysis of the forms and conventions of similar products
- research target audience for existing artists / videos / music genres, particularly the ones you're interested in.

Your selected track must conform to the following:

- it should have plenty of scope for creativity;
- it must be available as a digital download or CD, and have been mixed and recorded to a high standard;
- it must NOT have been promoted successfully (in the last 10 years) by a professional music video;
- it must be clearly identifiable as a genre / sub genre;
- it must have a clearly definable audience;
- it must be suitable for public broadcast so no swearing, no sexually aggressive language / imagery, no drug-related lyrics.

We are aimimg to submit the coursework for the January session and therefore will need to get things under way very quickly.

PS: MySpace is full of new artists who have a webpage very much like the one you might choose to do as one of your ancillary tasks. Start searching here for instance.
You could also investigate less well-known song covers. See links on the right.

19 July 2010

And at the end of the project,...

the evaluation! It's important to keep the 4 questions in mind throughout and to start addressing them as early as possible. No essay-type evaluation this time; instead 4 activities/ tasks to complete. This young man has gone a step further and put it all in one film to accompany the work completed on his blog.

Evaluation- Elliott from cmdiploma on Vimeo.

Remember that the 4 evaluation questions are:
1. In what ways does your media product use, develop or challenge forms and conventions of real media products ?
2. How effective is the combination of your main product and ancillary texts?
3. What have you learned from your audience feedback?
4. How did you use new media technologies in the construction and research, planning and evaluation stages?

18 July 2010

Watch, watch, watch...

Watch as many music videos as possible from a range of genres.
Use the links on the right, including the playlist from PHMedia's YouTube Channel.

16 July 2010

ESSENTIAL READING Top 10 tips from your Chief Examiner

I will not leave this on the blog for too long as it is an article from the Media Magazine. Let's say it's inspired summer reading... We do have a subscription to this fantastic magazine... Do read it.

Ten tips for...
making your own music video
Two or three years ago, Pete Fraser wrote a piece for the very first issue of MediaMag with tips for students on making a music video – probably the most popular task for OCR A2 coursework. Since then, changes in technology have led to some opportunities to help make your music video project even better... Here he is again with an update.

Step 1: Choose a track
Ideally your track will be provided by your teacher as part of a selection for the whole class to select from. The most successful choices are usually unknown or semi-unknown artists. It is rare that moderators see work featuring tracks by very well-known stars; often choosing your favourite track or favourite artist leads to self-indulgent work.
MySpace is a good source of material; if you (or a teacher) search by genre, you can quickly find a range of stuff. You could even search by genre and by geographical area to give yourself the opportunity to find local bands who might even be prepared to appear in the video.
Make it short! Tracks that last five minutes rarely make good videos. It becomes very hard work to sustain the audience’s attention for more than three minutes and it means an awful lot of planning, shooting and editing. A really well edited two-minute video can earn much better marks than a long video which contains lots of padding.

Step 2: Write a treatment
In your group, listen to the track several times and discuss the ideas that it generates. Don’t just go with the lyrics – look to them to provide a springboard for ideas and soak up the atmosphere of the track. Write a pitch for the material with a strong and simple idea.
Have a clear concept which is workable! Don’t try to include too many different ideas – the more complicated you make it, the more can go wrong.

Step 3: Plan for everything
Storyboard – you can always shoot extra material but you need a very clear plan for what you are going to shoot so that no time is wasted when you get there. Plan people, places, props and costumes. Arrange every detail like a professional producer would.
Get everyone’s mobile numbers! You need to be able to contact one another easily. Aim to shoot it early, not up against deadline when something will always go wrong; if you are ahead of the game, you will avoid the problems turning into disasters.
Make sure your performers have rehearsed and know the words; it can be very embarrassing to watch something where the singer doesn’t know the words and it can ruin all your hard work elsewhere in the planning, shooting and editing. It’s part of the director’s job to motivate, so make sure your performer is motivated!

Step 4: Set up a blog
This is a fantastic way of enhancing your planning. You can use it to link to videos that influence you from YouTube, to the performer’s MySpace and to any photos that give you ideas. Take recce shots on location and post them onto your blog; put up pictures of props, costumes, instruments. The advantage is that you can add to this planning from any computer and every member of the group can contribute.

Look at relevant real examples – choose tracks from the same genre to give a sense of what the conventions are, not just great famous videos which may be impossible to emulate.
You can also do an animatic of your storyboard, where you film each of your drawings (however rough) and then capture your shots in the edit program before adding the music. This then gives you the opportunity to see how well your planning, and particularly the storyboard, is likely to work in practice. You may well find that the shot of the band you thought would look great will be revealed as lasting much too long when put with the music, indicating the need to cut the whole thing faster and re-think the storyboard. You can then upload your animatic to YouTube and paste it into your blog for feedback from others.
In effect, your blog becomes a place for all your ideas and the development of your planning as an e-scrapbook and something which can be submitted to the moderator as evidence for your planning marks.

Step 5: Know your equipment
Do test shots to try out effects. Check any quirks that the camera has; it is much better to find out before you go on the shoot than when you get back. You may need to check things like how to avoid the camera switching to widescreen mode. Do you know the edit program well enough for the things you intend to do? Experiment before the main thing!
When you do go out on your shoot, make sure you have the tripod and the attachment to fix the camera to it. Have you checked that the tape is loaded? Have you got the CD and player? If you don’t have it playing out loud on the shoot, you will find it very difficult to synch up the sound in the edit stage.

Step 6: The shoot
Make sure your location is useable for your purpose. If you are going to have passers-by going through the frame all the time, is that going to mess up your video? If you are on a stage, is it going to look convincing?
Shoot the performance at least three times with different set-ups. More, if possible, as this way you give yourself more options in the edit. Don’t forget: lots of close-ups! Shoot some of the performances with moving camera, handheld, whatever, otherwise it can end up looking pretty static. Make sure you have plenty of cutaways, experiment with extra angles and lighting changes.
Enthuse your performers – they must give it plenty! But overall, shoot more than you think you will need – there will always be shots you don’t like when you come to edit.

Step 7: Capture your footage
Label everything you capture so that you don’t have lots of files all called ‘untitled’ or just with numbers. Label by description for example, ‘close-up singer good 1’ to make it easy to find. Break it into manageable chunks, no longer than the full length of the song itself, and be selective! Don’t capture stuff you don’t need or which is obviously rubbish footage as you’ll fill up your computer unnecessarily and give yourself too much material to wade through.

Step 8: The edit
Synch up performances first and aim to get the whole picture rather than tiny detail. There is a risk of spending far too long on little moments of the video and never getting the whole thing finished: getting a rough cut which comprises just the performances intercut with one another should be an early target. Aim for a dynamic piece of work, which moves along at a pace. Cut and cut again – it’s rare that shots feel too short but common to see videos where shots drag on...
Upload a rough cut to YouTube and your blog and get feedback; it will also enable you to trace back your decisions when you come to the write up.
Do any effects work last, such as greenscreen or adding motion paths. This could be several hours work, so leave plenty of time to complete it.

Step 9: Screening
Hopefully you will have the chance for a big-screen premiere of your work at a local cinema which many schools and colleges now negotiate, but at the very least your work will be shown in class for feedback. Get feedback wherever you can and note it all down.
Upload your finished video to your blog via YouTube and look out for feedback there. Get the artist to look at it, to put it on their MySpace and give you feedback.

Step 10: Analysis
Unlike the real world of the promo director, you’ll have to write about it. Take advice about what is needed in your write up and start early. Get help with drafts of writing – get teachers to read it and comment, give it to parents or friends to help you proofread.
Make use of your blog – use it to remind you of the process and all the stages you went through.

Pete Fraser teaches at Long Road 6th Form Centre, and is Chief Examiner for OCR Media Studies A Level.

This article first appeared in MediaMagazine 19.

5 July 2010

Planning your Portfolio - getting the right song

Use the summer time to find your song and start your research. I'll give you more details shortly.

In the meantime, this is the kind of letter that you'll need to write to the copyright owner; though they might not reply to you, at least you've taken the right steps to get permission. Alternatively, you might want to ask if it would be ok to have your video posted on your school's YouTube channel.