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Monday, 14 November 2011

Further research into music videos: Lighting

From my initial research i realised that lighting is vital to the not only the look but feel of a music video and must express the mood and tone of the band's music. After looking further into the realms of music videos out there in the alternative music universe i've collated a few examples that have given me inspiration.

Tori Amos is a hugely succesful American singer-songwriter who was at the forefront of alternative rock in the 90's.

In her video for  California Maybe theres a strong sense of drifting and memories as the artist wanders through California. Shots are slowed down or linger on her, delaying the edit.This suitably matches the soft lilting vocals and soothing, sustained strings. The video has a sense of nostalgia and is suitably retro in its look. Super 8 quality to the film has the classic stamp of an 'indie' movie. The handheld nature of a lot of the shots gives an almost home video style.  The use of a lower frame rate, induces a more dream like state.

The colours are vivid yet softened and there is a strong polaroid effect to some the lighting. In presenting a snapshot of her living in this state, the video is in some way isolating despite the intimate nature of the track. Close up shots are rarely shown and held even less. It appears like a collection of postcards. Photographic, remembering, longing.

Comparing this polaroid with an screen capture from the video you can clearly see similarities in lighting, with a strong exposure gradient. Light coming from the centre of the background outwards.

blue filter instantly creates association with California, especially when combined with the iconography of the palm trees. In some ways this is a staple of a pop video, the need to communicate location and setting with immediacy.

Another of her videos,for the song Big Wheel. Whereas the previous video was all about colour and texture. Here it is the exposure setting that is the defining feature.  Again there is the presence of a vintage quality, drawing aesthetic inspiration from the past seems to be a key part of Amos' musical identity with the black and white instantly recognisable as stylish, sophisticated and classic. The video is simple, the focus is not on the landscape but on the artist. It is as if she is making the statement 'look, i'm a serious, mature musician not some starlet trying to give an overly flashy performance'.The editing is defiantly visible, with cuts going deliberately against the beat of the music to make the film process noticeable. The aim seems to be to remove it from mainstream pop and detract from the fact it is quite a conventional performance based music video. The high contrast between black and white makes the video more visually striking it isn't apologetic with high exposure one of its defining features lighting wise. It doesn't conform to the 'male gaze' model of many music videos featuring female artists with the camera focusing on the face as opposed to body parts, she wants to give off that sexy allure in a way that draws attention to character as opposed to boobs and bum.

You could you almost suggest this shot is way over exposed but it gives a vibrance that might otherwise not be there. There is definitely an element of French chic influences here with the elegant piano that adds a layer of sophistication and art. yet with one foot on the stool she's given it a twist, made a statement of defiance almost rebellion.

Sigur Ros - Sæglópur

Sigur ros make incredibly beautiful music that evokes strong imagery for anyone who listens to it so its only right that their music videos are just as beautiful.

The opening shot which lasts for 2 minutes is stunning. The peaceful stillness that is at the heart of the bands music is captured and sustained perfectly in that one shot. The use of slow motion is incredibly effective  as the details in the ripple of on the water and the hair captures gracefulness of movement. The beam of sun lighting the whole shot and casting the figures into silhouette is incredibly cinematic and although the track is quite different to mine i'm aware of the need to really draw on the emotional weight behind the vocals to try to accentuate what you are framing. The previous video used high exposure to good effect, here is a masterclass in how to shoot with low exposure.

The guitar and drum kicks in as she plunges into the water. Again the lighting is perfect, minimal in a way that provokes the dramatic. The swimmer is framed in bubbles of light and there is a translucent quality to the image. 

The editing matches the mood and pace of the music helping to draw you in. Focus becomes a key part of the cinematic quality to it, the narrow depth of field adding to the dream like quality of it.

 I am aware of wanting to do a lot in my video both performance and narrative with an eye at fast editing and a variety of locations but this video was a reminder of the value in a more patient approach. You should not be afraid to sustain a shot or moment. There is an unexplained calmness to adds to the intensity of the narrative. Its a simple narrative yet shot with such care that the emotional pull creates something truly atmospheric and moving. What i'm learning more and more with narrative based music videos is its not always about the story you tell but the way you tell it.

rebellion (lies) arcade fire                                                                   Arcade Fire are one of my favourite bands at the moment, there's something about their music that just feels so complete, like all the pieces that should be are there. They are of a similar ilk to the style of track for my music if only on a bigger scale and both tracks have the same sense of strong rhythm pushing it forwards.

 What struck me most about this video was the strong feeling of autumnal weather conveyed purely through the use of lighting. There is definitely a playfulness to the lighting, like autumn leaves on the trees the screen is lit by a wide variations on gold. There is certainly a joyful light rebellious nature underlying the whole song and video.

The soft focus and narrow depth of field reflects some of the sentiments of the song "come on baby in our dreams, we can live our misbehavours". It looks like you gazing at it through a child's eye, fantasy and imagination around every corner.

I like how although a performance video, the band are totally submerged in their environment and that there are different narratives to be read into. It is the marching of the band forward that not only matches the momentum of the song but connotes freedom and appears liberating. As the song builds in momentum the camera shots become less static with more steadicam/handheld. The camera twitches around and goes in and out of focus like an excited child but not in a nauseous way.

The free spirited nature and artistic imagery of the video fits into the ideals of the alternative pop/rock music scene.

Several unusual camera angles are used in the video which just gives it another dimension. In some ways its a return to good wins theory with the element of voyeurism, the audience are reminded they are gazing in on this world, not a part of it.

Electric feel by mgmt-

Although the Arcade Fire's music video had interesting use of colour filtration/grading and unusual adjustments to white balance, MGMT take the dream like quality to another level.

The colour grading and post effects are sensational. Somewhere between an acid trip and a painting from one of the romantics, the colours are incredibly vivid. It conforms to the conventions of psychedelic pop and could be seen as a throwback to the heydays of hallucenagenic drugs and hippie culture in the 60's. It reminds us of the fun you can have with a music video and the power of pure unrestricted imagery.

I feel like i'm coming into this process with a cinematographers eye. For me the audio will take care of itself, its how we use imagery and imagination to saturate the tone of the music that will truly be the ultimate challenge.

Remember. Lighting is Key.

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