Sunday, February 27, 2011

What makes a great music video is the same as a movie. Could this be the best music video of the decade?

There's hundreds of movies and music videos out there. But personally for me, a good music video shares the same qualities of a good movie. Like the recent Janet Jackson music video "Rock with U", wow, fantastic. It does not receive as much hits as it should say her more popular counterparts like Lady Gaga and Beyonce, which I feel is way over-rated in some aspects. I found this jewel of a music video by Janet Jackson and would love to share with my followers here,  with the hope that we also get to learn what qualities that constitute a great music video.

1) Singularity in vision
Music videos and movies are a form of visual medium. Therefore, a lot of techniques and editing are involved in creating that visual. Taking the example of the "Rock with U" music video, the shot were seen as one continuous take, without any cuts. Here's where the "trick" is borrowed from another favourite film of mine by Alfred Hitchcock "Rope". In that film too, Alfred Hitchcock tricked the viewers into thinking they are watching one continuous take of the film. But if you watched carefully the music video, the set consisted of 2 different dance floors with a walkway connecting the 2 rooms. Whenever the light dims, there's where the cut happens. But the continuity of the visual is maintained and seem like "sustained" in a continuous shot.

2) Defined dance choregraphy
For a music video, especially a dance number, the choreography is very important. In the music video, Janet Jackson hired a number of dancers and the moves are seen in uniformity. If you were to analyse the dance moves, it actually runs concurrently with 2 different choreographies at the same time. This is a wonderful trick so as to layer the dancing moves, and keep a story running. In the beginning of the music video, you'll notice a group dancing a specific choreography and then when the camera reaches Janet on the stage, she has a few dancers with her remaining static until when the music beat heats up and her turn to change the choreography. For a good movie also, the body language needs to be specific in order to convey the various types of chararcters.

3) Strong,catchy music coupled with fashion
For a movie, the dialogues are vital. For a music video, the music/lyrics are the audio part of the medium. If you were to listen to the song, it's actually a very simple piece with 5-note melody and a basic chorus line. Not a complex song, hence it's very easy for the audience to listen and dance to the beat. But with a simple catchy tune, therefore the dance moves can be slightly more imaginative and helps bring out the visual spectacular immediately for a music video which is only 5-minute, say compared to a movie which is longer and takes up more time. Instant, attention-grabbing visuals are needed for a music video with their limited screen time. Costumes play a role too, but for a dancing video, you'll notice the fashionable embellishments are kept to a minimum in the music video above, and upper body only. Nothing fancy from the waist down because a lot of intense leg works involved in the dancing.

4) Diverse cast
This is the most important element to make any visual medium successful, and that is the cast. Notice the various types of people in the music video: in terms of race you have Asians, Hispanics, Africans, Caucasians. In terms of sexuality, you'll notice transvestites, gays, straights and all the colours in the rainbow. Diversity is key because the more diverse cast you have, the more viewers you'll able to attract and the audience will relate to. Diversity also makes the piece look international. One great box-office hit movie that is recommended for its cast diversity is "Inception". You'll notice the team consists of a Japanese, Indian, British, French and of course Americans.

Last year's acting skid team: diversity in casting
So there you have it, the secret ingredients in making your next feature film/music video a success! Bear in mind that music video and film production requires as much layer of skills and diverse interest and learnings. So open your mind and learn new things. Do not be a skeptic and narrow your thinking to what you think you know. In Malaysia, we have so much diversity, why don't our local producers and directors use them? Why don't we see more Chinese and Indians acting in Malay movies? For me, I've always like to hire people who are different from me. An example was last year's event acting skid roadshow. In my upcoming project, I'll be starring in a foreign film (read post before this). Remember that diversity always make any project more exciting and colorful.