Sunday, 16 February 2014

Question 4 - How did you use media technologies in the construction and research, planning and evaluation stages?

YouTube: From the very beginning of the course, technology played a big part. YouTube was an obvious choice to allow me to try and find inspiration for the sort of music video that I wanted to create. By looking at videos that seemed to the same sort of genre that I was working towards, it meant that I was able to distinguish a list of conventions that would be necessary to include in my video. When working towards the plans for my music video, being able to easily access the official video of the song that I was using meant that I could work out timings – allowing me to construct storyboards and the animatic which were accurate and representative of my ideas for the video. Although YouTube was incredibly useful, there were several restrictions in terms of the accessibility during college hours. Nevertheless, I was able to access another video sharing site, Vimeo, meaning that I could easily continue to filter through videos. As I began to construct my music video, I was able to upload drafts onto YouTube and embed them onto Facebook and Blogger to get feedback and to show by how far I had progressed.

TimeToast: In order to move through this course smoothly, it was necessary that I kept to the deadlines for when each section of my work should be completed by. So that this was possible, I created a timeline on TimeToast where I could add events and make small checklists of what was expected by each date. By doing this, it meant that I was much more aware of the workload, allowing me to balance it all out within the time that I had.

The digital video camera: this was very convenient, because it allowed me to easily record over any unusable footage, such as when the lighting was incorrect. It also meant I didn’t have to rewind the tape to watch my footage back, as it was all saved straight onto the camera’s hard-drive. This also meant that I could import the footage straight from the camera, and didn’t need to look after a tape as well as the camera. It allowed me to import the footage at home and email it to myself for editing at college with PremierPro, which sped up the process massively. However, a drawback to using this sort of camera was the limited battery life, which meant having to preserve the battery in order to get all the shots I needed done, sometimes resulting in having to rush some shots.

Photoshop: In order to produce my ancillary texts (the digipak and the magazine advert), I used the programme which I thought would allow me to create the most professional looking pieces. By being exposed to a great deal of tools and effects, it meant that I essentially had creative freedom in terms of how I wanted these two pieces to look:1. Cutting Tool – Also known as the lasso tool, I used this to cut the main star out of the original image to allow me to put her on a different background, to keep the same background throughout the whole digipak. By doing this, I could get an exact copy of the image, suggesting an image of uniformity and skill. Although they weren’t cut out perfectly, I think the rough edges added another dimension to the overall look of the digipak and, to a lesser extent, the advert, like it was intentional.
2. Colour charts – Using the “colour libraries” was really quite significant to the way that I undertook this project, as the colours black, grey, turquoise and red were things that were important. Using these colour libraries allowed me to keep check of the exact colours I was using, to keep them coherent throughout the whole project.
3. Fonts – As well as the vast amount of colours, the sorts of fonts that I had access to was also something which helped my ancillary tasks turn out as well as they did. Looking through, I could select fonts that would suit the genre and help my pieces to fit in with other, already existing products. In the end, I used a font from front website '', which I temporarily downloaded onto the college system each computer session and was able to then use in Photoshop for my digipak and advertisement. Doing this allowed me to 
4. Opacity – Having the flexibility to change how solid the images were meant that I could layer one image over another to create a different effect. I decided not to use this effect in the final production pieces, but doing this method of editing helped me to generate more ideas for the images used, such as changing the opacity to 100% and colouring in the image black, for the inside cover of the digipak.

Premiere Pro: For my music video, I also used software from the Adobe Master Collection. Using this meant that I could be a lot more accurate with the editing and use effects which would help suit the music and the messages of the house style that I was trying to convey. 
1. Speed/Duration – By being able to alter the speed of certain shots, I was able to suit the pace of the music a lot better as well as exposing areas that needed to be worked on to allow me to fill the time effectively. I used this tool to increase and decrease the speed of certain shots, in appropriate places throughout the song.
2. Zooming tool – This allowed me to zoom in and out of the timeline. For me, this was one of the most important tools, as it allowed me to make my editing a lot more accurate throughout the video. Without it, I would have missed certain cuts and blank spots where the footage had not been lined up properly. Most importantly however, it let me more accurately and precisely line up each clip with the section of the song it was for, particularly where lip syncing is featured, as getting this wrong would ruin the whole video.
3. Snipping tool – Along with the zooming tool, this helped to make my video fit the pace and style of the music concisely.
4. Copy and paste – Although something so simple, being able to copy and paste different shots, helped to make the video uniform. Also, it saved a lot of time as I didn’t have cut down particular shots (which would have had to have been done exactly to get the right effect).

In conclusion, having all this technology meant that I had greater opportunity to fulfil the creative brief for this task. In terms of the pieces that I made, these technologies gave me the ability to improve them through post-production even if the images or footage wasn’t the greatest. 
As suggested by David Gauntlett, the impact of all this technology has allowed me to become somewhat part of the 'making and doing culture' through the increased power that we have as we have transformed into the 'pull' media model. This has, however, meant that the project was partly vulnerable to technological determinism, resulting in decisions being made as a result of the technology that was on offer, rather than me making every decision beforehand.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Question 1 - In what ways does your media product use, develop or challenge forms and conventions of real media products?

In order to produce a promotion package that would fit the Indie/PBR&B genre, I needed to look at the conventions that were typical of this that would result in me finishing with a product that is realistic. As stated by Steven Neale, genre is said to be “repetition of difference”, suggesting that genre allows you to repeat but also challenge and manipulate conventions.

Music Video:
For inspiration for my music video, I looked at some existing music videos to generate ideas. By researching into videos by artists such as Miguel and Frank Ocean, as well as videos for other songs by Janelle Monáe, it helped me to decide what the key features of this kind of music video are and whether to use or adapt and alter them. Alongside this, Pete Frazer also highlighted that: “Different genres of music produce slightly different visual conventions in music videos”, suggesting certain conventions were limited to this particular genre and would help me to create a product that would comfortably fit into Indie/PBR&B.
A common theme in Janelle's own videos is the 'Wondaland' logo appearing at the beginning of every video, a motif that is exclusive to her record label The Wondaland Arts Society, which she founded, and has become a part of her star image. I therefore decided to include this at the beginning of my video, before the music started, like in hers. I found a similar idea occurring when I looked at videos by Miguel, as they also featured his own 'logo' at the beginning, in the same font as on his albums.

When looking at the videos by other artists I used for research, it was made clear that the majority of the screen time was spent on the artist themselves; something which seemed necessary for my music video, and is something Andrew Goodwin theorized as being an important part of every music video, regardless of genre; as an artist as part of a record label, there is a need to include regular close ups of the artist and to develop a motif which would potentially recur across their work to build/reflect their star persona. The medium close ups themselves featured the star miming the lyrics to maintain performance (Pete Frazer), another common element associated with music videos, which was shown to be the key theme in all songs from this genre that I researched. The aesthetic of the music video was also greatly influenced by my research - the genre itself is commonly associated with a highly polished and sparse feel, with only basic elements involved, meaning that the video would have to be finished to a highly professional standard as it would not fit in with these themes. 

This brings me neatly onto mise-en-scene. I ensured that the main star wore a costume that was, overall, clean and sharp, that would reflect the sorts of clothes that the audience would wear (blacks and whites, shirts, bow ties, brogue shoes, etc.) but that also looked natural in terms of make-up and hair styling. With the editing, I wanted to make it look clean by cutting the shots to the pace of the music (also linking back to Synaesthesia) demonstrating a sparse quality and stripping back any overly complex ideas. The location I chose also seemed to be typical of this genre, by having my performer dance and sing in front of a plain, basic white backgorund. 

This genre, despite being one of generally set 'rules', if you like, does feature a large amount of variation between some songs and music videos. This allowed me to employ a certain amount of creativity into my music video, whilst still being redundant enough to suit these classic genre characteristics. 

In making my music video, and by doing the research beforehand, it was clear to me that it should be about the balance between entropy and redundancy. On one hand, my video needed to have some suggestion of repeated concepts, perhaps inspired from other videos (helped by the preliminary research), in order to set up a "framework of comprehension” (Tom Ryall). It can be beneficial to audiences, producers and their music to exploit these already established genre conventions; as an audience, one takes pleasure in identifying with repeated elements, allowing the producers to thrive upon this for their benefit through any intertextual references to videos that adopt the same sense of style. On the other hand, as illustrated by Susan Hayward, “genre is never static, but shifting and slippery.” Although going against templates can pose an economic risk and alienate the audience through a lack of cohesion, including an element that they wouldn’t suspect can surprise them and become something from which they take pleasure, so long as it is correct doses, which is what I think I managed to do with my video.

This element of challenging certain genre characteristics is shown in my somewhat lack of a noticeable narrative. Although I saw in other videos by
Janelle Monáe, as well as some by similar artists, that there wasn't a distinct narrative, I feel as though my video doesn't contain one at all.

Digipak & Advert:
Along with my music video, there were also key conventions that I needed to include in both my magazine advert and digipak, that had I discovered through conducting several pieces of research into existing pieces. By looking at album covers by artists like Frank Ocean and Kanye West, as well as magazine adverts for the latter and Drake, it was clear that both needed to be kept relatively simple and minimalist, whilst still featuring elements of creativity.

While looking at the album cover for Drake's album 'Nothing Was the Same', together with the magazine advert, I noticed that the same images and exact same theme was used, suggesting a sense of coherency between the two, making one identifiable to the other - you see either of them separately and know they're both for the same product. For my advert and album cover, I used image
s that were relatively similar and used the same filters and editing style on them, in order to make them look sharp and clean – an appearance that the audience would appreciate and recognise. This theme continued with the lack of bright colours, apart from the use of the red for the cross in the word 'DIE'. For the digipak, I included typical features like a barcode on the rear of the casing, the name of the album and artist on the spine and the track titles on the back.

I also added typical features that were on almost all of the existing adverts that I looked at, such as star ratings, the release date, and the formats that the album was available in (advertisements for Amazon, iTunes, etc.). With regards to mise-en-scene, I used the same model and location for both pieces.