Sunday, 29 April 2012

Evaluation Question 1

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

What are conventions?
Conventions are things that we expect to see in a certain thing. More specifically for this project the conventions of real media products would be the things that we would expect to see and that would be usual to be on/in a particular thing, which in our case is a music video, digipak and magazine ad.
"A way in which something is usually done, esp. within a particular area or activity."
For this evaluation question I will be looking at how we have used these typical conventions in our products, as well as how we have challenged and changed them for our particular products. 

Within the music video industry there are a large number of genres and deriving from these, sub-genres. As part of the course we have had to consider both format conventions and genre specific conventions. Both of these will be looked at below.

Music Video
General music video conventions.
One of the early tasks that we had to do in this project was to look at fifteen different music videos and deconstruct them. Having done this we could compare notes as a class and then as a group when we formed into our individual groups. This meant that we had quite a detailed list of general music video conventions and had a good idea of what we would expect to see in a music video. This was a very helpful thing to do as it meant we had a detailed list of conventions, but also gave us the chance to watch and focus on detail a minimum of fifteen videos each meaning we had a strong idea about what does and does not work for music videos. A full list of what we considered to be music video conventions can be found here.

I will now pick out some of these general music video conventions and give examples of videos where they can be seen.

Depeche Mode - Enjoy The Silence
Depeche Mode - It's No Good This video is a good example video as it picks apart and exaggerates the conventions of music video, as if the director of the video is showing off their knowledge and understanding of these conventions and 'making fun' of them. This isn't an idea that is refined to music videos - the Scary Movie films are an example of this kind of thing where they exaggerate the conventions of a slasher movie in a comical way.
Depeche Mode - Enjoy The Silence Another video by the same band is a good example of music videos making use of a variety of locations and using a number of different shot types. The reasons for doing this would mainly include the fact that it makes the video more interesting. Music videos are designed to be watched again and again and using a variety of locations makes the video more interesting and increases the chances that people will watch it more than once.
Oasis - Wonderwall This video is an example of a diegetic opening. This is a common idea in music videos and involves the video beginning before the song; the noise and footage is all from the on-screen world and isn't put in over the top by editing. There are a large number of videos that use this idea. It also isn't unusual to see a linear sequence at the beginning of a video that can last a lot longer than this particular example, for example the long version of 'Hello' by Martin Solveig 
Madonna - Hung Up
Madonna - Hung Up This is an example of the Male Gaze Theory which means that a female artist uses her body and image to try and attract a male audience. The reasons for doing this would be to increase the potential target audience for the video. If this video was bought solely for the song/music, it would probably attract few male fans, but by showing off her body Madonna would increase the chance that males would buy and watch the video. This isn't an unusual idea for female artists, with people such as Rihanna and Lady GaGa still using the idea.

More specific genre conventions.
As well as gaining an understanding of general music video conventions, we needed to look closely at and understand the genre specific conventions as these were the things we were most likely to look to challenge or use. To create a list of things we considered as genre conventions, we looked at videos we had already looked at in our genre and used the internet to research our genre. A full list of what we considered to be genre specific conventions for our video can be found here

As I did with the format conventions I will now pick out some conventions and give example real world products to show how these conventions work.

Jesus Of Suburbia
Green Day - Jesus Of Suburbia This video is a good example of a video in our genre featuring the idea of isolation, as well as being an example of a video using continuity editing. This video was suggested to us as an example of these things during audience feedback. It shows that the theme of isolation, a key idea in our own video, does work and has been used in real media products; Green Day are a hugely successful band and the fact they have used these ideas in one of their videos shows to us that their is a case for such ideas in the Alternative Rock genre.
Pearl Jam - Jeremy As with Jesus of Suburbia, this is another video that uses the theme of isolation and continuity editing. The video on You Tube alone has almost eight and a half million views showing that the video is quite popular and has been successful with these ideas included within it. This was also a good example video for us as it includes a suicide scene at the end and scenes shot at a school - two things we included in our own video. However for the purpose of looking at conventions it is a good example because of the style of editing and the themes included.
The Vaccines - If You Wanna This video is a good example of a video including performance footage, the band/singer as a focal point and a video using fast paced editing. These are all conventions within our genre and can all be seen within this video which is one of the reasons this is a particularly good example as it shows the combination of conventions being used at the same time.
The Vaccines - If You Wanna
Foo Fighters - Best Of You This video is a good example of a video that combines performance and narrative based footage. This idea comes from Goodwin's Theory that there are three types of music video, with videos generally combining two of the aspects.
Foo Fighters - Learn To Fly Another video by the Foo Fighters is an example of a video including a diegetic intro and outro. This genre specific example has over fifteen and a half million views on You Tube which again shows that the idea works within the genre and the particular target audience.

How did we use, develop and challenge conventions in our music video?
Throughout the project and the creation of each product we were constantly considering the conventions of each product and looked at real media products frequently to gain ideas and inspiration. I will now look at how we used, challenged or developed the conventions of music videos in general and the conventions of the alternative rock genre.

Music Video Conventions

  • Wide range of camera shots and angles - This is definitely a convention that we tried to stick closely to as it is a key convention of music videos and is one of the simplest ways to try and make the video interesting and to make people want to watch the video more than once. We never really considered challenging this convention as it is a main convention of music videos and the alternative rock genre.
  • Fast paced editing - This is another common convention of music videos, however we did challenge this in certain places of our music video. The reason for this was because of the nature of our video, a depressed, lonely and isolated protagonist, we felt that slower editing in places could emphasise the dullness of their world and to show how awful their life had become. However we did also try and include some faster paced editing as our song lends itself to this kind of editing, particularly in certain parts with the guitar instrumentals.
  • Linear/Non Linear editing - Both of these kinds of editing could be considered conventions as many videos use each, different genres favouring different types. In our case we used a lot of linear editing and whilst this works in places, if we were to do the project again I think we could have included more non-linear editing to try and emphasise the confusion and problems in the protagonists world.
  • Goodwin's Theory (Three aspects to music videos) - In our video we included performance footage and narrative footage, which sticks to the usual idea that a video will include two of the three aspects. There are examples of videos using just one aspect (If You Wanna - The Vaccines) but it is very much conventional to use two aspects and we never really considered not including two aspects.
  • Diegetic Openings - We decided to stick to this convention and tried a number of different ideas of how to do this before settling on having the band plugging in their equipment. Famous examples of this convention include Depeche Mode's 'It's no Good' and an extremely famous example by Michael Jackson, 'Thriller' 
  • Male/Female Gaze - Depending on the target audience of the video, the male and female gaze theory is one that appears quite commonly throughout music videos,as do sexual themes. We didn't include anything of this sort in our video however as it doesn't really fit with our genre, band or idea for our video. It isn't something that we were ever likely to include.
  • Framing - This is key to making an interesting video and is something we were constantly thinking about when filming. It is often spur of the moment ideas that look really good in music videos and as much of our video was filmed in outdoor settings we had the opportunity to find different ways of framing shots in our video, for example looking through the railings at the skate park.

Alternative Rock Conventions

An example of layering from our video
Game footage - Sci-Fi Aspect
  • Combination of Performance and Narrative aspects - This is a convention which we carried on with through the whole project. Though it isn't seen in every sample footage (as we hadn't filmed performance footage when we filmed the earliest sample footage) it was always our intention to include both of these aspects and this remained the case in our final product.
  • Focus on the front man in performance footage - Over the course of the project we filmed performance footage on two occasions. The first time we included very little focus on the front man of the band. When filming the second edition of sample footage, and the footage included in our final video we included more emphasis on the front man. We probably didn't focus on him as much however, as in many videos in our genre and have therefore challenged the convention to some extent as we also focus on the other members of the band a similar amount.
  • Fast paced editing - This is very common in our genre, but isn't used very much throughout our video. We felt a slower pace of editing fit in with the mood of our video better and kept the editing pace relatively slow. An example in our video of some faster paced editing comes when the protagonist is by the river throwing stones in. This is arguably the convention that our video challenges the most.
  • Editing to the beat - Once again this is another convention of our genre, though there aren't many examples of this in our video. We felt not cutting to the beat seems strange as it is challenging the convention and this reflects the 'messed up' state of mind of our protagonist. If we were to re-do the project then I would probably include cutting to the beat more in particular parts of the video, for example when he is playing the computer games as this is the part of the video where the protagonist has control and power in his life.
  • Layering - This is a common convention in music videos in a number of different genres including the Alternative Rock genre. We tried to include this convention whenever we thought it was appropriate as it is also very fitting with the other conventions that suit our music video. Not only is it a convention of alternative rock, but it also fits in extremely well with the sci-fi and futuristic themes of our band, as well as signifying the state of the protagonists mind with problems building up inside their head and showing the distortion throughout the video.
  • Specific to Muse - Sci-Fi aspects - Muse commonly use Sci-Fi aspects in their videos and this is something that we have tried to reflect in certain parts of our video, for example with the gaming footage when the protagonist is playing on 'Mass Effect', the only time he is ever really happy and settled in the video. Examples of videos by Muse featuring this kind of theme include 'Sing For Absolution' and the original video for 'Bliss
  • Specific to Muse - Special FX - This is quite a common convention of music videos anyway, but in particular is used by Muse to try and show the Sci-Fi and futuristic theme. We tried to use this convention as it is clearly something that appeals to fans of the band and therefore our target audience.

Magazine Advert
General Magazine Advert Conventions
Like we had to look at and deconstruct music videos to get a detailed list of conventions, we had to do the same for both of our ancillary texts. We carried out the process in a similar way to when we did it for the videos. We each looked at examples and put together what we considered a comprehensive list of conventions, firstly for general music magazine adverts and then for genre specific magazine adverts.  A full list of conventions can be found in our blog post here. The list on the link is of general magazine advert conventions. As you would expect, many of the conventions of general magazine adverts overlap with typical genre conventions. For this reason I will move onto discuss genre conventions, before an overview of all the conventions that we used or challenged.

Genre Specific Magazine Advert Conventions
Example Magazine Ad from Muse
The majority of the conventions that are here described as 'genre specific conventions' will fit in with the general conventions of magazine adverts and our description of them as specific simply here means that they apply to our genre. As well as the list of general advert conventions we tried to create a detailed list of genre specific conventions so we knew what would likely be included in real media products, allowing us to create a product high in verisimilitude. The conventions we considered as 'specific to our genre' include:

  • Artists Name in large, bold font at the top of the advert
  • Album Name usually the same size font as the artist name but not in bold
  • Album Cover
  • Twitter, Facebook and Youtube links
  • Tour dates
  • Record Labels
  • Information about the album (usually says "Including" followed by the singles released from the album)
  • QR Codes
  • Either release date, out now or pre-order
  • Artist website
  • Name of hit single included in the album
  • Image of the band
  • Labeled as limited addition to increase sales

I will now go on to discuss the conventions that we used and any that we challenged or excluded from our idea.

Conventions we have used.

  • Artists Name in large, bold font at the top of the ad - This is a very typical convention and was always one that we were likely to include. The name of the band is a huge selling point for our product as they are a very well known brand. By having their name in bold it would be easily identifiable to fans of the band and immediately anchors the poster to the band.
  • Futuristic, sci-fi background image - We wanted to keep the advert realistic to the band and this is a theme that can be seen throughout their work. It alos allowed us to tie the magazine advert together with the digipak and video to make them into an overall package.
  • Tour Dates - This is a simple piece of information that we found on a number of posters and we felt that by sticking with this convention it helped to make the advert look authentic, something that was really important to us.
  • Photo of the digipak - As you would expect when something is advertising something else, the magazine advert included a picture of our digipak. This again provided a link with the other products in the package and it seemed quite obvious that we should include this convention as if it was a real media text then you would need to know what the digipak looks like to buy it in a shop.
  • Sentence to grab the audience's attention 'In stores now' - This is another convention that we felt gave the advert authenticity. As we have already established a convention is something you expect to see on a product and therefore by including conventions such as this, the product takes on the look of a real media product,
  • Album Name usually the same size font as the artist name but not in bold and at the bottom of the ad - The point here is very similar to point one about the artists name. There was never really much doubt that we wouldn't use this convention.
  • Twitter, Facebook logos/ links - This convention links in with new media technologies and is something you would expect to see on a modern advert. As Muse like to have a futuristic theme it would seem strange for our product not to follow the more modern conventions or at least challenge them in a futuristic way.
  • Information about the album (10 Year Anniversary Special Edition) - This is another typical thing to include in a magazine advert and again was pretty much always going to be included in our advert. The reason for this being that from the start of the project the re-branding of the video on it's tenth anniversary was one of our main ideas for the overall package and would therefore be very weird to leave this out of the advert as it would probably be it's biggest selling point.


General Digipak Conventions.

Digipak Example - Oasis
The way in which we established the conventions for our digipak was very similar to the way in which we researched our magazine advert conventions with the only real difference being what we were searching and looking at. A full list of Digipak conventions can be found in our blog post here. Many of the general conventions of Digipaks can be seen in our product and will be detailed below.

Genre Specific Digipak Conventions.

Digipak Example - Muse

As with our video and magazine advert we needed to establish the common conventions specific to the genre we were working in. The conventions that we found for our particular genre included:
  • Difference in colour between the front panel and all the other panels
  • Tend to have a similar front and back panel with the inside being different
  • Black and white shots for the inside of digipak
  • Album artwork on the front of the digipak
  • Artist name at the top of the digipak in bigger, bold font
  • Sticker
  • Tour Dates
  • Booklet/Leaflet inside (Example: Muse: Origin Of Symmetry)
  • Bar Code
  • QR code
  • Smallprint with copyright laws written
  • Website for the artist
  • Twitter/Facebook sites

Conventions we have used.
The conventions that we have used in our digipak include:
  • Name of artist at top - Similar to with the magazine advert this a key convention that we wanted to follow as it quickly anchors the product.
  • Limited edition sticker - With our product being a special edition, re-branding product we felt that it would provide verisimilitude to the product to include a sticker on the front panel. This idea was also well received in audience feedback, though they felt it could be positioned better.
  • Same colour scheme on front and back panels & Links between front and back - From looking at the example digipaks at the start, we quickly decided that we liked the digipaks that had links between the front and back panels and the two inside panels best. We then worked on this basis with our example ideas, and it remained for our final product. This convention counters another convention that suggests the front panel is different to all the others.
  • Picture of protagonist in music video - This created another link between the digipak and one of the other products, in this case the video. 
  •  Different theme and colour scheme for inside panels - Similar to the third point. With the front and back panels having links between the two, we also kept links between the inside panels with one image stretching across the two panels. This is a very different image to the outer panels and we feel it contrasts well.
  • Track lists - This is a typical convention of a digipak without which ours wouldn't look like a real product and would lack authenticity. 
  • Special edition DVD information - As you would expect when buying a product, particularly one claiming to be special edition, we felt we needed to include information to make it look like a real special edition product.
  • FaceBook and Twitter links - As with the magazine advert, these links show the new media technologies influence and show a way for the band/production companies to keep their audiences up to date. For a modern product they add verisimilitude.
  • QR Code - As with FaceBook and Twitter links
  • Swillob Prdouctions company logo - The production companies logo is something you would expect to see on nearly every product and therefore is something we included for authenticity again.
  • Copyright info - Like the above points, copyright information makes the product look like a real media product.

Overall Summary.
Depeche Mode - It's No Good
Conventions have at all stages of the course been closely linked with the majority of decisions that we have made which emphasises just how important they are, not only for us but also in real media texts. By definition they are what people expect to see in a particular thing and are therefore influential in pinning down audiences and attracting certain people to certain products. Genre, a huge part of the media industry, owes a lot to conventions as they can be what defines a genre, as shown in the Scary Movie films for the Slasher genre, or Depeche Mode's "It's No Good" which was mentioned earlier in this answer.

Throughout the project we have generally tried to stick quite close to typical conventions because, as stated in the previous paragraph, they are by definition what the audience expects. As there is a huge number of people who are fans of the alternative rock genre, these conventions are proven to work in the media industry. We have when we have felt it appropriate challenged these conventions, such as the slower paced editing in our video at times, to make our video stand apart from the rest. In general though we have used conventions to really target our audience whilst also using our own ideas to try and make the video interesting and appealing to our target audience.

Our use of conventions has increased through audience feedback where we have received suggestions (for example to watch the "Jesus Of Suburbia" video) that have then influenced our idea to take on board the ideas of particular conventions. The feedback that we have received also supports the areas where we were already using conventions and this generally received very good feedback.

Overall I think it is clear that we have generally made use of conventions by using and developing them in our own way on each of our three products. Whilst the reasons for sticking with each convention that we have has it's own reasons, the ultimate reasons for why we generally stay with convention is to do with audience and our target audiences. This therefore links directly in with Evaluation Question 3 and shows how different areas of creating such products combine and cross over ultimately linking each product, and the whole package, together.

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