Monday, 6 May 2013

Evaluation - "How effective is the combination of your main product and ancillary texts?"

As you're aware, over the course of the year I've worked on three separate materials for my artist: a music video, a digipak album design, and a promotional poster. Ideally, they should all work together to promote the artist's music and increase sales. Let's see how this has worked out...

Over the course of production, I've made a point of developing recurring motifs across the three pieces. What am I on about? I've put together a little presentation to show you. (Using Google Drive this time as I don't have PowerPoint on my computer at home; it's slightly more annoying than PowerPoint as fewer things are assigned to keyboard shortcuts, but at least its output is a bit prettier).

So "why is this important?" is the question indeed. The answer comes now, as I feel the need:
  • Star Image
  • Branding
Star Image

Star images are a kind of ideal. To quote Richard Dyer -
"A star is an image, not a real person, that is constructed out of a range of materials"
Ideals sell. Therefore it makes sense to reinforce this ideal star image whenever the chance is there, through the use of recurring motifs. The "range of materials" in this case refers to the three works - the video, digipak and poster. All three of them are working together to construct the image.

This ideological star image is hugely marketable, as audiences create a demand for fantasy images. This relates to one of Dyer's other theories, the utopia theory. This theory suggests that audiences look for the pieces of 'fiction' portrayed by the artist as an escape from their bland or unfavourable reality. Whilst my artist's imagery doesn't meet the Disneyficated happy-go-lucky utopia most people would associate with the theory upon looking into it for the first time, it -does- conform to an extent as Dark Flame's imagery is angsty, thus cool - something which many teenagers desire. This means that Dark Flame's star image has been successfully developed to appeal to an audience.


I think I'll also explain this from a slightly different approach. I'm going to be explaining this part using my own logic, rather than referencing a theorist. Let's see how this turns out...

Artists need to create their own recognisable brand, in the same manner as companies who produce goods. Here is an analogy for the sake of example:

Let's say we have a guy called... erm... let's call him Metal Overlord 3000. As well as having the world's coolest parents, Metal Overlord 3000 quite enjoys Cadbury's chocolate. Due to the consistent motifs which reoccur across both the packaging of Cadbury's chocolate bars, and the Cadbury print and  television adverts, Metal Overlord 3000 is now hugely familiar with the Cadbury logo and the purple colour scheme. Whenever he walks into a shop, the Cadbury chocolate bars will jump out to him, because they are something which he instantly recognises - which will make him consider buying them. This effect will also reoccur if Cadbury launch a new chocolate bar which again reuses these motifs on its packaging.

Now, back to the music industry. Let's say that Metal Overlord 3000 sees and enjoys Dark Flame's I Am... All of Me music video online. Let's say he also sees the poster in his local record shop. He will become familiar with the greyscale presence, Dark Flame's face and the logo. Because of this, upon passing the shelf with the album on it, this familiarity will kick in which will prompt him to check it out and hopefully buy it.

I personally think that thanks to the recurring motifs I've employed throughout my productions, I have been successful in producing a brand for my artist which would be recognisable.


Sunday, 5 May 2013

Evaluation - "What have you learned from your audience feedback?"

Over the course of researching and producing my work, I've taken feedback from potential audience members (read: consumers. People who would be giving me money.) on a number of occasions.

During the research phase, I gained feedback from potential audience members on what they expect to see in music videos. At first, I went with a fairly generic survey on Polldaddy, with responses including the following:

This shows that most of the people I'd asked here said they preferred storyline-driven videos, and weren't particularly bothered by the tone of the video.

As I mentioned in my later research, I was pretty skeptical about whether these findings were representative of my true target audience - and this is mainly because I'd originally asked anyone who felt like answering, as opposed to going out of my way to find people who are fans of the rock genre. I got some more specific feedback, including that below. One of the main things I learned from this is that rock fans like seeing the artist performing -

This was interesting to me as it contrasted the feedback I'd previously received; from this I saw that in order to market successfully to fans of rock music, my video had to have a heavy focus on my artist performing the song. This was actually a vital influence on the shaping of my video - originally I had intended to have quite a strong narrative focus during my early planning stages, but over time it became more apparent that this wouldn't be what my audience would want, so it made sense to strip the narrative elements down a lot.

This piece of feedback was also a big pushing point in terms of my video's direction; in the first survey a lot of people weren't bothered by a video's tone, yet the rock fan said that they like a more mature tone, which is why I decided to shy away from using too much bright, lively imagery.


What other source of audience feedback have I made use of? The answer is, of course, my wonderful media class. Early on in the year, before I'd started producing any material for the video, I talked my classmates through the concept I had at the time, as you can see here:

Whilst the concept I mention here was fairly different to what eventually happened in the final production (for reasons I've discussed over the last few posts), it meant my class were aware of the song I was using and the general idea of what I was going for, so they were able to give me input as I was going along, especially in the editing phase. This was actually a perfectly ideal scenario - as I established early on in the project, my target audience for the product are older teenagers and young adults - and I'm working in a room with 17-18 year olds, meaning I'm receiving feedback and creative input from members of my target audience. It's also been especially useful in a practical sense - as they've been in the same room as me, I've been able to play the work in progress to them locally and get feedback right away; if I were to ask for feedback from other people I would have to have gone through the process of exporting a draft and uploading it somewhere, which when you have not-so-great RAM and a slow internet connection, is the very definition of tedium.

Some of the features of my video which were added/changed as per feedback from classmates include:
  • longer strobe takes - when I first started putting the strobe transitions in, they were only about half as long as they are now; as some of my class members pointed out, because parts of those shots were completely black, at times it wasn't clear that it was supposed to be a strobe light effect and it just looked like the video had skipped.
  • variety of shots - another piece of feedback I received was that there weren't that many different kinds of shots during the performance sections which made it look a bit bland. Because of this, I got Sir to help me film some additional shots, like the extreme close-up of my face, and the shot of my guitar.
In addition to this, I also asked Sir to give me some written feedback, which I analysed here. This feedback taught me that in order to engage the audience, I should have a smoother introduction to the video.

In terms of the ancillary tasks, my main source of feedback was again my class. Let's start off with the digipak -

These are my first drafts, which, when presented to some of my class members, received some positive feedback, however it did seem to be of the "it's okay, I guess" variety. This, to an extent, supports my findings that perhaps this style of cover is a tad overused and therefore unable to stand out - they weren't exactly going to be blown away by a cover they've seen several thousand times before, are they? This, tied with my findings on the album chart, prompted me to add some brush textures to make it more interesting:

I decided to run these revised designs past my classmates again to see how they reacted to them, and I got a different kind of response - the "it's okay, I guess" had evolved into a more vocal "that looks really good". Because of this, I decided I'd continue using these texture effects across the rest of the panels...

...which worked, because it was met with a "that looks really cool!" (thanks Ben!). I think that the continued peer input really helped me win this one...

I also kept this feedback in mind when designing the promotional poster as well - as the texture effects were obviously successful, I used a similar effect on the poster (though not the -exact- same effect, to avoid redundancy from the digipak's cover also being there, as I mentioned elsewhere).

This again received the "it looks cool" feedback, so I then decided it had achieved its goal.


Saturday, 4 May 2013

The Everything Post

For the sake of making it easier to find all the final productions should you wish to, without all of my development notes.

Music Video:




Promotional Poster:

Production Update 11 - I Am... A Final Video

Apologies that this has taken so long to get uploaded; I managed to leave my memory stick in school during the week so I didn't have the file to upload at home. D'oh.

In terms of the changes: most revolve around fixing up the minor syncing issues I mentioned in the post for the previous draft, so sadly nothing too exciting. I have, however, changed the ending using a Gaussian Blur filter, with a couple of flickers - to a) reinforce the "disjoined" feel and b) so it feels more like an ending, rather than having a sudden finish.

Enjoy! Or something.


Thursday, 2 May 2013

Evaluation - "How did you use new media technologies in the construction and research, planning and evaluation stages?"

Throughout the course of putting together my productions, I've relied on a wide variety of different pieces of technology. This has been a consistent feature of production, and I've made use of lots of pieces of hardware and software at every single step, from the early research to showing off the final products. In this post I am going to cover everything which has been beneficial to me during this year.

First up is the hardware.

Apple iMac

This has pretty much been the main base throughout most of the project; specifically the video production.

  • Supports Final Cut Pro 7 (more on that later) which I've used to actually put the video together.
  • Has an internet browser (Safari); necessary for research.
Sony Bloggies
  • As I have had access to my own one of these I used this for filming the outside narrative parts of the music video. It has a reasonably decent picture quality for these parts.
  • I had initially attempted using these to film the performance shots, however they didn't seem to cope too well with the darkness.

Nikon SRL Cameras

The better, more expensive cameras which were available.

  • As I didn't have the opportunity to take these away from the school grounds, I wasn't able to use them for the outside shots... but they were great for the performance parts of the video. During the stationary shots they were attached to tripods, and for the moving shots, I had Sir run around with one (quite literally with the "crazycam" shots...). 
  • They can also take high resolution still photographs, so I had Sir take the photograph which I'd use on my digipak and promotional poster with one.

As for software...

Final Cut Pro 7

This has been the base for everything in terms of putting the music video together in post-production. It has quite a significant number of different parts which I've employed throughout the entire process -

  • File management: all the videoclips I've imported are easily accessible in the Browser (and playable in the Viewer), which made the process of critically analysing each shot to determine whether it is usable much easier.
  • The Canvas has let me play the video through as I was working, which let me see what I was doing. This is typically a pretty useful thing. The slight drawback with this is that at times it can be a bit laggy (which I put down to the presumably not-so-great RAM on the Mac; unfortunately I can't check the exact specs because the permissions won't allow me to. My nerd self is disappointed...) which makes it particularly difficult to accurately sync up the visuals (my lip-syncing) to the audio. This means that I've had to resort to ultra precise editing when zoomed in to the track to sync the two (otherwise known as the "left a bit, right a bit" method), and I'm still not convinced that everything is perfect because of this.
  • The Timeline is where the main magic happens... or something. This is where I've put everything together - as you can see from the screenshot, I've used what some would see as an unconventional timeline management system by piling several of clips on top of each other as opposed to just using a main track and a few overlay tracks - but there is logic behind this. This was in fact to try and work around my syncing problems - I got all of the main performance takes as close in sync as was possible (I stress the "as possible", my lip-syncing isn't perfect, which is another reason why I had to resort to the previously mentioned "left a bit, right a bit" technique") and used the Razor Blade tool to cut the clips to shape.
On top of just using the main parts of the application which are handed to you on a plate, I dug a bit deeper and made use of some other tools...

  • Image+Wireframe: some of the shots needed a bit of cropping - one of the performance takes which was otherwise a good take had a bit of an unwanted door in the shot over to the right; I used the Wireframe to zoom in so this is out of view. I also used the zoom to give a bit more variety in how close to my face the camera appears to be - which to an extent followed Sir's suggestion of making the production "more crazy".
  • Colour Correction: Most of my video is in greyscale, because DARK and EDGY = cool. For the sake of making the greyscale effect, I just reduced the saturation to the absolute lowest - though FCP's Colour Correction tool can also adjust the balance of the blacks and whites, which I've deliberately tampered with from shot to shot as an additional little touch to support the whole dark vs. light concept.
  • Gaussian Blur: Tied with some stock fade transitions to make that cool little flicker blur to nothing effect at the very end of the video.

This, at first, looks like a basic media player, akin to QuickTime or Windows Media Player; but it has an incredibly useful function which I discovered when working on personal projects about a year or so ago - it can be used for converting and compressing video files. I've used it to convert the .mov output files from FCP into .mp4 files - I've found .mp4 files typically have lower file sizes whilst still being of a decent quality - so I've used it whenever I've had either a draft or some kind of video to post on this blog, so I didn't have to wait a decade for the thing to upload.

Adobe Photoshop CS6

(Photo from elsewhere because I'm not using a computer with PS installed right now to screenshot for myself. I would link to the site for the sake of attribution, but said site appeared to be teaching others how to go about pirating the software, and that's no good...)

Used for the creation of both the digipak design, and the poster design. I've covered more specifics into how I used the software for the poster in the video here, but I should clarify that I used similar techniques for the digipak production as well. 

I used Photoshop because a) I've been using it for years for different things and so I sort-of have an idea of what I'm doing and b) it's a pretty powerful piece of software with a lot of editing options.

Microsoft PowerPoint

I'm going to be honest - I don't like PowerPoint in the slightest because it has a hideous UI and I have to look at one of the things every time someone wants to present anything, but I will grudgingly admit that it can be beneficial in some very specific situations (by which I mean laying things out in bullet point format with the odd picture). Hence why some of the blog posts here have PowerPoint embeds.

I've taken advantage of this by using social media to gain input from potential future audience members as to what they want to see in productions, for the sake of research...

Web forums

As seen when I conducted early research into fans of the rock genre, web forums can be useful for collecting feedback from specific audiences - this is because most forums revolve entirely around specific areas of interest, and in this case I was able to ask the members of two music-oriented forums for their opinions.

Social networking (e.g. Facebook/Twitter)

We're at a point now where practically everyone in western society uses a social networking site of some kind, and if we ignore the fact that a great deal of what you see on them consists of invites to play stupid Flash games and fifteen year olds going on about how they want to go out and get drunk, they can be pretty useful tools for asking your friends for their opinions on different factors which help shape a production. They were also useful for promoting polls (see below) as I could prompt people I know to go and fill them out.


Polls and surveys can be pretty useful for getting generalised overviews of people's opinions, and Polldaddy is a particularly great way of doing this as it gives good numerical breakdowns of the responses gathered, as we can see to a degree here.

Over the course of production, I've been able to upload my drafts as a kind of production log, as well as upload other videos (such as my Photoshop poster video) explaining how I've done certain things. We may moan about YouTube whenever they change the layout etc., but at the end of the day, it's a very useful site for sharing videos.

This really goes without saying, given that you're reading this on a blog which is hosted on Blogger, but I've made use of it to document my progress on both the music video and the ancillary tasks. I've also been able to get feedback on my work, as Blogger has a comments function.

So, ahem, I didn't realise this post would be so long. Eh. I hope it has filled your minds with plenty of informatively informative information about the ways in which I've made use of technology throughout the project.


Wednesday, 1 May 2013

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

Here we go again... It's evaluating time! /Cilan

Throughout the entire process of creating the music video, digipak and and promotional poster one of the main objectives has been to make my artist, Dark Flame, marketable to an audience. I decided upon the rock genre, which meant my potential audience would be rock fans. Because of this, it was necessary to look at then conventions of existing rock artists to get an idea of what traits make them appealing to this audience.

Music Video

One of the first things I did once I'd decided on the genre I was going to use was to look at the kinds of things I like and dislike in music videos. This is because I am personally a fan of the rock genre, and so although this was very much a rough, sketchbook method of research meaning I took my opinionated "findings" with a grain of salt, I thought it might be a good idea to pick apart videos I like to see what kinds of notable traits pop up.

The main things I noted are that I like easily recognisable imagery, such as the shot of the Queen band members miming the opening of Bohemian Rhapsody -

-as well as that I like the simplistic performance elements of Hardline's Fever Dreams video.

After this, I did some more research into rock videos, and found that some of the elements I'd noted were recurring features, making them conventions of rock videos. I'll explore those more in the PowerPoint below.

(Thanks Slideshare, you old pal...).

Album Cover/Digipak

As my album is a rock album (no, I'm not going to go into the technicalities of how you could argue that I Am... All of Me might be on the rock/industrial metal borderline because of the tinny drum track) I made a point of looking at various other existing rock albums to see what recurring features appeared. I looked at various albums including The 2nd Law by Muse, One by Pearl Handled Revolver, Circle of the Oath by Axel Rudi Pell and Band on the Run by Wings.

From this research, I found a few notable features - one is that the imagery was usually quite dark, or in the case of both The 2nd Law and Band on the Run have a simple solid black background on the front cover.

This simplistic background is a concept I originally intended to use back when I put together my first drafts of the front and back cover, however in this instance I decided it would be appropriate to deliberately go out of my way to subvert this convention for one reason (as I mentioned previously) - this being that I was looking at the album chart and I noticed that both Paramore and The Lumineers had an album out with a very similar artwork style. I then acknowledged that whilst having a similar cover would give rock fans a sense of familiarity, the album wouldn't stand out in a shop if there are two other albums which look practically the same. Because of this, I decided to maintain the general greyscale colour scheme (for the previously mentioned familiarity) but add some brush textures so it has its own unique aesthetical feel to it.

Promotional Poster

When albums come out, the label usually produces some kind of promotional poster for said album. These are the things you see in the window of record shops etc.. As with the music video and digipak, I took to the wonderful world of t'internets to find out more about existing posters.

One thing which stood out to me, with both the Axel Rudi Pell and Muse posters I looked at is that the main basis of the posters' designs was in fact the album cover's artwork. This makes sense from a practical purpose, as it shows potential consumers what they are supposed to be buying. My poster does subvert this to a very small degree - I changed the kinds of brushes used to add texture. This was purely for the sake of making the poster look better - what looks okay on a small image can look a bit rough on a larger one, so I thought as the poster is also trying to gain attention, I would go out of my way to make it look better. The visual link already exists as I've used the same photograph and logo on both the digipak and poster, so I can't see the change being detrimental in any way.

The other is that the name of the artist and of the album is shown right at the very top. My poster again conforms to this convention - and as with both of the posters I looked at, I've used the same typographical style in terms of both font and added visual effects; again, this gives a synoptic link between the poster and the album, showing people what is being marketed to them.