Music videos are so 80s/90s, right? They belong with the era when MTV screened wall-to-wall vids instead of 'reality' TV? Try telling that to the millions who bought Gangnam Style; were they really simply loving the music? 1.6bn (and still climbing) have viewed the video on YT, not to mention the many re-makes (school eg, eg2), viral ads + celeb link-ups (even political protest in Seoul) - and it doesn't matter how legit it is, this nightmare for daydream Beliebers is making a lot of money, even from the parodies + dislikes. All this for a simple dance track that wouldn't have sounded out of place in 1990 ... but had a fun vid. This meme itself was soon displaced by the Harlem Shake. Music vids even cause diseases it seems!
This blog explores every aspect of this most postmodern of media formats, including other print-based promo tools used by the industry, its fast-changing nature, + how fans/audiences create/interact. Posts are primarily written with Media students/educators in mind. Please acknowledge the blog author if using any resources from this blog - Mr Dave Burrowes

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

DANCE EG: T-Funk feat Katie Underwood - Be Together (2006)

Mise-en-scene is used effectively throughout
T-Funk feat Katie Underwood -

Dir: unknown, 2006.



A basic, single location video lacking SFX, centred on a powerful female protagonist (the singer), tho' framing focussed on dancers' busts seems dubious. Despite the simplicity, the unusually frequent cutting to the beat, effective use of all the possibilities of the single location, and a strong performance from the singer make this a successful production likely to boost the appeal of the track.

Polysemy is initially retained
This is a word I'll use many times in discussing this basically effective vid: simple. A simple example of narrative enigma: we fade up and tilt up to slowly reveal part of a face in CU, with half the frame given over to the mise-en-scene. It takes several shots to fully anchor the club setting, let alone the narrative of a woman setting out to pick a man. The ear-rings, hair styling and heavy make-up are also notable, so too the direct gaze which quickly emerges as a feature of this vid.

While this is obviously one of the defining, most common, features of the music vid format, we generally see this only in short sections of a typical vid. The technique, whilst not constant, features very heavily in this one - so much so that when this is dropped, the editing seems quite arbitrary and random! The opening sequence is a particularly strong example of successfully cutting to the beat, adding great impact to what seems a rather humdrum track otherwise.
We generally cut between varying shots multiple times per line
What we don't see is always worth considering - no filmic titles here, or expensive SFX, let alone basic video FX (bar slo-mo) or even transitions. This is a cheaply produced (but highly effective) video, using a single location skilfully, and featuring a strong central performance from the singer, who achieves a magnetic presence (given how many shots she is in, if her performance was drab the video would simply fail).

Its worth noting this separately: the pace is punchy, but only frenetic for brief spells. Some lyric lines are portrayed through a single take, with the varying pace of the track (quite slow in parts) reflected in this, but more often we get a single line through several short takes.

Consequently, the shot variety remains strong.

The direct gaze is a notable feature
It is arguable whether we should always raise this, but once more we can debate seemingly contradictory signifiers which could be labelled feminist(ish!) or post-feminist.
Very much in control; flipping male gaze here?
The simple narrative has a woman in control - unusually, the tables are turned in terms of voyeurism and technology: she is employing CCTV to watch the object of her desires (female gaze?). (The mode of address is very direct; she generally gazes directly at the camera) The lyrics can be read as her declaring she has chosen a man and he will be with her ... for good! (Its also worth noting that the lyrics are essentially conservative, normativising heterosexuality and monogamy!)

I really like this shot; simple but semiotically rich
She is a confident character, physically (sexually assertive dancing) and mentally (technophilic, at least with regards to controlling the CCTV).

BUT... we also get a large number of shots where female dancer's bust are the focus of the frame, with the slo-mo making me think of the classic mainstream exploitation/male gaze example, Baywatch. That show made Pamela Anderson into a global star; few would attempt to argue that her acting skills were her key asset or the main factor behind this fame.
There is a lot of this; surely this is unarguably objectifying?
Ultimately, then, notwithstanding the confident, assertive female protagonist, do we not have yet another example of a media product created primarily with the viewing pleasure of a male audience in mind (which is what the male gaze concept is all about)?

Once more, there isn't anything terribly flashy or complex going on - there aren't even any high angle shots which denote the presence of a crane; this was a cheaply but well produced video. There is one particular feature of the camerawork which should be noted - the incessant handheld-style movement which seems to have become a default mode for our times (not a good thing in my own view). This
Reverse tracking is used as she walks through club
can be effective in creating a sense of kinetic energy, and is something that that quickly became a feature of performance-led rock videos in the 80s as the semiotics of music video was being thrashed out. Today we see this restless camera technique even in tentpole movies which clearly haven't been shot handheld, and an extreme version of this in hardhitting TV shows such as The Shield and The Wire.
Focus switches between the 2 several times in this section

To be specific, we get reverse tracking shots: the subject walking towards the camera, but staying at a constant distance. This is a key convention of dance vids.

Furthermore, there is some (this same phrase once more...) simple but effective framing - the diamond mesh of the lift barrier is used well to provide some interesting framing.

Compare this with below: note focus + framing (rule of 3rds)
Finally, we also see some variable focus which helps with shot variety, and is generally something worth considering.

It could be retro styling, but posters suggest E. Eur location
The fonts on the posters which feature prominently suggest this was shot in Eastern Europe, providing a simple point of novelty for a UK/US and Western European audience at least - and possibly helping to boost the appeal in E.Eur. That could be quite significant as this was part of a Ministry of Sound compilation, a label that sells globally.

The single location could have spelled disaster, but there are a couple of simple but highly effective examples of making full use of the space. The narrow corridor just outside the bar/dance floor area is used in two ways: (1) the singer spreads both arms out to make this a tight but interesting dance space (she is able to touch both walls, and to push in towards the lense) and (2) the lights leeching out from the dance floor form an interesting spectacle.
Always look out for interesting framing/lighting opportunities

A further example of venue lighting (I presume) being used effectively comes with the red lighting as the two emerge from the lift 0:46 in.
Basic verisimilitude(1)
Basic verisimilitude(2); variable focus again too

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