Media language in music video
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Media Language in music video. Exam Section A Question 1b. Media Language. This is the area of theory concerned with how texts communicate with the viewer. Media texts communicate through use of the camera, editing and mise en scene, as well as overall narrative structure.

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Media language in music video

Media Language in music video

Exam Section A

Question 1b

Media language
Media Language

  • This is the area of theory concerned with how texts communicate with the viewer.

  • Media texts communicate through use of the camera, editing and mise en scene, as well as overall narrative structure

Camerawork editing mise en scene
Camerawork, editing, mise en scene…

  • Analyse your piece:

  • What did you do with the camera? How did this help the viewer to understand your video?

  • What did you do with editing? How did this help the viewer to understand your video?

  • What choices did you make with mise en scene? How did this help the viewer to understand your piece.

Technical codes of the music video
Technical codes of the music video

Speed is the Essence:

  • Camera Shots: jumping directly between long shots, close ups and extreme close ups. Primarily the close up on the singer’s face is the main generic convention for music videos. Also the extreme close up on the lips for lip synching.

  • Camera Movement: whip pans, fast track shots and fast overhead crane shots to follow the running, walking or dancing of performers. Also fast vertical tilts and horizontal pans.

  • Editing: various terms: fast cutting, MTV style editing or montage editing. Creating the visually de-centred experience of ‘jumping’ from location to person to instrument without any normal narrative continuity. Instead it is often the beat or the rhythm of the track which provides the organisng principle for editing movement. The editing moves so fast it creates the need for viewing ‘repeatedly’. There are exceptions though. Some ‘continuity editing’ used such as atmospheric ‘dissolve shots’ for example in Sinead O’Connor’s ‘Nothing Compare to You’

Technical codes of the music video1
Technical codes of the music video

  • Post-production digital effects: ‘split screens’, ‘colourisation’ ‘slow motion’ etc These are now conventional for music videos. Look out for other innovative effects.

  • Lighting: Expressive lighting is a key feature of music videos. Extreme artificial light to create the ‘bleaching’ effect on pop stars faces (making them seem ageless). Also the use of switching from colour to black & white or sepia to indicate a shift from chorus to verse. Also lighting effects such as strobes or flashing lights.

Roland barthes
Roland Barthes

Barthes ideas about narrative codes are also useful as they show how the text communicates with the viewer:

Barthes describes narrative as a series of codes that are read and interpreted by the audience

Barthes has been an influential narrative theorist. He describes a text as:

"a galaxy of signifiers, not a structure of signifieds; it has no beginning; it is reversible; we gain access to it by several entrances, none of which can be authoritatively declared to be the main one”

What he is basically saying here is that there is no one way of interpreting a text. Individuals will interpret texts in different ways by decoding a variety of narrative codes:

  • Action Code

  • Enigma Code

  • Symbolic Code

  • Referential Code

Barthes codes
Barthes Codes

Action Code: (proairetic code)

something the audience knows and doesn't need explaining e.g. someone being wheeled out on a stretcher tells us they are going to hospital

Enigma Code: (hermeneutic code)

something hidden from the audience (creates intrigue)

Symbolic Code:

Something that the audience recognise through connotations or something that symbolizes a more abstract concept e.g. a darker than usual room of a murder scene could symbolize the depth of darkness and depravity

Cultural Code: (referential code)

Something that is read with understanding due to cultural awareness (e.g. youth culture use certain words that are understood by that culture)

Narrative structure
Narrative structure

Narrative structure also helps a text communicate with the viewer:

Open Structure:

The audience are left to wonder what happens next and make sense of it


Closed Structure:

Definite ending – clear conclusion for the audience

Circular Structure:

The narrative begins at the end events (often with the

climax). The audience are taken on a journey arriving back where they started. (e.g. Pulp fiction)



Narrative structure continued
Narrative Structure (continued)

  • Linear or non-linear structure?- often music videos are non- linear as they involve montage editing; sometimes they will contain a linear narrative element to them.

  • Single strand or multi-strand structure? Single strand = one narrative thread; multi- strand = several narrative threads

Andrew goodwin 1992
Andrew Goodwin (1992)

  • The 6 typical characteristics of the music video- the same theory we used for genre. Here the focus is on how the 6 typical characteristics help the text to communicate with the viewer

Goodwin s 6 characteristics
Goodwin’s 6 characteristics:

1. Different sub- genres of music have their own video conventions(e.g. stage performance in rock video, choreographed dance routine in pop videos)2. There is a relationship between lyrics and visuals

3. There is a relationship between the music and visuals

4. The demands of the record label will include the need for lots of close ups of the artist to emphasise the image of the star.

5. There is frequently reference to notion of looking (screens within screens, telescopes, etc) and particularly voyeuristic treatment of the female body. 6. There is often intertextual reference (to films, TV programmes, other music videos and other popular culture)