Music Video Hybrids
Issue: Volume: 27 Issue: 9 (September 2004)

Music Video Hybrids

It’s obvious that video hasn’t killed the radio star, as foretold by the Buggles in the band’s song that kicked off the age of music television. But lately it seems that video isn’t doing the radio star any favors, either, at least judging from the general content appearing on music television channels such as MTV and VH1.

For the most part, today's videos have hit a sour note, consisting of little more than rough-cut footage of a band's performance mixed with gratuitous shots of sexy women vamping for the camera—hardly the artistic statement videos were making during the early days of music television.

Meanwhile, our visual palates have grown more sophisticated as we continue to experience the smorgasbord of inventive imagery available through other entertainment mediums such as films, computer games, and television programs and commercials. Indeed, our tastes have evolved to the point where we no longer tolerate being served plain-vanilla videos that lack storytelling, emotion, or imagination. Audiences are hungry for videos with a unique visual flavor, like OutKast's Hey Ya!, Britney Spears's Toxic, and Jay-Z's 99 Problems (see "Visual Notes" Part 1, August 2004, pg. 32, and Part 2, this issue, pg. 10). Though in the minority, these are the kinds of videos that are getting rave reviews, not only winning industry awards but, perhaps more important, also receiving a generous portion of airtime.

While projects like those are stirring the creative pot, others are going a step further and redefining the music video art form as we know it. Using a unique combination of cutting-edge computer graphics and inventive in-camera techniques, these vanguard offerings—for example, Robb Roy's What If music video, with its cinematic film noir style, and Will Young's Your Game, with its grand theatrical stage sets—are crossing over into other entertainment genres.

Clearly, the medium is ripe for change. And there's no better time than now for directors and visual effects artists to set a new tone, and there's no better way to achieve this than with digital techniques. The CG and video tools are robust, affordable, and widely available, and the talent is experienced and eager, as their work on television and film projects has whetted their appetite for creating amazing imagery and effects.

Treating music videos as a main-course art form rather than a light appetizer has a number of benefits. For instance, it will give artists a chance to showcase their talent, a valuable opportunity given that in a recent survey by graphics research firm TrendWatch, nearly half of the studios creating music videos say their clients don't realize the extent of their creative capabilities. Furthermore, as the creative value of music videos increases, so does the likelihood of extending the projects into other outlets and venues, among them movie theaters, playing alongside film trailers, and in retail outlets as DVD releases.

Effects studios and postproduction facilities estimate that approximately 15 percent of the overall work they plan to do this year will be for music videos. It's time for them to use this opportunity to add creative spice to the music video mix and produce something new and exciting.

Karen Moltenbrey
Senior Technical Editor