Analyse the techniques used by the directors of the “Thriller”, “Rock DJ” and “Son Of A Gun” videos and comment on their intended effects
Since the late 70s music videos have become very popular with channels such as MTV and VH-1 dedicated to music videos. Music videos are made to promote the artists. “Thriller” by Michael Jackson had such an effective and impressive video it sold over fifty million copies of the album through the videos successful special effects. In this essay I will be analysing the techniques of the directors of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and Robbie Williams’s “Rock DJ”. Thriller” was directed by John Landis and “Rock DJ” by Vaughan Arnell. I am also analysing Janet Jackson’s “Son of a Gun” Video. Thriller was inspired by the movie “An American Werewolf in London”. John Landis directed this film and when Michael asked him to direct the video he agreed. The video is a parody of the 1950’s horror genre. “Thriller” is a “mini movie” and this is how Jackson liked to refer to it. Make up artist Rick Baker who worked on “American Werewolf” also took part in helping create Michael’s mini movie.
The most high profile producers and directors jumped on board, no expense was spared, and to this date “Thriller” is one of the most expensive videos ever made. Everyone wanted a piece of Jackson’s fame. Michael Jackson was the first black artist to have a video played on MTV with the song “Beat It” in 1983. Jackson’s record company Epic/cps threatened to remove all of their white artists from the MTV play lists if they didn’t play “Beat It” which subsequently boosted their ratings. “Rock DJ” by Robbie Williams is a video that focuses on the artist only.
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The video was banned from terrestrial and satellite television because of the cannibalistic scenes were seen as gruesome and because Robbie appears naked. The stripping off of the clothes skin and muscle until we see a dancing Robbie skeleton represents the fact that fame causes celebrities to lose their privacy. Robbie is trying to catch the eye of the otherwise unimpressed DJ, which symbolises the way an artist strives to achieve fame. Robbie started out in Take That along with four other members, he was the first to leave and go solo.
Robbie is now one of the biggest names in the pop industry, even though Robbie had problems with drink and drugs he has overcome that and is bigger than ever. The drink and drugs theme could also be considered in the video as Robbie strips down as though he is getting rid of the old bad him taking off all of his past. Stripping down to his skeleton may also mean the pressures of being in the public eye as you have no privacy and fame strips you of your privacy. For this video the target audience would probably by young women as the video does portray a sexual image.
Janet Jackson sister to Michael also knows how to make a rather exceptional video produces “Son of a Gun”. Janet Jackson is a successful female artist who has had many hits in the past with songs like “Together Again” and ” All For You”. Missy Elliott and Carly Simon also feature on the track but only Missy is seen on the video. The video is all about revenge on a man and Janet and Missy definitely do the job. In “Thriller” the narrative moves throughout a number of different locations he uses as many visual affects as possible that were available at the time.
He excited his audience by sandwiching the song between two sub-plots. At the beginning we see Jackson and his Girlfriend who is played by Ola Ray in what appears to be a 1950’s teen flick they run out of petrol in the middle of nowhere and start to walk. He asks her to be his girlfriend and tries to explain he’s not like normal boys but its too late, you see the moon appear and he begins to morph into a werewolf an hysterical Ola runs but is found by her flesh eating boyfriend.
Then onto the present day Michael and Ola are found at the cinema watching the film, she can’t watch no more and leaves. Begrudgingly Jackson follows her out of the cinema finding her standing outside, they then proceed down an ally, he teases her with the lyrics of the song. They pass a graveyard as they walk on into night as the camera focus on the rising zombies from their graves. Michael and his girlfriend are then confronted by the zombies who protrude closer until Michael becomes a zombie too.
The zombies and Michael pull off a rather amazing dace routine before chasing Ola to an old abandoned house where she tries to hide only to be found, Michael as a zombie puts his hand on her shoulder to then be in his apartment it was all a dream, or was it as Michael walks his girlfriend to the door he turns to the camera showing his evil eyes! The voice of Vincent Price is also featured in the mini movie with a scary addition to the song and rather queasy laughter at the end.
Vincent was chosen to be the voice of “thriller” because he was well known for contributing in horror movies and he had just the voice Michael wanted. The video for “Rock DJ” focuses entirely on the artist in contrast to Michael’s narrative video. As he tries to get the attention of a DJ; he starts by flexing his muscles and showing some rather interesting dance moves, he tries harder and removes more and more clothing until he appears naked. He can see she still isn’t interested he rips off his skin revealing muscles as he tears off each muscle throwing them around at girls who surround him skating on roller boots.
Then all he becomes is a skeleton and he is dancing with the DJ. “Son Of A Gun” shows Janet getting her revenge on an ex boyfriend. She is perceived as a witch making him suffer and she also has sidekicks that appear from the woodwork who help her along with Missy Elliott. This video takes place in what looks like a mansion. The man tries to run from Janet but is always found. There are lots of close ups in this video which is a good technique to use, the audience gets the feeling of interaction with the video you see expressions clearly.
The setting of “Thriller” is always dark wherever they go, only at the end when the appear at Michaels apartment it is light this is to give the impression that everything is over and things are now fine, this is done by using bright lighting and being in a place of “normality” and the worst is over but as Michael turns his head to show his eyes and the laugh of Vincent Price starts it leaves a twist to the end of the video. The dark atmosphere reflects the song it talks about ghouls and things out to get you, it wouldn’t be right to have a happy bright video, the lighting reflects the words of the song.
This setting suits the type of music video it is. Lighting is the best creator of atmosphere; you can tell by the tone of light what the mood of the video is. The target audience for the video is really for older viewers as it may scare younger people. The Video for “Rock DJ” is different from “Thriller” it still may be for older people it doesn’t give the eerie feeling. It is quiet a funny video with a bit of comedy in it by the way he shows himself off. It is like he is in a cattle ring he’s the meet in the middle and he’s trying to find a buyer. The DJ makes all the decisions on whether to see him or not or acknowledge his presents.
The mood of the song is a happy feeling, it is a dance song with a good video to sell the song. Like “Thriller” the “Son Of A Gun” video has a dark atmosphere giving a mood of tension. Janet has no expression she has a very serious face when singing showing the power she has. The Lyrics show she is bitter and there is a soft side to her, however she wants payback. This song has a story towards it which some people may relate to, it makes women feel superior when you see videos like this as men think they are the better sex, women can still teach a man a lesson.
In “Thriller” Michael plays the part of two people, Michael from 1950 and the Michael of now this is also the same for Ola Ray. Ola in the 1950s wears the fashionable pink poodle skirt with her hair in a ribbon; Michael wears his school letterman jacket. Even though Michael turns into a zombie his clothing stays the same wearing a red PVC looking jacket and black trousers, only his face changes, make up is used to achieve this look along with the rest of the dancers who need transforming.
The red PVC jacket that Michael wears makes him stand out from the rest of the other costumes and the scenery, making him the centre of attention; red is also the colour of danger. The darkness of the colours of the scenery represents the darkness of the song. The zombies clothing are rags, which a dark colours like black, grey, mauve, khaki green and many more. The make-up of the zombies reflects the eerie theme to the song. These costumes have been chosen to reflect the times that the actors are playing, in the 1950’s scene the audience should be able to tell when it is taking place by the costumes without being told.
The right clothing and make up is essential, it creates the mood and puts the actor in the right character. “Rock DJ” is a very clever video, when Robbie has ripped his skin off and reveals his muscles; they have actually been stuck onto his body so he can pull them off freely. It looks very real. A computer is used to produce the skeleton but motion sensitive sensors were placed onto Robbie’s body to get his movement to make the movements more realistic and reflective of his moves.
The continuous movement of the video reflects the dance mood of the song, and the make-up and effects would show how far he would go to be noticed in the world. In the “Son Of A Gun” video Janet is dressed in a skimpy top and tight leather pants but wears a traditional witches hat. Her eyes are dark and enticing making her more mysterious. “Thriller” uses lots of different camera movements; the most often that is used is tracking where they follow the characters around.
A lot of editing techniques are used when Michael and Ola walk past the grave yard after they have left you still hear the music and the voice of Vincent Price but you cant see him this is non diagetic but you hear the zombies making the noises which is diagetic panning is used one when you see Olas face then you turn to Michaels who has turned into a zombie. This is for effect and comparison of the two characters. When Michael and the zombies are dancing the camera is situated quiet low to the ground looking up at them dancing.
The lightning is low key and dark and the colouring in the video is also dark representing the gloomy atmosphere. A lot of editing techniques are used to jump from scene to scene, this type of technique was used when Ola leaves the cinema and is found outside, and straight cut is where Ola is in the abandoned house to being in Michaels home. Jump cuts are used to shock the audience this is used when Michael is turning into a werewolf. The speed of the movement of the camera keeps in rhythm with the song and it also helps the audience follow the video along.
Using different camera angles are a good way of creating atmosphere, if you close up on an actor you get their expression on their face showing what the mood is. When the camera slowly zooms in or is at a low angled shot like when Ola Ray is lying o the ground we get her point of view and the feeling that something is crouching over her. These techniques give the video excitement and a bit of interesting footage the different scenes in the video make the audience more interested wondering what is going to happen. The “Rock DJ” video begins with a high angled shot as Robbie rises to centre of the dance floor.
There are girls on roller boots parading round him and the DJ is in a box above the dance floor. Most of the cameras attention is on Robbie performing in the middle. The camera moves round and catches Robbie at every angle like it’s on a merry go round. Zooming in and panning shots are used a lot to focus on Robbie. They often close to Robbie but most of the time the shot are at medium range. Close ups are usually on his face but some focus on parts of his body to as well as some of the skaters. It sometimes skips to the DJ dancing up above and the female skaters around him but the main focus is Robbie.
When Robbie is taking his clothes off the camera follows the movements he makes so it makes you relate to what he is doing. The director makes you want to feel close to Robbie by doing close ups. The editing is very fast, in time with the beat of the music, there are many jump cuts again representing the type of jumpy song that it is. “Son Of A Gun” is a great video with a range of special effects from spiders appearing out of the mans mouth from him being possessed by the wishes of Janet making him punch himself. Close up shots are a favourite on this video and there is a lot of camera action it feels like it is never still.
Tracking, panning and tilting is all used throughout some point in the video. This gives you the feeling of excitement and confusion at the same time, which is a good combination to get an audience intrigued. The directors of these videos use camera angles and movement to focus on the artists. Make-up, costumes, sound and lighting are used to relate the video to the song as well as they can be. The better the music video the more it encourages people to go out and by the single and feel like they know the artist on a personal level.