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Reflection on original aims and objectives for the project

My original aims for my project were to create a professional-looking music video for my track Before Our Time, and to better expand my knowledge and experience of the directing and editing process. I definitely believe I achieved these. My final product is professional and unique, and I feel I worked very well under the pressures of time and budget. I picked up valuable video editing skills quicker than expected, and found that Final Cut Pro had a strong resemblance to Logic, which I use regularly, so I could tap into my previous production knowledge to navigate my way around, along with the help of my mother. Also, something I didn’t consider as an original aim, but is important to state, is the development of my production skills when it comes to editing and mixing drums. Before this project, I had never attempted to record or use real drums in my tracks, and had only utilised electronic recreations of the instruments. Now I feel fully equipped to expand the variety of real instruments I incorporate into a song with my newfound ability.

What did I learn from my research and how did this impact my development and final product?

I found the research section really interesting and fun to explore – I delved deep into some of my favourite music videos from artists such as Sigrid, Kate Bush and Aurora, and discovered things about them I hadn’t considered before, such as symbolism using light in many of Aurora’s videos, and multiple subliminal messages within Kate Bush’s ‘Running Up That Hill‘. I looked at Massive Attack’s ‘Teardrop’, due to it’s similarity in concept, and I found this very interesting to analyse too, despite not taking any organic influence from the video. It also really fascinated me to look at colour theory, and the light intensity research study, and find out the scientific side of the different aspects I had written about.

I really enjoyed taking a look into the Glyn Johns method of recording drums, learning about phase relationships and taking a look at how the different microphones we used in the studio affected the sound – this really helped expand my knowledge for future recording sessions, and understand how to achieve the sound I want. It was also extremely useful to speak to Giles about each piece of equipment in the studio session, as he explained their properties in words I could understand, remember, and utilise later on. 

Research into different editing softwares, cameras, and filming locations was really interesting and vital information to understand when moving deeper into the music industry as an artist. I found it really helpful to see the different price points for certain products in these areas, especially when it comes to film location, as I previously had no idea what to expect from professional studio quotes. Learning about these aspects of the industry did not change the way I had intended to film the music video, however, I am sure they will be invaluable to me in the future.

The part of the research where I looked at imagery, music video analysis and techniques influenced my product the most, as it made me reconsider some of the ideas I originally had, and build on them to create a unique, yet engaging video. Analysing the different tones of light in the music videos really brought to the forefront the importance of lighting and subtle colouration in a piece of moving art, especially when it tells a strong story, as mine does. 

I found looking at different historical pieces of art very impactful on my work – as the song is about the child being protected in the moment, and later on being exposed to the will of the world, I found this corresponded strongly with the ancient idea of good and evil, and the religious representation of such in art. I also found the colours in the oil paintings very beautiful and calming, which I tried to incorporate into my video. 

Project Development Process – Did I prepare effectively?

I feel I did prepare successfully and carefully for the project, and completed each task I set to the deadline – up until it was time to begin getting feedback on my video. I found I had to rush to get responses, as I was still making small tweaks, and I was prioritising finishing the video rather than sending it out to get initial feedback which could aid me in the completion of the product. Eventually I decided I would take four definitive sections of the video that I was happy with (see Development Diary), and put these into surveys to send to people. Then, in the meantime, I continued working on these sections so the entire product was as good as it could possibly be. With the feedback received, I was then able to make the necessary adjustments and improvements, as suggested by my tester group. I feel that sending sections for feedback was a positive move as, when the final completed product was viewed, it didn’t lose any impact. In terms of producing the track, editing the drums and vocals, I did this within my desired time frame and began filming the music video while waiting to receive the master wav. file from Tim Charlton.

What were the main challenges I faced and how did I overcome these?

The main challenges I faced were:

Our failed attempt at recording the drums and vocals in the Audient Studio (due to studio equipment failure) at the beginning of the FMP timeline. There were no usable stems from this session, and I solved this by having another session booked in for the Live Room at ACM to re-record a few weeks later (availability was limited, so this was the earliest it could be booked). This session went perfectly as planned, and we managed to record an appropriate number of drum and vocal takes, with comfortable time to spare to pack away the recording equipment.

Another challenge that was difficult for me was performing with someone looking down the camera lens for the first time. As I have mentioned previously, in each of my past music videos I have found it difficult to perform when my mother is the camera person (with a big group of people behind the camera, this would be different), and often used to ask her to turn around after pressing record. However this time I forced myself to act fully with her manning the camera, as it means we can get better focused shots, moving shots and different camera angles that cannot be achieved simply with a tripod alone. I found it easier than I expected, but obviously there was still anxiety on my part, that I feel may have showed in the video. It will be one of my targets to work on this thoroughly over the next few months to improve my abilities and reduce my inhibitions as an artist. Responses to my survey showed that from a viewer’s point of view, my acting was well presented, and they empathised with the struggle of the child due to this, but I still feel my acting is a small weakness in the video.

What were the key decisions I had to make during the project and how did these impact my final product?

I needed to take a step away from my personal feelings about my editing and decide to stop working on the track, as the constant tweaks were delaying the rest of the music video process. If I had stopped sooner, my timeline would have been more accurate. Another main decision I had to make during the project that seemed prominent to me was to ask for my mother’s help and guidance during the video editing process. I am very independent and self-assured when it comes to my music, and for this project I wanted to do everything myself (despite her helping with my previous music videos). I did some editing myself, but found it very exhausting and time-consuming for a newcomer to video editing software, so my mother assisted with sections. I was still very much in control of the post-production effects such as colouring, exposure, transitions, order of the clips, etc, but I feel the video turned out far better than it ever could have, because of her support. I also had to decide to reshoot some scenes of the video, as I felt they were not of a high enough standard to be included. This was the correct decision to make, and I believe this shows in the finished product. 

What were the strengths and weaknesses of my final product?

Through reflecting on my video, and looking at others’ responses to my surveys, I know that a strength of my video was the styling. We were careful to make each scene look quite different, but still in the same realm, to tie the video together, and using blue-white tones wherever we could to convey the sadness and longing. Responses showed that viewers associated the white outfits and backdrops with the innocence and purity of the child, and also agreed that the variation in outfits and makeup made the video more interesting. They agreed that the occasional red overlay symbolised the safety and warmth of the womb well.

Most participants in the survey said they thought the footage was of high quality, although one person disagreed, saying the quality was ‘just average’. I agree that some of the footage is obviously not shot with a top-of-the-range music video camera, as these really are only owned by record labels and the big videography companies they work with, and it was beyond my budget to invest in/hire one. However, a lot of the footage is very well shot, well lit and in focus, and is far better quality than an iPhone or GoPro, and this showed in the other responses.

I feel that my movements and interpretive dance within the video have both strengths and weaknesses. I feel they are much stronger and more defined than in previous music videos, and they reflect the emotions of the child and the anger/aggression towards the end. However, I feel it would have been very beneficial and probably made for a better outcome if I had planned and choreographed a lot of the movements beforehand, making for better results and more professional looking shots. When asked if ‘the artist’s movements feel appropriate for the piece’, 100% of participants in the survey said yes.

I feel that one weakness of the product is that we didn’t have any speakers to make the track louder when we were filming. This means that some of my lip-synching was slightly out of time (especially for the scenes that we shot with the track at double speed so we could slow it down later). Perhaps if the track were louder I would have been able to lip-synch better, but there was no way to solve this problem at the time. In the future I will make sure to purchase/borrow a portable bluetooth speaker to play the track from.

My overall contribution to the project

I was very self-sufficient during the project and worked out of my comfort zone to make sure I achieved as much on my own as I was capable of (such as drum mixing and editing, which I hadn’t encountered before). For some aspects, I was in need of external help, such as with the actual recording of the drum stems, with Bradley Livesley and Giles Stelfox – I called on them not only because I was unable to book a studio at ACM due to being a performance student, not production, but also because I didn’t want to risk using the studio desk by myself, and I have very limited knowledge of correctly recording live, acoustic drums without support. I am gradually learning how to operate a large scale recording desk, but for this project it was not a realistic goal to do this part myself. Obviously, I asked my live drummer Lloyd Griffiths if he would play on the track, as I am not a drummer.

I wrote Before Our Time entirely by myself in all aspects of the track and it’s arrangement, including vocals, synths, and drums (despite Lloyd playing the drums on the studio recording, I still hold the rights to the composition of such parts). I also recorded every aspect excluding lead vocals and drums myself  (every vocal track, backing vocals and atmospheric vocals were recorded at home by me, lead vocals were recorded in the ACM studio). I completed the mixing and editing of the audio myself, which was a challenge with the drums, but with my knowledge and intuition in Logic, and the information I learned on drum mixing throughout my research, it came naturally for the most part. I am not adept at mastering, and this also seemed like a bit of a leap in addition to the other tasks I had to complete throughout the project. For this reason I called on Tim Charlton to master the track, and he understands my music from mastering it in previous years.

I created the aesthetic and concept of the music video, along with the ideas for each scene and costume/makeup/lighting design. My mother helped me film the video, as I wanted someone to man the camera to allow for more interesting angles and moving shots, and this was not possible by myself. In the editing stage, myself and my mum worked together to place where each scene needed to be, to add colour alterations and filters, as well as adding the sharp flickering transitions (my mother had to help a lot with this as it was such a tricky technique to do).

Overall, I feel my contributions to the project were very prominent, and I gave myself a wealth of control and always had the final say. I only called in for help from other’s when I was sure I would be unable to do such tasks.

Reflecting on the feedback and comments of others (Evidence of Initial Video Clip Survey Results and final Full Video feedback on the product can be found here)

In the survey I conducted for initial feedback on the 4 short clips from the music video, when asked ‘Is there anything you would prefer to see that hasn’t been included?’, most participants said no, but one said they might like more distance shots. I feel that I have provided these well in the video, through the use of video-editing trickery to make the room look bigger, so it looks like the camera is further away also. I felt that I added the right amount to the video as these shots are only stills, with no large movements, lip-synching, or expressions. One viewer asked if I could use a real baby in the video – I did not want this video to be literal, I think this is clear, as I wanted to symbolise through light and design the emotions of the baby and meaning of the lyrics. I added subtle hints to religious symbolism such as the petal ‘shrine’, and the petals also reflect the delicate nature of the baby. Going into this project, I did not consider the Teardrop video as inspiration because I very much wanted my video to be symbolic and not literal in any sense. It would have been very hard to source a baby, especially one that looked like a newborn, and very difficult to shoot also. However, I do acknowledge that someone may not completely understand what I am trying to achieve through my music and visuals, and think that this was a necessary component.

I spoke to multiple tutors including Abi Evans, Mark Taylor, Pete Friesen, Alex Creese and Adam Pain for their comments on the Full Video by conducting verbal interviews. They all agreed that the video was ‘incredibly professional, very well done’, and Aly said in particular that the video was very beautiful in aesthetic, with particular care to the unique visual. Aly also commented on the attention to detail in the video, and that it’s artistic nature and creativity opened a way for the video and song to go hand-in-hand. She spoke to me about her belief that we are very much moving into a new era of music and visuals being one product, rather than a video ‘complimenting’ audio, which I think is true for this song, as I had the vision of the music video for Before Our Time as soon as I wrote the piece of music. Adam questioned the lack of lycra shots, as I had showed him my ‘Lycra Test Clip’ before shooting the rest of the video, and was wondering why I hadn’t included very many in the final product. As I said in my Development Diary, the face and body/feet shots within the lycra were not visually recognisable/appropriate, and it was very difficult to film the scene correctly due to it’s tricky nature when it comes to focusing the camera (lots of white space, very little contrast to reinforce the ‘heavenly’ theme). There were some lovely hand shots which I liked, but I didn’t want to bore the audience with too many of these. I somewhat wish I had included a few more of the lycra shots in the final video, as I really loved their aesthetic when I first tried my hand at editing them. However, I still feel the meaning and atmosphere of my video was conveyed clearly and beautifully through the rest of the footage once it was edited and strung together.

I received feedback from 3 members of my fanbase to test the video’s success and validity with my audience. All respondents were female (ages ranging from 18-76), and all comments made were very complimentary. As my fanbase is made up of almost equal male-female percentages, I also made efforts to collect feedback data from male fans of varying ages, but unfortunately they did not respond in time for this evaluation. My ultimate aim was to test the product on my target audience, and I believe I achieved this, despite the lack of response from the male focus group. The three women complimented on the stylistic editing and processing of the footage, complimenting it’s colour scheme in relation to the meaning of the song. They also all agreed that the emotion and sadness, longing expression of the lyrics and melodies were well represented within the visual aspect.

Time management and personal organisation

Despite getting each piece of coursework handed in by the deadline, and having my final product submitted on time, I fell slightly behind in comparison to what I had planned in my Action Plan. To begin with, recording the drums and vocals ran over by a week due to an unsuccessful recording session (through no fault of my own, caused by studio equipment failure), and so this had to be re-booked. Secondly, editing and mixing Before Our Time took far longer than expected, as I, as always, had doubts and concerns about my abilities as a producer, and therefore, the overall quality of the finished piece. I was constantly reassured through feedback and constructive criticism that this was not the case, and I do have faith in myself in this area. However, for this song I was particularly worried about the mix and any rogue frequencies that many occur. My autism has always caused my mixing and editing times, for all the tracks I have released, to be much longer than it needs to be, but I am working on this. For these reasons I became two and a half weeks late of my proposed schedule, and there was a considerable delay in getting this track to Tim Charlton for mastering also.

As a knock on effect from these delays, filming began 2 weeks late, however, we only finished the filming process 1 day later than planned, as we collected all the footage quicker than expected. Due to strenuous editing of the music video, I was a week late in putting together and sending out my survey to receive feedback from my focus group and various tutors from the initial clips, but I still managed to collect this data quickly and analyse it within this evaluation (above), as well as making any changes to the final video with consideration to the viewers’ comments.

How could my video have been improved?

I think the main way that my video could be improved would be if I had the financial ability to hire a dedicated film studio and cameras, and especially lighting. This was obviously not realistically possible, but hypothetically it would be the way to go when creating a music video. It would also be amazing if I had the means to shoot in a historic and architecturally beautiful space such as a church, to impact the atmosphere of the video and enforce the religious symbolism within it. My acting ability in front of a camera crew could also be improved upon, and pre-rehearsing choreographed movements would assist in perfecting sections, rather than improvising them on the shoot day. 

Key targets to take forward for future development

My main targets from this point forward will be to:

1. Improve my acting skills when performing to camera (in a music video setting, with camera staff watching). I will do this by releasing more music videos to accompany my debut EP, practicing performing to manned cameras in a private setting, adding to my experience in this area – this will also aid in my video editing skills.

2. Timekeeping – I will improve my timekeeping skills, to ensure effective completion of tasks. I underestimated the time required on research and development diary, which took up a large proportion of my time in advance of creating the video. Understanding this will enable me to better plan future projects, adding additional allocated time to achieve written sections.

3. I will endeavour to listen to the feedback from industry professionals and  tutors on my editing/mixing technique, and learn to accept that my abilities are of a high standard. I must learn to understand that my expectations of achieving perfection in my final mixes can never actually be achieved realistically, and that the quality I am producing is of a professional standard, as backed up by my mastering technician and industry tutors, which will mean I should be able to finish pieces in a  faster time, rather than constantly attempting to tweak them in areas which will be unnoticeable to everyone else. This will speed up the process of creating a finished track considerably.