Unruly media: music video as short film

Traditional MTV model was displaced from 21 century. New digital technologies, new kinds of cross media authorship and new trans-media potentials for expression brings the “mixing board aesthetic” (Vernallis, 2013, 5-6). With the development of digital technologies especially the Internet, music video seem be more and more post-cinematic, Vernallis called these music videos as unruly media.


One of the most important change of music videos from 21st century is the editing pattern and narrative structure. Being free from any pressure to follow narrative conventions, traditional music videos were frequently quasi-narratives. Editing music video as a mini movie can be seen as an innovation of conventional narrative structure in music video history.

An influential promo of short film music video is Michael Jack who added narrative elements including sound to make music videos mini features. Then, a contemporary and excellent practitioner is Lady Gaga. For example, it takes 2-3 minutes before the music starts to explain plots and contexts in Telephone and Paparazzi,and in Marry the night, the time to “tell a story” even reach a length of 8 minutes before the music.

In this kind of music video, relatively complete stories like those in a feature film is used to express specific theme or idea of the song. This format allows them to hone in on their artistic vision more than a normal music video is able to do. With the longer length, full-fledged plot lines, more elaborate settings, breathtaking performances, and create groundbreaking visuals can be achieved in music videos, the song or even the whole album can be developed into a more complete narrative.

Shot movie music video provide more possibilities to musicians. Short films have allowed them more room to create striking visuals, establish emotional depth, and cause unprecedented cultural impact.



Carol Vernallis (2013), Unruly Media, New York: Oxford University Press

Jake Viswanath, How short films are overtake music videos,

From http://vmagazine.com/article/short-films-overtaking-music-videos/


written by YIHAN XU




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