1. How do your products use or challenge conventions and how do they represent social groups or issues?
The xx does not fall into a single, defined music style or genre but it's more like a mixture between genres. The term "indie" is used to describe a vast category from indie pop to indie rock, metal and so on. This band is somewhere between indie pop and indie electronic, so I will just generalise this and label it as "indie". This word comes from "independent" because in the past, this style of music was owned by independent record labels. Even though "indie" is associated with "low budget", it actually refers to the independence within individuals, where uniqueness is embraced through the lyrics and visuals. There are many conventions associated with this genre: from narrative to mise-en-scene, camera shots and editing.An indie music video usually combines the band's performance with a narrative who breaks the music video, making it entertainment for the audience. This narrative is usually linked with the lyrics and it makes the whole music video more appealing and memorable for the audience, who relates and even identifies with this low budget and slightly amateur genre.Mara and I had limited access to a band to perform in our music video so took advantage of the other reachable convention when it comes to narrative. The whole plot is based on a parallel montage that presents Mia's life in the present and past - a contrast between teenage years and adulthood. Our two actresses, MiaYoung and Mia Old are reflecting what most teenagers are (the essence of youth, the mainstream culture, the pilot episode of life) and also what they fear to become (robots with responsibilities, deadlines, no time for self, lonely). This antithesis has a deeper level, emphasising the complexity of human beings and their development in an elongated period, being conceptual and also narrative, in the same time.I believe that Mise-en-scene is the unique selling point for indie bands: they differentiate each other by creating their own unique style supported by the props they use, the costumes, make up, lighting and so on. Most of our locations had a perfect lighting conditions but for others, like Mia’s house, we used coloured neons - green, red and blue. They connotes feelings like balance, emotional depth and stamina, vitality. Another example is for the rooftop scene, where we used strobe lights to be in concordance with the club atmosphere. We set our timeline in concordance with the weather because a big part of our music video was filmed outside, in natural light. The realistic costumes are based on the target audience in order that they can easily relate to the music video. In our music video, we followed this convention. We got inspired from our typical artsy tumblr audience and from The xx's clothes.For Mia Young we chose a school uniform in order to portray the fact that she came back from school. The fact that she wears this outfit implies that she conforms the norms but having a closer look at her uniform, we observe that she is quite a rebel teen with broken tights, loose tie, unfolded shirt sleeves and converse (in contrast with her uniform skirt). In Mia's second outfit she can express herself freely, so we chose to relate her clothing to our mainstream indie audience: lace bra, transparent blouse, black jeans, converse and a bomber jacket. For Mia Old we chose an office outfit to suit the character and to show a clear antithesis between the two Mias.The make up goes hand in hand with the costumes. In Mia Young's case she comes home from school without make up and she goes out wearing glitter on her cheeks and lipgloss as a reference to Coachella, a famous indie music festival. Mia Old wears a discrete office make up: liner, eyeshadow and lipstick. Here, an antithesis was constructed between the two characters, as Mia Young starts the day without make up and finishes with a lot of make up while Mia Old starts the day with make up and she finishes her day wiping it off- conforming to the society’s requirements.The conventional props for indie music videos are the band's instruments. The artists are filmed in their creative environment, showing how talented they are and how much they enjoy what they do. Here we broke this convention because we didn't use any live band or footage from The xx. Our music video doesn't include any performance and it's rather narrative/conceptual. The props we used were again, low budget props which help us make a connection between our two characters. For example, we used the same mirror when Mia Young was putting her make up on as well as when Mia Old whipped off her make up. They both smoke cigarettes and both were drinking (coffee vs alcohol). We also used the coloured smoke grenades - pink and blue, which both connote the fact that Mia Young is living her teenage years at their fullest, being full of vitality, creativity and sensitivity (pink) but also kind, calm and optimistic (blue). The setting is made out of low budget accessible areas like studios cities parks and so on. These simple locations are quite relatable for audience, so they can get more involved when watching the music video. Mara and I chose common areas as locations to our music video, for example a middle class family house, a club, an office and other urban setting.Most indie videos include certain type of shots: close up on the artists, performing - which is mostly used for promoting these independent (indie) artists. Long shots are used for establishing the narrative. There are also some handheld shots which engage with the audience from their own point of view. Not having a band, Mara and I followed the narrative, breaking the shot convention. We supported The xx's style by adding series of conceptual aesthetic shots almost everywhere in our filming process. These shots fit in our music video because they belong to the indie genre and they are highly used by The xx in their official music videos. We supported their already created brand image by adding visually pleasing shots, full of contrast.The last but not least is the editing part. Indie means color correction, special effects and filters. We used a lot of color correction in this process and we also added different filters on top of the clips. The coloured raw lighting helped us in post production because some shots were extremely beautiful when it comes to their colour so they set us a quality standard for the others. Our video runs smoothly and all the editing made our final product look experimental, edgy and fresh, full of contrast. We edited the video in concordance to the song, using cut to the beat techniques and lipsync. Our video is based on a parallel montage which was obtained by editing - we presented two contrasting stories in parallel, having a few similarities for example when Mia Young is drinking a shot in the club, Mia Old is drinking coffee at the office. When Mia Young is dancing with her friends, Mia Old is keeping the rhythm with her foot. The mirror in which one puts make up on and the other wipes it off, is the same. We made all these connection in order for the audience to understand that the two characters are connected, not only randomly filmed. When it comes to our minor task, we sticked to The xx's style, giving it a natural continuity but still keeping some typical elements from their previous albums and website. Mara and I broke the universal conventions but we followed The xx's "habit". Even though he most stereotypical feature of this genre is simplicity, The xx take this to a new level, somehow exaggerating this convention.Although the name of an indie band is usually presented on the front cover of the digipak, Mara and I kept the iconic X shape in which we introduced a balanced and aesthetic photo which matches our band's style. The photo we used resembles the petrol oil gradient they usually use for their digipaks and we recreated that effect by choosing the suited colours for the photo. We kept the back cover clean, presenting just the songs in a light font, the barcode, some Copyrights, the record label logo, web links and contact details, respecting the conventions. We believe that this stands out for our target audience, showing that The xx care more about their songs than any art which would help them sell better their albums. Indie artists want to be easily noticed and recognised by their audience. Knowing this, The xx chose this extremely clean and minimal etiquette, creating their own image within the indie genre - this is also why we used the same pictures on our website and digipak. Here we followed an indie convention, where a character from the narrative features on the cover of the album. The inside of the digipak has 2 parts: one part is with our two characters on the bridge, in the final scene - facing each other. This photo was edited in such way in which it has a reflective texture, resembling the name of the album “I See You”. On this side of the digipak we inserted some lyrics which bestly describe this album because they can be found on The xx’s official album as well. The other part is with the CD which has a mirror like effect. Here we superimposed the same image from the background on the cd shape but a bit shifted. The shift is in the form of a discrete X, contributing to The xx’s new style.Furthermore, the image is balanced, minimalistic and unique, again supporting the raw genre - it makes our album stand out. Our website follows a music band website conventions, including categories like About, Discography, Merch, Tours and Media. The amount of info from The xx's official website is quite restricted, following the indie minimalistic pattern, so we had to take some more information from their official social media as well as from Spotify. The website has one page, inspired from their official website, with anchor links attached to each category and a menu on top of the page. The social media links can be found on the right side of the page, with direct links to the band's official channels. The background image has the same colours as the bridge scene because it was taken exactly in that day, during filming. We tried out different fonts and we chose a style which would support our music video, would please us and would fit The xx’s style. Keeping this level of consistency, I feel that we provided a much more professional look of the product.
2. How do the elements of your production work together to create a sense of 'branding'?
Our product is strongly connected to The xx's minimalist style, which is very well known in the indie music industry. Mara and I felt a terrible urge to recreate the "I See You" album as a natural continuity in the band's evolution, combining some of their existing elements, like the clean digipak with an evident X on it or the light legible font. These elements can be seen on every single album The xx has ever released, supporting their brand image and promoting their uniqueness. The band’s products are usually experimental and versatile, so we could experiment various concepts.If we look at their evolution, from 2009 (xx), 2012 (Coexist) to 2017 (I See You) we can observe a subtle innovation of their style, from oily patterns with cut out shapes to embossed reflective materials. All their products are iconic for the indie genre - with this in mind, Mara and I decided to keep their simplicity and to deliver our products under the same clean and recognisable brand, with a refined personalised taste. We used photos that resembled the oily texture from their previous covers and also wanted to transmit the idea of reflection. The title of the album is “I see you” - we really wanted to enhance this idea by placing the two characters in front of each other and the sunlight reflecting in the water. Everything blends together in order to show our audience the bigger picture. Synergy is essential for this band.Their videos consist of mostly aesthetic shots while their albums are based on different textures. Our music video is made out of beautifully constructed details and artistic shots. Furthermore, we also developed a conceptual storyline which represents the contrast between youth at its peak and adulthood. While filming, we also took pictures in order to obtain high quality images for our minor tasks. We presented similar environments and colour palettes by including materials taken during the shoot. Both the website and the digipak have as their main theme the pictures taken during the sunrise filming session. We created a sense of unity between the music video, the website and the digipak by accentuating the sunlight, sky and warm colours. The quantity of information from The xx's website is quite restricted because there are more photos and less text. Indeed, photos express more - the engagement with their audience starts from this point. The digipak is in concordance with their website when it comes to simplicity: On the front cover we can see the undistinguished "X" while on the back it it presented the list of songs. We followed their impeccable pattern for our minor task by adopting a clean design which is related to their last album's concept: "I See You". Our website's purpose is to engage more with The xx's fans by familiarising them with our latest music video and to attract a new audience with this non conventional but intimate and cordial website. When it comes to our digipak, the cover consists of the stereotypical X, but instead of using a pattern, we used one of the pictures taken while filming the last scene of our music video. The inside of the digipak’s aesthetic is also the sunrise. The picture including the characters has been photoshopped in order to conform to the xx’s branding: geometry and minimalism - the geometrical white shapes surrounding them also emphasize the sunset and also their gaze (symbolising the idea of “I see you”). The text we included inside the digipak is written by the band itself and we felt it would bring our audience a more intimate feeling regarding the album.All these elements we combined in our music promotion package are part of a seamless whole which strongly reinforce the band's distinctive label.
3. How do your products engage with the audience and how would they be distributed as real media products?
Our music video follows a storyline to which our target audience can easily relate, everyone of us being a little bit anxious when thinking about growing old. The story follows a chronological order, engaging with the audience by making them curious about the ending. All the aesthetic scenes are visually pleasing - which is stereotypical for The xx and their music videos. This has a big effect of the band’s audience because they usually look forward to seeing the subliminal messages and raw colours presented throughout their music videos. The video will be distributed and shared on all the band’s social media. Previous to it being released, the video will be promoted through behind-the-scenes pictures or videos of the band talking about it. The audience is used with The xx's extremely minimal style, which we maintained throughout our minor task. Because of the artistic and always different X on their CDs and other products, the band created an image and people always have high expectations regarding it. After the band releases a cover, it is always trending on social media such as Tumblr or Instagram. People who are not necessarily part of their audience, but enjoy art, share the cover because of its beauty and uniqueness. This is happening because of the band’s brand and because they embraced their image of an artistic, underground band. The digipak follows their iconic pattern where an image is presented in the interior of the X. Our audience will instinctively associate this with The xx's brand. Visually, it has a great impact so it is easily recognised by the band's fans and it is often picked up by the general audience due to its uniqueness. This product will be distributed globally, because the band’s fans come from all around the world. The cover will be promoted on all social media, as it represents their new concept.On the right side of the website, we connected the social media icons with The xx's official accounts, so the audience can find them on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Instagram, and they can be kept up to date with the band - we engage with the audience by informing and communicating with them. Because the band is constantly evolving and trying out various concepts, it is important to receive feedback from the fans regarding the changes. Facebook will be used to create events, share articles and live sessions with the band. The xx usually creates Facebook live sessions when releasing a new song - by this they are getting directly to their audience, so now the audience no longer needs to follow that much their favourite band, the music comes to them, on the channels they use every day - this is why music bands use social media to engage with audiences. Twitter will be used to promote the new products using hashtags - if the hashtags will be trending, it is highly likely for the audience to expand and for the band to become more recognised. On the other hand, Youtube will be used in order to share both music videos and interviews with the band members. Instagram will be used in order to approach people who are more interested in art, photography and pictures of the members. Hashtags will also be used here, thus promoting themselves. From the Merch page, they can also buy our products with our brand image on it, so they can feel like they are a part of a big fan community. We developed emotional connections by introducing "About us", overtly describing the band. Our audience can subscribe to our website so they can choose to receive emails about The xx, their latest gigs and projects, benefiting from exclusive content.
4. How did you integrate technologies - software, hardware and online - in this project?
For the research part, we used Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Instagram to get more personal with The xx as well as their official website and some press articles about them. We also used Spotify for the information about their listeners and demographics.We filmed almost the entire video with a Canon 700d. We also used our Iphones 7 for the coloured smoke scenes, because we discovered we had no memory on our cards when we got there. The quality difference is not visible, but the shots are not as stable, because of the lack of a tripod. We used a tripod for our static shots in order to obtain a stable image. It was very useful, because we wanted multiple clean, steady shots, especially in the office.For the nocturne rooftop scenes, we used the flashlight of an Iphone 6 and an application for obtaining that strobe lights effect.The entire music video was edited in Final Cut Pro. It was a very good option as we needed the color correction options, which are relatively diverse in this program. Furthermore, we used transitions and we had to reposition multiple shots. Also, this program allowed us to use background sounds in the office scenes such as phones ringing, faxes and people talking. The digipak was created in Illustrator, using a 4 panel template downloaded from the internet. It had the bleed, format, CD size already set which was very efficient and less time consuming for us. Furthermore, in order to edit the pictures added in the digipak, we used Lightroom for colour and saturation and Photoshop to edit the background of one of the pictures in order to make it more graphic. We used dafont.com for all the fonts in the digipak. It was very useful as we checked multiple categories and managed to try out various fonts. The website was made using Wix as a platform. We personalised a music free template by adding our chosen elements. One of the main reasons why we chose Wix is because it has a certain feature with anchor points connected to header buttons. This would help the visitor get to any category by one click on our minimal one page website which fits The xx’s minimal and simple style. We used the xx’s website for the merch section. We also used Pinterest to get inspired for the colours and template. We also used some socialising websites such as Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram to discuss with each other and with our peers such as Facebook and Whatsapp. Because we both worked on most of the tasks we constantly had to transfer materials. We did this through Airdrop. Everything was edited and created on two MacBook Airs. I presented the data on my blog, using Weebly as a platform because I find it very friendly and I also presented my AS work on it.
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