This 3.5-hour strategy helps students analyze and develop an argument about a music video and its relationship to society, politics, and culture and create a video analysis with Adobe Spark Video. This strategy can be adapted for use with other subject matter, especially with other visual media, as well as for use with Premiere Rush.
Because Spark Video makes juxtaposing images and text easy, this strategy empowers students to reflect on and analyze the relationship between contemporary media and politics.
Students identify a music video they would like to analyze. (15 minutes)
Students watch the video several times, taking notes on its content and visual style, and then develop a “thesis statement” for their analysis. (75 minutes)
Students share their observations and theses with a partner or small group. (30 minutes)
Students construct a simple framework to support their thesis and capture a library of images to use in their video. (30 minutes)
Students share and publish their analyses.
Music videos are a unique contemporary art form, mixing narrative storytelling, moving images, and musical sound to reflect on contemporary society. In this 2- to 5-hour strategy, you will analyze a music video of your choosing and then use Adobe Spark Video to craft a video essay exploring its themes, imagery, and style.
Because Spark Video makes it easy to juxtapose images and text, it is an effective tool for analyzing multimedia art forms like music videos.
1. Select a music video to analyze; it may be a video you’ve recently watched and enjoyed, one that is particularly near and dear to you, one you’ve heard about before, or simply one that catches your eye today. If you’re having trouble selecting a video to analyze, browse these resources (15 minutes):
Billboard.com’s list of the 100 Greatest Music Videos of the 21st Century.
Rolling Stone Readers Pick the Best Music Videos of All Time. [link]
Wikipedia’s list of the Grammy winners for Best Music Video from 1984 to present.
2. Watch the video at least three times, pausing to write notes as you go. (45 minutes)
On your first watch, focus on understanding the video’s structure:
Where is it filmed? Does it take place in more than one setting / set?
Is there a musical performance? What about a narrative arc? What is the video’s “story”?
Does the video feature characters? Dancers? Musicians?
Is the video broken up into defined “acts”, or is it one long piece?
On your second watch, pay closer attention to the imagery and visual language:
How would you describe the video’s tone, mood, or aesthetic? What emotions does it summon?
What is the video’s color palette? Does it seem dark or light?
Does the camera move, or stay still? How often does the camera cut between images? What do you notice about the people depicted in the video? Do you recognize them as belonging to a social group?
Does the video make use of symbolism, metaphor, or other literary techniques?
Finally, your third watch of the video should focus on drawing connections between the video and the broader political, economic, and socio-cultural world. Keeping your previous observations in mind, watch the video a final time:
Which social themes does the video explore or reference? Does the video reference contemporary or historical events?
In what ways does the video comment on, embody, or contradict the culture and time period in which it was produced?
Do you feel the video has a message? How does it convey that message?
3. Using your notes, decide how you will frame your analysis of the video you’ve selected. This should be done in the form of a single thesis sentence, although that sentence can take a variety of shapes. Some examples:
In the video for “Formation,” Beyoncé uses fashion and dance to complicate traditional Southern conceptions of femininity.
Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy” video tells the unsettling story of a disturbed and isolated child through symbolism and an impressionistic, dream-like style.
Michael Jackson’s video for “They Don’t Care About Us” uses crosscutting to contextualize the American prison system as part of a pattern of global injustice.
As you work, keep in mind that in this assignment, your goal is not to trace every detail of a particular video, or exhaust every social or cultural reference point. Rather, your goal should be to make a specific, provable point that can be supported with direct evidence from the video itself - make it as straightforward as possible. (30 minutes)
4. With a partner or in a small group, share your chosen music video and discuss your observations and thesis sentence. In addition to sharing your observations, take note of what others have noticed about their selected videos and how they have analyzed them; can you borrow any of their insights or methods to apply to your selection? Conversely, did they notice anything about your video that you might have missed? Modify your thesis sentence as you see fit. (30 minutes)
5. Drawing on your notes and feedback from your peers, construct a simple, three-part framework to support your amended thesis sentence. For the theses above, these respectively might look like (15 minutes):
“Formation”: Beyoncé’s wardrobe selections + her obscured face + unexpected or unusual performance settings.
“Jeremy”: multi-layered, confusing editing style + visual symbols of childhood, parents, and school + lead singer’s direct address to the camera.
“They Don’t Care About Us”: opening title cards dedicate song to victim of global injustice + prison cafeteria setting and outfits + images of police brutality and lyrical reference to skinheads.
6. Using your framework, watch the video a fourth and final time, pausing to capture stills from the video using your device’s screen-capture feature. (Directions for Mac, PC, iOS, Android.) Capture as many as you like, saving them in a single file on your device for easy access. We recommend starting with about 25-35 images. Optionally, after you’re done, you can go through the file, rename the pictures you’d like to use, and delete any you won’t need. Make sure to collect screenshots that align with each part of your framework. (15 minutes)
7. Open Adobe Spark Video. Using your framework and folder of screenshots, follow the guidance below to create an analysis video for the work you’ve selected. For inspiration or ideas, watch this tutorial and check out this sample video.
Add a slide for each of your images; you will want to have approximately 25-35 slides total.
Order your slides according to your framework.
Experiment with changing the layout and adding text.
Adjust the timing of your slides.
Consider adding music to your video - either a digital version of the song you’re analyzing or a song that complements the mood of your analysis video.
Remember that your goal is to highlight and/or draw out an interesting aspect of a particular video, NOT completely explain it - so as you work, feel free to tighten or expand your focus according to that goal. (60+ minutes)
8. Share your video as directed by your instructor.
Consult the attached rubric to evaluate students' videos.