music videos

The Best Cinematography The 59th Annual Grammys has to Offer

Beyoncé set the bar high with her HBO video extravaganza that dominated the MTV Music Awards last summer. But it’s not just “Lemonade” that’s got the cinematography geeks all a buzz. From Justin Bieber’s “What Do You Mean?” to Bowie’s heartbreaking “Lazarus,” many of this year’s Grammy-nominees enlisted top-notch directors and cinematographers to bring their music to filmic life. Here we pull back the curtain on the magicians behind the cameras, who made the year’s best songs look great.

Beyoncé’s “Lemonade”

Up for 11 Grammys, the tour-de-force album celebrates black women, the South, and music itself. The HBO spectacular testifies to Beyoncé’s ability to direct the look as well as the sound of her art with its four Emmy nominations. Beyoncé employed a talented roster of cinematographers to capture her star-studded cast. Malik Sayeed took home the MTV best cinematography award for his work on “Formation,” and other notable cinematographers include Dikayl Rimmasch (who also wears his hat as director on the project), and Meadowland director Reed Morano. As Film School Rejects concludes: “There’s a reason why Beyoncé’s special looks and moves like artful cinema: there’s a team of talented artists behind her.”

Radiohead’s “Daydreaming”

In a recent article, we examined the most filmic music videos by Radiohead, and looked forward to the next single off “Moon Shaped Pool,” up for alternative album of the year. Radiohead did not disappoint! Paul  Thomas Anderson directed and, as this article at Flavorwire suggests, likely acted as cinematographer for the much-analyzed “Daydreaming.” From domestic interiors to snowy cliff exteriors, Anderson pulls the camera through endless doors to create a symbol-laden look that invites film and music fans alike to watch and re-watch.

Adele’s “Hello”

“25” is up for eight Grammys, including album of the year. The single “Hello” is up for song of the year. The video for “Hello,” directed by Xavier Dolan and with cinematography by André Turpin, is an intimate portrayal of loss and regret. Actor Tristan Wilds was cast opposite Adele and it seems  the singer and her talented team approached “Hello” as they would a short film. Despite the flip phones, the look packs an emotional punch, causing Adele to say, “It’s my best video and I’m so proud of it.”

Justin Bieber’s “What Do You Mean?”

It’s not a big surprise that Bieber’s “Purpose” is up for album of the year, but finding him (or at least his video) a topic of discussion at No Film School is a bit of a surprise. Yet it’s not the heartthrob the indie film buffs are interested in, but rather the work of cinematographer Joshua Reis. “Breaking Down the Cinematography in Justin Bieber’s ‘What Do You Mean’ Music Video” praises Reis for his designed color theme, which ties together the traditionally lit exteriors with the innovatively lit interiors (shot in an actual hotel room): “Reis does some beautifully intriguing things with light and color in the music video — the harsh shadows and the neon greens and reds create what Matt [Workman] describes as a ‘modern film noir’ look.”

David Bowie’s “Lazarus”

The heartbreaking video of impending death and impossible resurrection was released three days before Bowie’s passing. With the help of cinematographer Crille Forsberg, director Johan Renck (of “Breaking Bad” fame) created a look that helped Bowie turn “hospice care into high art,” according to Pitchfork, who listed the video as #2 in its list of the Best Videos of 2016. Bowie is up for five posthumous Grammys for his final album “Blackstar.”

What are your picks for the most cinematic moments in music videos this year? Will you be watching the Grammys on Feb. 12? Let us know in the comments below!

Innovative Music Videos Aspiring Filmmakers Should See

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For the last few decades, music videos have grown to be an important part of the music industry. Once seen only as marketing tools, music videos eventually came to serve as a new medium where musicians and filmmakers could express themselves.

While there are countless amazing music videos all filmmakers should check out, below are some of the most innovative. Whether these videos used a clever animation technique or did more with less cash, they’re all worth enjoying — and perhaps even learning from.

“Take On Me” – A-ha

The music video for this catchy ‘80s tune left viewers mesmerized by its use of rotoscoping. This technique involves using a combination of live people and places with pencil-sketch animation. This style helped the video set itself apart from others at the time, giving it a strong romantic fantasy feeling.

This creative music video won a total of six awards at the 1986 MTV Video Music Awards, including Best Concept Video and Best Experimental Video. Aspiring filmmakers can learn from A-ha’s attempt at doing something different and unique instead of sticking to less-risky ideas.

“Sabotage” – Beastie Boys

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This 1994 hit song came with a music video that pays tribute to classic crime series from the 1970s. It serves as a parody to the action-packed opening credits of fictional cop dramas like “Starsky and Hutch,” “Hawaii Five-O,” and “S.W.A.T.”

Although the video didn’t win any of its nominations at the 1994 MTV Video Music Awards, it remains relevant in popular culture. At the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, it was awarded “Best Video That Should Have Won a Moonman.”

“Thriller” – Michael Jackson

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There was a time when people across the world weren’t just waiting for another feature film or music album to release. Instead, they counted down the days until Michael Jackson, the late King of Pop, would release another music video.

This is all thanks to his monstrous hit “Thriller” and the lengthy video that accompanied it. The effort Jackson put into this project made people start seeing music videos as not just a promotional tool but as an unique work of art.

“Here It Goes Again” – OK Go

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Time and time again, American rock band OK Go has shown us how creativity will always be more important than how much money is spent. They have gained a following for creating numerous music videos that go viral on Youtube and social media despite budget constraints.

One of their best efforts is the music video for “Here It Goes Again,” which earned them a Grammy Award for Best Short Form Music Video in 2007 as well as the 2006 YouTube award for Most Creative Video. The video features one continuous take as the band dances together on treadmills.

“Sledgehammer” – Peter Gabriel

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The music video for this 1986 song used a combination of live-action and stop-motion animation to create a whimsical experience that ties in perfectly with the song. From dancing oven-ready chickens to chalkboard roller coasters to faces formed out of food, there’s no shortage of creativity.

If anything, the video showed how far one can go with dedication and passion. Creating this video required Gabriel to lay under a sheet of glass for over 16 hours. This music video won nine awards at the 1987 MTV Video Music Awards, making it the video with the most wins.

“Lost In The Echo” – Linkin Park

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The video for “Lost In The Echo” is unique in that it connects to your Facebook account and uses your pictures to weave the video’s narrative. It is one of the most innovative attempts at an interactive video that uses today’s social media technology to draw viewers into the world of the song.

Linkin Park won Best Interactive Music video for “Lost In The Echo” at the O Music Awards. Although most viewers found the personal photos humorous rather than moving, the video is a big step forward in the realm of interactive music videos.

Are you a filmmaker who loves music videos? Let us know your favorites in the comments below!

No Surprises: Radiohead’s 5 Most Filmic Music Videos

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A shade over twenty years ago, a little indie band from Oxfordshire, England released their debut single. That single was “Creep,” and it immediately put Radiohead on the map.

Having come out of the gate swinging, the band only grew in popularity and managed to stay ahead of the game thanks, in part, to a deep commitment to dramatically evolving their style along the way.

Thom Yorke and his merry band’s penchant for experimentation hasn’t solely been confined to music, either. Their accompanying music videos are also a strange mix—at times avant garde, at others outright bizarre, but more often than not they’ve served as food for thought for both musicians and filmmakers alike.

With this in mind—and with the new album A Moon Shaped Pool having just landed with the film referencing music video for “Burn the Witch”—let’s take a look back over Radiohead’s five most thought-provoking music videos with a cinematographic eye.

Lotus Flower (2011)

Directed By: Garth Jennings

Black and white, sparsely shot, slightly unhinged and not making a lick of sense. If that sounds like David Lynch to you, you’re not the only one.

Going on to gain a Grammy nomination, the video was directed by Garth Jennings who notably directed 2005’s Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, which is pretty much the polar opposite in feel to the “Lotus Flower” short. Jennings has never revealed whether Yorke’s white shirt and bowler hat is a nod to Stanley Kubrick.

No Surprises (1997)

Directed by: Grant Lee

Lo-fi simplicity is something of a hallmark of a good Radiohead video, as proven with this visually arresting, one-shot video for one of OK Computer‘s finest songs (and one that the band spontaneously played in one take on getting set up for the album’s first recording session.)

While the song itself is inspired by nursery rhyme, the music video is very reminiscent of Paul Thomas Anderson’s cinematic style—simple ideas executed without distraction, preferring to put the subject at the forefront of the frame.

There’s also a touch of David Fincher about it, owing to the moody palette and lighting, but the take home here is that a captivating, suspenseful idea usually trumps any visual effects wizardry (and countless similar music videos have followed in the wake of “No Surprises”).

We won’t reveal how they minimized the risk of drowning poor ol’ Thom; for that, you’ll need to see the Radiohead documentary Meeting People is Easy.

Karma Police (1997)

Directed by: Jonathan Glazer

Following deftly on from “No Surprises” was the record’s second single “Karma Police”, which had an equally captivating video to match. Curiously, the idea was originally pitched to Marilyn Manson, who declined.

Directed by maestro Jonathan Glazer (who also directed “Street Spirit” and Jamiroquai’s “Virtual Insanity,” among feature films such as Under the Skin), the video is a typically surreal depiction of an antagonistic situation, and if it looks like it was inspired by some kind of fever dream, that’s because it actually was. But in terms of presentation, the Coen Brothers is strong with this one but Glazer has also admitted borrowing liberally from Kubrick throughout his career.

Of the working process and of getting collaborators on board with bizarre ideas, Glazer says: “It starts with an idea that I’ll be able to articulate, and then it’s about almost putting that idea in a laboratory and inspecting it… and it’s a long process. We don’t start with a story, we start with a feeling, and [that feeling] is your North Star.”

Alas, despite being one of most people’s favorite Radiohead music videos, Glazer himself saw it as a failed experiment.

Just (1995)

Directed by: Jamie Thraves

Even Radiohead’s most conventional music videos have an air of mystery around them.

The overdriven melodrama here is almost certainly inspired by Douglas Sirk, whose influence can also be seen in Pulp Fiction (and directly alluded to by Tarantino, also, when Vincent Vega orders the “Douglas Sirk steak.”) Thraves was picked out specially by the band to direct the short after seeing his experimental University efforts; it was Thraves’ first assignment, and he’s gone on to work with the likes of Coldplay and Damien Rice since.

We can’t help but wonder if the sidewalk guy’s mysterious final line gave inspiration to Sofia Coppola—at the end of Lost in Translation, a similar scenario plays out and also drove viewers up the wall with intrigue.

Pretty clever marketing trick when you think of it.

Burn The Witch (2016)

Directed by: Chris Hopewell

At the time of writing, this one’s fresh on the ‘tubes, so it may be a little premature to call this an enduring Radiohead classic, but we suspect it will be and serves as a great point to close off.

Hugely different from everything that has come before for the band, The Wicker Man is clearly the main influence on this one. The story is as creepy as it always was, but made even more sinister here when presented in the style of a 1960s English kids TV show (a la Trumpton and Camberwick Green.)

In reference to the almost glaring contrast between the bright art style and the sinister undertones, animator Virpi Kettu revealed that this was at the behest of the band themselves who wanted to satirize the idea of idyllic rural communities as espoused by right-wing politicians.

It’ll be interesting to see which single follows from A Moon Shaped Pool, but in the mean time do let us know your thoughts—got a favorite Radiohead music video you wish had made the cut? Any neat film tricks you’ve been inspired to try out? We’ll see you down in the comments!

Learn more about the School of Cinematography at the New York Film Academy by clicking here.