An Appreciation of the 360° Music Video

I have long been a fan of music videos, and I believe that one of the unfortunate consequences of the decline of MTV and other cable music networks is that we are unable to see the progress of a legitimate art form.  With this in mind, know that Rust Is Just Right will often try to highlight our favorite videos and techniques.  Today we will look at a specific form which saw a mini-renaissance of sorts, the 360° music video.

This specific technique is a variation of an old stand-by, the one-shot video.  It takes a remarkable amount of skill and planning to pull off a memorable one-shot video, because it has to balance between being simple enough to accomplish with one take while also portraying some event that will make the video memorable to some degree.  The 360° video is a particularly ingenious variation of the one-shot video, because its very nature creates the illusion of movement and allows the director to mess with the predictions of the viewer.  There is a sense of progress, even if the action does not necessarily move forward, and because the viewer is constantly anticipating what is happening off-screen, the director has time to prepare and come up with a surprise as to what happens next.

Last year saw two different takes on the 360° concept from wildly different artists.  The first was the video for “Inside Out” from clipping., which followed a CGI representation of the MC navigating around a street corner, with each line represented by a specific image that takes the place of his head.  It is quite entertaining, and also helps the viewer connect with the specific lyrics of the song.

The other video from last year which utilized this concept was Philip Selway’s “Around Again”.  The song title provides an obvious clue as to why the director went with this conceit, but rest assured the result rises above being a mere gimmick.  Here, the director plays with repetition of certain movements and actions as well as incorporating slow-motion, colors, and freeze-frames, which provide a stark contrast to the illusory movement around the track.

Now contrast these recent videos with two alternative rock videos from back in the day when rock videos actually got played on TV.  First, there’s Everclear’s bouncy and irreverent “Everything to Everyone”.

Now compare that to Saves the Day’s “At Your Funeral”.

The most interesting comparison between the two pairs is how the recent videos focus on a protagonist traveling around in a set track, while the camera in the Everclear video rotates without any clear target and instead allowing specific scenes to take the spotlight with each rotation.  The “At Your Funeral” video splits the difference by focusing both on a static shot of singer Chris Conley, keeping him squarely in the center of the frame as the camera rotates, as well as covering the major moments of a family’s life (in super-fast motion) with the camera’s unyielding revolutions.

Though all four videos use a similar approach, each is able to stand out in distinct ways with each yielding a memorable result.  The mere usage of this clever technique is not enough to guarantee a notable result, but it can help, and the director in each video utilized the concept to their advantage.  If anyone else can think of any other examples of this type of music video, we’d love to hear it, and if possible compare them to these instances above.

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