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Greatest Music Videos of All Time

Using music and video together as a medium to tell a story can be a very powerful tool for communicating a message. Today filmmakers and musicians add Hollywood visual effects and other fancy tricks to make music videos have impact, but the pioneers of the format used their imaginations to push music videos to all new heights:

Artist: Bob Dylan
Song: “Subterranean Homesick Blues” (1965/1967)

Bob Dylan, the Voice of His Generation, trying not to look bored in the groundbreaking music video for “Subterranean Homesick Blues.” (The bearded guy to the left is poet Allen Ginsberg, author of the Beat classic “Howl.”)

How It Changed Music Videos: It was the first modern music video built around an artistic concept. The primitive black-and-white film was made to promote the song – the video was initially created for the 1967 D.A. Pennebaker documentary “Don’t Look Back,” which shadowed Dylan as he toured England during 1965.

It’s a pretty simple idea really, but one that has struck a chord with several generations of rock audiences. A guy stands in an alley holding a stack of cue cards. The audio from a rambunctious folk rock song starts to blast, each line of which is a non-stop barrage of hipster verbiage (example: “Johnny’s in the basement mixing up the medicine/I’m on the pavement thinking about the government”).

As the video progresses, the guy in it, rock poet Bob Dylan, drops each cue card after its corresponding piece of lyric has been sung in the audio. Dylan does not sing or perform the song. In fact, he shows no particular emotion, except mild irritation and boredom. When he runs out of cue cards, he just walks out of the camera frame, leaving puzzled audiences to try and figure out what it all meant.

Artist: Michael Jackson
Song: “Thriller” (1984)

With Quincy Jones-produced rhythms and Michael Jackson as a zombie, “Thriller” proved to be a genuine media event.

How It Changed Music Videos: By 1984, MTV had taken over control of the music industry; at this point, a new album or single had to have a top-notch video. Michael Jackson took the challenge and ran with it, making this first single song video epic from what would become the decade’s biggest album.

Jackson brought on film director John Landis to oversee the project. Landis was already a Hollywood power-player, having directed “National Lampoon’s Animal House,” “Trading Places,” “The Blues Brothers,” and “An American Werewolf in London” before tackling “Thriller.” For the video he was given a half-million dollar budget.

Jackson made multiple music videos to promote several tracks, but the “Thriller” music video was more than just a regular video, adding eight minutes of additional narrative to the song’s six-minute length. Thematically, “Thriller” was a G-rated creep show with a disco beat and which featured a vocal cameo by Hollywood horror legend Vincent Price.

The video was so popular that MTV was eventually airing the 14-minute video twice per hour. Jackson was hailed as a creative genius for his own remarkable dancing, as well as arranging the zombie choreography.

The video helped propel sales of the “Thriller” album to 110 million units worldwide, making it the best-selling album of all time. Never again would either Jackson or the music video be so big.

Artist: Nirvana
Song: “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (1991)

Grunge started here…with deliberately low production standards.

How It Changed Music Videos: As the 80s progressed, video production techniques improved. Inspired by the massive success of “Thriller,” the trend toward lavishly produced videos continued. But not every musical act wanted to create an ultra-slick music video. Enter Seattle’s Nirvana in the early 90s, with a Punk-like desire to avoid seeming to be “corporate.”

So when the first Grunge band of note got ready to produce a music video for the breakout hit from its powerhouse album Nevermind, it had definite ideas about what it wanted. For its director, the band selected first-timer Samuel Bayer…specifically because he didn’t have much experience. Kurt Cobain (accurately) assumed Bayer would be technically inept and the resulting footage would have a raw, undisciplined quality.

The song became a major Alternative anthem and the music video a smashing success. Nirvana won numerous MTV Music Awards in 1992 and the Guinness Book of Records considers the video the most played music video on MTV Europe. In 2001, VH1 named it the fourth-greatest music video of all time.

Artist: Beastie Boys
Song: “Sabotage” (1994)

“Sabotage,” a loud and abrasive triumph of threat-screaming rage, was paired with the hilarious visual concept of the opening credits of a (fake) 70s police show.

How It Changed Music Videos: Part cop-show homage, part rock/rap blaster, the Beastie Boys’ greatest video was 100 percent pure fun.

The Beastie Boys were always highly creative when it came to making music videos. But the group’s signature music-video moment was directed by genius director Spike Jonze, who took a one-chord shouter from the “Ill Communication” album and turned it into music-video gold.

An instant classic upon release, the “Sabotage” music video was nominated in five different categories at the 1994 MTV Music Awards, yet took home no awards. However, fifteen years later, when the new category of “Best Video (That Should Have Won a Moonman)” was introduced, the very first recipient was “Sabotage.”

Artist: Johnny Cash
Song: “Hurt” (2003)

“Hurt” is a song about reaching conclusions and sifting through all of what has come before.

How It Changed Music Videos: Plenty of “serious” music videos have attempted to make a statement, but none more powerful than this stark goodbye from the Man in Black. Nobody expected the most powerful music video of its year to feature the great Johnny Cash, then working in his sixth decade as a recording artist. But then, nobody had expected Cash to make one of the biggest musical comebacks of all time during the 90s, suddenly becoming wildly popular with fans young enough to be his grandchildren.

For the music video, director Mark Romanek used extensive footage and photographs from throughout Cash’s life, which were contrasted with footage of the 71-year-old man. Cash was weak and facing a range of health problems at the time.

The combination of music and visual images made the “Hurt” video one of the most powerful music-video experiences ever. The video received the 2004 Grammy for Best Short Form Music Video and was listed as CMT’s top video for 2003 as well as the Number One greatest country music video for the following year.

In July 2011 New Music Express named it the best video of all time. Sadly, Cash himself didn’t get to see the video’s massive success; the Man in Black passed away seven months after the video was produced.

Make Your Own Landmark Videos
Music videos represent a perfect intersection between two wonderful art forms – but bringing the two together requires talent to create a quality video. It takes training, too, and learning how to make a music video is the perfect place to start. If you want to learn music & video production you need hands-on training in digital audio, music and beat production, and filmmaking skills, too. Once you have a good grasp of those things, you can take your idea and turn it into an award-winning and groundbreaking music video.

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posted by Phill Powell in Digital Music Production,Music Production,News Blog and have No Comments

Making Money With Art in The Age of Digital Media

Does traditional art still matter in the digital age? You bet it does – and there’s no better time to be an artist! Why? Because art is not only a career, but if you establish yourself, you could turn yourself into a household name.


Munch’s famous “The Scream” – do I hear $119 million? Sold!

Take for example Edvard Munch, whose iconic “The Scream,” sold at Sotheby’s auction for a staggering $119 million. Or Mark Rothko’s “Orange, Red, Yellow” which brought nearly $87 million at a Christie’s auction.

Drawn to Art
More recently, several prime pieces from the titans of Pop Art brought in big money. The Roy Lichtenstein painting “Sleeping Girl” scored nearly $45 million on Wednesday, an auction record for a Lichtenstein. Wednesday also saw the classic Andy Warhol painting “Double Elvis (Ferrus Type)” sell for more than $37 million. The painting was expected to bring much more and its sale was nowhere near the record price paid for a Warhol, which is more than $71 million.


 “Sleeping Girl,” from 1964, is a prime example of Lichtenstein’s trademark techniques.

Both artists came to define the 1960s look of Pop Art, which drew inspiration from the worlds of celebrity and pop culture. Lichtenstein is best known for oversize paintings that reproduced the panels of comic strips, blowing the images up so large that you focused on the huge color dots that actually make up such images.

In contrast, photographer Warhol was the prophet of instant fame, coining the famous phrase, “In the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes.” His breakthrough success involved taking a commonly known image (a Campbell soup can) and turning it into a pop image.


Andy Warhol made more than 20 prints of “Double Elvis,” about half of them now hang in museums.

“Double Elvis (Ferus Type)” is representative of Warhol’s celebrity silkscreen period, in which he took photographic images of various public figures and did series of silkscreened prints from that image, with each print featuring a different shade of color or amount of contrast. The painting (silkscreen ink and spray paint on canvas) shows a double exposure image of Elvis Presley wearing a gunslinger’s outfit and was first shown publicly at the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles in 1963.


Mark Rothko’s 1961 “Orange, Red, Yellow” recently brought $87 million through auction.

Traditional Art in a Digital World
Today the worlds of art and digital photography collide more than ever before. Big businesses depend upon the creativity and skills of the photographers, artists and other professional talents for marketing, sales, product support and so much more.

If you’re ready to inspire your talent or just develop your own style, digital art summer camp, like the Jr. Adventures in Art & Digital Photography camp at Digital Media Academy gives campers the chance to study modern art. Plus learn the styles and influences of Picasso, Van Gogh, Jackson Pollock, Georgia O’Keefe and Andy Warhol and how to reproduce them or create their own masterpiece. With a little time, effort and passion, you could become a famous artist, too.

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posted by Phill Powell in Art,News Blog and have No Comments

App of the Month: Draw Something (Review)

Game: Draw Something
Developer: OMGPOP
Rating: 5 out 5 stars
Price: Free, $.99 for the ad-free version

The world’s hottest game lets users express themselves creatively while competing with friends in a Pictionary-like game challenge. Draw Something is a wildly popular app created by OMGPOP. That company, now owned by Zynga, was recently paid a whopping $180 million for the game.


Take a guess what this Draw Something player is sketching. (Don’t worry, we’ve provided an answer below…)

Draw Something’s popularity is still on the rise – it’s already become a top app in the Apple Store – but the app, which began life as a PC game called Draw My Thing, has already hooked millions of would-be artists worldwide.

Artfully Done
Draw Something’s interface is super simple: a sketch area, color palette, pen and eraser are provided for the budding artist. Players then use their finger (or stylus) to draw a picture that represents the word their opponent is trying to guess. (Phrases like “prom,” “slam dunk” and “firewood” aren’t as easy to guess as you might think.) When the player is finished with his drawing, it’s then sent to their opponent. In turn, the opponent attempts to guess what is being drawn using a small selection of letters.

Points are awarded for correct answers, while wrong answers can cost players “turns.” Points translate into credits that can be used to buy “art supplies,” like new brushes or colors. Aside from the game itself, Draw Something fans are also using the program as a means for self expression, unleashing their inner Van Gogh with complex works of user art.


Examples of art created with Draw Something include a high-flying salute to NBA legend Michael Jordan.

Players can have multiple games going simultaneously, which comes in handy if you’re waiting for a player to guess one of your drawings. One drawback (pun intended) is that players can also write out words…which comes in handy for players who can’t sketch but who happen to enjoy cheating.

Drawn to Apps?
Some insiders have claimed Draw Something may be the fastest growing original mobile game ever – and point to the fact that an astounding 50 million users have downloaded the app in only 50 days. Not only that, but Draw Something has even dethroned the massively popular Angry Birds game as the most popular download in current circulation.

Cool games like Draw Something all share one characteristic: they each begin with people inspired to create something new and outstanding. Opportunities to gain practical app-development experience, such as the iPhone Game Development summer camp and the App Development for iPhone and iPad summer camp, are a smart way to start learning how to make the next Draw Something.

Answer: Bathtub

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posted by Phill Powell in News Blog and have No Comments