Changing the Pitch Up: Web Video Lessons from the Prodigy
Difficult to shoot with older cameras and requiring intricate choreography, POV videos that weren’t nausea-inducing were primarily the territory of professional filmmakers. While many music video directors experimented with the style, none achieved greater notoriety than Jonas Åkerlund’s video for the Prodigy’s “Smack My Bitch Up” (well, maybe this one).
A frenetic, first-person ride through a debauched night in London, “Smack My Bitch Up” breaks virtually every FCC regulation governing broadcast television standards. In no particular order, the video features:
- Coke snorting!
- Countless acts of violence against men, women, and phone booths!
The depravity reaches a crescendo with a full-on sex scene, followed by the most infamous bait-and-switch in music video history (trust us: if you haven’t seen “Smack My Bitch Up”, you best watch it now).
Denounced as “misogynistic” upon release, the video was banned by MTV in both the US and the UK. Despite these bans, “Smack My Bitch Up” went on to win numerous MTV video awards in 1997, and was eventually named “the most controversial (music video) of all-time” in 2002.
So aside from suggestions on how to spice up your Tuesday night, what web video lessons can we learn from “Smack My Bitch Up”?
1) The camera adds 20 pints
Notice how the camera work steadily gets wobblier after 1:14, punctuated by more frequent blackouts? Remind you of anything? Good POV camera work mirrors the current mental state of the subject to draw viewers into the story. For a more contemporary (and less explicit) example of solid POV camera work, check out Remy Cayuela’s video for Duke Dumont’s “I Got You”.
2) Pacing is everything
POV is a visually-demanding format, so it’s best to give your viewers the chance to breathe every once in a while. Balance out high-action, motion-heavy sequences with slightly less visually intense shots to avoid overwhelming viewers. After all: even bad mother#^$%ers need a break every once in a while.
3) A good reveal can seal the deal
As horror movie directors have long known, POV shots provide a great opportunity to play with your audience’s perceptions. Viewers have no idea who the subject is until you elect to show them, giving you a great opportunity to add a twist ending – adding that “you gotta see this” factor that prompts viewers to share your video with their friends.
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