Musicorum the Digital Story: Practice led Research Blog Post

Introduction

Musicorum aimed at studying ‘cultural diversity’ through a social experiment that required people from different racial and cultural backgrounds to react to a piece of music. The aim of this project was to try and understand how the same piece of music speaks to people from varied backgrounds, thereby trying to prove that music is a universal language. The project brought with it its own set of challenges and this blog aims at critically analysing them.

The Producer/ Director Role

Helming the project at the top was both challenging and exciting. This role of a Producer/Director primarily demanded that I was a person who kept things on track through all the stages of the production, ensured deliverables reached each person not time and communication was constant between the group members. However, one of the most basic functions of mine in this project was to come up with questions that would elicit a certain response from the participants.

The logistics of the shoot and Post-Production thereafter also happened to be under my supervision and hence required planning to the utmost detail. For example, we scheduled our shoot for the day and prepared a full fledged call sheet which was later sent to each and everyone of the participants. This ensured that communication was happening back and forth and in turn any confusion leading up tot he shoot was avoided.

Call-Sheet_MusicorumShoot_final

As seen above, this detailing on the call-sheet helped us keep the shoot in order and helped us plan for our post-production workflow. In Post-Production my primary job was to work with the editor to arrive at a template that would work effectively for our video. This was developed after a series of sit-down sessions with the editor and constant feedback after the review of each cut. Also, owing to my designation on the project the powerpoint for our rough cut presentations had to be prepared by me (as seen below).

Musicorum_Presentation

The presentation really gave us a clear sense of direction and in turn helped me in finalising a timeline for all our pending deliverables. The feedback we received on our presentation, helped shape our post-production workflow and help decide our course for our Social Media strategy.

Social Media Strategy

The idea was to operate across platforms, namely: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube and carry a central design theme that would aid the tone of our project. Since we were on a quest to find out if people from different cultural and racial backgrounds react uniformly to a piece of music, we started each of our social media campaigns with the custom made posters that communicated the essence of our project.

As the campaign progressed, we integrated specific campaign models for each platform to enable us in reaching a wider audience base. On Instagram, a specially designed Musicorum Frame-Board got featured with people posing with it across different parts of the city. On Facebook, we decided to curate some engagement using street busker videos which in turn helped us keep the page alive. The Facebook page also promoted existing videos from various industry practitioners and thereby helped in engaging with our subscriber base. Possibly our weakest link in the armour is our Twitter handle. This page was designed well but fell flat on building traction.

However, what’s most important is that we integrated all our social media campaigns when we released our video on our YouTube channel. This integration links us effectively across all platforms and was factored in even at the Pre-Production stages of the project. Right from design through execution, my job as the producer/director entailed that I keep the flow of campaigns, engagement and ideas moving. The success of our relentless efforts can be seen in the spike in our subscriptions on our Facebook and Instagram pages and on our YouTube video of the final product.

The other major revamp that we had to factor in was our website, which was initially a platform for our digital proposal, which we have later converted into a platform for our Digital Story. Another platform that grants the user a cross-platform access.

Team Dynamics

Though the project was ongoing for more than two months, most of our roles barring mine and Edward’s (Editor/Designer/Camera) was temporary and self-initiated. However, being the producer-director of the project meant that I kept communicating with people across the board and ensuring that if we did not have any editing work to dabble with then we were invested in advancing our social media campaigns. As a result, all members were invested in working for the campaign across the board at different points of time.

However, some members were a little less invested than others which in turn affects the morale of the team as a whole. This attitude of some might not necessarily have an overbearing effect on the end result, but sure does make the process a little less enjoyable and a little more strenuous.

The Learnings

I think the important thing to ask is if we have been successful in achieving what we set out to achieve. And the answer to that question is largely, Yes. However, some areas that do require more refinement is how I as a Director was able to extract performance from the participants. Given that this exercise is largely non-fiction and the reactions seen on screen is organic, as a director I could have channeled the interactions in a way in which we could have ended up with reactions/responses that would have accentuated the tone of our video in a far better way.

Also, what went against such a luxury of extracting performance is the tight scheduling on the day. This in turn alerted me to the fact that we could have broken up our shoot into twos seperate shooting days, thereby giving us more time to focus on extracting/crafting different kinds of performances from the participants.

Going by the exisiting standards of industry players like Fomo Daily and Buzzfeed Videos, ours still has a lot of catching up to do in terms of making the video more fun, zesty and relevant. Coming to the edit of the video itself, while the pacing of the cuts and the progression between the questions work well. The sound design is patchy thanks to some bad balancing of the sound levels, however we were able to work around it thanks to the overlay of the soundtrack. These things are essential in determining the success of a reaction video online and need to be factored in for our subsequent campaigns. Again, as the producer/director I must have foreseen these issues on the day which could have averted them making their way into the final output.

In comparison with most of our peers and their projects ours stands to maintain a unique position thanks to the reaction video format style we chose to cover ours in. However, we did pick up a lot from projects like ‘That’s not the Case’ and ‘TroubleinMelbourne’ which have impressed the viewer in me with their unique project positioning and premise.

Conclusion

In all, the Musicorum project was a steep learning curve that facilitates the content curator in me in more ways than one. I come out of this much richer and confident in experience and also mindful of all the areas that need more work and effort.

Reference List:
BuzzFeed Video (2017). Buzzfeed Video. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/user/BuzzFeedVideo [Accessed 1 Jun. 2017].
Fomo Daily (2017). Fomo Daily. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCST5Bd24yZ9ptcLa9xyb4vg [Accessed 1 Jun. 2017].
Ni, T. and Li, Y. (2017). Home. [online] That’s not the Case. Available at: https://s3632600.wixsite.com/thatisnotthecase [Accessed 1 Jun. 2017].
Pervaiz, O., Wang, P. and Zhang, Q. (2017). Home. [online] troubleinmelbourne. Available at: https://s3555371.wixsite.com/troubleinmel/team [Accessed 1 Jun. 2017].

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


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