I highly commend the web page 'Nine top tips for Media students'. From the people behind theory.org.uk, its worth a read!

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

UCAS Personal Statements, CV, Letters of Application

I'm merging a range of documents from CEP and other subjects here, and will re-format/add as time permits.

To prevent this post from slowing the blog from loading, please click on the 'read more' link to access all material in the post. You may need to sign up for a free Slideshare account to download some of these embedded documents, but should be able to read them within the post itself.

This is purely a suggestion; I'm not saying this is how all personal statements should be set out. Indeed, several of my suggested points appear on a list of cliches - though I don't think there's much to be gained from stressing over attempting to achieve originality given the sheer scale (100s of 1000s each year) of PSs issued each year. Hopefully, though, it will help you get going if you're stuck or struggling.
There are lots of documents in this post - and looking afresh at the UCAS guide below, its not a million miles from my own suggested framework!
I've used 'soft' and 'hard' as very loose terms to roughly denote more personal attributes evidenced through leisure and extra-curricular activities (soft) and direct academic credentials evidenced mainly through academic achievement and activity in school (hard), though these certainly overlap. A good PS requires a decent amount of both: you're establishing that you are equipped to cope with HE and more independent living, working with many new people, as much as your capacity to read, research and pass exams.

I've numbered these as well to indicate one possible structure; you may have more than one paragraph from any one of these points, or, depending on the course you're applying for, may think it better to combine more than one into one paragraph. Just pick out what you think will benefit your application.

1: PERSONAL ANECDOTE - Common but useful starting point
My passion for/interest in x is longstanding/was sparked by... [FROM SOFT/PERSONAL TO HARD/ACADEMIC] More recently my commitment to x has been reflected in ... (eg, my own wider reading, such as the writing of x, which I found especially intriguing because... [you could also compare with a writer/theory you disagree with])
Is this a subject that excites you? Are you passionate about it? Is it a recent 'discovery' (that's okay!) or a longstanding interest? Was there a specific event that triggered this? Has some recent learning, reading or experience reinforced this? Be specific if so! You could briefly indicate why you think this is the best subject for you; where it might take you (and maybe expand on this in a final paragraph). You could include brief points on the range of possible specialisms within the field as a positive in and of itself, and/or indicate a possible focus for you.

2: DEVELOP THE HARD ACADEMIC CREDENTIALSPick out key skills, attributes demonstrated in ANY of your courses: writing, research, finding your own resources, reports, presentations, lab work, design, creative thinking, group work, collaboration, meeting tight deadlines, organising your work, wider reading, asking questions - not just being a passive learner, self-assessment: recognising your subject weak spots & showing determination (outline strategy) to overcome these, making cross-curricular links (synthesising ideas not formally linked by your teacher/subject is a strong indicator of academic prowess).
Draft points like these in detail at first then start thinking about the word limit. Don't set out to write the statement from scratch, organise a set of notes and possible points, be clear on the detail, and gradually whittle away extraneous points or detail to fit within the word limit and achieve a balanced, flowing PS.

Strip-mine your leisure activities for useful transferrable skills and positive characteristics. Don't underestimate any pursuit, hobby or interest. Think about leadership, working with a team, delegating, organisation (arranging meetings, taking minutes etc), working with public/others more broadly, reliability, dealing positively with challenging people/behaviours, inspiring younger people, work-life balance to maintain a healthy approach to academic work, a creative/expressive outlet, media & communication skills (articles for school newsletters/local paper, blogging, sports reports, social media for a group/organisation/club, posters, photography, a YouTube channel...), communicating with other organisations, campaigning (don't detail the politics too much, focus on the skills and commitment/energy/roundedness/engagement this shows), balancing competing commitments, technical/ICT skills...

May be part of above paragraph or separated if its especially pertinent for your course/career path. Most of the above points apply too, and my points below can apply above!!! If you're praised by an employer use that - be clear on what attributes have been highlighted. What responsibilities have you been entrusted with? Have you shown a long-term consistency, reliability, commitment? You can make direct links to the subject: how this has informed or expanded (inspired?!) your learning; brought to life theory x or writing by x or a case study? Have you faced and overcome any specific challenges? Have you shown any initiative? Are you demonstrating general maturity, self-reliance, independence, financial self-responsibility, a capacity for juggling workloads - all of which point to your suitability for the tough challenges of university as a young independent adult?

Tying things together and quite a direct pitch to course selectors (possibly building on your opening paragraph too). Summing up - some reiteration of earlier points is fine. Throwing in a specific academic point (maybe a field of research/critical thinking you especially look forward to exploring in depth) and stressing your intellectual curiosity; plain hunger for learning, is advisable! Why would a tutor conclude after a year that you've been a positive addition to and presence on the course - what personal attributes make you well equipped for the challenges of HE? What suggests you're ready to forge your own path? What will you do that means you'll take better advantage of the diverse opportunities HE study brings than candidate x with the same grades? Strongly express your enthusiasm, desire and commitment. Have you made it clear and explicit WHY you want to pursue this subject? Familial links to an industry/profession are a perfectly valid point, but make sure there's a clear personal voice and choice expressed!

I hope that helps. There is much more learned guidance in the documents below!Don't be afraid to approach subject teachers - we are all rather over-stretched, but most will endeavour to help you nonetheless!


You can zoom in or out; go full screen; visit the Slideshare site to download; you may need to set up an account to do so
You should be able to download and save these documents, but you can also read them directly from the blog. You can go fullscreen, and also zoom in or out.


Friday, 19 June 2015

Macbook buying guide

At some stage when doing Media Studies you may be tempted to get yourself a Mac, which would be a great idea to boost your ability to edit not just main productions, but also vodcasts and Evaluation question videos too (and other non-school work/projects!).

As the school has asked me to put together a briefing on possibly purchasing two Macbooks, I'll gather some of the main resources I've used to research this here; if you are looking at doing this these might help.

a few quick general points, then the resources/notes will be below the 'read more' line...

  1. Final Cut Pro X - still only £230 (you may not think so, but that really is a bargain), seems to be a pay-once deal with free upgrades for 'life'. The upgrades since its launch have almost made it into a new programme by now. You can read Apple's guide here.
  2. Its recommended by Apple that you also purchase Motion 5 (for customised titles and FX) and Compressor 4 (for advanced encoding options) too; both also linked here (scroll to the bottom).
  3. Students (and educators) can get a significant discount on Apple computers, and some software but only at the time you purchase the computer. Visit their UK education page.
  4. Macs are extremely expensive to upgrade after purchase; you should give serious consideration to the hard drive and RAM in particular. Look carefully at the minimum system requirements for using FCPX; few things push a computer as hard as video editing.
  5. You have options: the Mac-Mini (provide your own monitor); Mac Pro; iMac (with varying screen sizes); Macbook Pro and Air. You can use Apple's comparison table to review your options.
  6. Apple have been phasing out DVD drives, so you may need to consider buying a USB DVD drive.
  7. You will definitely need a large-capacity external hard drive for back up. You have multiple format options (USB3, Thunderbolt etc). I'd suggest a minimum of 1TB (= 1000GB); you can get portable 1TB USB drives from around £40.
  8. Unless you're going second-hand, which can be a smart move - there are many bargain older but very capable Macs on eBay etc - then you really should ...
  9. Visit an Apple shop/retailer, get hands on, and speak to experts. I bought mine from KCRS in Leeds, who have been great as regards service; there is also a new Apple store in the new Trinity Centre.
FCPX will be very slow with anything less than this!!!

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Sample of Vids for Initial Cs and Cs Analysis

NB: Some highly controversial videos are listed, including 'explicit' versions; some descriptions also contain some strong language.

As I've discussed analysed a great many videos, the list below is partial. The initial order reflects the order from the video below, with the 1st 20 selected to highlight some of the very, very many themes when considering not just conventions of but also reception for music videos. Most can be found in a playlist too - a great way to expose yourself to a wider range of videos than you are likely to be familiar with!!!

More details after the list, but the 20 videos featured in the video (several times more in the playlist) are:

  1. Morbid Angel - Existo Vulgore (2012) 
  2. Sepultura - Ratamahatta (1996) 
  3. PIXIES - Velouria (1990) 
  4. Sinead O'Connor - Nothing Compares to You (1990) 
  5. Miley Cyrus - Wrecking Ball (Terry Richardson, 2013)
  6. Miley Cyrus - Wrecking Ball (ChatRoulette, 2013)
  7. Baauer - Harlem Shake (2012) [this is a '10 best of' montage
  8. Depeche Mode - It's No Good (Anton Corbijn, 1997)
  9. Weezer - Buddy Holly (Spike Jonze, 1994)
  10. Guns n'Roses - November Rain (1992)
  11. Bjork - Crystalline (Anton Corbijn, 2013)
  12. Sepultura - Refuse, Resist (1994)
  13. Megadeth - Wake Up Dead (1986)
  14. Pixies - Bagboy (Lamar + Nik, 2013) 
  15. Daft Punk - Da Funk (Spike Jonze, 1995)
  16. Rihanna - Pour It Up (Vincent Haycock, 2013) (EXPLICIT tag)
  17. Fragma - You Are Alive (2001)
  18. Guns n'Roses - Welcome to the Jungle (1987)
  19. Robin Thicke - Blurred Lines (Diane Martel, 2013) [parody]
  20. Lily Allen - Hard Out Here (Christopher Sweeney, 2013) 

Morbid Angel - Existo Vulgore (2012) [post]
You do need to know the conventions ... but there is much more scope to challenge them than with, say, film, as videos like this, and the following Sepultura example, demonstrate. Rammstein and Rage Against the Machine have also produced examples I've blogged on, bringing Snow White and the Beach Boys into the extreme metal genre.

Sepultura - Ratamahatta (1996) [animated] [post]
A great example of turning conventions and expectations on their heads, this is an animated video by the Brazilian hardcore thrashers! You should also take from this that inspiration can come from anywhere, including music genres (and other media, as with Morbid Angel) you may not be a fan of! [Wiki]

PIXIES - Velouria (1990) (one-take video) See Wiki and my posts on this.