Each year, the MTV Video Music Awards celebrate the best visual artistry the music industry has to offer. Most of these awards, like Best Pop Video and Video of the Year, are decided by fans and accepted by big-name artists. But there are also six other categories that aren't open for fan voting. Instead, these "professional categories" are decided by industry experts.
These categories recognize the behind-the-scenes efforts of directors, choreographers, editors, and more — the unsung heroes who bring our favorite songs to life. The performers might get most of the acclaim, but it takes a diverse team of talent to make a music video happen.
Let's take a moment to learn more about several of this year's professional nominees in the categories of Art Direction, Choreography, Direction, Cinematography, Editing and Visual Effects.
1. Jan Houllevigue, Art Direction
Jan Houllevigue is a French production designer who has worked on various music videos, commercials, and movies. You may have already admired the luxe atmospheres he's created for perfume and fashion advertisements from brands like Valentino and Dior.
Houllevigue is nominated for his art direction in David Bowie's "Blackstar" video, one of the legend's final contributions to music before his death earlier this year. Houllevigue creates a surreal and haunting environment that complements Bowie's one-of-a-kind style. It ties in with "Lazarus," Bowie's emotional farewell video, which Houllevigue also designed.
2. Hi-Hat, Choreography
Nadine "Hi-Hat" Ruffin is a hip-hop choreographer from New York City whose dance routines have been featured in movies like Bring It On and Step Up 2. She's worked with artists like Shakira and Jay-Z, and her work on Rihanna's "Where Have You Been" video earned her a VMA nomination in 2012.
This year, Hi-Hat is nominated for her work on Missy Elliott's "WTF (Where They From)" video. Her energetic choreography is performed by both Elliott and her backup dancers on various sets. Hi-Hat is inspired by icons of the past like Fred Astaire and Michael Jackson, and she in turn aims to "stay innovative and be a trendsetter so that the kids look up to me and look up my history of work and are inspired."
3. Melina Matsoukas, Direction
Melina Matsoukas is a prolific American music video and commercial director. In 2012, she became the first solo female director to win a Grammy for her direction of Rihanna's "We Found Love" video, which also won the VMA for Video of the Year. She's directed such well-known videos as Lady Gaga's "Just Dance" and Ne-Yo's "Closer," and she recently signed on to direct the new HBO series Insecure.
Matsoukas is nominated this year for directing the video for Beyoncé's "Formation," the first single off the singer's immediately iconic visual album Lemonade. Matsoukas called the experience of working on the video "magical" and added, "We made a story about who WE are and the world chimed in and joined us. I am thankful to be a part of that conversation."
4. André Turpin, Cinematography
André Turpin is an award-winning Canadian filmmaker. He directed the acclaimed 2001 short film Un crabe dans la tête (Soft Shell Man).
Turpin is nominated for his cinematography work on Adele's "Hello" video, directed by fellow VMA nominee Xavier Dolan. The emotional, sepia-toned video was shot mostly using 35mm, which Turpin prefers to digital. For more dramatic shots, he used IMAX 70mm, an appropriate visual match for Adele's powerful voice. Turpin aims for cohesion in his approach, saying, "I am trying to find the language, movement and lighting that obeys, that is part of a language and is constant."
5. Hannah Lux Davis, Editing
Hannah Lux Davis is an American music video director and two-time VMA winner who has worked with high-profile artists such as Demi Lovato, Nicki Minaj, and Lil Wayne. She started as a production assistant and makeup artist, and overcame an eye condition that made it difficult to read and write. Davis is now a major female director in a male-dominated field, which has led to surprised reactions from artists like Drake, who did a double take when he saw her on set.
Davis is nominated for her editing work on Ariana Grande's "Into You" video, which she also directed. One look at the video and you'll understand why it's being recognized. The editing, which combines scenic shots with visual storytelling, effortlessly matches the changing tempo and tone of the song itself.
6. Vania Heymann, Visual Effects
Vania Heymann is an Israeli director who's created a number of inventive music videos and commercials. His 2013 interactive video for Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone" was named the best music video of the year by Time.
Heymann is nominated for his work with Gloria FX on the video for Coldplay's "Up & Up," which he directed with Gal Muggia. Frontman Chris Martin has said the song is about "a different way of looking at the world," and the video certainly reflects that by depicting a whimsical universe where cars race around the rings of Saturn and volcanoes cook popcorn.