Checking out the videos on Totally '80s today on VH1 Classic, I was struck by how common it was to shoot on film back then, despite the fact that video technology was not only available but cheaper than film, and already becoming the standard for shooting news and pornography.
Shouldn't music videos have joined in with other lesser media like reporting and porno, and chosen to shoot on video? They could have, but then they wouldn't have that stylized look that film gives.
Video is shot at a higher frame rate (capturing more motion per second), gives more desaturated colors, and has a more restricted dynamic range of brightness levels. It's more photorealistic and ordinary, making it better suited to media where the viewer wants that "you are there" feeling -- such as news reporting and porno.
For music videos, this format was generally chosen when the idea was to put the viewer in the audience of an ordinary, real-world live performance by the band. It's as if a documentary crew went to shoot a small gig that the band was playing that night.
Below are screenshots from the videos for "Any Way You Want It" by Journey, "Start Me Up" by the Rolling Stones, and "I Want Candy" by Bow Wow Wow, all of which were shot on video. (Click on the song titles to see the full videos.) No real reason for these particular examples, except that they're fresh in my mind from today, and are all from the early '80s -- to show how early the format was adopted for the ordinary/documentary approach. (Click to enlarge.)
Film gives lusher colors, more striking dark-bright contrast, more texture of the medium itself (film grain), and stylized motion by shooting fewer frames per second.
Here are some screenshots from "Papa Don't Preach" by Madonna, "Rhythm of the Night" by DeBarge, and "Love in an Elevator" by Aerosmith. No real reason for these either, except that they're fresh in my mind, and are from the second half of the '80s -- to show how film was still going strong well after it had been abandoned for video in news and porno. It didn't even need to be a narrative video like the one by Madonna. The other two feature a lot of live performance footage, but the setting is supposed to be larger than life and out of the ordinary, requiring a more stylized look.
Now that music videos are so rarely made, let alone watched, and even then are shot on digital, you wonder what effect it will have on the visual expectations of today's young generation. Will they expect the sky to be white rather than blue, will they find black shadows too dark, and will they feel comfortable only with either washed-out or caricatured/campy colors rather than ones that are warm and lush?
After all, it's not as though they have replaced music videos with another medium that has a film-y look and feel. The major new visual medium for them is video games, which they prefer to look more pale, blandly colored, and evenly lit than a news broadcast.