Tips For Making A Music Video
Think of a music video much like a movie, or, for that matter, just like the song itself. Your video needs to progress visually in the same way that the music progresses and evolves through the song.
A music video should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. It should have the plot to help pull it together. The plot could (and often is) related to the lyrics in some way, or it could be related to the emotion evoked by the song in some way. In music videos where that is not the case, song performance tends to be 95% of the video (or thereabouts).
Table of Contents
Using your creativity is completely free and there are no limits on how much you use, or what it can achieve. Creativity can be applied to every aspect of creating and promoting your band video from sourcing funding to casting, special effects, obtaining gear, and social media engagement.
The same creativity you apply to writing, arranging, and performing songs can easily be used across all aspects of your music career. Especially how you engage with media and the rest of the music industry. Don’t be afraid to use your imagination to achieve your goals!
Decide On A Realistic Budget
Be honest with yourself. How much can you really afford to spend on your music video? Borrowing equipment, using a free location, doing your own post-production, or getting a friend to do it for you, will only get you so far. It will still cost a few hundred dollars to make your own music video. Choose a style for your video that fits your band and is affordable.
If you are making your video on a low budget it is entirely possible your crew will be friends and family of the band. That being the case they need to understand the fundamentals of what you are trying to do, and essentially, how to operate the equipment they will be using.
Make sure you review what you shoot again and again. And again. Your crew is unlikely to be top professionals when it comes to making a music video, and if they are then this article is unlikely to be of huge use!
On a good note, friends and family are not likely to ask for money, and they are likely to be motivated to help you create as good a video as you possibly can.
Keep your crew motivated and focused. Having fun might keep a light atmosphere, but make sure when you say “Action!” everyone is focused on what they are meant to be doing.
Drive it into your crew to appear on time. You may be renting gear or not, but nothing annoys those who turn up on time more than others who hold up a shoot by not being there. Shooting can only start after the last person involved gets there!
The smaller your crew the easier it will be to travel from location to location, and the less likely you are to be held up (fewer people to be late!).
Another great source for the crew is those that want to gain experience in the field. This includes students studying a related field like filmmaking. These individuals often come with some skills and existing experience, and usually a good degree of motivation.
Concept, Themes, and Styles
Medium and format are important considerations. Be careful when using black-and-white footage. There should be an artistic reason for using black and white, though it can easily feel contrived. For example in the scenarios described above, black and white could have been chosen for the studio shots, lo-fi home cinema for one of the incidental scenes to give it that home-shot feel, maybe obviously hand-held to underline the homemade aspect.
You get the idea. The medium and the format are used to help distinguish between the scenes much like a change of clothes. Yet again, perhaps you can look to the lyrics to guide what scene would go where.
To work without a concept is risky. It tends to lead to a disconnected sequence of images with no real pull through the song.
Look at the videos of bands like “OK Go”. They may be low-budget but the application of creativity to the video, even with simple choreography with treadmills or contrived sequences involving paint, balls, and things that go ping, can be incredibly effective. Creating a major hit doesn’t need to have a big budget.
What sort of style and theme would your audience enjoy? Consider the color palette used in the video, the costumes used, the locations involved, choreography, props, storylines, scenery, lip-syncing, and more. Will your video fit into an established genre (historical, club scene, sci-fi, humorous, etc? Will the entire video be story-boarded, or will there be a lot of improvisation?
With a little effort, you should be able to find loads of free locations including colleges and universities, parks, churches, warehouses, public buildings, train and bus stations, woods, car parks, shopping malls… the list goes. Yet again, pick a location that fits with the style of your video. Ensure you check if you need permission to film there, and where necessary get permission to shoot your video there. Don’t get caught filming without a permit! That could cost you a lot more than the simple permit.
When you visit your locations, take some reference photographs. these may help with storyboarding and any set design. Consider any lighting you may need, and of course whether electricity is available for you to use, or will you need to provide your own.
It is good to have a choice of locations for a variety of reasons.
If you can’t borrow professional standard gear you will be able to rent it. Your gear will also partly be dictated by the style of video you have decided on and what exactly you intend to do with it. If you plan to go for an amateur look and feel then you can of course shoot using consumer video cameras, even camera phones. However, lighting will still be an important factor including wash lights, diffusers, and spotlights. To help with the budget, daylight shoots can be helpful as you can make the most of any natural light.
You can forget about sound other than some form of playback on site for the “actors” to hear for sync purposes. The final video sound will be dubbed in during post-production. Playback can come from an iPod and dock, or a boombox. Whatever works and is loud enough for you all to hear. You will want to make lip-syncing as easy as you can. Recording the video is likely to take several takes. The early takes tend to be the freshest but don’t be surprised if you get up into the teens or even twenties just to capture one scene in all its glory.
Other considerations regarding dear will be the required aspect ratio of the video frame, how clear or rainy the shot will be, whether it be shot at night, and if it is outdoors then the weather will also be a consideration.
You might be able to get a package deal on any gear you rent. This is likely to be cheaper overall than piecemeal equipment rental. If you plan to be making several videos it may even be worth considering buying some of the gear. before you do buy, make sure you research what is out there and ensure that you educate yourself enough to be able to choose the right cameras, the right stands, and tripods, the right lighting, the right software, etc.
Who are the stars?
Beyond band members, you will possibly need further cast members. By doing your own casting, and by getting the cast to use their own clothes you instantly can cut down on expenses like a wardrobe. Worth considering is that if you do pay a small fee to cast members and crew, they are likely to work much harder!
Keep it simple, but get variety. Most modern music videos have some nice incidental shots:
- Band relaxing
- Band performing
- Individual band member shots (especially the singers and other frontmen/frontwomen)
Combine these shots with some performance shots. Often such performance shots are located in unusual situations. This is to help them stick in the mind of the viewers and fans. Performance shots should be located at key points in the song, commonly getting more emphasis during the chorus.
- Shoot the main parts of the video in two or three key sequences
- Have the band wear two or three different outfits, two or three different locations, OR use something inspired by the lyrics
- Use the studio shots, live and incidental as some filler shots
- Try something simple, like the singer wandering around “in character”, thoughtfully walking around looking at the scenery or local nightlife. Some are thoughtful in nature, while others have the star singing almost as a narration, and others again with the singer and the band members in a few locations performing the song, or having a laugh (if mood appropriate) and joking around… some shot-to-cameras, but most not to camera.
Everything should be based on a good reason. If you don’t have a good reason, then don’t do it.
The band performing or singing the song may or may not be a large feature of your chosen video format, however, the chances are that it will occur during the video at some point. It usually does. That being the case dubbing will be needed. Dubbing can be a pain but doing it well can yield great benefits.
Usually, the shots used to change through a recording. In other words, it’s not just one camera-holding shot from start to finish. This factor is very helpful as it is very likely that video and audio will go out of sync, even if they were bang-on sync at some point. Changing shots gives you a chance to get the video and audio in sync as well as introduce some visual pace and rhythm into the video.
This is the painstaking task of splicing together hours and hours of video footage and reducing it down to 3 minutes of purple patch video.
High-end editing tends to be done with Avid, Adobe Premiere and After Effects, or Final Cut Pro, but in essence, post-production can be done using Windows Movie Maker or iMovie too.
Watch any pro music video and you will see that the edit points, the changes from shot to shot, are timed to be synchronized to the music. For example at the end of a line or section. Larger thematic changes tend to be aligned with section changes. Overall, it multiplies the effectiveness of the edit a thousandfold.
You will also notice that the pace of edit points tends to increase as the intensity of the song also picks up pace. This is an intentional way of visually reinforcing a sense of pace.
Use the edits to emphasize the beat, the rhythm, the lines, the musical sections, and sectional changes, the emotional feel, and the energy, even when you are doing videos with strong representations of off-stage relaxation and fun. Timing IS king.
Make sure that you do some test screenings where the sole purpose is to gather reactions and then tweak your video to make use of any feedback your audience provides. This could be anything from edit sequences, to missed lip syncs, to color and tone, to the use or overuse of effects. How did the video make the listener feel? Did it evolve, add to, or increase the depth of feeling when compared to the audio alone?
Just like the song recording itself, feedback from test screenings is vital to help improve the finished product.
Promoting Your Video
Promotion is in itself a massive topic and one that we will only scratch the surface of here. Fundamentally, you could make the best video in the world and it will wither in obscurity if no one knows it exists. that is where the promotion of your music video is vital. You need to leverage your other activities as much as you need to leverage the finished video itself.
You could promote your video at a launch party for a single or album. Are you sending it to MTV? Posting it to YouTube? Leverage and promote to the max to get the maximum benefit.
Get friends, family, and of course band members on board with promoting your music video. Social network sharing is very important, as are likes, comments, and retweets. You are trying to create a buzz on the internet. Doing that on your own is very, very hard, if not impossible.
Use a promotion plan to coordinate your promotion activities. Use free press release services to spread the word. You may also be willing to pay small fees to have your video posted on some websites.
Make a list of influential bloggers (a good idea for many music promotion tasks). Contact those bloggers and build a relationship. The first task would be to try and get them to post your video!
Discuss this article in our Music Forum.
Would you like to join in the discussion about recording, music production, or music technology? For that matter, just about any music-related subject? Then join our music community!
You might also find our Music Production and Recording Board particularly useful.
To help you to understand specific terms, take a look at our Music Glossary. It has extensive descriptions of music technology terms and concepts. It also contains entries about music theory and terms from across the music industry including music marketing and music promotion.
Become A Contributor To The Songstuff Music Library
Are you a qualified entertainments lawyer? Or perhaps you have in-depth knowledge about tour management? Are you an experienced band manager? Or perhaps a booking agent? Would you be interested in helping musicians to build their skills and understanding by contributing demonstration videos, reviews, articles and tutorials to the Songstuff music library? We rely upon musicians, and people working within the music industry, being willing to contribute to our knowledge base.
As well as contributions to our music library, we feature contributions in our site blogs and social media portals. In particular, we add video contributions to the Songstuff Channel on YouTube.
Please contact us and we can explore the possibility of you joining our contributors asap.