So you’re about to shoot a music video (or film) – and since you’re here I bet you’re on a tight budget too. Not to worry, after this you’ll (hopefully) feel a bit more organized. Your first video isn’t gonna be great, but it will be the best lesson you’ll get so you can get up again and make your second video your best video, so far. Let’s dive in.
1. Get to know the track – and incorporate it into every essence of yourself.
Wierd right? But really, the best way to start seeing the video before it exists is to loop that sucker all day everyday. Listen to it while going to work, being at work, going to bed (Warning: your brain might get great ideas around this time – but sleep isn’t gonna be one of them), cooking, shopping, pooping… You get it. You’ll start getting images in your head, and by knowing all the beats and hooks you’re probably gonna get some sweet ideas for editing and syncing images and cuts with sound.
2. Make a storyboard – it’s cheaper and you’ll spot the pitfalls before you’re on set.
Storyboarding out your video will save you a great deal of time and pain on set. You’ll see how your story fits together (or doesn’t) and you’ll be able to change it just by spending another A4 paper, instead of spending more days reshooting or trying to make sense of the material you have in the editing stage. It doesn’t need to be pretty – as long as you know what’s being portrayed. It also gives you a greater sense of what needs to be arranged when it comes to props, actors, gear and locations. There are plenty of places where you can download printable storyboardtemplates, but a marker and a sketchpad works just fine.
Storyboard – Just do it, you’ll thank me later.
3. Avoid making your story too complicated.
It’s a music video, not a blockbuster. But that doesn’t mean lower your ambitions. No sir! Never. What I’m trying to say is you can do a lot with a little. Make sure to switch it up with different angles (wide/close/high/low/static/moving) and remember, sometimes simply switching locations does loads. Nobody wants to see a band perform for 4 minutes from a single tripod. But make sure your story is doable otherwise you’ll end up with angry artists and low self esteem.
4. Work with what you’ve got – make your story awesome.
There’s nothing better than getting production value for free. So start asking around and look around you. Does your second uncle have an old broken helicopter in his yard? Then center your story around that! Does your neighbours ex own a bar? Do you know anybody who’s got something unusual and special? Borrow it. You can write a plot around anything so make sure you use all the spots and objects you can get your hands on to make your production stand out from the norm. Be weird – in music and film there are no limits. The only rule is: never be boring or un-original.
Minimal set with cheap props and some harsh dramatic lighting (from: Tyler – “Apathy”)
5. Get the best footage you can – with the best camera you can.
Now I’m not saying you’ve got to rent an ARRI or RED to make a video that looks good. I’m saying, get a hold of the best camera you can. If you can get your hands on a old vintage camera with physical film in it – use that. Borrow a DSLR-camera if you don’t have one. The shallow depth of field always gives you cinematic points and they usually shoot in full HD. Everybody knows somebody with a GoPro. Get creative! Those suckers mount on anything and you can always correct the lensdistortion in your editing software afterwards.
6. Surround yourself with creative people.
If you get people involved who are creative like you – you’ll feed of each others positive energy. People love to help out when they can – especially if you offer them a part or a special credit in your video. Build props, hammer out a story, edit in teams. And if you’re all by yourself – do exactly what you feel like doing no matter how insane your idea is. If enough people tell you “you can’t do that“, you’re on the right path.
DIY-cart for camera and actor (used in: Tyler – “Apathy” during the one take scenes)
7. Time flies on set – plan ahead!
This is where the storyboard comes in handy. Hopefully if you make it onto a set you’ve remembered all your gear and you’ve got a pretty good idea of what to shoot, and how to shoot it. Make sure you take breaks to eat and drink – when people get hungry they get tired and cranky. And at that stage everybody wants to go home, and start to make compromises. This is a bad idea – and can easily be avoided by showing a banana into your head.
8. Editing made easier – Yes, storyboard again.
I hope you all know the basics of shooting a band with instruments? You re-shoot the same song over and over again from different angles, with the song you’re gonna use in your final video in the background – right? This makes syncing up the track quite easy in your editor. I know there are loads of great plugins and software which makes this even easier but if we’re going old-school on this – a tip is to add 4 loud beeps or something before the track you’re using on set. These 4 beeps will show up in your audio track of your footage in the editing software and you’ll sync that shit up in no time. And since you have your storyboard and listened to the song a thousand times before – you’ll know exactly how, when and where to cut right?
DIY-slider built with old tripod and carbox-railing.
9. Ctrl-S all day long.
There is nothing more soulcrushing than having your software die on you because you’ve made your video awesome with so many sweet technical and complex editingmoves that your CPU just can’t handle it. Save constantly – and backup your footage! It might take some time to copy your files, but it will take you even longer to drag your whole operation out again and re-shoot.
Nowadays we have the power to do so much, right at home with our visual media it’s mind-boggling. Don’t let your lack of knowledge stop you. I promise you, whatever idea you have for building a rig, a cheap prop which still looks great or if your video needs 5 exploding cars and severed heads – there will be at least 10 tutorials on YouTube just on that, all that, just for you, for free.
There it is. My top ten list of things to consider while shooting a video. You might find your own way though – I’m simply passing on what has served me well since I began. And a final word of sincere advise:
DO NOT compare yourself with Hollywood. The game is rigged in their favour. They have the manpower, studios, actors and gear to make their productions insane. But what they don’t have is the freedom you as a small time filmmaker possesses. You don’t need an ok from a studio executive, and you don’t need to worry about how well your video will perform around the globe. So use that – and remember; Be creative, original and believe in your idea. Good luck!
DIY camerajib/crane built with gym-weights, industrial lightstand and fencerails.