As a filmmaker, one of the handiest experiences to flex your filmmaking skills is making a music video. If you’ve ever wondered about shooting a music video, and whether it’s the right project for you, here’s our guide.
A huge number of big-name directors started their careers making videos.
David Fincher, for example, made a big number of Madonna’s music videos in the late 80s and throughout the 90s.
While you won’t be boosting your portfolio with an artist like Madonna, you’ll get to learn a lot of things.
SHOOTING A MUSIC VIDEO
What Is Music Video Production?
A music video is an audio-visual recording of one or more musical performances, which can be either recorded live or filmed and edited. It’s the perfect way to promote a band or recording artist and grow their following.
It includes preproduction work such as storyboarding and stylistic consultation for performers on how their performance will look in the context of the song’s visual narrative.
There are also post-production techniques such as color correction, editing, graphics, animation and special effects that make each music video a unique creative project.
For one, music videos are like short films, you learn how to handle pre-production, the production itself, and everything related to post-production work.
It can also teach you how to work with a crew and handle the equipment.
However, if it’s your first time, figuring what should be done could be a daunting task.
While you don’t need a small fortune to make one, what you need is a solid concept for the video, a good team, and a clear budget.
So today, we created our own step-by-step guide on how to shoot a music video.
Shooting A Music Video
Let’s take a look at the things you have to consider before and while shooting a music video.
1. Choosing The Right Song
While it might seem like the best idea to simply make a video of any song offered to you, you may want to take a step back and consider a few things first.
Shooting, editing, and producing a music video takes a lot of time and effort.
Pick a song that you actually want to work on as opposed to one you don’t care about or even hate. It’ll make or break your experience.
You’ll hear it hundreds if not thousands of times, so it should at least be something you’re willing to listen to.
It’s also a good idea to start small. a minute of a song in a music video can take anywhere from 2-10 hours to be shot, edited, and finished.
If the project takes you longer to complete you may be tempted to drop it altogether.
2. Finding The Crew
Back in 2010, Kanye West released a music video for his single ‘Runaway’, the project was on the complicated side, requiring a large crew of ballet dancers and a lot of people behind the camera to sync the audio to the movements of the dancers.
You may think that a crew is only required to shoot these types of videos. However, the truth of the matter is, filmmaking is a collaborative art.
In other words, you’ll need a team.
That said, you’ll want your team to be on the same page in regards to what their role is and what they should be doing. Here is the least amount of roles you need to be filled.
DP / Camera Operator
This could be you, but it’s better to have someone else operate the camera so you can focus on how everything is looking and running behind the scenes.
The role of a camera operator is to use the camera to bring the visuals you planned as your vision.
Gaffer / Lighting Person
You are likely to have indoor shots, and lighting is critical to making these look professional.
You can either hire someone to take care of it for you or you can do it yourself. The latter will spread you thin, however, as you’re putting too much on your plate.
Not necessary, but if you’re planning on using people in your video. It’s a better idea to hold a casting.
You may not have to pay people like theatre and acting school volunteers looking to add to their portfolio.
Ideally you, the person in charge of the whole show.
While there are some music videos that don’t feature their bands, it’s a safe bet yours will have them. Just make sure the scheduled shooting days are fitting for everyone to show up.
You don’t want to do what Fleetwood Mac did with Tusk’s music video, where they used cardboard cutouts to fill in for missing members.
You should be mindful of your team, especially if they’re volunteering.
If you’re shooting all day, either provide them with food or at least let them know that they should bring their own. Even if they do, you’re responsible for keeping it preserved.
Shooting days are long and daunting. Make sure to give your team enough breaks to ensure they’re energized and ready to see the shoot to its end.
A minimum of 3 breaks lasting 15 minutes each, plus a 1-hour lunch break is the bare minimum you must give them.
3. Getting Equipment
In an ideal world, the team you’ll recruit will come with their own equipment. However, if that’s not the case you’ll have two options when it comes to getting the equipment yourself.
First, if your budget allows it, you can get the equipment yourself. You’ll have to buy a camera (if you don’t already have one), lighting equipment, and gear.
Even though pricing has come down lately, this will still set you back a small fortune.
The second and more optimal option is to rent gear. This is usually the best option for aspiring filmmakers.
You can find places in your area that have community arts programs. these will allow you to rent equipment for lower rates than your average equipment store
Another good idea is to stop by your local college and see if they can help you. You never know.
Sometimes film students will allow you to use their equipment, usually with the caveat that you recruit them as part of your production team so they can gain experience.
4. Planning The Shoot Itself
Alfred Hitchcock argued that the most important aspect of the filmmaking experience is the pre-production.
For him, that’s where all the important decisions are made and the interesting creative strides are taken. The shooting was just a routine of filming everything and sending it to be edited.
There’s something here to be learned from Hitchcock. Pre-production is the backbone of every film, long or short.
Jumping to a shoot without any plans is both a waste of time and money especially if you’re renting equipment. It can also sour your relationships as you call in favors to bring yourself to the finish line.
Unless you want your film crew to just hang out rather than do any actual work due to lack of planning, take some time and think about how your music video is going to be filmed.
The first step of planning any film is creating storyboards for every shot.
This ensures that you won’t be missing any shots during post-production. It also makes it to describe to your crew what you want to achieve in each.
There’s no better example than a clear vision of what you want to be replicated on the screen.
There are a lot of resources to help you with this. You can look at storyboards of plenty of famous music videos.
You can also down free music video storyboard templates. You can then add a rough sketch of what you want in each shot. Make sure to add a brief description of what’s going on in each shot.
When you complete the storyboard, create a list of the equipment, cast, and crew you’ll need for each. This will help you plan which shots to film when and which people you’ll need for them.
That’ll make the process more economical. Discuss the storyboard with your crew and explain everything to them so that everyone is on the same page.
5. Filming A Music Video
during the shoot, stay focused and commit to the storyboard and schedule you made. Do not get tempted by the muse. Make sure to log all the shots you’ve captured during the day.
You’ll also want to give yourself plenty of time to get the shots you want. A shot can sometimes last a few seconds but take hours to set up and capture.
So do enough takes to make sure you’ve got enough variations on the same shots to choose from during editing.
Don’t be an Ed Wood, who famously only shot one or two takes for each shot of his films.
This made for some of the most hilariously clunky and bad scenes in film history. That’s what happens when you have limited options.
On the other extreme, you don’t want to be a Kubrick who shot hundreds of takes for each scene.
That’ll only make you spend hours to get 1 perfect shot and find out you have no time to shoot the other 12.
6. Editing A Music Video
Once you have all the footage you need it’s time to edit. You can get inexpensive and sometimes free software that will do a good job of editing your video.
Editing is just as important as any other aspect of the filmmaking process. For the best possible result, we recommend using professional software.
For Mac users, we recommend Apple Final Cut Pro and for Windows users, Adobe Premiere Pro is the best bet.
Also, keep in mind that video editing consumes a lot of hard drive space. That’s why we recommend you at least have a 1TB hard drive that’s clean and ready to go.
It’s also never a bad idea to invest in a fast, external hard drive. It’ll help you store and backup your video footage safely.
When you’re finished, the output format of the music video will largely depend on where you’re planning to stream it.
You’ll most likely want to stream your video on the internet. For that purpose, highly compressed formats like MP4 are the most appropriate.
How To Shoot A Music Video – Some Tips And Techniques
So maybe you’ve just been hired by a recording artist (or even a music video production company) and now you have to go on and learn how to shoot a music video.
Your first question will be, “Have you got any tips for shooting a music video?” I will answer that one for you right away.
Music Videos Are An Artform
Music videos are considered a sort of art form in the entertainment industry.
More artists are coming up with original concepts for their music videos. The purpose of making music videos is not just to amuse.
Music videos are being used as a marketing tool for the bands as well. With the increase in popularity of music videos in general, many aspiring artists are venturing into this profession.
If you are a musician who wishes to venture into making a music video, you have to understand that this type of endeavor will take quite a bit of work, time, and dedication.
There are a lot of different things that you have to consider when preparing to shoot a video.
First and foremost, you have to decide what the theme of your video will be. Themes are very versatile and fluid since you can choose to shoot the video in any kind of genre or era that you desire.
After you have decided on the theme of your video, it is important that you have a clear idea of the tone of your music video. This is where practicing will come in handy.
Choose some videos that you like and then try to work out how they made them:
- What shot choices did they make?
- How did they light the video?
- What theme & style did they go with?
The Music Itself
Another important aspect of your music video is the music. If you choose the wrong song to create a music video around, your efforts won’t go far and the music video will be a flop.
It’s important that you find songs that are suitable for the kind of mood that you want to create.
Once you’ve got your music, you have to figure out what style you want your music to be. This really depends on what kind of image you are trying to portray through your music.
For instance, if the artist wants people to think of the beach while they’re singing along to your video, then shooting on a beach is a solid (albeit obvious!) move.
Another important thing that you need to know when learning how to shoot a music video is the lighting.
Lighting effects such as dark and shadow are important in creating a great visual impact, and you have to make sure that the setting is appropriately lit for the mood that you want to set.
Poorly lit scenes are second only to bad audio when it comes to shooting a music video.
These tips should be enough to help you with shooting a music video as your next project. But if you still aren’t confident then you can always hire the help of an experienced cinematographer.
Shooting A Music Video – Wrapping Up
While many music videos settle for the approach of shooting the band performing in a club crowded with people, that concept has truly been done to death. Make sure to get creative with the ideas for your music video.
That doesn’t mean you’ll have to be ambitious and attempt a Hollywood scale music video. It’ll probably turn out crappy due to the budget constraints.
Instead, it’s better to have a simple idea executed well rather than a complex idea done poorly.
Aside from that, all you’ll need to do is follow the steps we laid out for you in this guide to music videos and you’ll have absolutely nothing to worry about.
As long as you have a plan and stick to it, your music video-making process will be easy and painless.
We hope you found this article on shooting a music video helpful. Have you shot a cool music video? Let us know in the comments below.