01Choose Your Song
First things first. You have to choose your song. While it might make sense to make a video for your upcoming single there are a few other factors to consider:
- It can take a lot longer than you think to make a video, so by the time; it's finished your single might have come out. It might be an idea to think about making the video for a subsequent single.
- Having said that, in these days of internet downloads, any track can be seen as a single, so there might be a track on the album that you have a great idea for a video for, even if that track wasn't originally planned as a single.
- Remember that it can take a long time to shoot and edit each second of video so while you might have a good idea for a video for that 10 min epic that closes the album, it might be more practical to shoot a video for the 3 min pop song.
02Get a Team and Equipment Together
However complicated (or simple) your shoot is, you'll need a team of people. As well as the actors/performers you'll need:
- Camera person – At least one, and maybe more.
- Lighting Person – If you're filming inside you'll need lighting, and someone to look after it.
- Director/dogsbody – You need someone in charge of the shoot, making sure everything is running smoothly, and who can buy batteries when you need them.
It's a good idea supply some kind of refreshments for your crew – that will not only keep them happy but also stop them popping off to the shops to get their supplies, just when you need them for the shoot.
Ideally, you'll be able to recruit a team who have their equipment. If you have to get equipment, then you'll want to get the best your budget allows. While prices are coming down, buying a camera, lights and other gear will still set you back a small fortune.
You'll be able to get more equipment for your money by renting gear; many places have community arts programs where you can hire equipment cheaply. You can also check out the local colleges in your area to see if they can help. If you are looking to buy gear, then do your research. For example, you're probably better off buying a higher spec Standard Definition camera, than a bottom of the range High Definition camera.
03Plan Your Shoot
The more planning you can do beforehand the quicker you'll be able to shoot. If you're renting gear, the quicker you can shoot the less it will cost you, and if you're relying on favors, people will be more willing to help again if you keep the hanging around to a minimum. To plan, you should:
- Draw storyboards showing each scene and shot
- List the crew, performers, and props you'll need for each shot
- Try and brief the camera and lighting people beforehand, so they know what you want from the shot.
On the day of the shoot be prepared and organized. Keep a record of shots you've made; it'll make editing much easier. Always allow plenty of time for shooting - the finished shot may only last 10 seconds, but could easily take several hours to set up and shoot. When you're happy with a shot, if you have time, shoot it again. You can never have too much footage, and the retake may capture something that you hadn't noticed the first time around. You'll have your plan and storyboard to follow, but remember that some of the best moments in a video can be unplanned. Keep the camera rolling – these days tape is cheap.
05Capture Live Footage
Filming the band playing live can provide you with great footage for a video. Filming the band at a gig will mean you'll be able to capture the bands live energy and their interaction with the audience. They are some difficulties, however:
- They'll only play the song you've making the video for once, so you'll only have one chance of capturing the right footage
- The live version may differ considerably from the recorded version so syncing the footage with the track could be problematic
- The band's, and particularly the audience's, movements won't be choreographed, so you, or your camera person, won't know where to be to capture the right shots
- The lighting and effects may look great to the audience but may not look great to the camera
- Your filming may interrupt the band's performance.
- Live filming may provide you with some great footage that can be used as part of a video, but if you want the live footage to synch to a video, your best bet is to "stage" a live performance. Get the band to play along (or mime) to the track in front of an audience of mates or invited fans. You can then control the lighting, people's movements and get the track played as many times as you need (or at least until the band decamps to the bar!)
06Use Stock Footage
You can spice up your video by adding stock footage, but you need to be aware that, like music, almost all video footage is subject to strict copyright law. Making use of footage without the copyright holders' express permission is illegal. (That shot from Top Gun may look great in your video, but you'll need permission from Paramount Pictures to use it).
However, there are sources of footage that you can legally use. Royalty free footage is footage you can reuse in any setting, without asking permission or paying the copyright holder a fee each time you use it - but you may have to pay a fee to obtain it in the first place! Fear not: there is free royalty free footage – footage that's in the public domain. Some sites where you can download public domain footage for free from are:
- The British Film Institute
- Google's collection of National Archives
- For black holes and other treats from outer space try the European Space Agency.
There is more and more footage being made available under creative commons licenses - original material that the copyright owner has entered into the public domain with certain conditions attached (usually that the original author is credited).
Your footage might be great, but it'll only become a great video through editing. To do a good job, you'll need patience, time and more patience. You'll need to decide the 'feel' and pace of the video. Will it be made up of long sweeping shots, or quick sharp edits? Do you want to follow the mood of the song and edit to the music or do you want the video to contrast with the track?
The judicious use of the right effect can set your video apart. As well as your software standard effects, there are usually many plug-ins that you can download (some free, most for a fee) so feel free to experiment (most plugins have a trial version you can play with for free before you buy). See tip 3 in the last step for more about the proper use of effects.
A word of warning: if you're making a video as a band it's usually best to delegate the editing process to one person. After they've done a rough edit, you can discuss how it should be finished, but if 4 people sit around all trying to edit a video together a long process will become torturous and, almost inevitably, will end in falling outs.
08Get the Right Software and Hardware
These days cheap, or even free software can do a professional job of editing. The basic video software for Macs is iMovie, and for the PC, Adobe's Première Elements is a good place to start. The more complex software available may give you more freedom and choice, but for the beginner, these packages can be overwhelming and very pricey.
Any new computer should be capable of editing film footage, and even a ten-year-old PC should be able to handle basic video editing software. Video editing takes up a lot of hard drive space, so keep your hard drive clean and get rid of footage you're not using (but be careful not to delete footage you ARE using!). Investing in a new hard drive to store your video footage on is probably a good idea.
The output format will depend on its destination. Highly compressed formats are best for streaming over the internet (Quicktime is the most universal), DVDs are great for sending out to press and media, and a DigiBeta tape is needed for TV broadcasts (something you'll need to get made up at a professional production company).
How many videos have you seen on MTV that consist of the band playing in a club, with the lights flashing whilst the audience jump up and down? Exactly. Try and think of something different when you make your video. Filming a Hollywood blockbuster on a shoestring budget will generally look crap! One of the most interesting videos I've seen recently was of the band playing in the back of a transit van while it went through a car wash – the only cost was the car wash fee. From this simple idea, they made an interesting and quirky video that was premiered on MTV Europe.
10Tips for Making a Good Music Video
Beware of Using Excessive Zoom
It may look cool while you're shooting it, but in the final edit zooming often looks clichéd, and unless done with a very steady hand can often look amateurish.
And Excessive Special Effects
Even the most basic video editing software has a myriad of special effects for you to use; color changing, rolling edits, split screens, it's advisable to use them sparingly. A good video isn't a showcase for how many effects you've mastered. It's usually better to use a couple of effects throughout the video to create a certain feel rather than use as many effects as you can to make a video exciting (if you need to do this, then maybe it's time to rethink your idea. or add some more footage - see Steps 4, 5 and 6).
But Think about Adding Sound Effects
A dramatic music video may be enhanced with some additional sound effects. If your video begins with someone walking down the street, you could add the sound of footsteps or ambient street noise over the intro. If you're making a video for someone else make sure they won't mind you adding sound effects to their perfectly crafted tune!
Don't Be Over Ambitious
A simple idea well executed is often more effective than a complex idea done badly.
And Ignore All I've Said
The most interesting videos are made when the rules of convention are bent, buckled and broken, so keep experimenting and above all else, make something interesting.
Many thanks to video director Arthur T. Flegenheimer (stage name) for his expertise!
A Step-By-Step Guide to Making a Music Video
Having a music video can help promote your band, through video sites such as YouTube and MySpace. As well as by getting exposure on national television. If you're a filmmaker making a music video is a good way of getting exposure and experience and bands are often happy to give you a creative free reign.
A video doesn't need to cost a fortune what's important is having a good idea and working within your budget. Production companies charge a fortune for even the simplest promo video, but you can easily do it yourself.