Despite the ever-changing world of media, music videos are still a viable source of discovery of new artists and entertainment. Whether creating a music video on a camera phone or an expensive and professional shoot, this type of creativity plays a significant role in advancing the music career of a band or artist. Yet, this expressive art form has been around longer than most think.
Music has been a form of entertainment for centuries. The art of weaving lyrics, rhythm, and sound has been used by all cultures to share ideas, feelings, or just plain fun. However, in 1894 Joseph W. Stern and Edward B. Marks were said to be the first to create a music video. The song “The Little Lost Child” was a series of moving slides marketed as an “illustrated song”. Many “music videos” were considered musical short films, but MTV in the 1980s would eventually popularize the medium.
Many creatives in the film industry have understood the value of directing a music video as significant players in Hollywood got their start there.
Directors such as Antoine Fuqua, David Fincher, Spike Jonze, and Michael Gondry were some of the creative people that would venture into cinema thanks to music videos. Many more upcoming directors are finding their voices and honing their skills in the art of filmmaking, thanks to the aid of music videos. The craft of expressing a band or artist’s music is a skill many learn and use as they traverse the world of film or television. These tips are the stepping stones to doing that.
First Project: Finding the Gig
Finding that band or artist is a start point in creating a music video. Dreams of making videos for the biggest names in music may be on a beginning director’s mind. Still, many start on a local level. Reaching out to local bands and musicians is an excellent way of opening the door to shooting their first music video. Though working with a local band or someone trying to make their name as a musical artist is less lucrative, finding that first gig is much easier. In addition, it helps the director build experience, clients, and a portfolio.
Concept: Collaborating and Building the Idea
Finding that first gig is one thing, but collaborating and building the music video concept is another. A well-thought-out and executed music video will tell a story. The artist may have an idea of where they want to take the music video, but throwing in suggestions could amplify the song. A helpful method in this area is a form of visual aid, knowing the song in detail.
Comprehending the song’s underlying message will better help visualize the right idea for the music video. Multiple might be required, but each new listen can reveal creative insights to help guide the production process.
Other music videos, films, and paintings can be used to give the artist an idea of what their music video could look like. Collaborating with the band or artist will also help determine which target audience they’re aiming for and the budget. Collaboration is vital because the director and musician will be on the same creative page and or find out if they’re inherently incompatible and part ways before pre-production begin.
Pre-Production: Getting the Ball Rolling
Don’t underestimate the importance of pre-production. This area will help dictate precisely how much can be accomplished by the director and artist. The most crucial sub-genre in pre-production is figuring out the budget. First-time music video directors generally work on a much smaller budget which doesn’t have a lot of wiggle room.
While figuring out a budget, the person organizing the finances will want to map out which areas are the most important when covering the cost. The crew, equipment, choreography, talent, props, makeup, production, and post-production must be factored in. Establishing a budget will allow the director and musician to come to an understanding so that nothing can be paid out of pocket for the difference and negatively impact the relationship. From there, gathering the right team and locations is a must.
A great product to use for your smaller production needs is TrueBudget. TrueBudget provides a beautiful and easy-to-use budgeting platform for “short-form” productions such as commercials, music videos, promos, and more.
Crew and Scouting: Right Team and Location to Film
Collecting the right crew members will help the music video shoot go off without a hitch. For example, big-budget production requires a large crew of Second Assistant Director, Second Assistant Camera, Best Boy, Caterer, Casting Director, and more. However, a music video on a lower budget might require multiple hats or skills for the director and crew to wear. Crew members should know the budget constraints and understand their duties and which equipment is needed to rent or buy.
Locating, scouting, and securing those locations goes without saying. Location is vital for aiding the look and tone of the music video and deciding if the budget will permit specific venues. Things to consider with location scouting are access to power and taking photographs of the area in good lighting and at the time of day for shooting. In addition, getting a sense of how much space the location provides if actors or the band will be moving around will go far in having the production run smoothly.
Storyboards and Filming: Mapping Out the Production
Mapping out your production will never do the director wrong. To accomplish this, many people behind the camera use the aid of storyboards and shots lists to chart their filmmaking path. A video director will want to see what each frame looks like for reference and contemplate lens types, camera angles, and blocking for each scene. Many storyboard websites offer their service. Sites like Storyboarder, Storyboard That, and Canva offer the ability to use their storyboarding products for free or at little cost.
With the crew, equipment, talent, props, and location in place, production can move forward.
It’s imperative to keep in mind that each shooting day stays on schedule. The director is always the lead during shooting and wants to have the band or artist give their best performance while being mindful of their crew. A great way to get the most from the musician’s performance is playing the music as you film to help set the tone and the right frame of mind and help actors and artists lip-sync. Also, thinking outside the box during the production can add a unique touch to the video.
Post-Production: All the Pieces Together for Post
A smaller budget for a music video will most likely involve the director with a more hands-on approach. Ideally, post-production will have other creatives and technicians on board for the process. This procedure will include editing, any special effects or graphics, and laying the music track on top of the video.
Editing is an art form and technical skill and should be treated as such. Hiring a professional editor can help with continuity issues, syncing cuts to maintain the visual style, and keeping true to any earlier discussed storyline. Special effects and graphics depend on what is needed for the music video without appearing inauthentic. Overusing this technique can remove the artist’s music and negatively affect the whole video if not intended.
A music video isn’t a music video without the music. Therefore, playing the music during production will help better match the syncing of the visuals to the lyrics and pacing of the song. As a result, the video will come off as more genuine and align with the director’s and artist’s original master plan.
Distribution and Promoting: Getting the Word Out
The destination for most music videos used to be MTV, VH1, or other music channels; however, most music videos by great or unknown artists get released online. YouTube, Vimeo, Vevo, and other video streaming services showcase musicians from all over the world. Many of these allow music videos to get monetized if it goes viral. Different ways to gain monetary value and notoriety are through paid-for-service music distribution companies that help the artist get exposure. But, of course, what always helps is promoting.
Social media is a great way to promote that music video. These multi-platforms allow artists to gain coverage and even free publicity. Sharing a teaser of the music video and some small snippets of what goes into the process of making it will help gain momentum for that monumental release.
Music videos are an excellent way for filmmakers to gain experience, build lasting relationships, and find their voice. Experimenting while constructing a moviemaking career off the ground can be tricky when navigating through the craft. Still, it’s something that will be beneficial too. Music videos offer the chance to be innovative. They will help you take each inventive step seriously from the beginning and into your filmmaking endeavors.