Creating a music video is one of the best ways for musicians and bands to promote themselves online and via social media. It also allows fans to connect with the artists and can add depth or commentary to a song through storytelling. A music video doesn't have to be a huge production (Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody video was filmed in 4 hours and cost them £4,500) but it does require a team effort and therefore a good amount of planning to execute on your great idea.
So before you dive into music video production, first read our step-by-step guide so you can feel confident you know how to make a professional music video from start to finish.
1. Planning a music video
- Choosing the song
- Building a concept
- Location scouting
2. Hiring crew
- Cast & crew
- Production schedule
- Shot list
4. Shooting a Music Video
- Live footage
5. Editing a Music Video
- Choosing editing software
- Start with the performance
- Stock footage
- Editing to the beat
- Colour correction
Planning a Music Video
Choosing the song
In today's world of internet streaming, any song from an album can be a 'single' so don't feel restricted to only creating music videos for tracks that are released as singles. If this is your first music video production, it will likely take longer than you expect to plan, shoot and edit. So a 'new' single may not be new by the time the video is ready for release anyway.
If the song isn't an original then you'll need to consider copyright costs, don't move ahead before getting legal permission to use the song.
Another thing to consider is every minute of a track can require from 2-10 hours of footage, so you need to factor in the amount of time you can commit to creating the music video. It's best to start small and ensure you'll be able to finish the project.
Building a concept
A good place to start is to listen to the song a few times and ask yourself 'how does it make me feel?' Then start brainstorming ideas that resonate with the emotions the song evokes for you. These feelings can be influenced by the lyrics, the tempo and the melody.
You can approach the concept as a narrative-based video or a performance-based video (or a mixture of both!). A narrative-based video has a parallel story or plot line running throughout. It may even have a dialogue or action scene at the beginning before the song starts to establish the narrative. Camila Cabello's 'Havana' music video is a good example, where the opening scene reenacts the character's favourite telenovela to establish she needs more excitement and romance in her life.
A performance-based video as you can probably imagine shows the band or artist performing the song, and sometimes it includes a mashup of various performances across a tour. The Arctic Monkeys video for 'I bet you look good on the dance floor' is a single-take, live performance designed to show off the band's talent and energy when playing live.
Create a mood board (or several boards) to represent the vibe, the colours, the scenes and the characters in the music video. This will give everyone a visual representation of your concept and is a good jumping-off point for your storyboard. You can use a real poster board with photos and magazine cuttings or create a digital mood board on Pinterest. Taking inspiration from famous music video locations can also be very helpful.
Once you've established your concept, a storyboard adds the next level of detail required in the planning process before you can go and create a music video. A storyboard is essentially a visual plan of each shot shown as a series of sketched images, usually with supporting notes underneath about lighting, dialogue, and production details.
Your storyboard will probably go through a few evolutions, starting with very basic sketches of each scene, then getting into more detail like the types of shots, for example, starting with a wide establishing shot and then moving into a close-up. This step may seem like a lot of work, but the more details you can add to your storyboard, the fewer decisions you'll have to make during the video shoot when you're in a time crunch.
You don't need to worry about whether your artistic skills are decent enough to create a storyboard - basic stick figures are enough to indicate what's happening in a scene.
Now you have your scenes worked out on your storyboard, you will have a good idea as to the features you require when scouting locations. If you want to use outdoor locations then you'll need to keep a close eye on the weather forecast and have a plan B ready in case the weather isn't suitable. You'll also need to consider how easy it is to transport your equipment to the location and whether there is ample parking if you're driving your own vehicle.
Similar to house hunting, it's important to establish your budget before you start your location search so you don't waste time scouting locations that you can't afford to hire.
It's always a good idea to visit the location in-person if you can, most venues are happy to arrange viewings by appointment before you book. By searching online via Tutti first, finding music video locations in London is easy.
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Cast and crew
It takes teamwork to create a music video, so you'll need at a minimum the following crew members to support the shoot:
- Director: Will manage all the people and moving parts in the shoot.
- Videographer: Will be responsible for capturing the action on one or more cameras, will frame the scene, and work with the gaffer to ensure it is adequately lit.
- Gaffer: Will manage and run the lighting of each scene.
- Sound person: Will set up the microphones when needed for any dialogue scenes and cue the music track for each take.
- Wardrobe, hair and makeup artist.
You may also need to hire actors if you're shooting a narrative-based music video, as well as dancers and a choreographer if required for a performance video.
If you are on a tight budget you can look to hire film students who would love to gain more experience as they won't charge nearly as much as a music video production company. A first-time director may even be willing to do the work for free so they can add the project to their portfolio.
Start by making a list of all the equipment you need for the shoot. For example a video camera, tripod, lenses, lights, an external microphone, a green screen, speakers, a monitor, and spare batteries.
First tick the items off your list that you and the team already own, then check which remaining items the location you're renting has available. They may be included in the hire fee - for example, speakers and backdrops, or they may be available to hire for an additional fee. This will be easier than hiring equipment separately because you won't need to transport it. If you are shooting a performance-based music video, then a recording studio or live music venue should have all the equipment the musicians need to perform.
Then you'll need to find somewhere nearby to rent any remaining equipment for the duration of the shoot, such as these camera hire places in London.
Don't forget to factor in props, costumes, and instruments if there's a live performance involved. Consider whether you have enough space to fit everything in your own vehicles or whether it would be more convenient to hire a van.
It's good practice to plan out your schedule to ensure you have enough time to shoot each scene, and then share it among the entire team so everybody is able to commit to the timeframe. Look out for your team by scheduling meal breaks and providing food if there is none available at the shoot location. Encourage the crew to take breaks so everyone stays fresh and alert all day.
The music video production schedule is an overview of the entire shoot and should be broken down by scene and include the following details: the location of the scene, the date and time of the shoot, a description of the action in the scene, the cast and crew involved, and the equipment and props needed.
The shot list is a much more detailed plan of what needs to be captured at each location. It should include a description of each shot, the camera angle, framing and movement, action and dialogue, the subjects in the shot, and the props needed.
Shooting a Music Video
Natural lighting is free and abundant, but unfortunately, it is not consistent. It's important to ensure your primary light source is even and consistent across your scenes, so if you have the money then we suggest investing in lighting to give you more control.
Additional lighting is essential if you're filming with a green screen because everything needs to be clearly defined in order for you to edit out the background. Another challenge is to get the right lighting consistency between the subject and the footage you're using for the background. For example, if the subject is lit from above but the background scene is lit from the side it will look unnatural, so the videographer and editor will need to collaborate on this.
Lighting will have a big impact on the quality of your video, so take the time to get it right at the time of shooting rather than attempt to fix it in post-production.
Your music track will be overlayed in post-production, but if you are shooting a narrative-based music video that integrates dialogue and action scenes, then you'll need an external microphone to capture crisp audio. Remember to position the microphone as close to the subject as possible.
Ideally, you'll have several good takes for each scene so you have plenty of options when editing. Because music videos tend to have more cuts than other types of video, it's helpful to have more than one camera angle to keep the shots interesting. Therefore you might like to invest in a second camera to shoot from other angles as well as keep rolling in between scenes so you can catch some candid moments of the band and crew. Just make sure the second camera is not in sight of the main camera.
When it comes to B-roll, if you plan how you want to use it in the storyboarding stage then you can save time later by avoiding shooting loads of unnecessary footage 'just in case'.
There are two options when shooting a live performance, you can film at a real concert, or you can 'stage' a live performance where the band plays or mimes along to the track.
The advantage of shooting at a real concert is being able to capture the live energy and genuine reactions from the crowd. There are also challenges involved, the lighting may not look great on camera and the live version of the song may differ significantly from the recorded version, making it difficult to sync the audio to the video in post. You also only get one chance to record the song as it will only be played once.
This is why many music video creators choose to stage performances, so that way they have control over lighting and choreography, as well as being able to record as many takes as they want. To give the editor lots of options it's common to film each musician in a single-shot playing the entire song.
Editing a Music Video
Choosing editing software
If you're new to editing you can always start off with basic software that has limited features but will do a decent job. Apple computers come with the free editing software iMovie while PC users can download Adobe Premiere Elements.
If you feel you want more sophisticated effects and the best quality output, you should consider buying professional editing software such as Apple Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere Pro.
Just remember a good video isn't a showcase of how many effects you can master. It's usually better to use a couple of effects throughout the video to create a specific mood rather than use as many effects as you can to add more drama.
Video editing can take up a lot of hard drive space, so investing in an external hard drive to store your footage can be a great idea, especially so you don't feel that you need to delete unused footage that could be useful at a later date.
Start with the performance
A simple way to focus your music video editing is to first cut together the performance shots like it is one big performance video, and then begin adding in b-roll footage and/or other story elements to keep the video interesting and move the story along.
If you feel there's any missing action you can also supplement your own footage with stock video footage, just make sure you have permission to use it and are abiding by copyright law.
There are a few sources of footage you can use legally. Royalty-free is footage that is free to use in any setting without seeking permission, although some websites do charge a one-off fee to access their library of royalty-free stock.
A creative commons license is another popular way of making stock footage available to the public. This is where the copyright owner adds a condition to the use of the footage, usually only that you properly credit the source.
Editing to the beat
When editing a music video, you need to think of the music as being the reason for each cut. You can't just make a cut at an arbitrary moment, otherwise, you'll lose the rhythm of the video. The visuals should enhance and complement the song, not be at odds with it.
Colour correcting will ensure the entire video looks consistent and will give you a cinematic look. Editing is where you get to add your own style so try experimenting with the exposure, contrast, highlights and colour balance.
As you can see there are a lot of elements that go into the music video production process, but your hard work will most certainly pay off. Music videos are after all one of the best tools for musicians to get noticed by new audiences because they're visually captivating and easy to share. So don't play it safe with your ideas - the best music videos are the ones that find creative ways to stand out from the crowd. You can start getting inspired right now by watching a variety of music videos from different decades and genres, you may be surprised at which styles capture your imagination.
And if you're looking for music video locations to hire in London, why not browse Tutti?
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