Music videos are an incredible medium that bridges the world of filmmaking and music. Whether you are a musician looking to shoot your own music video or a filmmaker looking to shoot a music video for a client or friend, creating a music video can be daunting. When broken down into steps, however, filming and editing a music video can be a rather simple and extremely rewarding process. In this article, you’ll find every step you need to learn how to make a good music video.
Music Video Ideas
Begin with a concept
The very first step in learning how to film and edit a music video is to narrow in on the concept. Music video ideas might be reflective of the song in the music video, the location the band is from, or it might be completely random.
Whatever music video ideas you come up with, it’s important to determine it before doing anything else. Let’s talk about a few music video tips from typical types of music video ideas.
The first and arguably the best is the story based music video. Music videos that focus on a story work similarly to narrative short films. The story has a character, and arc, as well as some type of story structure.
Let’s take a look at the music video for Sound and Color by the band Alabama Shakes. The video does not show any performances, but rather focuses on the story of an astronaut in space.
If you were to break down this music video, you would find a general arc. An astronaut wakes up from a seemingly induced sleep. He realizes that he is far off course and more time has elapsed than planned. The man cannot make contact with Earth. When all seems lost, the ship approaches a planet.
The key to making story based music videos is visual storytelling. Since you know that the only the audience hears is the music, the story has to be told completely through the visuals.
Of course, not all music videos need a story. Some musicians and filmmakers lean into more experimental music videos that serve as visual eye candy for a song. This relies heavily on great music video editing.Flume’s Hi This Is Flume [Mixtape Visualiser] is one of the best examples of an experimental music video. Although the video is ultimately a lengthy combination of music videos, it can give you a good idea of how experimental visuals compliment an artist’s music.
Experimental music video ideas are exactly that — experimental. There are no rules, just means of expression. Keep this in mind when creating any music video as it will be the foundation of the production process.
The performance driven music video is perhaps the most common type of music video out there. These music videos focus on the musician performing the song in various scenes. The scenes are then edited together to flow chronologically with a single play of the song.
While it can be rather restrictive, there are plenty of ways to make the performance driven music video creative and memorable. You can increase the production value by using awesome locations or creative props for the B-roll of the video.
You can also get creative with practical effects and the way you edit a musician's performance. In the music video for the song Hardest Button To Button by The White Stripes, director Michel Gondry does all of the above.
Because musicians typically want to be in their music videos, performance driven music videos are the most common. However, this doesn’t mean that they have to be less creative. As you can see, creative music video editing made this example more than just a performance.
There are music videos that combine types of music videos. By no means are these types of music videos rules. They are simply a place to start when determining your music video’s concept.
How to Film and Edit a Music Video
Write a treatment
Once you have your concept, put it on paper and make a treatment. This is key when learning how to make a good music video in general. A treatment is essentially a summary of your music video. It should communicate all of the essential scenes, style, and tone of the video.
A treatment is important for a few reasons. First, it allows you to refine your music video concept. It also serves as a reference point for anyone else working on the project. For example, a producer, cinematographer, and the musicians can all read the treatment and be on the same page about the creative direction of the video.
How to Shoot a Music Video by Yourself
Create a shot list and/or storyboardIn addition to the treatment, you’ll want to create a shot list and possibly a storyboard. A shot list is a list of every shot that will be in your music video. Creating one will make you better prepared during the actual music video shoot. Give the video below a watch to better understand the value of creating a shot list for a music video.
Using tools like StudioBinder’s free shot listing app makes creating a shot list easy and efficient. In the app, you can easily select different characteristics of a shot like shot sizes, camera movements, types of lenses, and even types of camera gear.
You can easily use StudioBinder’s storyboarding software to quickly turn your shot list into a storyboard. This is beneficial for a more visual sequence of the music video. Having both will make you better prepared and ultimately result in a better music video.
How to Film and Edit a Music Video
Schedule your shoot
With your shot list in hand, you can now effectively schedule your music video shoot. This step can be important to stay within your production budget and time constraints.
StudioBinder’s free scheduling software makes scheduling a music video less daunting. You can simply create stripboards which you can rearrange to find the best schedule. Learn more about using stripboards to create your music video schedule in the video below.
You might be tempted to move forward with your music video shoot without a schedule. Trust me when I say, you will need one if you want your music video shoot to be efficient, creative, and most of all, enjoyable.
How to Make a Good Music Video
Hire your crew
Depending on the scale of your music video, you will need to hire a crew. Music videos can undoubtedly be shot simply with the musician and a person behind the camera. But when striving to learn how to make a good music video, the more hands you can have on deck, the better your music video will be.
With a decent crew, everyone can focus on the task they are assigned and one person won’t be spread so thin. Here are some tips from music video director Mike Ho on hiring a crew.
To recap, the essential roles to hire onto your crew will depend on the scale of your music video production. Not everyone reading this has a decent budget or resources to work with. So work with what you have, but remember that a decent crew will ultimately result in a more professional music video.
How to Make a Good Music Video on a Budget
Gather your equipment
Plenty of music video concepts depend on creative camera movements and interesting shots. Make sure you obtain all the necessary camera equipment to achieve these shots.
The last thing you want to happen is to show up at your music video, only to find out you can’t get the aerial shot you wanted because of a lack of a drone. For a full breakdown on what types of camera gear you need to achieve specific shots, check out our video below.
Like any film production, you do not absolutely need fancy equipment to create something great. So don’t be discouraged if your budget will not allow you to rent that Steadicam for a long tracking shot.
However, it is important to know what your restraints are as you shot list so you can plan your shots appropriately.
How to Act in a Music Video
Cast needed talent
Next, you’ll need to cast your talent. This may be as simple as having a few extras behind or around the musicians as they perform. However, if you are shooting a story driven music video, you’ll need to cast actors as if you are shooting a short film. Hold auditions for your necessary talent so you can cast the actor that best serves the music video.
How to Shoot a Music Video by Yourself
Capture live performance(s)
So you’ve got your treatment, shot list, crew, and talent. It’s officially time to shoot. First and foremost, you will need to shoot live performances of the song by the artists.
Find multiple locations you want the artists to perform at. Then, play the studio recorded song on a loudspeaker. Have the musicians sing along and play along with the song. It will be awkward and odd, but it’s necessary for their performance to sync up with the final edit and audio of the music video.
Check out this music video of the song Sunflower by Rex Orange County. Take note of the various scenes that he performs in and how they are all intercut.
Shooting a musician’s performance can easily become boring and stale since they are not moving. It’s important to be intentional with your compositions, lighting, framing, color schemes, and even wardrobe to make these performance shots visually interesting.
How to Film and Edit a Music Video
Capture narrative shots
Next, shoot your narrative shots. These may be very specific if your music video is story based. If it’s not, these shots will be the B-roll that you cut to from the artist’s performance.
For your narrative shots, avoid playing it safe. These are the shots that make a music video memorable. Many music video directors often have one big shot they absolutely want to get.
If you’ve followed the steps above like shot listing, scheduling, casting, and gathering your equipment, you should have all the resources to get this big shot or shots. Try not to limit yourself to standard performance shots. A great mindset is to get your musicians or talent into a frame that would work as a great still photo.
Music video editing
How to edit a music video
Once you’ve finished principle photography, it’s time for music video editing. First, lay down the song track of the music video. This will obviously be what determines your edit.
Next, you’ll want to edit the performance shots according to the track. Find the best coverage of the musician’s performances that creates a cohesive timeline for the full length of the song.
Then, find your favorite B-roll shots. For standard, performance driven music videos, you can simply add your B-roll throughout the performance to create a captivating pace that balances performance and B-roll.
If your music video has a narrative, edit the narrative shot together to make one cohesive narrative arc. You can then space out this narrative over and throughout the musician’s performance.
Once your edit is at a place to lock it, you can finally add any necessary VFX and color grade your music video before you export.
Music videos are an awesome creative project that combines filmmaking and music. There are countless music video examples that have broken the rules and changed the game. However, there are also mundane music videos that fall victim to a lack of creativity. Where yours falls is up to you and the measures you take to bring your vision to life.
Best Cinematography Techniques & Tips
One of the keys to a memorable music video is great cinematography. Whether you are a seasoned filmmaker or musician wanting to learn more about cinematography for your own music video, check out our next article. We dive into the best tips for creating stunning cinematography.