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How To Shoot a Music Video Like a Pro

Amazing Tips on How to Shoot a Music Video

Ready to shoot a music video? Music videos are critical for musicians to showcase their music and a great way for dipping your toe in the video production business.  They allow a videographer to tell a story in a punchy and direct way and can allow tremendous creative opportunities for a filmmaker. Read on to learn the basic techniques to shoot a music video and some pro tips to create a fantastic production. Whether you are shooting your own music video or ding it for an artist, there are lots of tips that will help you deliver an amazing music video.

Developing your concept

A strong and compelling concept is critical to every video production. But remember, when making a music video you are creating an expression of the musician as well as your own. They may have a very strong vision of what the song means and how they want the story told.  Collaboration is everything and your concept must be aligned with the song and the artist. Be ready to hear the artist’s vision and ideas, and bring some of your own. Some artists will rely upon your totally to concept the video. Your goal is to elevate the viewer and listener’s experience of the song. Don’t let your creativity get in the way of the song and back up your concept with a solid production plan.

There are several options for shooting a music video. Here are some of the top techniques that will help you make a cool and stylish video. Using a set location is basic and does not have to be boring! It also is creatively flexible since you are not worried about control of lighting, weather, parking, or more.

Many like to work with the “one take” method. This may seem tricky but it can be super effective and will save tons of post-production time and sometimes works best for the song. Another option is a thematic short film. You don’t have to be Beyonce to use this technique and can put together a sort of film about the music.

For the most creative, a home video option can work. You can work with video you have already, or create new footage that looks like it is archived footage, or even retrogrades your footage to make it look like an older format.

Write your music video script

Every videographer approaches a music video project in a different way. It all starts with the song. Listen to it again and again, break down the lyrics and think about the narrative and the tone. Is it a love song, is it about loss or fear, or joy? That will help you set the tone for your video. Think about every element of the song. Will you include a performance of the song in s studio or will it be more of an accompaniment to the song?

Create a script template that tracks your audio, or lyrics in one column and the visuals in the other. Here is where you will track any ideas you have on what you want onscreen and how you will illustrate or support the song visually. Be as detailed as possible with your script and it will be a great template for your client and your crew to ensure everyone is on the same page.

Break down your script

Once your music video script is done, break down the script by listing out everything you will need for the shoot. This will include video equipment, props, locations, and talent. Being detailed and specific here is the key to formulating a budget and a timeline. Regardless of the scope and size of your production, this will be the backbone of your planning and your production schedule.

Work through your shooting style. Music videos are often less traditional in terms of filmmaking guidelines and standards. This is most evident in shooting styles and transitions. Think about your style and tone, and how it will help tell the story of your song. Camera angles, transitions, and special effects all come into play when planning and shooting a music video. Music videos range from traditional to the very cutting edge. Pick your lane early and be sure you have consensus from all involved.

Create a storyboard and shot list

Once you have your concept a storyboard follows. This invaluable tool will help you make solid plans for your shoot. Brainstorm with the artist, your team (if you have one) and talk about the theme, the flow of the story, shots, and other important decisions like locations. Create a shot by shot storyboard that you can use as a reference when scheduling and executing the shoot.

Your production schedule

Your video production schedule will include pre-production, which is basically your planning stage. That includes conceptualizing, scripting, storyboarding, and coordination of all aspects of the shoot. It will also include production, which is when you are actually shooting. And finally, there’s the critical post-production phase which includes sound edit and mix, film editing, and more.  For each minute in a song, you may spend well over 2 – 8 hours shooting, editing, and finishing the video. Create a production schedule that includes each of these steps and who will be involved.

View of computer display screen of audio software
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Pro Tips to keep it low budget!

For most musicians, there’s not a lot of dough leftover for a high budget video. But you will need it to successfully promote your video. You may be willing and able to spend thousands on a slick music video, but that is not the case for most of us. And artist after the artist has proven that it’s just not necessary to break the bank to successfully shoot a video. Here are some tips to keep you on track (and on a budget!)

Recruit your pals.

People love to be involved in shooting videos. You may have friends with some video talent or experience, but maybe you’re just shooting with a smartphone. Bring in your friends to helo with the filming, props, or maybe to add another smartphone and new shot angles and more choices when you are editing.  Need an audience? Reach out on social media to your buddies and voila! Want to use a beach house? Everyone knows someone. Tell your friends you are throwing a party while you shoot your music video in the background and they’ll show up/1 

Be efficient with time

Whether you are relying upon your friends to help, hiring professionals, or renting equipment, you will want to work quickly. This is where a tight storyboard and shot list will be valuable. Try to plan a shoot that is no longer than 4 -6 hours including set up and breakdown.

Pick a single location

There are lots to think about when shooting a video production, especially if you are on camera or behind the camera. So make it as simple as possible for the lighting, travel, set up, and crew by using a single location. Maybe you are going to the studio, or staying local. There are thousands of local locations. Try to see them with a new eye as you scout locations. This will help you maximize the best light, minimize set up, travel time, and costs.

There are tons of free locations. Think out of the box. You’ll be surprised by how happy people may be to have you use their location, or how easy it may be to get the use of an empty theater, or museum. Look around for public spots, looking for interesting visual elements or themes that resonate with the song. Caution: Ask the city or location if you can shoot a video. They sometimes require licensing and insurance so check before you shoot.

Find interesting visual elements

Think about an interesting visual element that will add interest. You walking across an empty stage before the music starts, empty theatre seats, or dancing. Think it through before you start the shoot and now how each move matches up to the song.

When you are ready to create your masterpiece, be sure your concept is solid and understood by everyone involved. Your production should allow for the unexpected but be very specific. Shoots lots of footage so you have plenty of options in postproduction. And enjoy!

If you are not ready to take on shooting a music video yet, bring your ideas and music to a full-service video agency like C&I Studios.

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