Back in December, we were contacted for an opportunity in NYC for four different videos. All of these videos were set to be filmed in New York City. The artist and his manager contacted our team and said they said they potentially had multiple videos that they wanted to film, but they had concerns they wanted us to address. The first concern was in regards to COVID. They wondered if it was even possible to even film a music video during this time. With the precautions we had in place, we assured them that the music video production process would be completely safe and all we needed was the consent of everyone on set to participate. We then were excited to tell them that we offer valuable discounts for clients that shoot multiple videos. If an artist books two music videos they receive a 15% discount, for three music videos a 20% discount, and if they booked four music videos a 25% discount would be applied. With this 25% off discount, one of the four music videos ends up being completely free. They of course jumped at the opportunity and immediately booked the four music videos. Once the planning began, we decided that we would need 12 days to film. We then planned ahead for three out of those twelve days to be flexible, in case something were to come up or needed to be rescheduled. Being in the music video industry we knew this could be a good possibility, especially with the unpredictability of the pandemic.
The first music video we filmed was for the song titled “Absurd”. “Absurd” is a high-energy song and they wanted the video to capture that same energy. They had a vision of each video intertwining to another in a way. The first video they wanted to have an artist who is sick and tired of his girlfriend who is nagging him all the time. The second one would be a man they see singing a song in the studio to his girlfriend and him then breaking up with the girl. The third would be a new love interest after the break up. The fourth was to be separate video, one that is just a high energy fun video strictly performance and paying tribute to old hip hop.
Filming in New York can be easy due to the abundance of resources you have access to. On the other hand, it can also be challenging due to the amount of hurtles and precautions that have been put in place to prevent the spread of COVID in New York City since the city has been shut down. It is difficult to get around and even harder to park. Since most people haven’t moved their cars in months, it’s time consuming to find new parking when you go to different shoot locations. There were multiple times where I had to drive around for more than an hour just looking for a parking spot. It also seemed as though the city police officers had even stopped carrying out the typical parking regulations, so people were parked wherever they pleased. At the time of the shoot, I had a rental car and found out the hard way that New York police and city ticketing officers treat locals different than anyone from out of town. I found out that if you have out-of-town plates you’re more likely to get a ticket than anyone with New York plates. In twelve days of shooting, I had racked up over $1,200 of parking violations and tows. The filming for “Absurd” the music video went very smoothly. We booked the location through an app we recommend called Peerspace. The location had a massive projector that covered three whole walls floor to ceiling with hundreds of visuals to choose from, which allowed us to create incredibly unique shots all in one place as you can see from the pictures here. They had thousands of different images and lightening options that we could choose from, which allowed for endless opportunities for what we could create, so much so, that we actually decided to use the same studio for an additional video, which I will address in another article. The only learning curve was to light someone while the projector was hitting them, since the projector wall is already lit. To to see the projector’s image properly everything has to be blacked out and as soon as you introduce light onto the artist you wouldn’t see the projector as clearly. So, we had to find a solution to light the artist in a way that wouldn’t take away from the projector display.
For close-up shots, the lighting wasn’t as big of a challenge, but when we pulled out into master shots, it became very difficult to light the subject and create the proper exposure for the projector as well as the artist at the same time. A lot of the fixes came in post production during the color correction process and using a variety of vignettes. The owner of the location was very helpful in deciding from the thousands of different visuals to choose from. At times though, he was a little too helpful and would change the displays based off what he would think is best, instead of listening to what we had as the vision for the video. Being in music video production, this can be a constant hurdle. Meaning as a music video videographer, you have to pull people back in and help them understand that it’s not always just up to what they think looks best, but it’s what the artist wants and what the team has planned for the artist’s vision. However, it never got to the point that we felt as though we had to scrap the footage or find a new location. It was understandable, the location manager was just excited to help. We also had multiple other people trying to voice their opinion and talking to him so that might’ve confused him a bit. This video was fairly easy to film due to the fact that we were able to film 90% in one location. The only other location we used was the beginning scene, where the artist and his girlfriend were shown fighting. At that same location, we also used their rooftop for a performance shot. On the rooftop we mostly used drone footage we shot and Stedicam setups.
The music video has overall done very well as it’s about to hit overall 300,000 views and has only been live for a little over 30 days. Especially, since this is the artist’s first music video. Their next couple videos we produced performed even better due to the momentum of the first one. We loved working with an artist who was so talented and had so much vision and energy.
I would generally never suggest that an artist shoots his or her own music video. If you are trying to take your career to that top level, I think it’s mandatory to find a good music video director. With that being said, I do understand that this is not always an option for everyone because of budgetary reasons; hopefully, I can provide you with some basic guidance on directing your videos.
First things first: if you’re shooting your own video, don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Worrying endlessly about how to come up with an original concept will get you nowhere. I’ll let you in on a little secret: there is no original concept out there, only mashups of different videos. Some of these concepts have small budgets and some have big budgets; regardless, everything has already been created. If you think you’ve generated an original idea, you more than likely have just not yet stumbled on the source which did it “first.” My first piece of advice would be to pick out three to four different music videos that you love and you feel would be a good fit for your song and use them as inspiration. Sometimes the best way to tell if an old concept is good for your video is to mute the music video and play your song over it. This should give you a sense of how your video would feel with this type of video, particularly in terms of imagery and pacing. Now I’m not suggesting that you take one video and copy it completely, but what I am recommending is that you find multiple videos you like and “steal” the best parts of each. It’s a well know fact of life: if you steal from just from one artist, you will be considered a thief, but if you steal from multiple sources, you will be considered an original. Consider that this form of homage already exists in your music. If you just got your inspiration from Brittany Spears, critics would (at best) say that you are going to be the next Brittany Spears. If you combined Lady Gaga, Sam Smith, and Brittany Spears as your inspirations, you would be hailed as a revolutionary. That is the most important piece of information I could give you on the pre-production side of things. As far as music video editing techniques, there are too many to cover here. To keep things simple, always be editing to the music. This means that you must make sure your cuts in the song go to beat of the music. This will give you a good flow in your editing and make the video have the same pace as the song.
One of the biggest benefits of hiring someone to make your video is them providing the equipment to shoot the video. If you’re lucky and you know someone with decent filming equipment, you better hope they are willing to film the video for you. Learning to properly use a specific camera correctly can take months of time, especially if it’s a high-end camera. If you are trying to keep it cheap, go straight for your iPhone. There is no point in investing $500 to $1000 (which is on the low end of an equipment budget!) on a camera. You’re not going to get anything that is any better then your iphone for that price. Another thing to consider is that costs add up quick for camera equipment, especially when you take into account the need for lighting, lenses, tripods, a dolly, and an editing workstation. For all of these tools, you are looking at dropping $8000 at minimum. Being a music video videographer is not a cheap business, and to make this worse, all of your new equipment will be irrelevant within four years tops. Cheap music video production looks like filming a music video on an iphone or DSLR these days, but even if you go with a cheap DSLR package, you’re are looking at about $2500 just to get the camera and basic lens. You won’t get the 4K quality, but you will be able to deliver content to your audience. Cheap music video production doesn’t really exist, so if you find a music video director with extremely low rates, you will soon discover that the product matches the cost.
Music video directing is no easy task, and if someone is telling you that they can make you a good video with no music video experience, they are kidding themselves. There are so many aspects to making a music video that people don’t realize. You have to put together a budget, storyboard, cast actors, scout locations, acquire insurance, generate waivers for actors, get permits, plan the cinematography and lighting, find a proper crew, hire a steadicam operator, edit the video, handle color correction, and export the final product. On a true film set, that’s one job per person (or multiple people) for every item I listed there, and that doesn’t include craft services. Learning how to direct music videos takes years of experience, but if you want to give it a shot, the best piece of advice I could give is to just go for it. You will learn the most by attempting and failing to make a video–more than you could ever learn from some book.
Learning how to direct music videos comes with time. If you don’t believe me, check out our portfolio in the link below. Watch our first videos compared to our most recent work. You will notice a huge difference in the quality on all sides of the production.
I’m of the “just do it” attitude, but if you are looking for more education on this topic, a great resource is the nofilmschool website. Just click the link to learn more. We hope this information will start to guide you on to how to direct music videos.
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