Low Budget Video Making For Musicians

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One of the most expensive and biggest budget killers there is for a musician’s wallet is making their first music videos! It is without a doubt also a process that takes a lot of time and effort to make it as good as possible and to deliver the quality we want, it gets pricey! But a question that has gained popularity among musicians over the past decade with the huge accessibility we have to technology and software is, “is it possible to make my own music video, and reach the quality I want?”




Is It Really Possible?

Today is your lucky day, for that answer is.. yes, absolutely! And the only thing it requires from you is effort and good planning! Today we will go through the process of making your very own music video all by yourself, acquiring the skills to do so, and how to make it so budget friendly you will not see the world the same after reading this through!

So, let us get to work, we will divide this in two sections, a Planning Stage and a Filming & Editing Stage in which we will cover all the essentials and occasionally give you some homework or subjects to investigate further on your own to hone your skills as a camera guy!

Planning Stage

Just as everything in a music career, there is a planning stage for a music video, and if you are serious about it it can take even a whole month just to get to a refined and strong idea of what it is you want to represent on camera, so we will start precisely with coming up with the core concept for your music video, the storyboard.

Storyboard: Foundation For Great Ideas

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A Storyboard is basically a visual representation of our story, you do not have to draw it as our story is very short but do write a sequence of events within that time limit.
Here some tips on storyboards for music videos:

  • Keep it simple: complexity and short lengths of time do not go hand by hand when it comes to visual representations, you have to understand that the person who watches the video will have to attempt to relate it to the song lyrics or song in general at the same time, so their brains will be pretty busy to process too much information at once.
  • Limits: Try to have as little participants as possible, this will help in the talent search for the actors and it will aid you with saving up time, also another crucial aspect is to limit yourself with the locations you will use, try to select at most 4, and we mean that 4 is an exaggerated amount, as that would mean for you to disperse a lot and meet up with your actors at points that can have a significant distance, many experimental and independent music videos take place in one single location, even some professional videos do so, so there is nothing wrong with considering that!
  • Genre & Song Related: Your story should try to stick and relate to the genre of music as much as possible, attempt this by playing with the softness and aggressive attitude you want your actors or elements portray on screen, even so, this plays a part in how you direct and edit, so we will mention it once in a while.

 

  • Interesting: best way to find out is to do the same as with your music, ask around ! Ask them what they think about the story line? If they think it fits the music and the lyrics? If there is something they would improve or would like to see.
  • Elements: This is an extra objective, but if you can aim for it it could really improve your storyboard, we suggest you imagine the scene one by one and start detailing it in your mind, if there is a table, if there is a set up, the clothes they are wearing, this will help you to imagine the props for the recording day and be prepared for all the material needs you may have.
  • You Will Go over it.. a lot: It will happen, you will have a great idea and the day after you are going to ask yourself “What have I done!?” so, do not take harsh and sudden decisions, consider every scene that will take place in the video until you can visualize it, a good way to put this skill to practice is to listen to songs and imagine how a music video could fit that song, and also, listen to your song as much as possible, even if it is yours, you might discover elements of it you did not see before.

The last aspect for you is the detailing, this will be refined during the video production process and post edition but it is still good to come up with one or two general ideas for the scenes you want to have the most impact, you can place this impact moments in your chorus or guitar solo sections.

Participants & Actors

Now that you have a general idea of how your music video is going to proceed we need to find the right people for it, the best way is to ask friends or family to participate, as our purpose is to save as much money as possible and make this budget friendly, even so if you decide to, you can hire local actors by posting on online forums, you can also check any local drama clubs or theaters, ask the owner if they would share your request with the actors during the week and notify you if anyone is interested.

If you decide to use friends and family we do suggest you ask them to set a few days apart for the filming and be willing to be patient with you as you will need to take a bit of their time, we will explain later why in detail but basically is so you can do several takes on the scenes of most importance.
Location, Location and Location..

 



The process to finding the right place for our video can even change our original storyboard and even give us new fresh ideas, here the process of definition for your video takes another step.

First of all, select a place you can afford to meet with your actors, not far away from town, accessible and that you have permission to record your music video in it, if it is a far away place from town or even a few hours away offer your filming crew transportation and food to suit your needs, we will go over a brief listing for you of things you might want to consider having the day you film.

As we mentioned select as little locations as you have to, try to immerse your imagination in them and try to capture the essence of the place by placing your storyboard in it, imagine your actors or elements moving within it, and play a little with how everything goes out, if you feel comfortable with the space and it is convincing to you visually, what else you need?
If you can not find the place learn from the pros, watch music videos made by artists within your same music style or genre and you might come across a few noteworthy ideas to improvise with what you have.

 

Learn The Basics

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You may have the greatest music video ever now playing in your head waiting to become reality! But it won’t come out so naturally, but that is not the end of it! You just need to learn how to use a camera well!

Learning the basics to using a camera and how to make a film can really be a big aid as you will even have a more concrete concept on how the work flow of a camera man or filmmaker is. Here is some homework for you to look into:

 

  • Camera Angles: Learn about the camera angles used in Music Videos, how they are combined and how they shoot with multiple cameras and select different scenes at the edition stage to make it dynamic.
  • Compositions Rules: You can find this in photography beginner courses and also multiple basic how-to tutorials for artistic video making or photo shoots, you can start with the rule of thirds, you will come across a lot of these.A composition rule basically augments the interest of a still image or a scene by following certain guidelines, these are angles to be proven to draw attention to specific points, you can use them to focus your actors or what they are doing during the scene.
  • Fundamentals: Another subject you should approach are “Fundamentals in Digital Cinematography” and “fundamentals on Photography” These both will give you all the terms you need to know and if you apply yourself in less than a week you will pick up most of it, and trust me it will be worth it every second once you start the filming process and edition process.

          The Camera
Now we need to take care of acquiring our main tool to make our music video and that is a digital camera, the best methods to get one is:

  • By It Used: In Ebay and Amazon you can find plenty cameras that will be sold as Used for a very reasonable price, probably it will be the biggest expense so far but it is our main tool for work and will be a one-in-a-time purchase, so it is a considerable option.Before you buy make a thorough investigation on which are the cheapest but best options, there are many options out there that do not go above 100$ used and still deliver a high definition image.You can also try the pawn shops near you, just make sure they let you test it.
  • Rental: Camera rental is not so common today as many people use their phones to record, but for our case it could be worth it finding a few camera rental places and go check them out, do explain for what you need the camera and explain them it would be a few days rental, they might have an offer for a weekly term rental.
  • Ask Friends & Family: Your friends and family might have the possibility to lend you a camera for the job, before you consider buying you should ask your close contacts, even the actors you might have contacted or will contact may have a camera or a friend who they can borrow a camera from.
  • Your Phone: Nope, Not joking, some phones today deliver HD 1080p quality with a 60 FPS ratio, what else do you need? Trust me if you have the latest generation phone chances are it has this quality at its disposition, play a bit with it and really see closely the quality it can reach, if you decide to use your phone remember to carry a method to charge the battery, double check the focus capacities for it and how well it picks up colors and light filters, we do not entirely support this idea but it can be viable in some scenarios.

As far as the planning stage goes, this is about it, we do want to stress out you should do each step thoroughly so far with proper research and understanding as this fundamentals will be elemental and will play an important part every time you record a music video, even if later you hire a super amazing film maker to direct your videos you can at least express properly what it is that you want and actually contribute.
So, what is next? After all this thinking and talking and probably driving mindlessly to a hundred locations for your camera, actors and the location itself, it is time for us to approach the fun and action plan, the actual film making and video recording!

Filming & Editing Stage

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          Location/stage Preparation

 

Before you start filming, one or two days before, you should go to the location you selected to prepare it and set it up for the filming days:

  • Cleaning: Clean the space and leave it as impeccable as possible, also, remove any dusty objects unless you want them as props for your video.
  • Props: Props usually are not involved in the storyboard process or the planning stage, they come naturally to your mind once you are in the actual location, even the actors or your filming crew start making suggestions on what you can use, a table, chairs, antique replicas, etc.. this is one of the reasons we mentioned making your location town-access friendly as you may have to run to a wal-mart or local store to buy some things for the set up.
  • Lighting hours: If your location is closed you want to make sure you have good lighting, count the hours the light goes in through the windows and any other filter the room may have, with this you can set a timer the days you have selected to film as a limit for how much time you have.
  • Accesibilities: Remember to make a check list of things you or your crew might need for the filming day, such things like water, food and a bathroom accessibility are essentials, and they can help to get everything done in one day as no one will disperse in a few hours because they are hungry and will make you wait for a few hours until they come back!

          4 Days Of Pure Action

 

You want to do this easy for everyone! Select dates in which all or most required members for the filming process are needed to be at the location, for your actors their scenes should be able to be done in one day! The rest is just fillings and editing.

Here is a good way to organize your schedule:

  1. DAY 1: Acting Scenes: Anything humanly related and actor related should be done on the very first day as they are the core scenes of your video, in the situation you are not filming a person and instead you are filming some sort of elements they should take priority here (many videos do still animations or object-motion)Consider doing every take two or three times as they will have to be visually expressive, remember that your actors will have to tell a story mostly with their body motion so having several shots could come in handy and will avoid having to record the scene again after revision.Also, remember to record your scenes with your music playing in the background so your actors have a reference of the time they have to act, the intention and the speed.

    Camera Angles You should record the same scenes but from different camera angles, as we discussed you should learn the basics on this as there is a lot of technical information that could cover up for writing a whole book about it! But knowing how to place your camera from a different distance and perspective point might give you some interesting scenes, it will also help the edition process as you can add that sense of “fluidity” to your final video and it will make it seem as a more proper set up of transitions, imagine if you recorded everything from the front view! It would look just like a bunch of skips! We definitely want to avoid that!

  2. DAY 2 : Stills: Stills are very short takes that last 1 to 3 seconds, this can be of anything! A street, a macro of your actors, the sunset, etc… you should try to get a few of these also on day one, but even so, having a good compilation of these is edition material that will most probably come in handy!
  3. DAY 3: Scene Revisions: You now have the basics for your music video, time to do a quick review with your actors and anyone who can attend the meeting that is involved, play through all the content so far and ask their honest opinions, what they think maybe could be changed or recorded again.Time Revision enters this day and you should see if all the potential material you have so far match the time your song lasts, remember to leave a few gaps for Stills, intros and Outros.
  4. Day 4: Fix Ups: all you discussed that could be changed or altered in day 3 will be fixed today… this far maybe you have had a super detailed idea of how your video goes through and how its story develop in a few minutes, as this is the last day to record material we suggest you ensure to do also 2 or 3 takes of the same scene or scenes you have decided to change.

          Video Edition Process

 

First of all we need to select the scenes we really want to use, here are a few tips on how to do so:

 

  • Play Your Song Through: Play your song through the scenes, every single one, see how well the impact plays through each, even the stills, see if you can fit them within the song alterations (from verse to chorus, the outro, guitar or instrument solos, etc..)
  • Second Opinions: Have someone with you supporting your opinion or suggesting if you should use another scene, this will help as the music video will not be made out from your whole judgment call but also someone else.
  • Duration: Use a timer to see how long the scenes you have selected last, sum them up in a piece of paper and see if the time matches the song length, as this is the final material selection before putting it together.

Now, that you have your material selected we have two road here, you edit the video yourself or you outsource a video editor online. We will go through both, first, if you decide to do it yourself.

Editing The Video Yourself

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Remember that whichever software you decide to use, you will have to go through a learning curve on how to use it, so be patient with yourself and try to learn how to use it as best as possible.

Here are our software recommendations, and yes, they are FREE:

  • Blender: Blender is not only for video edition, it is originally a 3D modeling and designing software but has several engines within the program, video game programming and video editing tools and they are powerful in all aspects!You can also do trimming and add effects, we suggest you google tutorials from their official sites as they will cover up pretty much everything and the support network for newcomers in the forums is very active.

Davinci Resolve: The software combines a versatile non-linear video editor with Hollywood-level colour correction technology and it is no exaggeration, they are using it for movies and TV series color and editing corrections.

 

The editor has a familiar, straightforward and friendly work flow. Point the program at your video folders, select a file, view it on a time line, add transitions or apply effects: experienced users should feel at home right away.

 

The well-designed interface makes for speedy operations, even when you’re working with a lot of clips. You can quickly insert, replace, add, swap, ripple, extend or shorten edits by dragging, dropping, using the context-sensitive editing tools, the toolbar buttons or keyboard shortcuts.

 

  • Windows Movie Maker: Believe it or not, it might seem like a joke at first but windows movie maker is a pretty powerful tool, specially for trimming your video and adjusting your scenes appropriately It does the job like no other software does.

          Outsourcing A Video Editor

 

In the scenario that you have a budget for it, outsourcing a video editor is also a good choice, Outsourcing has become a popular term for investing on quality content or a professional working hand that does not charge by the standards and still delivers quality.

You will find that this is being used a lot in large companies or business as it is a work-distribution method, in our artistic scenario it is a way to save up some money, network with someone who might become part of our working task force as musicians and get a result that can be as original as it is professional.

How can we find this individual? Here a few options:

  • Fiverr: Fiverr is a global online marketplace offering tasks and services, beginning at a cost of $5 per job performed, from which it gets its name. The site is primarily used by freelancers who use Fiverr to offer services to customers worldwide.The site is simple, you set up an account with your email, a user name and a password and you start searching what people are offering, you will come across many video editors so we suggest you follow the next rules to find someone with potential and professional.
  • Read the Reviews In The Gig: see what previews clients have said about the working experience, the more people who have worked with him or her, the better for us as they are opinions from different individuals who wanted different things.
  • Contact Them: Contact the person and ask them if they can do what you are looking for, how much would they charge, the highest amount I have been charged for video edition has been 50$ and the quality was superb! Send them a sample of your music and ask them if they like it, also tell them you already have everything in a file and just needs to be put together with proper effects, filters and transitions
  • 5 star Rating: The rating says it all! Having a 5 star rating is a good sign, this rating is given by the people who review their experience with the person, still, it is a good option to check if he or she does not have five stars why, sometimes the fault is not theirs but the client’s.
  • Other Freelancing Sites: Fiverr is not the only site where you can outsource a video editor for less than 3 digits, you can try Freelancer.com and Upwork.com for this, it works reversed to how fiverr works, instead of someone offering a service you have to post a work solicitude and interview the persons who apply for it, it might be a longer process but you will get results for quality and originality too.
  • Local Editors: Many designers and visual artists have the basics on how to use video edition software, we suggest you attempt contacting them or approaching them and asking them if they would be up for the task, just remember to ask for a sample of their work and how long would they take to do this.

In both scenarios, whoever it is you have decided to edit your video, yourself or someone else, it is a good choice, as in both cases you are not approaching the traditional expensive methods and you are indeed making it budget friendly!

If you have selected someone else for the job through outsourcing methods we want to remind you to have all the material in the best organizational order as possible to make it easier for the person in charge of the edition.
          It’s Done!

 

Congrats! We have covered all there is to making your very own music video! We do want to stress out that you should not rush when doing it and you should really pick on the basics for all the technical aspects, once you have your video finished you will be happier with the results as you will see all this new knowledge you have applied to it!

What is next? Well, we do suggest you register it and protect it legally if you are going to publish it, also if you publish it on Youtube they protect your material, you can find the ISRC protection codes at their website and how much they would charge you for it, you can also call them at the phone number given in their website to find someone who will assist you with this information.

We hope you had fun through the whole process and you are satisfied with your result!
 

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