Shooting a Music Video – The Independent Musician and Filmmaker

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Music Video edit screen of One More Chance by Jean Paul Espinosa

Never before have independent artists and bands had better access to shooting a music video with such powerful media tools to enable them show their craft in cinematic and broadcast quality. YouTube now provides open distribution infrastructure that delivers full high definition content (1080p) and the equipment to for high definition broadcast ready music video production can now be purchased in a consumer electronics and whitegoods store.

What isn’t readily available is the expertise in production and visual story telling craft. Chances are, that there isn’t an experienced filmmaker in the band or entourage, so engaging an experienced music video director/producer is a key ingredient.

In May this 2013, I was approached by independent artist Jean Paul Espinosa (Finalist of The Voice Denmark 2012) to direct and produce the music video for his up and coming single launched in June. Time and budget was pretty much at a minimum, but there were more reasons to get involved in the project than not to. Applying my experience, equipment to something fairly new to the documentary productions I have been working with. I had not previously shot a music video before so this would give me some new learnings and hopefully a good couple of articles to share on the Music Producers Forum.

Media Production Technology on our side

Technology has brought down the barriers with camera technology and editing, and thereby eliminating the costs that used to come with developing film, expensive and heavy equipment as well as post production limitations and edit suite hire costs.

The Music Video Producer/Director

Whilst these costs are heavily reduced, an investment will still need to be made with the expertise in producing and directing the music video. The producer/director roles can now be combined into the same person these days. The independent artist/band will have a very limited budget, but with this new media landscape available to them, it is worth putting some good resource (time and money) into the investment of a good music video. It is an asset, and if done well, will help them stand out, and provide their fans with a deeper experience of their music.

‘In short, our audience have always wanted to see, the music that they love to they hear.’

History of Music Videos

I’m a firm believer that to know where we are going, we need to know where we have been, as well as where we are. In this case, it is important to understand the impact that music videos has had on the audience over the years as the media landscape has evolved.

A music video is pretty much a short film. It is interesting to note that the history of the music video concept pre-dates television. Back in the 1920’s when cinema with sound started to emerge, many musical short films were produced. Then came the fashionable musical films in the 50’s and 60’s. All of these productions date back well before ‘video’ technology was ever heard of.

The Beatles – Music Video Innovators

The Beatles were early innovators of popular music accompanied with a short film and Paul MacCartney himself had also gotten behind the camera experimenting with this format. In 1964 The Beatles starred in their feature film A Hard Day’s Night. It was in a shot in black and white in a mock documentary format and featured songs performed throughout the film, providing inspiration for many music videos.

Music on Television

Throughout the 50’s and 60’s, the proliferation of television brought on music television shows throughout the world, with programs such as Top of the Pops in Britain, American Bandstand and Countdown in Australia. This popularised the idea of watching music as well as listening to it at home.

The Rise and Fail of MTV

Though the MTV channel today has very little music video as a part of its programing, in it’s initial concept and launch it was an influential player in the music industry providing an international broadcast tv network dedicated to music. With MTV almost relinquishing ‘music television’ in favor of ‘reality television’, it is interesting to note that the combination of YouTube and Vevo are becoming more and more renowned as the leading portal for music and music videos, and they are increasing viewed on a wider range of devices, from phones, tablets, computers as well as the television unit.

In short, our audience have always wanted to see, the music that they love to they hear.

What Makes a Great Music Video?

To answer this question is of course subjective, but for all intensive purposes let’s define a great music video in context of this article from my own point of view. As mentioned earlier, a music video is in essence a short film in the length of the music that it accompanies. It’s objective is to give the fan or viewer a visual experience to the music.

Here’s my own criteria to what makes a great music video:

  • Tells a story that compliments the song
  • Delivers an emotional visual performance from the artists
  • Has good camera work including composition, lighting and colours
  • Uses depth of field when appropriate
  • Portrays the artist as a believable or strong character
  • Looks great on all of todays viewable devices, from a smartphone, tablet to home cinema.
  • It has a signature shot, that is visually memorable part of the film
  • Crafted like a short film by a good film maker
The 'Signature shot' of the music video, capturing the emotion in the eyes with depth of field used.

The ‘Signature shot’ of Jean Paul’s One More Chance music video. The shot captures the emotion in the eyes with depth of field used. Code name on set ‘Puppy Dog Eyes (PDE)’

Initial Steps in Planning the Independent Music Video Production

Finding your Filmmaker

In the case of working on the Jean Paul music video, there were a few things that were already in place to make it a good project to work on. Resources were limited, but that’s when you need to be resourceful. For myself being a hybrid musician and filmmaker was definitely an advantage.

The independent music artist will need to work with a dedicated film maker, someone who is passionate and skilled in the craft of filmmaking. The first step is to begin the search for this person who will believe in your project and is genuinely excited by it.

The Creative Collaboration

As it will most likely be a tightly budgeted project, it needs to become more of a collaborative project between the music artist and filmmaker. This will make your choice of film maker an important one. Have a look at their show reel or previous music videos. The more experienced and talented they are, they generally would be worth a higher premium. If they know their filmmaking but have not produced a music video before, it may be an opportunity for the filmmaker to develop more skills and open more doors in providing future music video projects, hence they may be able to deliver at a lower cost this time around.

The Song Arrangement

Before you even start planning your music video, I’d strongly suggest that your song must be at it’s final arrangement, with all final instruments recorded. (Pretty much at pre master level if not already mastered). The director/producer will also need to get a feel of the song for them to develop their creative visual interpretations for the story telling in the music video.

Chemistry with the Filmmaker

There is a chemistry that you need to have. In the case of the One More Chance music video for Jean Paul, it was a song that he pitched to me earlier in the year, and I liked it right from the earlier arrangement I heard. I have a very similar taste of music as Jean Paul, and I genuinely like his music, so this added to the chemistry.

Starting the Story Development

As the music video producer/director for this project, a few of my preconceived ideas were pretty much inline with Jean Paul’s. What made the project really enjoyable, was that we had virtually no creative conflicts, and Jean Paul was open to ideas and play the roles I gave him to act out. For me the music video had to include a journey, which would be interlaced with music performance, and to also have a beginning, middle and end. (Learnings from working with my film industry associate and good friend Karel Segers of TheStoryDepartment.com).

Core Theme: For me the idea Jean Paul had to come to terms with the fact that he was sorry about something (In reference to the opening line of the song), means that you have to wake up to yourself and look yourself in the mirror. Jean Paul played this role like a seasoned actor and was like ‘clay’ in the hands of the director. This was an example of creative collaboration at work, where the talent was able to deliver a great physical interpretation from the director.

Next month: The Independent Music Video Part 2 – The Production Essentials

Production Toolkit

Here is a list of the equipment used to produce the music video

  • Canon EOS 600
  • Canon EOS 650
  • Canon Lens 1.8 50mm
  • Canon Lens 18-50mm
  • Røde VideoMic Pro
  • Bose Soundlink
  • MacBook Pro
  • FinalCut Pro

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2 comments
folakefa
folakefa


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