Question about shooting music videos

Hey gurus,

As many of you may know, I am new to the game of filmmaking. With that being said, while I am in the process of writing my first screenplay, I would love to start making music videos because frankly nowadays, I look at music videos and get instantly upset because they are not what they use to be back in the days. I remember when the video was just a story view of the ACTUAL song. Now I would love to start seeing how I would direct my movies by making music videos. I love music just as much as I do movies and therefore I know a lot of independent artists that are really good.

Now that you know what I want, can anyone give me any ideas: how do you get started? Do you go to the independent artists only? I am really good friends with recording artist Montell Jordan and he is releasing a new album that drops this month. Seeing that he is signed, is he "off-limits" to me because I am so new? Do you write a script just like you would for a movie? Do you need to same equipment as in a regular production? I need to know how to get started so if I failed to ask any questions that you believe that I should know, by all means share.

As always, I than you in advance,

Triple Threat
Get some experience, find a local band and work on your craft. if your lucky you COULD get a person who is released who will take a change (unlikely but it happens) but if you dont know what your doing or dont have the expereince you wont get past the first hour.

My first 10 films were dire. I learnt from them however....

With all due respect mr-modern-life,

I believe that I mentioned I am inexperienced and therefore I was seeking tips. I asked questions on the HOW of getting started, I already know the WHAT of getting started. I believe in positive re-enforcements and I know some locals but in order to work on my craft I need to know what to work on!

Thanks always


IndieTalk's Resident Guru
The "HOW" is the same as all other aspects of this business.

It sounds simplistic, but the reality is you must just do it. You need
to make some music videos. Even if you make videos to songs you
like you will need to get out there and do it in order to gain the
experience needed. No bad or performer is "off limits" to you. But
most will want to see a "reel" of your work. If Montell Jordan will hire
you to direct a video without that, then he is allowed to do that.

Yes, making a music video requires the same equipment as making a
movie. You will still need a camera, lights, audio, locations, actors,
catering, costumes, make-up, grip equipment and crew. The only
difference is instead of recording the audio on set you will be using a
"play back" of the song. No mic needed, but a good PA system is essential.

If you have access to bands willing to spend their time with a new director
jump on it. Make as many videos as you can. You get started by doing it!
Hey Directorik

Hey Directorik,

Thank you once again for all of your help...I will keep you up to date as I progress.

Yours truly,

Triple Threat
I've shot 3 music videos for local groups. I did them mostly for the experience, and I must say it was an experience. I came away from it with a few revelations, but nothing you won't hear from others. Here are some tips (this is by no means an exhaustive list, only things that may be unique to music videos).

1) create a story board with at least one frame for every phrase in the lyric. the better the storyboard, the easier it will be to get the right shots, angles, etc. and the easier your editing will be. Make sure, where lips are moving, that they sync to the lyric in the storyboard, and not some other part of the song!

2) like any shoot, plan your locations and shot-list very carefully. do not rely on the group to work out locations/schedules, or provide critical people like makeup and groupies. the group thinks they are the greatest group since the Beetles and that they can do whatever they want without planning, and that everyone in town is going to show up for their video. wrong, wrong, wrong. nobody knows who they are, they are disorganized, the people they chat with at the bar the night before the shoot won't actually show up at 08:00 when you start shooting, etc., etc.

3) get people on set early if possible and keep them around until you're done with them. the band is invested in the video, the extras probably are not. Oh, speaking of that, make the band invest in the video. Even if you only charge them enough to defray your expenses and you give them the extra money back when you're done, make them pay, so they are serious and they will stick with the plan. If they won't put down a couple hundred bucks in advance, don't do the video.

4) learn your NLE tools ... all of them. I never needed a slip tool until I did music videos. I never worried about the difference between a ripple delete and a cut, because I'd never had everything synced with the music and then [ripple] deleted something and unsynced everything beyond it without even realizing it.

All of the normal rules of production apply, except audio acquisition. Your audio only has to be good enough to sync with the studio audio track. Your on-camera microphone is probably good enough. Otherwise, light the hec out of it, do at least a couple takes from each angle. if you know what part of the song you're using something for, you can retake just that part over and over, but often you'll just want to go through the entire song a few times for each performance shot. For performance shots be sure to get the entire song. It's easy to start over 5 times and forget that someone decided to cut before the end on 4 out of 5 takes, so you've got nothing to sync at the end!

Ok, now everyone knows what a lousy job I did doing my music videos. It was chaos, although the end result wasn't too bad. I let one artist handle location selection. We scouted the locations he picked one day, and the night before the shoot, he told me he had selected new locations! That is when I should have told him to call all of his buddies and tell them it was off. These people will try to get you to shoot in a closet with no electricity. They will negotiate locations without showing the proprietor a location contract. This one guy promised to pay 3 pretty girls, then after a day of shooting, they wanted to know who was going to pay them. That video is on the shelf, because those girls never got paid and rightfully refused to sign releases (that were supposedly signed before we started shooting).
I shot for about 5 long days on 3 videos. If I could convey to you everything I learned in those 5 days, I would, but I've blocked most of it from my memory. I would suggest that you go into it with the idea that you cannot be too organized, too prepared, or have too much documentation. Try to keep the number of locations down. Tight shots are generally better and if you keep your shots tight, you can do a lot in a couple of locations. Go back and read #1. There is a reason it is #1.
I agree with what is being said. To this I add:

Your on-camera mic will not be enough. Bite the bullet and get a good shotgun mic.

The best thing you can do is make the best video you can for LOCAL bands. This is where you learn.

If possible, when shooting a live performance, try to get someone else to shoot from a different angle. I am right now experiencing the issue of only being able to get one angle. If you can't get another shooter, figure out a way to get a second angle.

If you are doing a story, (this is my opinion now) this is what I would do...and I may just be doing this soon:

Your actors need to deal only with you. This way there will be no misunderstanding about who is or isn't being paid. Do you pay your actors? Unless you are in a position to do so, NO. Sorry actors, but at this point in my career, when I can't even pay myself, don't come asking me about payment or SAG scale. I will say to you: "Thank you for coming, I am sorry to have wasted your time." There are too many people who would do this FOR FREE. Get release forms from the actors saying that they will work for free.

Payment should be a copy of the final product. Maybe dinner.

Make sure you control where the shoot is. So the drummer finds a location. YOU SECURE THE LOCATION. If there are any questions, the management of the location DEALS WITH YOU. That also means if you or the band wrecks the place, that is YOUR FAULT, so be careful about what you shoot and where. GET RELEASES FROM THE LOCATIONS.

Expect Murphy's Law to come into play. It always does. Lead singer gets sick. You forget a piece of your equipment or worse yet, it breaks down. Location doesn't know you are showing up, etc, etc, etc. Try to think of everything that could go wrong and then figure out a way around it.

If I do another music video, that will probably be the way I approach it....until something doesn't work, then I'll have to come up with something that will work.

Welcome to the world of Guerilla Filmmaking. Into the breach....:lol:

-- spinner :cool: the way...
actors who work for free: Think little theater, think college theater classes....
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In my case, the music was loud enough while we were shooting the performance pieces that I could have used a dynamic microphone located outside the building ... almost. If it wouldn't have made moving the camera more complex, I would have wired the output from the stereo directly into my camera to make syncing easier.

When we were shooting outside, with a boombox playing, my nice shotgun microphone was always pointed the wrong way, as I was dollying around and kept the shotgun mounted on my camera. In the end, the audio was all discarded. I just needed to match up wave forms for synchronization.
"Your on-camera mic will not be enough. Bite the bullet and get a good shotgun mic."

For your movie, yes, fo sho. But not typically needed for a music video. UNLESS you're doing something with the audio from the shoot.

Use that money for pyrotechnics. People love fire!
Hey Spinner, Oakstreet, and DeceptionA

Hey guys,

Thank you SOOOOOOOOOO much for all of your invaluable information. I truly appreciate everything that you guys have shared. I am a great listener and with all of the information that I gathered from you combined, I will be an AWESOME video producer!

Thank you kindly,

Triple Threat
No, I'm coming at things from the stand point of the camera we are talking about. I got this little one from Best Buy, my big one (DVX) from B&H.

My experience was that when I got audio from the board, the tech did a crappy job and there was no usable audio.
Also there was the 48hr challenge that I was just a camera op for and audio was recorded on DAT. Couldn't use it because it was taking too long to sync it up on the Vegas edit system the director was using.

I only know so much about audio for this sort of thing, so I am making do with what I have. I would love to be able to afford a class or something to learn more. Otherwise I am on my own. My audio isn't great, but it is listen-able... If you have access to a professional studio reccording, I think that is great. I hope I will be able to do so in the future...

-- spinner :cool:

OOOPS! I just realized I was responding to a different thread....sorry. That thread was responding to was a small 3chip picked up at one of the outlets. Sorry again! I was responding to Important Question...
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Cool. I much prefer shooting a band, as there are so many more interesting shots you can get, but I'm always up for a creative challenge. I blame myself for leaving too much in the hands of the artists. I tend to be too controlling in some areas and too trusting in others. For anyone who may be thinking of doing this and has watched my video, take note of what happens when the artist makes a half hearted attempt at mouthing the lyrics. He looks like he is mumbling, because he is. It is important that the singer be convincing and enthusiastic. This one thing was not my fault, as I tried to invoke enthusiasm and reminded everyone at the beginning of each take that they had to look alive and fresh. It obviously did not help, but please take note of how lame it looks and do everything to can to make sure this does not happen to you. I shot this video almost a year ago, and I haven't been able to set foot outside without a disguise since then. ;)
The 3rd video I shot was the best, but I cannot distribute that one, as we don't have the proper releases. It's really too bad, but that's another lesson in trusting a band member to do a producer's job.