Hey guys, and welcome to this guide on how to make a music video for beginners. If you’ve ever wanted to make your own music video, this is the guide for you.
Regardless of whether you plan to shoot your own music video or you’re looking to hire someone to record your video for you, you should read this guide. If you’re going to be filming your own, you’ll get a load of handy tips to make a much more professional music video. If, however, you’re going to be hiring someone, it’s still important you know how things work. This will give you a better understanding of what’s possible, and allow you to better guide your video recorder so you come up with a better finished product.
In this guide we’ll be looking at:
- The equipment you’ll need to make your video.
- How to use different camera angles, shot sizes, composition and movement to make a better looking video.
- How to get the right lighting for your music video.
- What you need to think about when recording with a green screen.
- And more.
This is a totally epic guide (If I do say so myself), so if you enjoy it and all the effort that’s gone into creating this resource, please share it via Facebook, Twitter, link to it from your website, and just generally spread the word so other musicians and video makers can benefit from it too. Thank you.
What Equipment Do You Need To Record A Music Video?
So first off, let’s look at the equipment you’ll need to record your music video. While if you want to make a simple “pictures and music” video, you can use a tool like this, if you want to make a video that will get on TV and provide real credibility for your music career, the below equipment will help you do just that.
Your budget and desired quality level will of course determine which equipment you purchase, but if you’re planning to do more than just a couple of low budget videos, I would suggest getting the best camcorder you can afford.
If, however, you’re not sure if making music videos is for you and you just want to try things out, go with a lower budget model and be prepared to upgrade things later if you decided to take your videos to the next level.
But anyway, here is a rough rundown of the equipment you will need.
A Camcorder (And How To Know Which To Pick)
This pretty much goes without saying: To record a music video, you need a camcorder. This will capture all the footage from the video shoot, and be taken to your editor later to edit to put together the finished video.
What you use to record your videos will depend on your budget. If you want to do more than simply record videos for YouTube, then you should invest in a good quality high definition video camera.
The lower quality HD camcorders are fine for recording interviews, doing “street videos”, and making quick promotional YouTube videos for your fans. If you want to record and release good quality music videos on TV, however, you’ll need a high definition camera to match up with the stuff that’s already out there.
Tip: Found a video camera but aren’t sure if it’s right for you? Then go on YouTube and enter the camcorder’s product number followed by the word “test”. Most camcorders have a video of someone testing them, so have a look and find one that matches a quality you’ll be happy with.
Bear in mind you’ll have to watch these videos in HD to get a better idea of what’s achievable, and even then most of the time these YouTube videos will be at a lower quality than what you’ll get if you were watching it on a Blu-ray player.
Good Video Lighting
Good lighting is essential for getting a good looking music video recorded. While some of the higher end camcorders will require less external light to get some good quality footage, you will always need a good level of light to make you video come out looking its best.
If you’re doing an outdoor shot and it’s a bright day, you may not need any additional light to get things looking good. If you’re recording in a dimly lit location, however, you may need to buy a video lighting kit. We talk more about this in the “Getting The Lighting Of Your Music Video Right” section below.
When you’re learning how to record a music video, you may not initially think about transporting your gear from one location to another. But bearing in mind you’ll be lugging around a camcorder, possibly additional lighting, and be moving from location to location, you’ll start to see why transport is very important. While you can use public transport if you really want to save money, if you can find someone who drives (or if you drive yourself) then this is ideal.
You’ll also need to be thinking about the size of the vehicle. For instance, if you have a four-piece band, two videographers (or one videographer and one lighting person), filming equipment and instruments, it’s not going to fit in a tiny sedan. Work out the logistics beforehand – whether it’s renting a van or using two cars for transport.
Other Equipment You’ll Need
A camera, lighting equipment, and proper transport are the main things you will need when recording a music video. But you may also want to get:
- Spare batteries for your camcorder.
- A tripod.
- A camera carry case (if your camera doesn’t come with one).
- An external microphone (a built-in one is fine if you don’t need to use any audio from the places you’re filming in).
- Extra storage memory.
- The list goes on.
Some of these things can be considered extras and cut out until you’re ready to take your music video projects more seriously, so think about what you need and shop accordingly. I’d say a spare battery, extra memory and a tripod are essential though, even at the beginning stage.
While additional lighting and transport may be optional depending on your situation, they will both make your job of recording a video a lot easier, and give you (or your client) a better service and product at the end.
Shoot Location Scouting
Is your bedroom, kitchen or basement the ideal place to be filming a music video? Maybe, but in most cases, no.
So, you might have a great idea for a music video concept, but unless you have the right locations and props to go along with it, you may not be able to make your vision come to life.
Before you do anything else, you should put some time into location scouting. Brainstorm and think about cool places to film in your hometown. Drive around for additional ideas and get a better idea of what will work, and what won’t. Ask friends and family members if they have any thoughts. They might understand your brand and intentions better than you think.
Most rooms within a home are too cluttered for filming. If you can clear a nice, spacious room, it may have some potential. But you should also consider front yards, backyards, garages, and so on.
Beyond that, you should also think about who you know. Do you know someone that owns a storefront, event hall, pub, or bowling alley? If not, do you know how you might be able to gain access to places like that for a nominal fee? Or, could you leverage your network to get a referral?
As for filming in parks and urban environments, refer to local bylaws to find out if you can film without a permit. You don’t want to be caught filming where you aren’t allowed to, because that’s going to hike up the cost of your video, and you might not even be given a chance to complete it using your chosen locations besides.
Where you film is an important factor, and will be subject to your video concept. There are some things you’ll only ever be able to do in certain environments (for instance, if you want to capture a video underwater, you might need access to a pool). But you must be realistic and flexible with your concept, especially since you’re likely doing it all on a small budget. Don’t ask for perfection – focus on doing the best you can with what you’ve got.
Now, we’re ready to talk about…
Mapping Out Your Video With Storyboards
Storyboards are all-important for mapping out how your music video will look, feel, and be recorded, scene by scene. As this is quite a big topic in itself, I’ve written a separate guide on what a storyboard is and how to use it to make better music videos (includes a free storyboard template):
The above link opens in a new window, so feel free to check it out then come back to this article after. Or, check out this video for what a storyboard is and why it’s needed:
How To Make A Music Video – Shot Sizes, Camera Angles, Camera Movement, And Composition
Okay, so you’ve got your camera, and are keen to get started with making your first music video. But wait; if you want to produce a good quality music video, you need to learn how to use a camcorder. While you can always just go out there pointing and shooting, if you actually know what you’re doing, you will be able to come out with a much more professional looking final product.
This is especially important if you can’t afford a top-of-the-range camera; capturing good footage can make your video look a lot more professional. Similarly, if you buy an expensive camcorder but don’t know how to use it right, your video will end up looking shoddy and amateurish.
The way you use your camcorder is what really determines how your music video will turn out. You can have the most expensive camcorder known to man and the best lighting you could possibly buy. But if you don’t know how to effectively navigate your camera and don’t know how to get your subjects perfectly in shot, then you will end up with a substandard music video. You need to become acquainted with all the settings on your camera. This is one of the most important things you need to remember when learning how to record a music video, so read on below for some tips on getting it right.
Shot Sizes When Creating A Video For Musicians
One of the many things you need to think about before recording your video is what type of shots you will be recording. Will there be a lot of full-length shots with a lot of activity in the background, or will it be more personal with a lot of closeups on the main character or characters?
I’ve found that a lot of the most powerful music videos have a lot of closeup shots, keeping focus on the person who’s responsible for singing the song. Having said that, here are a list of shot sizes (With pictures) that you could use in your music video. Feel free to experiment and see which effects you like the most:
You will want to vary things up by using a few of these shot sizes, not just one. This will keep things interesting, and not just the “same old looking scene” over and over again.
When making a music video, it’s important to get a load of different camera angles in. If you keep your whole video at one angle, unless done really well or for a purpose, this will quickly become very boring for the viewer.
Here are some angles you can try out when recording. Feel free to try different angles as you see fit:
Music Video Camera Movement
While you generally won’t want to overuse any of the following, getting good camera movement into your video can make things really interesting. This is especially true if you have a fast moving video, and want to add to the lively feel through the use of your camcorder. It’s also good to make the movement of any dancers and extras you may hire more thrilling.
Below are some ideas of camera movements you can use. You can of course move it in any way you want, but here are proven methods that work:
This is when the camera moves closer or further away from the subject using the “zoom” function.
- Crash Zoom.
This is zooming in out very fast.
- Whip Pan.
When the camcorder and camera person stays in the same position, but turns right or left.
- Dutch Tilts.
When the shot goes up or down. This can be used at the beginning or end of the scene.
- Pulling Focus.
This is when you keep the view the same, but change the focus from one subject to another.
When recording your music video, it’s always a good idea to think of how the main person in it is placed within the scene as a whole. This is known as composition (or “framing”), and depending on how you use it, can give a really different feel to your finished video.
Here are a few ways you can change your composition to affect the style of your video:
There are also other types of composition you can use such as recording at the edge of the frame, so feel free to get out your camcorder and experiment.
Okay, so we’ve covered what equipment you need and how to use your camcorder to record a good music video. Now, let’s look at how to correctly light your music video, how to record a music video using a green screen, and more…
Getting The Lighting Of Your Music Video Right
When it comes to recording a video, one thing you need to think about is the lighting. Whether you’re recording a music video on a budget or you’ve got a lot of cash at your disposal, there are a few things you’ll need to do:
Ensure You Have Enough
You generally want there to be a good amount of light available to you, as many camcorders lose quality when recording in low light situations. It’s because of this that many video companies have high powered lights which they bring with them, even if the video is going to have a dark feel to it.
If you haven’t got money to invest in lighting equipment, it’s probably best you record your video in an outdoor location. This will hopefully give you natural light (if the weather’s decent), and mean that your video’s quality won’t be compromised. It’s good to know, however, that you can get lighting kits on Amazon for $50 or less, and that’s a good starting point for any musician looking to capture effective footage.
If you have a decent video camera, then you may be able to get away with recording your music video in a well-lit indoor location. It’s also possible that your camera has a built-in light. It’s best to check how the quality comes out beforehand, however, as you may find the footage goes grainy if the light’s too dim. Don’t just view the footage on your view finder, plug it up to the biggest TV you have and see how it’ll look when others finally see it. If it looks alright here, it should be fine to use.
Control Shadows And Feel
If you have money to invest in lighting equipment, then you can take the lighting in your music video to the next level. As well as being used to insure there’s no graininess in your video, lighting can also be used to give your music video a certain feel.
For example, if you want to add the feel of mystery to your song, you may want to have it so one side of a person’s face is covered in shadow. If you want the opposite effect, you may want to make sure all of the person is well-lit so the video seems bright and vibrant. At times, skilled videographers also use overexposure to great effect. This can be hard to do effectively, so use sparingly if at all.
When lighting a subject, you’ll often want to make sure you have at least one light on them. This is to ensure the camcorder picks up all the important features, and nothing looks blurry in your final video.
If you’re using a green screen (more on what this is next), it’s typical to have three lights on the subject. One should be facing them dead on, and the other two be at a angle at either side of them (also lighting their front angles).
How To Record A Music Video Using A Green Screen
You may have seen some music videos that have a “fake” background. Maybe the background is a location that the person really wasn’t in, or maybe it’s simply a background made up of computer effects and graphics. If you want one of these effects, you’ll have to record your video in front of a green screen.
A green screen is a screen that is, you guessed it, green. When making your music video, your subject stands in front of the green screen, and you record the footage like that. During the editing process, the video editor cuts out all the green in the shot, and adds any background you require.
Because any green in the scene will be cut out during video editing, it is important no one wears any green clothes or accessories when recording the music video. If they do, it’ll be hard to keep certain parts of them from disappearing when the green background is removed.
When it comes to lighting a music video that has a green screen background, additional lighting is essential. It’ll make it easier to edit out the background if everything is clearly defined, so having a lot of light on the subject will make the editing process a lot easier.
But one thing that can be hard to achieve is consistency in lighting. Let’s say, for example, that the subject is lit from above. Meanwhile, in the footage you’re using as a background, the light is mainly coming in from the left-hand side. When the lighting on the subject and the background is inconsistent, it can look unnatural and “cheesy”. You’ll need to collaborate with your videographer and editor to get this looking the best it can be.
If you’re making a music video and want to add some special effects in, going with a green screen may be the right choice for you.
Using the above tips and suggestions, you should be able to capture a decent-looking music video. Though your technique, execution, and editing may not be on par with the pros, at least the quality of your video won’t look out of place on TV or side-by-side with an HD video.
Here are some additional tips to ramp up your music video chops.
Study Live Music Production
The basic idea of live music production is that your music isn’t all the same. Every song you’ve written has its unique identity. But when you perform onstage, if everything looks the same, then all your music begins sounding the same too. The onus is on you, as a performer, to engage the audience using various stage presence techniques.
For slower, intimate songs, you may want to sit on stools. For high-energy up-tempo songs, you may want to get your lighting guy to create more movement, and pull out your best stage moves.
The process of filming a music video is very similar, except that you want each scene to be different, not just every song. Therefore, you’ll want to make effective use of everything you’ve already learned about lighting, shot sizes, camera angles, camera movement, and composition. If you don’t vary things up, you won’t hold the interest of your audience, and every scene and cut will end up looking the same.
Study Other Music Videos
How many music videos have you watched? If you answered “none”, then you have no idea what the format should be. There’s an off chance this will work in your favor, but most musicians looking to go the DIY route should study music videos far and wide to get a better idea of what works and what doesn’t.
Don’t just watch videos from bands in your genre. Find the worst videos available, and determine what didn’t work with them. Watch videos from top 40 artists, and figure out what is working for them. Make YouTube your friend.
OK Go had the hit “Here It Goes Again”, which was popularized by an immensely effective low-budget video, and it was all done in one shot. What makes it great is the catchy song, the well-rehearsed treadmill choreography, the band’s attire, and the simple video concept. Take a look for yourself:
The point is this: Your video doesn’t have to look like Selena Gomez’ to be great. There’s a lot you can do on a small budget. But you will have to get creative and innovate.
How To Make A Music Video Conclusion
So there you have it, now you know how to get started recording a music video. Music videos are one of the best tools you can use to get people to notice you as a musician, so being able to make a standout one is all-important.
While the idea of your music video is down to you, the way you film it can also make a big difference in how your video turns out. It’s because of this that you get some serious recording and practice time in before the day of your video shoot, and you learn the techniques you need to make a good music video.
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