There are often lots of creative musical artists out there just waiting to shine, but as I recently discussed with someone in the music industry, you are nearly forced to have some form of video to accompany your music these days. As nerve-wracking as that may sound to some, it’s really not that hard to make your own online video content.
To make things simple, I’m going to say that you just need three things for this basic tutorial – a camera, a tripod, and a dear friend. No, you don’t need a fancy camera, yes, you can use a book as your “tripod” and no, your friend can’t be imaginary. Today I’d like to focus on the low budget side of things (or rather, no budget), but if you happen to be a professional, feel free to contribute.
Make Sure You Have Recorded A Song
If you are going to make a music video, you will need an audio track of your music so that you can sync the video to it. Just pick a song you’ve written or one you’d like to cover, and you’re good to go. There are a variety of ways to make this recording, but the most important thing is that you simply need to find a way to get this track made. As an artist, you probably have already made a few recordings in some form or fashion, but I’m willing to bet that some of you may have not.
But first, let’s get one thing out of the way – don’t use the camera’s microphone to record yourself singing. These microphones typically sound terrible for this sort of recording, and they are only good for capturing angry-sounding fathers at youth sporting events and teenage girls who perform gut-wrenching a cappella covers of their favorite pop songs in a vlog format. Don’t use it. If you do, your heart will turn to ash and your eyeballs into maggots, and that’s a scientific fact.
As I was saying, you should find a way to get recording of your song. You could do this by calling up a few buddies who have equipment, using a field recorder (like the Zoom h4N), or if you have the money, getting it professionally recorded and mixed. As a matter of fact, with the right inputs and a proper app, you can even do it right on your iPhone. Heck, go with Garageband if you can.
An alternative method of doing things would be to record the song live and shoot with multiple cameras, but that’s a whole different can of worms.
Pick A Location
For this kind of video, we are going to assume you don’t want a storyline. Storylines are perfect for more complex projects, but considering it’s possible that you are making this by yourself for the first time (or you may very well not be), we’ll keep it simple. Else, you would end up storyboarding, planning shots, and doing all types of things that I’d rather not write about in this article.
What I would suggest doing is shooting your video outside and during the day. This allows for ample enough light for your shoot, and you won’t have to worry about the graininess of indoor video due to lack of light. An even better factor would be if you end up shooting on a cloudy day. In this situation, the clouds act as a gigantic diffuser and make the lighting less harsh for the video, but the challenge of this is avoiding rain. However, there may be a situation in which you would like to shoot inside or at night.
If you really need to do this, grab some of these relatively cheap work lights and use an even cheaper 5-in-1 multi-disc reflector to diffuse the light (just use the translucent part of the reflector and have someone hold it in front of the light). Granted, it may just be smarter to buy a beginner’s light kit if you don’t have the work lights lying around.
Here are some locations to consider:
- A park
- An old barn (preferably outside but still cool inside)
- A city sidewalk
- A rooftop of a building
- A garage
- A warehouse
- Your frontyard
- An empty neighborhood street
- A bridge
- A dock overlooking some water
- An abandoned parking lot
Shoot Your Video
What I’d recommend is recording yourself playing the song over and over from different angles all around your location. Some of them could be handheld, some on a tripod, and some of them moving around like crazy. That’s exactly what your friend, the resident camera operator, will be doing. Here are a few shots you should take:
- Waist: Make sure that you have a shot of yourself from the waist-up singing the song.
- Wide: If you are able, back the camera up as far as possible and zoom out all the way to take in the surroundings you are in. If you are using a DSLR, use the widest lens you own, and make sure you are focused properly.
- Close-up: Get the camera right in your face.
- Extreme Close-up: Get the camera super close to your face where the top of your head is out of view and so is the bottom of your chin.
- Handheld: Tell your camera operator to go around and get shots that he or she thinks are cool. Have them zoom in, do cool movements, get shots of scenery….everything. Let them be creative.
As far as the technical stuff goes with this, press record on your camera right off the bat. You should have at least some device to play the song on, so after that, press play. Then play and sing the song as you normally would, using the recording as a guide. It’s easier if you actually sing the song and not mouth it. This way it looks even more realistic.
Also, try to remember a little something called the “rule of thirds”. Basically, that means that you should divide the screen up into two horizontal lines and two vertical lines. Wherever those lines intersect are the most interesting parts of the shot, and although there are some exceptions to the rule, your shots will tend too look better if your face is placed on those intersecting points. Below is a visual aid that may help you out a little.
As far as the way you should act while shooting, this is all up to you. Do you want to look at the camera? Do it then. Do you not want to look at the camera? Don’t. It’s as simple as that.
Edit It All Down
Here’s the fun part – editing. If you plan on using iMovie or Windows Movie Maker on this, don’t. It could probably be done, but it would take quite a bit of time on your part as well as a great deal of stress. Instead, get your hands on a nonlinear editor such as Adobe Premiere Elements or Sony Vegas. I use Adobe Premiere Pro, but it essentially utilizes the same principles as the aforementioned apps with a few more advanced features.
What you should do is put each angle into an individual layer of video, and at that point, try to sync the audio tracks so that they match perfectly with the song. In my case, I recently put together a video that was just a little off on some parts, so keep in mind that it’s very easy to make some mistakes. Also, as a note, I do things quite a bit differently with a Premiere Pro than how I am telling you to do them now.
All in all, do yourself a favor and take your time with it. What I have noticed is that it is beneficial to say the lyrics (or sing them if you are so inclined) as you edit to see if the song is matched with the video. After you have put all your video tracks in, you can cut from angle to angle and make something nifty.
What I recommend is matching the cuts with the beat of the song, and don’t stay too long on one angle. That will simply bore the viewer. What I try to do is cut with the verse, but that’s very arbitrary, and it’s not a set rule. However, the bottom line is do what you think looks good. After that, just export the video to your choice format (my recommendation is H.264), and you’re good.
Why All This Is Important
Why would you want to make your own music video? I believe we’re in somewhat of a tech-infused renaissance. Everyone has the tools to make their own creations, and they also have the tools to get it out there for the public to see. Take advantage of it! No longer do you have to pay for a big company to come in and make your online video content. You can simply do it by yourself.
Numerous online musicians have got away with making their own videos, and although many do eventually move on to hiring folks to come out and do it for them (like me), it’s still pretty easy to do. If you have the tools or can borrow them, go ahead and take a chance. Embrace the power that is video.
Now with all this said and done, if you really wanted to be a homemade music video aficionado and make something much more complex, you’d either have to put in a lot of work or go to a much more costly professional for this kind of production. This is supposed to be a simple project that you can do yourself, and honestly, I believe that anyone with a knack for music can do it. Even still, I believe anyone with the right kind of ambition could make an even more involved creation.
What methods do you use to make your own homegrown music videos? Do you have any suggestions for the ones mentioned here?