So here’s my top tips on how to make a music video yourself; whether on the cheap or with a decent budget, most of these will be applicable every time!

See the previous post for the case study that inspired this!

10. WARDROBE – obviously a music video is a visual representation of your band, so you’ll want to look your best and convey your ‘brand’ visually in the most effective way. However, being dressed for a music video isn’t always the same as being dressed for a gig… You want to stand out on screen and there’s no need to feel self-conscious about things such as bold outfits for example; you’re not wearing them live in front of a crowd, only in front of your mates and the camera.

Also a music video is (usually) just for one song, so instead of dressing to look cool for half an hour on stage, you can dress to fit the tone of this one song (for 4 minutes or whatever). Eg if it’s a upbeat summery song, you might want to all wear bright fun colours, or hats or something similar as a visual hook (avoid cheesy-looking stuff though unless that fits the song, or its deliberately ironic!)

9. LOCATION – unique locations can add a level of interest to otherwise bland footage. Eg just an idea off the top of my head… have you ever seen a music video filmed entirely up a tree? Me neither, but it’d sure be a good talking point! (You’ll have to beat us to it maybe!! Haha)

8. CAMERA ANGLES – similarly, creative camera angles can add a level of interest to otherwise bland footage. Most TV and films are shot from head height as if you’re standing there watching the action, so your eye is used to this and when you see a camera angle out of the ordinary, it should subconsciously or consciously pull your attention to it. (This concept works for most things of course, being original = standing out)

7. CAMERA  / FOOTAGE QUALITY – obviously the better the camera the better your footage will look. Most people know someone with a half-decent DSLR nowadays, and many of them can shoot nice video. Also the cameras on newer iPhones are surprisingly good, and using certain apps like Filmic gives you in depth access to camera feature just like those on a DSLR, even more sometimes. Also apps like RecoLive allow you to shoot multi-camera scenes and edit them live, which is a hugely efficient workflow for “live” type videos.

6. LIGHT – all video cameras work by capturing light; the more light there is the easier the camera can do its job without compromise. With a digital camera, in a bright place the camera simply records the light data to disk with no trickery, but in a dimly lit place it has to attempt to amplify it’s readings (by increasing the ISO setting) to give a useful level of contrast between the brightest and darkest parts of the image. This amplification introduces noise, which makes the image look more grainy and low-quality. With analog film I believe you can get different formulations which are more light-sensitive if necessary, but of course any use of analog film in videography will add a LOT of extra costs and probably isn’t recommended for low-budget work.

The easiest and cheapest way to get good bright lighting is to film outside during the daytime (particularly at “magic hour” and “golden hour” right around sunrise and sunset, when the sun is at a low angle and looks especially pleasing on camera). The sun is MUCH brighter than almost all indoor lighting, even when it’s cloudy. Keep your subjects pointing towards the sun so their faces are lit, unless you specifically want a silhouette.

If you have budget to buy/rent lights, do a little research on “3 point lighting”, this is the most common technique for making a subject look pleasing on camera. You can buy bright LED lights for quite cheap that are specifically designed for the purpose of low-budget videography, and they’ll definitely give you a lot more options and a much higher-quality picture if used effectively.

5. CONFIDENCE – Just rock it. For obvious reasons. If you look like you don’t have confidence in yourselves, the audience will quickly lose their confidence in you.

4. AUTHENTIC-NESS – If you’re being yourself (as a band), you’re going to look much better than if you’re awkwardly acting or doing something pretentious that doesn’t come naturally to you. Eg music videos composed from live footage are often a lot more watchable than other types of low budget video due to a very low cringe-factor! There’s nothing cringey (you’d hope) about a band playing live since that’s what bands are supposed to do. Just don’t try any in depth fake-emotional acting if you’re not an actor, it will be awkward to watch.

3. HUMANITY/EMOTION – try to pick one emotion that complements the song, something everyone can relate to even if the lyrics of the song dont directly relate to them. Then focus on conveying this emotion or feeling strongly. Regardless of whether or not there’s an actual ‘story’ running through the video, the tone should be consistent (unless you deliberately want a schizophrenic feel). A great example of this is the video for Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used To Know”… The very human feeling of sexual tension throughout that video is what makes it so compelling… I saw that video around 8 months before it was even released in the UK and I instantly knew it would be a hit because of that video, despite the song being a slow-burner that doesn’t usually work on radio (a great song though it is).

2. EDITING – a good edit job can turn any collection of bland footage into something watchable… It’s about the creativity and bringing it all together. Use the speed of cuts to highlight the different sections of a song perhaps, eg faster cuts in the chorus compared to the verses to give the visuals a lift in energy to match the audio, and also gradually increasing throughout to let the energy build over time. If the footage looks boring or low quality, use some artistic license when editing and perhaps do something interesting with colour or effects to give it some drama and disguise any technical shortcomings perhaps. (See the image below for examples of this!)

If you have a small budget for a video, potentially filming it yourself then paying the entire budget to an experienced video editor could be a good use of funds… For some types of videos you could certainly get better results this way rather than paying a cameraman then trying to edit that yourselves for example.


And finally…
1. CONCEPT – a good concept can override everything else. This is what will separate a standout video with viral potential from one that looks perfect in every way but that no-one cares about. In some situations a really great concept might even work better with low production values, if the low-budget style helps it connect better with the audience. Especially in genres that lend themselves to this, like indie rock, punk, underground hip-hop etc, and obviously the benefit of spending less money to get a better product is clear. More on this in a future post.

Ok, that’s the tips, so get filming! And don’t forget, how you market your video is just as important as what’s in the video and how it’s made. Much more on that later…

Again, don’t forget to check out our video for Waiting (as shown in the above photos).