Music videos are not only one of the most fun forms of videography, but they’re also a great way to hone your technical and editing skills. Although they require a bit more setup, planning and equipment than other types of videography, the final product is well worth it. Even if you’re new to videography or have never shot a music video before, with the help of this how to guide, you’ll be ready to shoot music videos like a pro.
Music videos require more equipment than most other types of videography, so you’ll need to plan ahead. Shooting music videos with only one camera body is extremely difficult, so this project is best done with a couple of friends. While three or four camera bodies are ideal, music videos can still be done successfully with a two-person crew.
Arguably the most important aspect of music videos is the audio, so it’s extremely important that you have a microphone other than the built-in mic on your camera. On-camera mics, like the Rode VideoMic Pro Compact Shotgun Microphone, pick up great audio, but they pick up great audio from all directions. This means that unless you’re shooting in a location with zero background noise, you’re bound to end up with some unwanted noise on top of the music.
On the other hand, while clip-on mics, like the Sennheiser ew 100 G3 Wireless System with ME4 Lavalier Mic, pick up really crisp, direct audio, they can also alienate the rest of the band, and focus too much on the audio from the singer, or whoever the mic is clipped to. That’s why the ideal microphone for music videos is a wireless portable mic, like the Zoom H4N Handy Portable Digital Recorder, because you have the freedom to place it as close to the source of music as possible, while also being able to pick up the audio from all directions.
You’re also going to want strong, sturdy tripods or stabilizers for each camera body. Handheld video can work sometimes – if you’re going for a shaky, home video style – but most of the time, handheld video looks messy and unprofessional. Tripods, like the Benro Aluminum Monopod with 3-Leg Locking Base and S6 Video Head, are essential for single wide shots of the entire group, while stabilizers, like the FREEFLY MoVI M5 3-Axis Gimbal Stabilizer with MIMIC Control Kit, are necessary for the closer, more detailed shots.
Getting the Shots
You’re going to want to record at least two full takes of each song to ensure you have enough b-roll footage. Set up one low, wide shot on a stationary tripod to make sure the whole group is visible. If you have four or more camera bodies, set up a second stationary shot from a different angle. Support at least one or two other camera bodies using stabilizers for closer, detail shots throughout the song. Fixed lenses with a shallow depth of field are ideal for this. If you’re shooting with other people, stay aware of each others’ location and try to avoid getting in each others’ shot or in front of the stationary camera on the tripod.
All of the shots should be single take, which means you won’t start and stop recording during the song. Keep your camera on manual focus to avoid the lens zooming in and out throughout the shot. Make sure to get a mixture of shots of each band member – don’t just focus on the lead singer. Try to get a variety of shots that don’t include obvious singing or playing, like details of instruments, feet tapping or interesting aspects of the location. These shots will be important b-roll to mix in for variation and interest.
Editing the Video
Lay down the audio track first, and then lay down the b-roll on top of that. Matching up the video and audio is tricky and can be a tedious job, but it gets easier with practice. This is why those detail shots are important – if you can’t seem to match up a certain part of the song or are changing focus during a shot, switch to a detail of the lead singer’s tattoos or the flowers blowing in the field where the band is playing.
Pay attention to the song while you’re editing – make cuts to the beat and focus on each band member during their big parts. Make sure you include a variety of shots, and try not to rely on the stationary wide shots more than you have to. When it comes to editing, every song will be different, but the more b-roll you have, and the more you practice, the better each music video will flow.