Questions answered (in the same order as outlined below) on this page:
What kind of videos can I create?
You decide! You can create videos that are super-simple with your phone. You can film a video using multiple phones or cameras, so you can get a load of different angles of the same take. You can make a video of a live show or of a live performance somewhere. You can make a video collage of images and video with or without your band. You can involve storytelling. You can make a video of something as bizarre/random as playing cards at your mother's kitchen table if you want to!! You can do whatever you like.
You probably already know how to do simple videos on your phone, so in this section, we'll be focusing on how to make a full promo video and then you can decide what suits you best and do that!
(* There's a downloadable, fillable PDF called Easy Video Creation to help you with all of this at the end of this page. *)
How do we come up with the idea for a video?
The obvious first step is to choose the song you want to make a video for. Think this through - this will be the song you are putting forward to promote your band. Is it the best it can possibly be? Are you happy to go forward with this song and this version?
When you've decided, make sure you have a properly recorded and mastered version of the song. Make sure you have the final song version first, before you do anything else. Sounds obvious, I know, but it's a mistake I made - I got one song mastered after making the video and the change of a second or so threw the video off and I had to adjust the whole video edit.
If you have a definite idea for your video or for the approach you want to take, that’s great. For example, you might know that you definitely want to base your video around a live band performance or you may have a specific location or idea in mind that you want to use.
If you aren’t clear on what you want to do for your video, start with a brainstorm - get lots of amazing ideas out of your head and on paper. Even better if your friends, your band and anyone else you trust can do this too. Have your eyes and ears open and alert for inspiration. Watch videos. Watch movies. Watch live shows of bands or go to art installations. Make note of everything you like – ideas for vibe, concept, location. This is the idea gathering part, you don’t need to assess what is good and what’s not, you’re just assembling ideas at this stage.
Next, go through your ideas. Ditch the weak ones and highlight the ones that have potential. Which ideas do you think will work best with your song? Which ideas do you think you can execute best?
At this point, eliminate the ideas you are not going to use this time around and hone in on the ones you like.
When you have narrowed down to two or three viable ideas, talk through each one in detail, working out what you would need for each, getting clear about possible costs, time involved, what you'll need in terms of people, props and location - and basically, work out which one you can best execute so that the end result is the best video possible for your song.
We have an idea for our video, what comes next?
Once you have your idea chosen, it’s time to start breaking everything down into steps.
Let’s say you want to have a live performance and you want to have an additional element of a story of some sort. Start to work out how you might do all of this…
Where are you going to shoot your video?
Do you have access to any interesting locations already?
Do you know anybody who works, volunteers or plays sports anywhere with an interesting location?
Would they allow you to use one of these locations for your video?
Do you have a school that has an interesting location?
Do you know of any places or buildings near where you live that could be interesting?
What about the place where you are rehearsing?
Who else could you talk to about this?
You never know, there may be a perfect location just at your fingertips…
One time, we wanted to shoot a video for the song “Tied Up In Knots” and I had booked a location in a really cool rehearsal space. All was set up and ready to roll but on the day, the lighting rig was a little too powerful for their sensor system (even though this had been checked in advance), a fire alarm went off, the shoot had to be abandoned and all plans fell apart. Not so good.
A week later, I booked a rehearsal room as a replacement, but the week before the shoot, they had water damage and the roof fell in.
A lot of money and time had been spent (and lost) on video prep already and for no good reason. Then on top of it all, my car broke down.
When I was with my mechanic at his garage, I was telling him about the location problems for the video and I asked him if he might know anyone with a large open area like a warehouse where we could shoot our video and he said: “What about here?” (in his garage). I hadn’t even thought of his garage because as a working garage, I assumed it wouldn’t be an option, but it was. The following weekend we shot our video. (The picture of me above is a still from it.)
Creating a video is as much about using your imagination as anything. Google the iconic early OK Go videos that went viral - clever and cool, but not expensive, right? So for your video - what could you do with your video to showcase your personality or the personality of the band? How could you make your video funny, if that’s what you want to do? Or to make it unique in some other way?
Or maybe after going through all this thinking work, you might decide that you want to make a straightforward live video or acoustic video instead after all... Great! Either way, you have clarity and a decision now.
So assuming you have your concept and you have your location, next consider:
What props do you need for your video? List everything from the smallest prop right through to your musical equipment.
Do you need drapes or sheets or carpet for the walls or floor?
Do you need unusually shaped chairs or strange ornaments or large mirrors or anything and everything else at all?
Where can you source these props?
Do you need items to set up these props (hammer, stapler gun etc.)?
List everything you need and make sure you have it assembled in advance for your shoot.
Something to remember about creating a video is to give people new things to watch within it to keep it interesting. This can be about choosing interesting angles or having the lighting change. You don’t have to spend a lot of money - just using your imagination can go a long way.
So as you are going through your props and planning, be sure to factor that in... what approach can you take for filming the second verse that is slightly different from the first verse, for example? What different props might you need? How can you keep your viewer interested?
What filming and lighting equipment will you need to shoot your video?
Do you have that equipment? Or how can you get access to it?
What resources do you have to help you to create a really great video?
Would your phone + an app like Filmic Pro work?
Do you have a friend who is good at filming and who has a keen visual eye? Would he/she help?
Do you need lighting? Where can you source this? Do you need someone to operate the lights?
Do you want to storyboard your video? (We’ll come back to that).
Definitely, do not use the sound on your camera to record the audio. The sound on the camera will not be good enough. Film your performance as you play along to a pre-recorded (and pre-mastered) version of your song so that you stay in time, of course. Timing will be essential for editing your video to match your audio. For the edit, though, definitely use a pre-recorded, pre-mastered song, not just audio from the camera.
(* There's a downloadable, fillable PDF called "Video Essentials" to help you with all of this at the end of this page. *)
Can we copy other videos we like?
Honestly, you probably can, but why would you want to? You can definitely use other videos to stimulate your ideas or to use as a guideline for what you want to achieve – but don’t you want to create something original that represents you and your band uniquely rather than just copy someone else? What’s the point otherwise? Also, there are copyright laws to prevent direct copying of certain types of content.
I say, do YOU. Come up with your own ideas and create a video for your band your way. Believe in yourself and in what you are doing. There's no need to copy.
What is a storyboard?
Think of a comic book where a story is played out in pictures… a storyboard is a simplified version of that set to the timing of the song you are creating a video for. You can choose to do this or just ignore it. You may feel like you want to just go through the whole thing in the moment and see what shots you have at the end of it and work from there. Or if you have a video that has a storyline, you may want to have a storyboard to make sure you get all the necessary shots.
A storyboard is an outline (usually sketched) of your video. It depicts the shots that are going to be needed at each point of the song. Like I said, if you want to just shoot a video and see how it goes, that’s cool. If you want to do something a little more structured or complex, that’s where a storyboard can come in so usefully.
(* There's a downloadable PDF called "Storyboard & Shot List' to help you with all of this at the end of this page. *)
What is a shot list?
Once you have your storyboard completed, you can create your shot list, which is exactly what it says, a list of the shots you will need to create your video the way you want it.
The point of a shot list is so that when you are in the thick of filming you have a reference list you can use to make sure you have all the shots you need to be filmed. Then when it comes to editing you know you have all the shots in place and you can assemble the video as you have it laid out on your storyboard. So a shot list is essential to make it all run smoothly.
(* There's a downloadable PDF called "Storyboard & Shot List' to help you with all of this at the end of this page. *)
What people do we need to help us make our video?
Having a whole load of people hanging around a video shoot can be distracting so it’s a good idea to only have people there who need to be there. It doesn't have to be as formal as I'm laying out here, but I'll go through it anyway and you can adjust this as it suits for you.
If you’re talking about what crew you need, it breaks down to this:
Whoever is appearing in the video – singer, band, anybody appearing in the video on the day of filming
This is the person who has a clear idea in advance about what the video is going to look like when completed, who knows what shots are needed and who is making sure that everything being filmed is looking the way it should.
Self-explanatory. If you've got a small shoot, your director could double as your cameraman.
You will (ideally) need someone there to help out and play the role of an Assistant on set. From my experience, it is better to have someone there helping out as an assistant rather than wishing you had brought someone. This person can also work with your director to make sure that you have taken the shots you have on your shot list, make adjustments as you are filming to any objects that are in the way or that need to be put in shot, take care of playback of your song - so you can all stay in place as you are recording rather than having to adjust playback after every single take - and do other miscellaneous on-set tasks.
After that, it depends on what you are creating with your video - you may need a lighting guy, you may want to have a stylist or make-up artist if you are doing something visually artistic…
I’ll stop there because we’re only really talking about essentials and the “who else” list can go on and on.
The essential list is the main one and that comes down to:
who is going to be on screen
who is going to shoot what goes on screen
who knows what to shoot and how
lighting (if necessary)
assistant (if possible)
Pictured below: Set up for the "Tied Up In Knots" video (all filmed in my car mechanic's garage! Thank you, Colm!)
Can we be the directors?
Of course. The director refers to the person who will be running or overseeing the shoot. A director can be a band member or a well-prepared cameraman, it doesn’t matter, but the director will ideally have the full video clearly visualized in his/her head, someone who clearly knows what shots have to be taken throughout the day and who can keep all of this on-track.
Can we get someone else to shoot a video for us?
You absolutely can. There are many companies that will provide video services for a range of prices. You can absolutely outsource it.
Also, you can go to visual media universities and talk to the most talented students. These places usually have excellent equipment, trained (or in training) students and people who want and need to create visual projects of their own for portfolios and resumes - and who may just be looking to create something like a band video. And sometimes they even have a budget! So you could find your perfect match.
How long does a video shoot usually take?
It depends. You can have a shoot that takes place over a morning, a day, overnight, a number of days… it usually depends on how complicated the set up is, how many locations are involved, how many angles are involved, how much time, how much changeover in between.
I’ve created a few different videos at this stage with my band, Moth Complex.
The full video for “Tied Up In Knots” had a full crew, multiple locations and was shot over several days. We had a full storyboard and shot list for this.
The video for “Learned My Lesson” had multiple locations and a full cast and crew and it was shot over several days in Dublin, Ireland to a full storyboard with students from NYC Tisch School of Arts. Moth Complex won a competition in an Irish music magazine, "Hot Press" for this.
For the acoustic version of “Tied Up In Knots” I went to a derelict mansion in Dublin with a guitarist and two cameraman/director friends. We had no storyboard and no plan, just some equipment and a skateboard and we spent the afternoon filming what would become the video.
Pictured above: Shooting the "Tied Up In Knots" Acoustic video in an abandoned mini-mansion in South Dublin - with G.Owens, Jonny Figgis and Hytham Martin.
For “Lamb”, I shot the video with a guitarist, a director and a cameraman in downtown LA in a morning. No storyboard no plan.
I've linked to each of these videos at the bottom of the page so you can check them out and see the differences in approach. I love all of these videos and they were all filmed completely differently.
Note the gorgeous "dolly" effect in the "Tied Up In Knots" acoustic video where the camera moves smoothly in and away (seen at the start and the end and some of the shots with Hytham Martin playing the guitar). This effect was created using the skateboard in the picture below that my friend grabbed from his house that morning!
Filming "Tied Up In Knots' (Acoustic Version)
What are important things to bear in mind when filming a video?
The most important thing to bear in mind on set is to make sure that what you are filming will look good on video and in the final edit. There are some ways to be sure that it will – use a monitor at your shoot and check what you are filming periodically to make sure you are happy with how everything looks. It is such a waste to spend time shooting and then not be able to use what you’ve done (I’ve definitely done this and, unfortunately, more than once!)
Also, be sure to back up your footage as quickly as you can. You don’t want to lose footage (I’ve done this too!)
Make sure all camera settings are correct so you are not in for any unpleasant surprises when you come to edit.
Know what props you need so that you have everything in place in advance and don’t have any unnecessary time wasting on the day (which will cut down on your shooting time and potentially impact your video).
Be sure that everyone knows in advance where they have to be and when – make sure you have met beforehand or spoken beforehand and agreed times and made sure everyone has arranged transport to get where they need to be. If you have a band member who has trouble with time – do whatever it takes to get him/her to be there on time. This may mean having him/her stay over at another band member’s house the night before the shoot. I’ve so often lied about start times to get a band member who is usually late to be there early…
When you're filming, know what are the impact points of the song are and how you are going to translate them visually - and be careful about this. So, for example, with "Tied Up In Knots", the chorus starts on the beat and with the words "Know me". Throughout the shoot we had a big burst of lights come in on the first bar, but that meant in the edit, it was hard to find a clear take where I was obviously singing "Know me". I worked around it, but next time on a shoot like that, I'll be making sure to identify the specific lyrics and impact points I want to have filmed and make sure I get them down.
Same with the title of your song - lots of choruses are built around the song title. In this case, you can't have too many takes of a singer singing the song title. When it comes to takes, it's like the saying goes, "Better to be looking at it than for it"! More is better.
How do we contact the people we need to get involved?
There’s an expression I love, “Where there’s a will there is a way”.
When you are clear and enthusiastic about what you are doing, that really helps people get enthusiastic about your vision, so stay on track with what you are doing, stay open to creative ideas for solving any issues that need to be solved and, most importantly, talk to people about what you want to do and what you need. Ask questions and be open to options and inspiration - and see where life guides you!
I already mentioned that you can contact visual media colleges and universities for outsourcing. You can contact music colleges for individual crew members too. If that's not an option, think about people you know who are good at visuals or good at electrics/lighting or good at organizing or who are just reliable and ready to help…
What does a producer do?
A producer is the organizing person. This task can run to sourcing locations, sourcing crew, organizing props, creating a timesheet… and on and on. I have often taken the role of producer on shoots (my own and other band shoots) cause I’m good at the details. You need someone who will have attention to detail because there are a lot of moving parts, even on a small set.
Filming "Tied Up In Knots"
Do we have to have any legal agreements in place?
This is up to yourselves. There are legal agreements online that you can use as basic agreements. I am not a lawyer so I can’t (and wouldn’t even try to) give any legal advice.
Personally, I haven’t used legal agreements with people I have worked with on any videos I was in charge of making for Moth Complex, but I have been required to sign legal agreements for the “Learned My Lesson” video, which was made by Sophia LaVonne and other students of Tisch, School of the Arts, NY. Both ways have worked out fine for me personally.
Use Google to find legal agreement templates or talk with a music lawyer, depending on your needs here, and make your own judgements about all of this. As I said, I'm not a lawyer or anything close to it, so I can't advise specifically, so it's up to you!
Can we keep it simple and just do a live performance?
Do whatever you want and what you feel inspired to do. You can film as simple or as detailed and abstract a video as you wish. A really cool acoustic or live performance can be absolutely captivating and does not need any bells and whistles.
Do we have to record the sound live as well?
I would not recommend recording the sound live. This is an undertaking all it’s own to get levels right and get the sound great. I say film your video and cut it to align with a properly recorded and mastered song.
What about editing?
An editor will do the job of choosing the shots and editing them together to synchronize with your audio (song). An editor can also add effects to improve tone or add interest. It’s so easy to get professional editing software for use at home (Final Cut Pro is my favourite, but iMovie works well) and there is lots of training online for this.
It does take a good eye to edit a video – a flair for editing. If this is something you feel you can do yourselves, give it a go. Just back up all your original footage in advance so that you have it safe in case you decide to scrap your video edit (or fire your video editor) and start all over again (unfortunately, I've had to do these too.)
Like everything else, you can outsource editing. If this is the way you are going to go, be sure to get examples of the editor's previous work and go through what you are looking for in a finished video with him/her. The editor in question may even let you sit in on the editing process.
Ultimately, we're back to the same process of being clear and honest and talking everything through – then going with your gut about what feels right to you to do.
I edited the biggest part of most of the videos we made. I'm not a trained editor but I studied how movies I love were being edited, I studied how music videos I love were edited, I got advice from visually talented friends and then I did my best.
I heard the expression somewhere, "really, really good is good enough" and I adopted this. Being a bit of a perfectionist, I would never, ever have released anything I ever did, if I hadn't adopted this approach. There's a certain point, I feel, after you have done your absolute best, that you just have to let go and share your work with people.
On set for the "Lamb" video at Big Arts Lab, Downtown LA.
Is there any difference between video for TV/online?
Yes, there can be different technical requirements for TV channels vs online. This is definitely something to consider if you have particular places in mind, for example a specific TV channel, that you want to submit your video to.
Technical specs may be available on the website of the online or terrestrial station. Failing that, you can make contact with them to confirm.
Sometimes for TV stations, they will require that you have a time clock with a count in at the start of your video.
You can always create different versions of your video, slightly tweaked for different purposes – just work with your editor on this.
"Tied Up In Knots" count-in clock at the start of for TV versions of the video.
What do we do with our video once it has been created?
Once you have your video created, you can start to share - everywhere! You can share it online, you can submit it online to sites and podcasts. Research TV stations that might feature your video - sometimes local TV channels will be seeking content and your video may just qualify…
Do a lot of research and send it out far and wide – as much a possible. Good luck!
Posing for pics at the "Tied Up In Knots" shoot.
PDF: Easy Video Creation
PDF: Video Essentials
This is a multi-page and fillable PDF. Click on the button or image below to download it and save it to your computer before you fill it out and definitely save as you go.
PDF: Storyboard & Shot List
ALSO CHECK OUT:
In case you're curious about the videos by my band, Moth Complex, that are referenced throughout this page, here they are:
Tied Up In Knots - Moth Complex
Tied Up In Knots (Acoustic Version) - Moth Complex
Learned My Lesson - Moth Complex
Lamb (Acoustic Version) - Moth Complex