Video / Buying Guide

How I Created a Rockin' Music Video on the Cheap

5Share

When being in a band is mostly for the fun of it and you have no label backing, usually all production talent (or lack thereof, in some cases) is left to the members of that band. In this case, for my own band, I was enlisted to shoot a music video. We had basically zero budget, as we tilted our investment resources in favor of the recording and production of the song itself. Shooting your own band’s music video is not without its share of hurdles, so here are a few things that I’ve learned from filming my own band’s music video. So, before we get into it, feel free to watch the final product.

Have realistic expectations

Chances are, if you’re shooting your own band’s music video, your current commitments don’t involve producing multi-million-dollar Hollywood content. Not that I think the content I or anyone else produces for (far) less than that can’t be great. Some seriously good content has been produced with next to nothing. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty pleased with the way the song and video came out, despite the budgetary constraints imposed by things like life commitments, logical reasoning, the biological need to sleep, etc... More time and budget would have allowed for more intentional camera movements, smoother motion with slider and/or jib setups, and a wider variety of compositions all around. Where expectations really come into play is in the edit suite. On several occasions, we had limited or no coverage of a band member playing a certain part, forcing us to use alternate footage. You’ll notice that some shots are out of focus or very (if not excessively) shaky. I could try to pass that off as a rough, handheld aesthetic choice, but it really came down to our limited shooting time.

Owning gear definitely helped

This one’s obvious. You can’t shoot a video without the proper gear. Luckily for our band, between Jake Sojcher, who is the drummer in the band, as well as a videographer in his own right, and me, we had enough gear to pull off this rather quick shoot. I had my Sony a7S II camera, equipped with a vintage Minolta MD 50mm f/1.7 lens from the ’80s via a Metabones adapter, while Jake set up a couple of Dracast and AXRTEC LED lights around the room to complement the existing room lighting. Renting gear costs money, so if you don’t own your own gear, be sure to take that expense into account. However, you don’t need the most expensive gear for a great result. If you already own a mirrorless camera, the 50mm Minolta lens sells for less than $100 used, and can be commonly found on Ebay. As a bit of a side point, it also helps to know at what settings you want your camera to record. I decided to set the a7S II to record in the S-Log2 picture style in the S-Gamut3.Cine color space for some more post-production flexibility.

Sony Alpha a7S II Mirrorless Digital Camera

Scheduling is important

Finally, and perhaps the most pressing problem we ran into was scheduling. From my personal experience, most of the adversity I’ve encountered while shooting relates to time crunches. Making your decisions in a logical and organized fashion beforehand will take a lot of pressure off the shoot. In this specific case, all the band members have full-time occupations outside of band activities, so we knew going in that this wouldn’t be easy. While we could get everyone together for a few hours in a location that was equally difficult for everyone, better scheduling would probably have yielded more shooting time, and more shooting time allows for more consideration to be taken for each shot, which trickles down to achieving consistently higher-quality results. For this video, in the interest of saving time, I decided to do away with the locked-down shots we had originally planned and shot the whole thing handheld. Two, three, and four shots with multiple members of the band were mostly scrapped, as well. There are a couple of shots of Jake playing the drums where Yy Spadaro (the keyboard player and lead vocalist) can be seen standing at his keyboard. Since we couldn’t allot more time to the shoot, due to the scheduling constraints, we had to deal with the relatively few takes of each musician that could be filmed. Thus, the amount of coverage we had to work with was not ideal. Some shots are out-of-focus and camera shake is prevalent. There was also the fact that I did not film my own performance. I handed the camera over to Jake and he filmed my guitar playing.

Conclusion

I know that the final version of this video is not perfect. It has some issues; most of which were mentioned above. In the end, though, the video is adequate for what we needed, and its cost was marginal compared to the cost of producing the track itself. To borrow a well-known, and probably overused phrase, “hindsight is 20/20.” If I could go back in time and fix everything before it happened, I would. If I could somehow bend time to make sure that all of us in the band could have more flexibility in our schedules, I would do that, as well. Ideally, I would have the funds to hire full-time professionals to film the video. Sometimes, reality gets in the way. I’m not excusing sub-par production, but it’s valuable to be able to work with what you have. Going back to lesson #1, if you know what you’re in for, and your expectations are realistic, it’s hard to not at least achieve the objective that you set out to accomplish in the first place.

I know I’m not the only one who ever produced a video in a non-ideal situation. If you’ve ever experienced shooting music videos for your own band, or have any relevant stories or advice from personal experience, feel free to write about it in the Comments section, below!

5 Comments

great post, BIG like for the song!

You can be proud of the result, the real success is to make somthing when you have limited sources.

the audio-video sync is perfect! did you set it manualy?

Thanks for the complements Eli,

While it was an arduous process, every shot was synced separately, by eye. For convenience, in the timeline we extended takes we knew we would come back to, in order to keep the audio sync without re-eyballing the timing. Ideally, a program like PluralEyes would have helped. However, the disjointed nature of the video file structure out of the camera and practically useless in-camera audio didn't jive well with PluralEyes. Truth be told, it wasn't difficult to get close to perfect sync with our original in/out points when selecting clips. If we were off by any amount, we would then fine-tune the timing using Adobe Premiere's "slip" edit tool.

All the best!

I really enjoyed this article. I do all of the video production for my church, and every project seems like a rush job along with the limited budget you mentioned. I recently show an interview with a two-camera setup and flourescent three-light kit. In post I saw that one of the lights was visible in the shot because it was reflecting off of the glass door at her home. Dang it! But you pointed out a great lesson in setting realistic expectations. Every session is also a learning experience and you'll know to be more aware of those mistakes or other considerations next time.

Due to not owning a sllider, sometimes I'll shoot in 4K and shoot a little wider so I can crop in and simulate sliding motion in post. It's not the perfect solution, but done subtly it can add a nice touch to the video with more movement.

Christopher, always something to learn, especially what to look for when framing and composing the shot. With reflextions, sometimes wedging some tape behind a glass door or a mirro can help shift the reflection out of the shot without making the door/mirror look strangely positioned. Best

Hi Christopher, really glad that you enjoyed the article! I'm always learning from my filming experiences. While it's sometimes hard to watch your own productions for mistakes, it ultimately leads into greater consideration for the future. One thing I would like to add is the fact that making this video was, overall, a fun experience. And while some parts were arduous or frustrating, it's always reassuring to know that at the very least you produced something.

Many times, especially when I'm critical of someone else's content, I make sure to acknowledge that a final result was reached. Whether I liked said content or not changes nothing. Seeing a project through from beginning to end takes perseverence, and no number of incomplete projects on my end can take away from that.

Thank you for sharing your experiences and tips. They are most appreciated. Most of all, happy filmmaking!

Close

Close

Close