How to Avoid Making a Crap Music Video?

  • Tai Campbell
  • 17 Dec, 2012

There are many do’s when it comes to music video production but even more dont’s. Speaking as a long limbed man (and a music video director) I can give you a list of things not to do as long as my arm both from personal experience, seeing someone else make it or from a funny anecdote.

So, after much deliberation here are the top 5 things to avoid that aren’t the most obvious or the mundane.


Hearing the Track

Okay this is an obvious one but you have to know what the song is! What genre? What is it comparative to? Does the song have a steady build up or start with a bang? Knowing the track helps you conceptualise not just the visuals but how the visuals will be portrayed. Yeah sure you can have an idea of what to shoot from the artist or from an idea you’ve had for a while but the track articulates what happens and when. Afterall, it’s the track that inspires the video.

In my experience the artist usually has an idea of what kind of video they want, which helps put the thought process in the right direction, but it is the job of the Director to develop the idea into something that will work visually and in order to do that YOU HAVE TO HEAR THE TRACK! Just listen and allow yourself to be inspired. And if you’re strugglig have a look at the portfolios of other music video production companies. Inspiration is everywhere.


Meet the Artist

It’s not like Christmas when the element of surprise is a part of the fun; here you have to know exactly what you’re getting.

Artists, musicians, creatives are just a few names your clients will have and it’s important to have a rapport with them. Really the relationship should begin when they show a genuine interest in making a music video. It’s important to talk through various inspirations, what they love and why to see if your interests align and having a wide knowledge of music videos will help this.

The other benefit of meeting is that you get a sense of who you will be working with. They may be a worrier who needs to be assured or someone who is a little disorganised and needs to be given more direction. You know what you’re getting, they know what they getting which altogether makes it easier to get things right and harder to get things wrong.


Have a Clear Vision

What do you want to achieve with the video? What’s the desired outcome? Is it fun, romantic, sad, visually innovative? To put it simply; knowing the outcome makes creating the video much much easier.

Think of it as knowing the location of a party, if you know where you’re going you know the best way of getting there. This level of clarity also helps when finding the right locations; you know the look, feel and practicality which helps guide you to the right decision (although when it comes to some locations compromises are necessary). With your clear image in mind you will find that you may be following a certain theme or portraying a look from a certain era or environment without consciously thinking about it to the acute level of realising a prop, say a stapler for example, just doesn’t fit the motif.


Make a Shoot Schedule

Only relevant for big film shoots and the unorganised, shoot schedules will make your life significantly much easier. You remember the 6 P’s: Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance, it’s all in the planning. In a shoot your biggest enemy is time, there simply are not enough hours in the day. The best way to tackle this is to think about what you have to shoot, where, with whom, what props, what equipment and how much time do you have. Making a column for each of these areas (and maybe more) in chronological order will help make sure you don’t forget anything and also make you think of things that you may have neglected e.g. tripod needed for a particular shot, that way someone can have it prepped before it’s needed.

Of course a shot list is exactly that; a list of shots as they will appear in the final video. However, this may not be the best order to film it in. So what’s the best order? The best order is the one that is the most efficient in terms of time. It could be location availability, actor availability, lighting set ups, sets of even costume. Looking at your shoot this way allows you to manage the logistics of your shoot and change the shot list into a shot schedule. Who knows, you may end up filming in reverse order. The more planning you put in before a shoot the easier your day will be.


Have the VFX Supervisor Present

Obviously this only counts for VFX shoots but if you are Directing but not doing the post it is imperative that the VFX supervisor is present. Why would you need them present if it’s your concept and you did the storyboard? They know what you need to shoot, what shots you can get away with and what may need another take. On the day there might be a stroke of inspiration but you’re not sure if it will work, if the VFX supervisor is present for said inspiration the ideas will be more cohesive.

There are many “danger zones” and “rookie mistakes” that can be made which can add to the workload in post; this may include overlapping objects on green screen, eye line mismatches, inconsistent lighting to a predetermined environment and many more. The VFX supervisor doesn’t say what to shoot but how and is an imperative member of the crew, you just have to hope that you get along.


Tai Campbell, Epik Music Videos


About EPiK !!

We are a London based music video production company providing a wide range of video styles and types for emerging and established artists. We carry our all our own editing and post-production.

Last modified on Wednesday, 16 July 2014 09:37
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