Production values are the result from the combination of all elements of production that goes into delivering the music video: from the idea to the locations, filming, the actors you use and the editing at the end of filming. For many it relates to how the film looks on screen – in short: does it look professional?
Production values matter because they usually relate directly to the overall cost of making a music video. The more you spend, the more this should be reflected in the production value. This is not the same as saying the more you spend the better your video will be.
Factors that affect Production Value
- The idea that tells the story
You have a great piece of music – that's a given. Now it's about the idea that will express what you want the music video to be about. Whether this is your idea you want turned into a film, or you're looking for ideas; the idea will have the biggest impact on the cost and therefore the production standards possible.
Here's a simple example that leads nicely into the second point
- The location, sets and props: the art department of what you film
Let's say the winning idea involves a classic car driving down the motorway on a sunny afternoon in summer, and you have to film in February. There is nothing insurmountable in that proposition. You can film overseas somewhere warm or take to the studios and use green-screen. You'll have different results but either way it's not going to be a low-cost music video.
- The performances on screen
Whether you are using actors or will yourself be on-screen the performance is crucial.
We have been faced with the prospect of 'mates of the band' getting in on the filming. As a rule we prefer not to. Firstly, friends are notoriously flaky about dropping out on the day. Secondly even if they are just required to be seen standing around they need to know how to act as someone standing around. We prefer to work with hired in talent actors. It saves time, money and raises the production value
Which came first, the camera or the cameraman? The cameraman did and for good reason. It will be his or her expertise that gets you the shots you need. Their skill is more important than the camera they use which is just as well. Cameras and their associated costs in the form of extra people to operate the cameras as well as lights and specialist kit will quickly push the budget.
Editing & Post-Production
There's a popular joke that says "we'll fix that in post" which refers to a common misconception that correcting mistakes is a simple as 'cutting and pasting' in a word document. It isn't. Each second of video is like 25 individual photographs and each one has to be changed to fix a mistake. It is much better to get the shot right when you film.
How to balance the Budget with Production Values
Being realistic is a good starting place and putting a bottom line on what you can spend helps everyone. From this point the choices from planning, to filming, to time spent on the edit become easier to decide.
The idea is everything. Most ideas can be filmed in a variety of ways although the director will always come forward with a preferred approach. Time and effort should be put into what will appear on screen – the set, art department, talent and then the camera choice.
Click here to read more about Where your Music Video Budget Goes.