7 Tips for Musicians Making Videos
Whether you are filming a casual video for your YouTube channel or a full-blown music video, you’ll want to try to get the best results possible. The topic of video production is a big one and there’s a lot more to learn than I’ll be addressing in this article. Instead, I’m going to focus on some general concepts that all musicians can use to make quality videos regardless of their budget. So, here we go…
1) Light it Up – Lighting is everything when it comes to video production and this is even more apparent with cheaper cameras. You must light your shots well or your footage will turn out dark, grainy and amateurish. If you don’t have the budget for professional lights, get a China Ball (Chinese Paper Lantern) or a cheap LED video light from Amazon. And if you don’t have the $10-20 to spare for one of the options above, drag out every lamp you own and try to make it work. Also, play around with bouncing light off of the walls in order to diffuse it a little…diffused light is another important element in making a good-looking video.
2) Camera Choice – Since this post is aimed at musicians and not videographers, I’m going to assume that you don't have expensive cameras. That being said, you should always use the best gear you have or are able to borrow. If you only have access to a smartphone or tablet, you can make it work, but make sure to use the rear camera since it will be better quality than the front facing one. And once again, you really need to pay attention to lighting, especially with the cheaper cameras that have bad low-light performance.
3) Multicam – You can add interest to your videos by switching between camera angles and levels of zoom. If you’re paying attention while watching TV, you’ll notice that most programs don’t stay on a single shot for very long. These other perspectives (shots) are used because they make the edits appear more seamless. Also, they add visual excitement to the video(s) which is always a good thing. For instance, if you film someone talking for an hour, but you need to cut it down to 20 minutes, there will be many cuts made. If you are only working with one camera angle, these cuts will look obvious and jarring to the viewer. But, if you’re able to switch to another angle on the cuts, they will most likely be undetected by the viewer and will simply look like camera changes. There are a million things you can do here and experimentation is the key.
4) How does it sound? – Many people get so focused on the video aspect that they completely ignore the audio side of the equation. After all, you’re a musician and the audio should be the most important thing, right? So, don’t just assume that the onboard camera audio will be good enough…check out some other options! The best thing you can do is to record the audio separately through either a proper sound card/computer rig or a standalone recorder. Then you’ll be able to synch the audio later in your video editing program. Or you might be able to use the external microphone input on your camera (if it has one), but depending on your camera and the microphone, results will definitely vary.
5) Learn your editing software – Not all editing software is created equal, but you must learn the ins and outs of your program of choice. So, learn how to crossfade your audio edits to avoid pops/clicks, how to embed titles, make smooth transitions, do color correction, create watermarks and more. You need to be able to cut out the dead space and make an effective jam-packed video, so really get inside of your video editing software and channel your inner Martin Scorsese (or David Lynch if you wanna get all crazy).
6) Where is this Going? - It’s important that you understand video formats when exporting from your editing software. It’s also crucial that you have a large hard drive to store these videos since they will add up quickly. So, as a general rule of thumb, you should export one uncompressed version of the video which will serve as a master for all of the compressed versions. This video will be BIG, but it’s really important for you to hold onto it. This is because all the videos you upload to YouTube (or other) will be compressed (due to streaming) and you want to have access to the original master version when creating them. Then you can use a program like Handbrake to make compressed versions for various purposes.
7) Engage the Viewer – All the best lighting and pro audio in the world won't help if your content is lacking, so get some constructive criticism before uploading your video. Is it too long, too short, too boring, too manic, etc.? You want to distill it down to a concise and gripping video, so trim the fat. Also, you have to factor in that the world’s average attention span is about 30 seconds, which means that most people only got to point #3 of this article. So, put some love into your videos and make them stand out from the crowd!