MTV, Here We Come (Part 1)Making your own music video is easier than you'd think. In the first of a series, we show you how.
Richard Baguley, PC World
Do you have a favorite music video? Send me e-mail and tell me why.
Over the next few months, I'll be doing something slightly different with this column: I'm taking you through the process of making a music video. I'm doing it myself, so I'll give you an overview of how I approached the process, and offer some tips for anybody out there who decides to try it too.
Play That Funky Music, Video Boy
At the risk of stating the completely obvious, the first ingredient that you'll need for a music video is the music.
Your first thought might be to just grab a track from a CD by one of your favorite bands. I don't think that's a good idea, primarily for potential problems relating to copyright. While you might think that your favorite band or artist will appreciate the flattery--and/or the publicity that a fan-produced video might gain them--that's not a safe assumption. If you produce the video and offer it on the Internet or send copies to others, you are effectively broadcasting someone else's music and possibly leaving yourself open to all sorts of legal unpleasantness. If the band or individual already has a music video for the tune, they might not want your amateur effort making its way around the Internet. And, frankly it's just kind of rude.
So instead of using an already popular song, why not look at local unsigned bands? Generally speaking, an unsigned band that's trying to get some publicity will jump at the chance of getting a video made--especially if you are just doing it for fun and aren't expecting to be paid anything, let alone the large sums that top music video directors command. But you should make it clear to the musicians that you are doing this as a side project, and that they shouldn't expect the video to look professional: You won't have a crew (except for any friends who want to lend a hand), and you don't have hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of equipment and a fancy studio.
So spend some time looking around for an artist or band that's got a song that appeals to you, but no video. Music sites like AcidPlanet, ArtistLaunch and GarageBand are full of unsigned groups and artists looking for publicity.
Once you've found a band, contact them and ask for their permission to use their song as the basis for a video. Be honest about who you are and what you want to do: Tell them that you like their song, and that you want to make a video and put it online. You should also discuss copyright: They'll retain copyright on the song, but you'll have the copyright on the video.
I didn't have to look far for my song: My brother Peter has been writing and recording for many years, and he agreed to let me shoot a video for a particularly atmospheric song of his called "All Saint's Day."
The next thing to do is to spend a lot of time listening to the song. Get familiar with it; write down the lyrics and start thinking about what the song means. What is it about? It may be a simple boy-meets-girl love song or a searing indictment on the dark side of the human condition, but all songs are about something, and the video needs to reflect that.
Next month, I'll talk in more detail about how I analyzed the song I'm using, and I'll also address how to start planning and shooting the video. In the meantime, you should spend some time watching videos that you like and thinking about what makes them work for you.
Videos to Watch
Keeping with the musical theme of this column, I thought that I'd mention a couple of my favorite music videos, and what I think makes them great.
The first is one that you've probably seen: Mark Romanek's video for Trent Reznor's "Hurt," performed by Johnny Cash. It's a great example of how a video can enhance a song. Romanek captures the brooding, regretful mood and mixes in footage of Cash as young man with the older Cash performing the song. It's a beautiful piece that you won't forget in a hurry.
The second video is from a less well-known artist: Sam Bisbee. The song is called "Breaking"; the video was directed by Tobias Perse. It's a simple video, but the effect is striking: The singer and a drummer are performing the song, with the screen divided up by a grid. As the song progresses, some of the squares in the grid break up the image, slipping in and out of time with the song, an effect that adds a new angle to the feel of the song. It's very simple, but very effective; it shows how videos don't have to be big, expensive projects to work.