Was There Any Musical Life Before Video? (How To Make a Music Video.)

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If you don’t do anything regarding presentation – exposing your song to wider audiences – nobody will. If you don’t have a video, then you don’t exist – at least not in the music world.

by A. Arsov, Nov. 2013

I wrote a similar article a few years ago, but there is no harm if we do things again, as we all concentrate ourselves on making music as good as we can, without being aware that a good song is just a good beginning! The good old times when Indiana Jones flew around discovering undiscovered things are gone. If you don’t do anything regarding presentation – exposing your song to wider audiences – nobody will. Kids, and even some senior folks, don’t care much about Soundcloud because they all watch their favorite music on YouTube. If you don’t have a video, then you don’t exist. At least not in the music world. The only other root to the heart of the listeners is live concerts. I’m afraid that there is no third way.

The good news is that making a music video is not such an expensive thing as it use to be. You will need a few hundred euros for the first video, but all the equipment you’ll get will serve you for all sorts of purposes, and you will able to do your next video clip for no extra money.

The first thing you’ll need is a good camera. The only condition is that it needs to be a Full HD DSLR camera. The best budget cameras for that purpose are Canon EOS D600 (or D550 or D650) or Panasonic Lumix GH2 or GH3 cameras. There are always some special sales with big discounts offering some essential lens along with the body of camera. So for €400 to €600 EUR or about $700 USD, you are a good ways towards making a really good masterpiece. The only thing that you should take care about is to get a lens kit included with this price. To quote the Bible: “Search and you shall find.” Of course if you have a more expensive camera already, then just ignore this first part 😉 . Also if you have a Nikon with Full HD ability, you can use it; it is not so good as the Canon or Panasonic, but it will do the job.

If you are looking for that well-known “movie look” where the main object is sharp while everything around is blurred (focal depth), then you will need a lens with a focal depth of 1,8 (usually printed on a lens as “f/3,5-5,6”) That is a lens that you probably will not get along with your discounted kit. Buying an additional new lens is one option, costing around €100 to €150 EUR or $170 USD. A much cheaper option is to get a 42mm lens adapter for your camera on eBay, which will cost you around €3 to €5 EUR or $6 USD, or to search for some old second-hand 42mm lens with f/1,8. If you are lucky, you can get one for €30 EUR or $40 USD. The only deficiency is that you need to manually set the focus, but with digital cameras this is not so impossible any more as you can use digital zoom, focusing your objects, and then simply zoom back to normal view.

The next thing you will need is a photography lighting kit; there are plenty of them on eBay. Also, blue screen is a very handy thing that you can also get on eBay, costing between €20 and €50 EUR or $30 to $70 USD .

There are plenty of video clips on YouTube explaining how to use all those weapons. More or less there are only two issues: 1) Don’t overly light objects or your band members will look like they are coming directly from Tahiti, and 2) Don’t forget to put some light behind the people that are standing in front of the blue screen (otherwise your software will have problems in cropping the object properly).

If you want to be totally in, looking über pro, then you should also consider buying some sort of slider for your camera. You can get short models for under €75 EUR or $100 USD. It will bring some movements into your static cadre.

The next thing you will need is a good location. Just take a short walk around, and you will soon spot some fine places. In all my previous videos, I got all the places for free. All you need to do is ask the owner and explain to him that his place will be seen on a video. That’s the moment where most of them will say “yes,” and even more, they will be glad to offer you some help. It doesn’t happen every day that someone is shooting a video in their place or neighborhood.

Work In Progress.

OK. It is time to start shooting. It is always best to combine scenes where the band plays the song with some other scenes that are not music-related, which brings some story-telling into your video. It depends on what your song is about, but mainly some essential place representing the topic of your song could make wonders. As you have only one camera, repeat some cadres with different perspectives. In the first take you can shoot the whole band from a few meters distance, then make a few additional takes capturing just faces, or the upper part of bodies, or exploring some additional interesting angles. Just take care that the band members or actors don’t change position from take to take, as it would be strange that the bass player is on the left side and then, a second later, he is on the right side in a closer shot.

Later, when you build your video, you will need all that extra material, because a general rule is that you need to make a cut at least every four seconds. It can be the same scene, just zoomed in or out, and as long as you don’t make any cut using the same perspective without changing angle or zoom, you are on the right path.

Also try to tell the story from beginning to end. The main character should transform throughout the video to a different person, the person that resolved some issue that your song is about. (Except if your song is about nothing, then this could be also resolved in that way.)

Everything Is Sorted, What’s Next?

It is time for Cyberlink PowerDirector. I made all my previous video clips with Magix Movie Edit Pro, but if you’ll do some internet research as I did it, you will find that Cyberlink PowerDirector offers more for less money. Not only does this program offer all the goodies you will need for finishing your task, it also offers an almost endless quantity of all sort of things that can be downloaded from DirectorZone, where various users upload their effect settings, color presets, templates, or even tutorials. On the Cyberlink site you will easily find video tutorials which explain how to start and even how to become a semi-pro in just a few days. Don’t be afraid, the program is pretty intuitive, and with a little help from the tutorial video clips, you could start messing around in a less than an hour. It took me less than a week for my first video. The truth is that Cyberlink PowerDirector is so buffed with all sorts of fancy video effects that most of your time will be spent toying with the endless ability of the program itself. For less than a 100 bucks you will get a very professional movie-editing program.

You may ask yourself if you really need such software if you already have Microsoft Movie Maker. The thing is that MMM is good for handling some home movies, in order to present them on YouTube or at family meetings. As you are working on your video, it is not only that you need all those special effects for spicing up and making your video more interesting, but it is also a matter of quality: Various TV stations, MTV, or even local ones, have some strict requirements. It is not only a question of the HD standard, but they are also looking for the general quality of the video, color, grading and granulation. What is good enough for mobile is not good enough for High Definition plasma TV, and yes, with Cyberlink PowerDirector and Canon or Panasonic, you can really make very professional videos, even if you are a beginner as I was not so long ago.

Among other goodies, Cyberlink PowerDirector offers you TrueTheater plug ins to fix your badly captured movies from various SD cameras, making them look like HD. OK. Don’t use this for the whole video, cuz after all HD is HD, and there is no effect that can convert SD to HD without loss or bad points. It is not a matter of plug in quality, but mainly a problem of SD quality; but for short shots, it does wonders. The same package offers Stabilizer, De-noise and Lighting correctors. So your shaky, bad-lighting scenes with too much ISO can be corrected with this software. ISO? What is ISO? You will find it on every good camera. Read the manual and consider one thing that is not described in the manual – always use low ISO values: If everything is too dark, use longer shutter speed rather than higher ISO, as otherwise you will get too much noise in your video and even the almighty Cyberlink PowerDirector cannot help you.

So back to business. Now, when you have enough material and all the tools, it is montage time. If this will be your only video, then you can buy Power Director Ultimate for $99 USD. If you intend to make more than one, then I would recommend Power Director Ultimate Suite for $209 USD. The main difference (OK, there are more differences, but this one is important for you) is ColorDirector, because as soon as you show your product to a professional as I did, he will first ask you if you did the Grading, then ask why you didn’t do it. To make a long story short: ColorDirector can do wonders. Most of the material you’ll shoot needs some sort of color adjustment. Some cadre needs just slight improvement, as you didn’t set the right value for white color, while another needs to be adjusted to match to the general feel of the video. It is a paint desk that can change the overall mood of your video. If you are into photography, then add a few bucks and buy Director Suite 2. (This is not an advertising article, so if you are interested, please find more on the Cyberlink site.)

PowerDirector is a pretty simple program, and there are more than enough getting-started videos on their site. The program offers almost everything that all the other extra-pricey programs are offering, so take your time and try some crazy effects that can change your boring, everyday experience into a wild adventure. (It is not a documentary, so too much is never too much in the MTV world.) Even a simple thing like motion blur can make a difference. And there are a lots of different effects, transitions, particles, Pip objects (the overlays, frames and similar things). Most of them are intended for home video use, but you are free to abuse them in an unusual way. If you have time, I’m sure that you can find some even more music-related additions while digging through DirectorZone’s zillions of additional effects.

There are also plenty of other alternatives on the market — quality programs that offer different things, additional effects and other goodies…. I’ve tried a few others, but this one is the only one that played Full HD videos without any problem on my old dual-core computer. It is a bit painful when you can’t properly preview your big video files during the editing process, especially if you do some animations. (Yes, this program also offers this – even free hand animation are possible with this tight-budget tool.) After some additional research I found that this is not the only advantage of this program.

Thanks to the user base represented in DirectorZone, it is proven that Cyberlink Power Director offers the most for their money at the moment. I also find some additional tutorials on YouTube presenting some great tricks and tips that can be done with this program, so spinning the heads of your band members inside flying balls is just one among many things that can make your video stand out from the line. So, take your camera, grab some photography lighting kit, set up your green screen and go, go, go!

You have a great song, but trust me, this is not enough. So grab some equipment and do something for yourself. Don’t blink in the dark, impress the world by spending less money than you spent on your last three musical plug-ins.

We want you. If you did any video with the described budget tools, let us know, and we will add your video under this article.

More about Cyberlink Power Director you can find on Cyberlink site.


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