How to direct music videos

How to direct music videos from Gordon Cowie Films on Vimeo.

How to direct music videos

I would generally never suggest that an artist shoots his or her own music video. If you are trying to take your career to that top level, I think it’s mandatory to find a good music video director. With that being said, I do understand that this is not always an option for everyone because of budgetary reasons; hopefully, I can provide you with some basic guidance on directing your videos.

First things first: if you’re shooting your own video, don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Worrying endlessly about how to come up with an original concept will get you nowhere. I’ll let you in on a little secret: there is no original concept out there, only mashups of different videos. Some of these concepts have small budgets and some have big budgets; regardless, everything has already been created. If you think you’ve generated an original idea, you more than likely have just not yet stumbled on the source which did it “first.” My first piece of advice would be to pick out three to four different music videos that you love and you feel would be a good fit for your song and use them as inspiration. Sometimes the best way to tell if an old concept is good for your video is to mute the music video and play your song over it. This should give you a sense of how your video would feel with this type of video, particularly in terms of imagery and pacing. Now I’m not suggesting that you take one video and copy it completely, but what I am recommending is that you find multiple videos you like and “steal” the best parts of each. It’s a well know fact of life: if you steal from just from one artist, you will be considered a thief, but if you steal from multiple sources, you will be considered an original. Consider that this form of homage already exists in your music. If you just got your inspiration from Brittany Spears, critics would (at best) say that you are going to be the next Brittany Spears. If you combined Lady Gaga, Sam Smith, and Brittany Spears as your inspirations, you would be hailed as a revolutionary. That is the most important piece of information I could give you on the pre-production side of things. As far as music video editing techniques, there are too many to cover here. To keep things simple, always be editing to the music. This means that you must make sure your cuts in the song go to beat of the music. This will give you a good flow in your editing and make the video have the same pace as the song. 

Cheap Music Video Production

One of the biggest benefits of hiring someone to make your video is them providing the equipment to shoot the video. If you’re lucky and you know someone with decent filming equipment, you better hope they are willing to film the video for you. Learning to properly use a specific camera correctly can take months of time, especially if it’s a high-end camera. If you are trying to keep it cheap, go straight for your iPhone. There is no point in investing $500 to $1000 (which is on the low end of an equipment budget!) on a camera. You’re not going to get anything that is any better then your iphone for that price. Another thing to consider is that costs add up quick for camera equipment, especially when you take into account the need for lighting, lenses, tripods, a dolly, and an editing workstation. For all of these tools, you are looking at dropping $8000 at minimum. Being a music video videographer is not a cheap business, and to make this worse, all of your new equipment  will be irrelevant within four years tops. Cheap music video production looks like filming a music video on an iphone or DSLR these days, but even if you go with a cheap DSLR package, you’re are looking at about $2500 just to get the camera and basic lens. You won’t get the 4K quality, but you will be able to deliver content to your audience. Cheap music video production doesn’t really exist, so if you find a music video director with extremely low rates, you will soon discover that the product matches the cost. 

Music Video Directing

Music video directing is no easy task, and if someone is telling you that they can make you a good video with no music video experience, they are kidding themselves. There are so many aspects to making a music video that people don’t realize. You have to put together a budget, storyboard, cast actors, scout locations, acquire insurance, generate waivers for actors, get permits, plan the cinematography and lighting, find a proper crew, hire a steadicam operator, edit the video, handle color correction, and export the final product. On a true film set, that’s one job per person (or multiple people) for every item I listed there, and that doesn’t include craft services. Learning how to direct music videos takes years of experience, but if you want to give it a shot, the best piece of advice I could give  is to just go for it. You will learn the most by attempting and failing to make a video–more than you could ever learn from some book. 

Learning how to direct music videos comes with time. If you don’t believe me, check out our portfolio in the link below. Watch our first videos compared to our most recent work. You will notice a huge difference in the quality on all sides of the production.

How to direct music videos

I’m of the “just do it” attitude, but if you are looking for more education on this topic, a great resource is the nofilmschool website. Just click the link to learn more. We hope this information will start to guide you on to how to direct music videos.