In this article you're going to learn all the duties associated with directing a music video, and this is the only place you'll get such a comprehensive breakdown.
- What goes into directing a video
- It's their baby, how you need to respect their music
- How to properly put time into understanding their art
- Why you should drop the ego
- All the jobs and different hats you'll be wearing during the assignment
- Why you should stick to your plan/vision
- The lovely world of editing, and what makes you a standout.
- You'll see an entire video, that's very detail oriented and further explains everything with BTS video and a director's reaction video.
When I say you won't get this much information anywhere else, that is 100% fact!
What goes into directing and editing a music video?
Musicians and recording artists will always have a soft spot in my heart. They're the soundtracks of our lives from breakups, weddings, Saturday nights, to any other life event. Growing up wouldn't be the same without them. This is why I LOVE directing music videos. You get to paint a picture to their words. What!? Yeah seriously, how cool is that?
What else do you want to know about music videos? Well, they pay like shit. And you'll have to endure the music video landscape's uncertainties because you love it. Thankfully I love it, and many others do too. Below you'll see just how much you'll need to love it. Lets get started...
THIS IS THEIR BABY
It is. They've written the music because of something personal in their own lives and experiences. They sang it over and over in the studio, mixed it, funded it through odd jobs and show after show. They put their heart into it and at some point it must move to the next step. We've all seen videos of artists camping out for months in a recording studio. They cry, they drink, they pour hearts & souls (the good ones at least) into their music. Essentially it's their dream to keep putting music out there for the world. To treat their video concept/process anything less than 100% is criminal.
To treat their video concept/process anything less than 100% is criminal.
You wouldn't mistreat anyone's baby or pet, so don't do the same for their dreams & ambitions. After you've come to accept that important responsibility, you move on to the next part.
PUT THE TIME IN TO UNDERSTAND THEIR MESSAGE
When I took the Dalton Rapattoni "Heaven" project on, it was hard work from the first moment I signed on. As you can imagine, I take the music seriously. Add to that knowing Dalton since he was about 14-15 years old and this was his first music video ever as a solo artist.
Stressful? Sure! Lets add more to it because the budget was a fraction of most music videos. Dalton decided the path of an independent artist and that means everything, every dime comes from his own savings. As a director you must be conscious of this. Sure you treat every budget with respect but it is critical to review every dollar going out several times. Is this necessary? Will it make the difference in production value? Is there a cheaper way around it and I can still get the same concept across? Now the pressure builds and we're still not done.
Remember that part about the music being their baby? Now you must give their art the attention and time it deserves. personally I listen to the song over and over. I listen when I wake up, when I'm retouching images for other clients, when I'm driving, at the gym, and in the background in the office. By the time we reached the shoot day, I had listened to "heaven" over 300X. SERIOUSLY! Why did I listen that much?
Well I had to write a treatment (music video story idea) for the video to match the song, who the artist is, what the fans expect, and what the artist stood for, and where the artist is headed. And it had to be within budget and time constraints but not look like we rushed through it all. Yeah... it's not just aiming a camera at someone singing. It's a lot of thought and intention behind each part of the music video. Listening to their music repeatedly means you'll probably pickup a faint instrument in the background, and that could be effective in the video. You have to know their project inside and out.
Many directors don't do this. I'm not saying they're less qualified or less of an artist. I'm saying that doesn't work for me. I won't take anyone's project and money, and not give it 100% of my focus. Every creative and treatment is written specifically for that artist and for the path they wish to take. That's why I listen so much.
DROP THE EGO
Remember how I mentioned that music video budgets are absolutely low? Your average indie music video is about $20K, your record label shoots are from 65K-250K and your A-list budgets are in the 750K-1 Million range (Taylor Swift, Beyonce, Madonna, etc..). I also said "average" so we have many budgets below what I mentioned. Because budgets are lower on the indie artist side, you wear many hats. This is across the board and the good directors also have skills about the producing side. For this video, here are some of the hats that I wore. If you're going to have an ego, I suggest taking a look at the list below and seeing if this is the path you'd like to take because it requires zero ego.
- Producer (Puts it all together)
- Director (Controls the overall vision of the project)
- Creative Director (Thinks about the direction for the artist/brand)
- Stylist/Shopper (Picks the outfits and goes out to buy it)
- Craft Services/Meals (Snacks for the shoot and meals for the crew)
- Location Scout (Picks the location(s) to shoot the project)
- Accountant (Watches the budget and pays everyone)
- Production Manager (Runs the show during the day)
- Editor (Edits the video)
- Colorist (Colors the film)
- Drone Operator
STICK TO YOUR PLAN
You've gone through hell and back planning your music video project. You made a beautiful treatment that's honest to who you are, who the artist is, represents the music, fits the path they're on and on-brand, it fits the time frame of production and on budget...so give yourself one major reward. Stick to what makes you a unique director. stick with your vision. Sometimes you'll get praise on set and other times be challenged. This is YOUR show. YOU direct the vision of the video, because the artist picked YOU. The management and artist picked YOUR vision and approved it, funded it, and gave the green light. Remember that you're not just a guy/girl with a camera. You're the directing the entire vision of the shoot. Stay on vision, stick to your plan, and they picked YOU for a reason. Show them why it was the best decision they made!
Look lets be real about this. You'll probably end up editing the video yourself for a couple of reasons. The first being budgetary and also because as directors we are control freaks. You want to control the entire image and editing is just part of that. I won't say if it's good or bad that others edit your projects, that's a case by case situation. However, there's one huge factor that separates a great eye from a mediocre eye in the editing process.
Frame by frame. That's the thing, if you're doing the edit. You're in charge of finding any mistakes, unflattering angles, wardrobe malfunctions and more as the editor. Your job isn't just to build a story on the director's notes but to also look for anything that may distract from the experience. Know who does this well?
Disneyland! When you're at Disneyland you cannot see anything from the outside world, no telephone poles, no high rise towers or hotels. Once you're in the happiest place on earth, you only think about that. Back to the video, it's the same thing. Once you invest in the visual, you stay locked in until the end. That means no mistakes to distract you like misplaced prop items, a bad acne moment, bad lip synching, etc... So I take the little arrow keys and click one frame at a time. It's awful and the worst thing ever, but when I did it for the Dalton video below I saw a hairspray bottle in the corner and some food. If that was to stay in the video, his fans would screen capture it and forever my work is tarnished. It's also unfair to the artist.
I hope this gives a good insight to the amount of work involved in music video land. I grazed the surface but if working with such detail scares you, perhaps you might want to think about a different path. If you're still not scared, then full steam ahead and I support you 100%.
The Youtube video below is highly educational. If you're truly interested in videos, this is a must watch video. It's longer, about 20 minutes long. Then again, it's also a great test to see who has patience to sit because that's what editing is!