Film School Friday – Shoot a Music Video

Shoot a Music Video Episode Summary

In this weeks episode of Film School Friday, Corey and Bill are talking about some things consider if you want to shoot a music video.

Shoot a Music Video Episode Notes

In this weeks episode of Film School Friday, Corey and Bill are talking about some things consider if you want to shoot a music video.

Shoot a Music Video Links

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Shoot a Music Video Transcript

Corey Allen  00:04

Welcome to Film School Friday. I’m Corey a bill and together

Bill Cornelius  00:11

for hosting this infocus podcast. It’s coming right to your eardrum.

Corey Allen  00:16

Yes, it is. In this podcast is our film school Friday special weekly episode. Sure is where we try to pass along some knowledge, some expertise. Maybe a little wisdom,

Bill Cornelius  00:30

maybe a little love.

Corey Allen  00:31

Maybe Maybe you learn from our mistakes. Who knows? Yeah, Bill. This week, I would like to talk about music videos, and specifically what it takes to produce a music video. Like I’ve I know, we’ve both been a part of several music videos in the past, I have one upcoming that I’ll be working on like a week, weekend long shoot, would love to get your perspective on everything that goes into from pre production to the day and maybe even after the fact to really bring the project home.

Bill Cornelius  01:05

Yeah. So a lot of people in Nashville, which is where me and Cory are, get the opportunity to work on music videos, because this is Music City after all. So there is a ton of music video work going on here. And like Corey said, he and I both have worked on a number of music videos. You it’s easy to get burnout on them after a while because there are so many but they’re fun. Oh yeah, they’re honestly fun.

And to start with the process that can be you know, you can work with indie artists, you can work with label artists, Label Label artists, a lot of times we’ll go through an agency, much like you’ve heard us speak about commercials, depending on the size of the company that will go through an agency to get the video produced. But sometimes they go through freelancers, and folks that they know in town in Nashville, a lot of times the circle is small enough that an artist might know you, and might give you a ring, which has been the case for me a number of times.

And I think you as well, Corey, just like networking, yep, has made it happen. so if you’re what I like to do, as a director, when it comes to making a music video is first and foremost, I like to you know, I’ll listen to the song, the artist will present the song to you the label, whoever it might be, just to check it out. And what I’ll do is I’ll listen to the song, I’ll think about what I envision for that song personally, what do I see, I’m not going to go down the rabbit hole with this, but I have a brain thing.

That’s known as Chrome chrome anaesthesia, which is where you see colors when you listen to music, like shapes. That’s, that’s something that I possess, which I thought was normal until recently. So when I listen to music, I have a much different experience for color and light and shapes and those things. it’s really easy for me to kind of really start thinking of some visuals, sometimes that have nothing to do with the lyrical content.

And so you do that I like to meet with the artist shortly after that and get their take on their song. It’s their their baby, it’s their creation, what do they see? What’s their vision. And you know, a lot of times that’s a one on one conversation, at least i i prefer it to be but between you and the person who created the song. I share with them what I see for the song, they share with them what they see for the song.

And then you just go back and forth. I’ve had a lot of really great experiences with artists where they’ve either embraced the idea that I had, or we kind of come to a middle point where it’s, it’s, it’s what they’re looking for, but it’s also what I’m thinking about. And then from there, you hash out a treatment. if you’re working with a record label, that is a very key component of your being hired is presenting that treatment, then of course, you have to get notes from the label, because they’re the ones writing the check.

That’s the budget. Working with an indie artist, a lot of times they don’t have a lot of money. And so you got to tread lightly when it comes to your concept when it comes to your treatment. All of those things are are going to change the budget situation.

Corey Allen  04:28

Yeah. And then I would imagine that another big difference between working directly with a label and an artist and just an independent artist who’s likely funding the project all on their own is the level or the amount of creative freedom you may have as a director or a DP wear, really at the end of the day. There’s really just two people kind of making those decisions versus with a label driven project.

There’s probably a handful of people from a creative stance employees that want to have input. And ultimately, like decision making, depending on your level of experience in the cloud that you have, as a director, there are certainly plenty of music video directors in the world like Director X and others who like, this is their vision, we’re going to shoot it whatever I want. And if you don’t like it, go hire somebody else. Yeah,

Bill Cornelius  05:21

there’s a lot of autour, music video directors out there. And you can be that on the indie level, like you said, there’s a whole lot more freedom, you have to be creative. I’ve taken advantage of that quite a bit, kind of early on in my career, you know, working with indie artists, you know, they’re leaning on me to come to come up with something, quote, unquote, brilliant forum. And then I would have that creative freedom to go and do that and kind of flex that a little bit.

But in the last couple of years, there was an artist with Sony, who was asking for a treatment, that experience was a fascinating one, quite honestly, to actually work with an artist where there was a lot of money behind them. You know, I was working with Zack Adams on this treatment as well. And we, we were kind of throwing out these wild ideas. Zack was like, I know they have the money. So let’s just let’s just put these in the treatment and see what happens.

And sure enough, we did. We were changing locations. We were shooting in New York, but also in LA. And we had, we were going to build a fully 360 degree performance space that had like stars blasting through these. This like black matte, like we had all like, Yeah, we had some crazy stuff going on. And we were going to shoot a narrative at the same time about like in New York City nightlife kind of thing. And we presented this treatment and Sony was like, This is great. Absolutely. How much money do you need? And we were like, Are you kidding me? This is great.

So you don’t always get that? Yeah, the label might give you quite a bit of pushback to this, the whole too many cooks in the kitchen situation. And again, going back to the commercial conversation, you don’t want to bite the hand that feed that’s feeding you. Please don’t get too stuck up and egocentric with your vision that you step all over the paycheck is you might get fired. But anyway, once you hash that out, I’ve never been fired. By the way. I know people who have though. Yeah, I

Corey Allen  07:29

wasn’t sure if that was speaking from experience. Oh,

Bill Cornelius  07:31

no, no, no, no, no, no, I’m chill, I understand. And I’ve been poor. So I need that checks. Experience. So once you get the treatment approved, you start going to work, you get everything together, just like you would be shooting a narrative film. You get your crew assembled, you shoot dates, location, scouting, all the fun things that go into pre production that we’ve spoken about on the show before and music video shoots depending on how big they are. Sometimes they’re one day, sometimes they’re two days. Sometimes they’re four days. So it just all depends on what’s going on with that video.

Corey Allen  08:10

Yeah, maybe it’s a one take and it’s four hours. This is very true. Absolutely nail it on the setup. And that’s a wrap. Yeah,

Bill Cornelius  08:20

because you got to think you’re not, you’re not shooting a film, you’re shooting a three to four minute song. So the narrative is a lot more compressed. And it’s not going to take you know, a month or more to shoot this thing, it shouldn’t at least I don’t know, unless you’re Mark romantic or something. Shooting the most expensive music video ever made on set.

Once you’re there shooting this music video, the thing that really differentiates a music video shoot from a commercial or a film for that matter is the playback. And that is literally playing the song back so that the artist can lip sync. So that the if there’s there’s folks playing instruments so that they can time and sync to the song that’s playing, and then that can all be lined up and post later. That that is an enormous part of it. If it if it’s a video that doesn’t have any performance in it, obviously, then you don’t do that.

But more often than not, even if there is a narrative component in a music video, there’s also going to be a performance component. And that’s a big driver. A lot of times for both the artist and the label. If there is one, they want to showcase their artists doing their thing, singing, playing guitar, whatever it is. And so you’ll do playback, you’ll you’ll play you’ll hear this song, repeated over and over and over again for 1216 hour days.

If you’re shooting multiple days, you’re going to become very well acquainted with that song. And then moreover, if you’re editing this video as well, you will become very acquainted with that song. Maybe never want to hear it again. But It’s good, it’s good because then it it helps you get into the good familiarity for the song so that you know, everything that’s being informed like when it comes to editing a music video, you know, all the beats, you know, all the tempo changes, like everything becomes second nature, because you’re so familiar with the song.

Corey Allen  10:18

Yeah, and playback is super important for a couple of reasons. Obviously, all those that you mentioned, to be able to align performance takes in the edit, I think the other thing you want to be really cognizant of is, if there are band members, they will be playing drummers especially,

Bill Cornelius  10:37

I was about to think I know where you’re going, yeah,

Corey Allen  10:39

don’t don’t show up and prepare for playback with like your little Bluetooth pocket speaker or to play back from your phone. That might work if it’s like just the artist at a piano or like an acoustic set. And it’s just them and the guitar. But the minute you start adding in drums, you need to have like a legitimate PA system, right? Not necessarily for you, but for the drummer.

So that he he or she can actually play in time with the song because I’ve seen on multiple occasions where playback is just not loud enough. And every 10 or 15 minutes the drummer is is like begging and pleading, like can you get the speaker closer to me? Can you turn the volume up? Like can I at least feel the baseline like just it can be a train wreck if it’s not loud enough? So definitely something to keep in mind.

Bill Cornelius  11:34

And that’s a good point you make too because most of the folks playing instruments in a music video are faking it. They’re they’re doing air guitar, the drummer is not you cannot fake hitting the drums. No, they are the one person in a music video who is actually going to be banging on their instrument.

Corey Allen  11:53

Yeah, because you can tell if they are faking.

Bill Cornelius  11:57

I would not want to see somebody faking playing drums to do it would look bad. Yeah, you want a loud pa situation so the drummer can hear that because the drummer is going to be physically playing on set and also wear earplugs. It’s an important thing that we learned on one of your shoots when we shot a drummer inside of a narrow prison corridor. Yeah, lots of concrete and

Corey Allen  12:20

echo. What did we make your earplugs?

Bill Cornelius  12:23

I believe we cut some pieces out of a pelican case and it’s electric tape them into my

Corey Allen  12:29

ears and tape them to your ears. Yeah. So sometimes better than nothing bill,

Bill Cornelius  12:33

right, exactly. Prepared. Also, if you’re shooting outside, especially in a city, one of my early music videos was a video that we shot on the rooftop of a parking garage in downtown Nashville on a Saturday morning, right next to the Sheraton Hotel. And back to what I was saying about the drumming. We had the drummer going full crazy on his drums for every time we wrote through the song because you’re doing this multiple times this playback these wide shots close ups. Oh yeah.

Multiple takes situation multiple takes almost every time. Yeah. And so he was banging the hell out of these drums through this five minute song repeatedly throughout the day. So we definitely had a few visiting guests of the Sheraton Hotel who were watching us from the window like, Excuse me, it’s nine in the morning on a Saturday What the hell is going on? And my whole thing was like, Hey, welcome to Music City, right? Like this is this is Nashville. Yeah, you

Corey Allen  13:35

thought Whoo. Girls were bad. Music Video drummers.

Bill Cornelius  13:40

Yes. I mean, you could hear his drums bouncing off the all the buildings downtown. It was extraordinary. That’s awesome. So be mindful of your sound. That’s important.

Corey Allen  13:50

Yeah. And I think the other thing to keep in mind with music videos is unlike things like commercial work or corporate gigs or weddings, like any other type of content that you maybe create, other than maybe your own narrative that you wrote and directed where obviously, you get all the freedom you want there.

Music videos are probably the biggest opportunity to flex your creativity. Yes, really, like push the limits on what you’re capable of doing, whether it’s from lighting, yeah, camera movements, it’s a place to safely be very experimental. As long as the artist that you’re working with is is up for that. Yeah. So

Bill Cornelius  14:32

and so you can use a lot of untraditional methods, lighting methods, wacky colors, you know, we’ve talked about the whole color temperature stuff. You can just go balls out with color temperature or whatever you want in a music video. So yeah, you’re right. It’s a Creative Sandbox. It can definitely be that

Corey Allen  14:51

yeah, like I one of the music video shoots I have coming up where we’re in pre production still right now, but I think we have five or six days. different setup that you know we go from a recreating an 80s themed bedroom for a performance we have like a top down in a flake fake flower field performance, we’re going to get wild with some RGB shadow performances, neon, like really heavy neon themed stuff in an arcade,

Bill Cornelius  15:21

all for the same video offer the same video. That’s, that’s amusing. That’s a music video. Yes, it’s great. And that’s the thing, if you can get into a gig where that’s, that’s your main gig, you’re going to have a lot of fun. I mean, there’s going to be the frustration as there always is with things, visions, conflicts. But by and large, yeah, you’ve got that that fun, creative sandbox to play in, for sure.

Corey Allen  15:45

And then so when you think about beyond the pre production and all the work that goes into the treatment, and aligning all of the creative stars for the shoot, once you actually shoot anything to keep in mind, from a post production standpoint, when you think about in the Edit now to really pull that through.

Bill Cornelius  16:04

Yeah, I I’ve edited a lot of music videos as well, there’s a few ways to approach that, obviously, the sync is vital. that go that’s you know, based on the playback on set, the playback we talked about, please, please, please make sure you have some onboard audio of some sort on set when you’re shooting just so you have something to sink to because that’s that’s going to be very, very important to you in post.

And what I like to do a lot of times not to get too technical with editing, but I like to take all of the different angles, all of the coverage that’s been captured from the shoot, stack it in my timeline, sync it all to the playback, and just chop, chop, chop chop through there. I’m a rhythm editor, I like to chop to tempo, I like to chop to the pacing and the vibe of the song, you know movement within the video itself, how it feels with the song playing, those are the types of cuts I like to do.

So there’s there’s different ways there’s a whole lot of different ways to approach post production with a music video. And one thing we should mention too, and this also relates to playback, if you do slow motion, sometimes there’s slow motion performance taking place where the the environment and the band is moving in slow motion, but their lips are still in sync with the song that requires timing the playback speeding the playback up to a chipmunk level tastes.

And then having the the artist sing to that which is really funny. If you’ve done it before, they have to in the guitarist has to play his guitar at like double time. And that’s that sort of thing. But what that does is you can bring that in and post production and it’s going to be slow motion. But it’s going to be synced with the rhythm of the song. So the mouth movements that guitar playing, it’s all going to be properly synced, but it’s going to have that cool vibey slow motion feel to it.

Corey Allen  18:01

And then as the viewer when you watch that playback, it is a little bit of a mindfuck where like, they’re clearly moving in slow motion. Yeah, but like when you see someone’s this song is still Yeah, like on time, which is like it’s a really great effect. And I think the I want to go back to the editing approach that you mentioned the it’s interesting, your method for that is stacking and then aligning and then like achieving your cut that way.

For me I had do something similar but I have found really good success in I like to get a full performance take of the entire song start to finish for every take rarely is there a reason to just get a single like one little snippet performance cut from the song but that definitely exists and like I recognize that but for me I like to take all of the full performance takes and ingest them as a new multi cam clip. Yeah, that’s a way to do it and then I will play back and just cut as if it were a multi cam performance

Bill Cornelius  19:07

see that that’s the less archaic version of doing what I do basic and I’m just so used to doing it old school I still do it yeah,

Corey Allen  19:15

that that’s for me that speeds things up really well and then if there’s narrative on top of the performance then you just go in and you layer that on top in a new layer or in a new as a new clip. Yeah, and it works out really well.

Bill Cornelius  19:31

And to your point about rarely do you shoot just a one off of the band or the performer it’s it’s almost always at least it should be the entire song front to back performance for every take it’s if the if the bet someone in the band is doing some some cool trick or something that’s that warrants a one off shot. Like a video I did. The guitarist jumped off one of the amps with his guitar and like splashed in a puddle in slow motion. That would be next sample of like a one off move, right? That’s not the run of the full song. We didn’t even have playback going during that you don’t need it. So many different ways to approach a music video, and it’s very creative.

Corey Allen  20:11

Lots of creativity, lots of freedom for sure. Well, Bill, this has been a great discussion. I have had a great time because I love music videos. Me too. So appreciate the dialogue. Yeah. For our listeners, please make sure you check us out on Instagram at @infocuspod or online at And if you like what you heard today, go ahead and subscribe. Hit the like button or the bell or wherever you’re listening to us right now smash whatever button to gives us positive accolades. We

Bill Cornelius  20:43

would love that. Yes, the positive vibes and Juju we want the positive vibes

Corey Allen  20:47

only positive vibes. Cool. And until next time

Bill Cornelius  20:51

Feed your crew

Corey Allen  20:52

feed ’em

Bill Cornelius  20:54