How To

Music Video on a budget – What can you afford?

Photograph of the blog post author, Mary Woodcock

Mary Woodcock


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A few weeks ago a musician friend of mine got in contact about making a music video for an upcoming EP. I’m collaborating on this project with the Musician, an Actor, a Filmmaker and a Costume designer in order to produce a music video with a desired budget of £500 or less. In this series of posts I’ll be walking you through the process of making a music video on a limited budget from conception to release. Every week I’ll be going through the next step of the process, giving tips and providing updates on how our project is developing, along with what was successful and what, if anything, was unsuccessful.  Beginning with concepts and design, I hope to show you a good way of developing and creating a music video that doesn’t cost the earth. Ideally we’ll be looking at budgets between £50-£500 pounds and looking at what you can expect to get for your money.

The importance of a good music video is impossible to understate. For a new artist or band wanting to break the ice with the audience visual impact is vital. A potential fan might hear your music and have their interest piqued- but if they see something memorable alongside it they are a whole lot more likely to share that video with others and talk about it. It might seem like a costly expense best left to professionals, but you don’t necessarily have to sink in big money to get great results.

The best place to start is to be frank about your budget- what can you afford? Here is where knowing a few people in creative industries can be extremely helpful. Many people are willing to work for reduced costs or on a voluntary basis for the experience on their CV and something good to include in their portfolio.

It is absolutely vital to the make the most of those sorts of connections; knowing an artist or a makeup artist will be extremely helpful for creating a unique looking video. If you know anyone in film or aspiring film students they might also be able to help you get discounts on your equipment. Equally, if you know anyone who might be looking for some cross promotion (costuming, camera work, and acting) that will help cut down your costs and the collaboration will give you both an opportunity to draw in extra fans.

If you don’t have contacts of this nature you can seek them out online but you should expect to pay for travel expenses at the least. Many people are willing to work for free, but not as many are willing to travel across the country for the experience, so if you’re based somewhere more remote it might be harder to find willing helpers.

For our project we’ve bandied together a group of individuals who can all benefit from collaborating on the project; for our Actor this is good material for a showreel, for the Musician this is a great promotional tool and an opportunity for some cross promotion with the Fashion Designer. with the Fashion Designer. We’ve also brought on board a Filmmaker, who, as a long time friend, was happy to collaborate for the practice and opportunity to take on a new creative project. Already,Already, we can cut down our costs considerably, but it also realistically affects the kind of video we want to make.
If you are making the most of other talents then the final result will play to those strengths. If, for example, you know an animator then getting a fully animated video could be a long process. However an interesting animated video can be a wonderful talking point for fans too. Not to mention that the visuals of your music video become unlimited and this opens up your budget considerably.

There is one thing that will cost you money regardless, and assuming you’ve got people willing to do the legwork reasonably cheap, it’s going to be your camera.

The Camera

The money you put into your camera will be reflected in the level of quality you get in return. Great acting, great cinematography and agood location can make a cheap camera look better, but you need to be realistic about how much of those other factors you can bring in.The money you put into your camera will be absolutely equivalent to the level of quality you get in return. That’s not to say you can’t film and edit a music video entirely from an iPhone, which is definitely possible, but you’ll have to accept that the quality will be proportional. The same applies to most hand held cameras, and these are all factors you will need to consider when creating the concept for your video.

If you intend to buy a video camera or intend to use a camera you already own then expect to pay quite a lot before you start seeing results.

Your other alternative is hiring a camera; several hiring agencies around the UK offer decent prices for the rental of a good quality camera with a huge range of prices. A Go Pro camera can be hired for around £30 for a weekend, which opens up opportunities for a certain a certain type of video like extreme sports. If you know a talented skateboarder, or BMXer this could be a different sort of collaboration to make an interesting video. Unfortunately, this cheap option is also quite limiting, and shouldn’t be considered for a standard music video..

If you plan the shooting for your video sufficiently in advance, you could potentially finish the shooting of your video in two days. The key part is making sure that you minimise the amount of time you need the actual camera for.

Another important note is that the capabilities of the camera will provide restrictions on your concept; if you’re looking to include the music video staple of extended slow motion sequences you need a camera that can shoot at a higher frame rate.  A standard frame rate is rate is 25 frames per second, and when you increase that the clarity of your slow motion improves. At 50fps your slow motion will look decent and quite ethereal, at 120fps it will look like art. It’s important to avoid the choppy slideshow effect you would otherwise get. Look online for some examples of different frame rates if you’re not sure what you need.

Our discussed budget ended up being £500 or less, with a goal of a budget of £200 pounds. At this stage in the production our budget expended is £0. Throughout the posts I will be updating you on costs wherever possible.

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