4 Practical DIY Film Tips for Musicians

Posted by Anton Patzner on Oct 27, 2015 06:00 AM

Foxtails-Brigade-600x400Image via performermag.com

This article originally appeared on Performer Magazine.


These days, being in a band is about way more than just playing music. We're learning how to record ourselves, program lights, take pictures, and of course, make videos. I've always produced no-budget, DIY videos for my bands (cellphone psychedelics, stick figure cartoons, etc.), but I recently took the plunge to produce a video that actually cost a little bit of money. It was an awesome experience, and I learned a ton of stuff that I'm here to share, in addition to offering a few DIY film tips.

Meet the camera crew

"Far Away and Long" was my first time working with a director of photography (Matt Rome). His job was to assemble and direct the camera and lighting crews. Because our video is a single moving shot with multiple twists and turns, these guys really had their work cut out for them.

The camera we used was the Red Epic, which is the same camera they used to film Jurassic World. It's big and expensive, even to rent. You definitely don't want to drop it, which is why you have a camera operator (Joe Lindsay). This guy wore a giant body harness with a long arm attached to it called a Steadicam, which holds the camera and keeps the shot smooth. It looks like the machine gun from Aliens, and he had to walk backwards with it, around corners and upstairs, always keeping our singer, Laura, in the center of the shot.

Maintaining focus is the job of the assistant camera operator (David Bourke), who remote controls the lens while watching the footage on a screen, traveling with the camera operator and spotting him.

DIY film tips

1. If you have a great resource, use it

Does your aunt have access to a hundred-year-old schoolhouse? Does your neighbor run a dance troupe? There are some times when an available resource is so good that it's worth developing an entire video concept just to use it. When our director, Dominic Mercurio (also our drummer), told us that he had access to a historic mansion, we knew it would be worth spending the time and money to do it there and do it right.

2. Make it a party!

It's never hard to find friends to help out with a video. That's because it's really fun to make music videos. The trickier part is keeping track of everybody. Maintaining a contact list and keeping everyone up to date with emails is a must. Also, it's okay to ask your friends to help out for free, but you're going to want to at least feed them, so you should figure out how you're going to do that.

3. When you hear it, you see it

Your video should always correspond to the music in one way or another. This might seem obvious, but it's crazy how many videos don't. Maybe new visual elements are introduced as new instruments enter the song. Maybe the visuals are edited to the beat. When this is done well, the editor becomes a part of the band and the visuals take the song to the next level. It's great to learn to edit your own videos. Good musicians tend to be good editors.

4. Don't be intimidated

It's easy to think that you'll never be able to make anything as amazing as your favorite Michel Gondry or Spike Jonze video. After all, their videos had huge budgets, special effects, wardrobes, and big stars. That's just not true. Today you can get incredible HD footage with a smartphone, and you can easily learn how to edit and process it yourself on a laptop. Never forget the value of a good story. If you come up with a good concept, you should be able to make a great video, with or without a budget. And as far as star power goes, your band already has that, right?


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Anton Patzner is a violinist, composer, arranger, and a founding member of Judgement Day. He has been featured on several major label and indie label records, frequently tours with Bright Eyes and Audrye Sessions, and has also toured with Mates of State, the Faint, dredg, Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s, and Street to Nowhere. He is currently the violinist for Foxtails Brigade. Follow on Twitter at @FoxtailsBrigade.

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Topics: video, Musician Success Guide, Strategies for Success


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