Canon VIXIA HF R30
You need a video to promote yourself or your group. That's a fact. And with the technology available today, for a few dollars you can create an outstanding looking promotional or artistic video.
Right now the best way to get your stuff out there is via the web. One of the reasons there's no more TV channels like MTV or VH1 is due to the relatively recent explosion of on-line content.
The majority of music videos are self produced. That being the case, there is absolutely no reason to hold out any longer on making your video. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I say a watchable music video can be worth a career!
So you're dying to get that video into your hot little hands and post it up on YouTtube so all your groupies can “share” and “like” and tweet the hell out of it, right? I know you are. So many stars are already rising to fame from that one video they upload that one time. Just think, you could be next!
So without further adieu, here's a guide to get you started...
You'll need a few things, and only a few things. Here is a short list of the essentials -
-A camera. A cheap camcorder is the way to go. Most camcorders today shoot in high definition – HD, that is 1080 horizontal lines of vertical resolution. This is good. Cameras that record to MiniDV (looks like a cassette tape) are becoming a thing of the past, so avoid them. Look for a camera that stores your data in flash memory cards, such as SD, and also has a built in hard drive, for example 128MB of internal memory or more. Since you will be editing your video to a prerecorded audio track (your band's song), the type of microphone on the camera is not as important, but the ability to connect even a basic external microphone for dramatically improved sound could be a cool feature for other projects. Perhaps a SmartPhone could meet your needs. The Canon VIXIA HF R30 Full HD Camcorder costs about $250 and is a nice camera. The General Electric DV1 1080p HD Digital Video Camera runs even cheaper at about $90 bucks and has good reviews. (The author and Ampslam.com have no financial interest in any of these products.)
-PC or Mac computer to edit your clips with open source editing software. Save money – use open source technology. Avidemux is a video editor which can be used on almost all know operating systems and computer platforms. Windows Movie Maker (formerly known as Windows Live Movie Maker), is a freeware video editing software by Microsoft. It's a part of Windows Essentials software suite and offers the ability to create and edit videos as well as to publish them on SkyDrive, Facebook, YouTube and Flickr.
-Your prerecorded audio track. This is often the best place to get the “vision” or theme you want to explore in your video.
-An Idea. (not required but some level of consciousness is somewhat of a necessity.)
-And finally it's a good idea to get some people together. The members in your band might be enough. Or your groupies, hopefully not that one twitter stalker who keeps tweeting about your love connection... Don't contact them. But the groupies are fine. More hands mean you can get creative with characters or scenarios. And if you're really into it you can pretend to be a director!
-Optional is a boom box, stereo, P.A. or some way to blast your tune live if you want people moving or strumming on beat. I hope your band has figured out the strumming on beat part at least.
-If you do have some cash to spend, you still can get away with minimal gear. Often times the best place to invest is simply in keeping the people helping out full of pizza and coffee. They will be exponentially happier to stand around and get yelled at for free!
That's it. You've got the gear and the people. Go shoot it. Done! Well, actually before you go, if you've read this far, that means you might want some more tips.
Saying the more you shoot the better is a bit of an over statement. If you have a story in mind, try and set up your shots and just give it a few seconds before obnoxiously yelling “action.” Then stop recording after “cut.” That way when you're editing you wont be sitting through 45 minutes of people standing around drinking beer. Depending on they style you want it's also a good idea to try and keep the camera as steady as possible. Use a tripod if you have one. If not just hold it still for a few seconds.
Get as many angles as you can. Even if you're just shooting yourself or the group live, it helps to have some interesting view points. Play through the song over and over and reset the camera each time. Don't be afraid to get super wide or super tight either. The more contrast in composition means you will have a lot of options while editing.
Go outside. Cheap cameras look cheap because people often shoot indoors so the camera has to adjust for low light. That means if you go out on even the grungiest of Seattle days, you'll get a lot of light and your video will look that much better.
Be creative. Let the song set the mood and make a movie. Experiment as much as you want with the camera work. This is one of the best places to get creative. The next best place for creativity is the editing room!
Tips for Editing
If you own a computer you may already have all the software you need. Mac usually has iMovie, a basic video importing and editing software. Windows has Movie Maker as a part of Windows Essentials software suite and offers the ability to create and edit videos as well as to publish them on Facebook, YouTube and of course Ampslam.com. If you're out of luck and can't find anyway to edit your clips, YouTube actually has an online video editor. It's rudimentary at best and not suited for putting clips together but you can at least upload a video and add an audio track.
One of the easiest ways to get started after importing all your clips and hopefully putting them in a folder on your desktop or someplace you can organize them (not like your rehearsal room, clean that mess up man!) is to drop your tune's audio file into the editor. This way you have a visual reference for length and, if the editor shows the waveform, the pacing of your song. Now start dropping in clips on top of that. If you've been working off of a scripted storyline this whole time, (great idea) then try to stick to it. But don't be afraid to get random either. Sometimes you'll be surprised at little happy accidents that happen along the way.
Save. Save. Save. Click the button that says “save.” You will be spending a lot of time tweaking your video, so don't let it or the keyboard you ruined from spilling coffee go to waste.
Now that you've got your video and you've played it over and over and over and you have your group's approval, it's time to upload. Export it first. You need a file that's playable in Quicktime or MediaPlayer to get it online or off the computer. YouTube has all their required file formats listed for you!
Congratulations, You Have a Music Video!
Get your video out there as quickly as possible. YouTube is not the final destination. Send the link to all your regular listeners. (Hey, why not bring it to Ampslam.com!) Tell your peeps about it. Post it, tweet it, embed the sh*t out of this video. The negative comments and feedback will come, but you'll be too busy making a name of yourself to even bother to read them. ;)
*David Johannaber studied communications, video production and mass media theory at Temple University. He works as a freelance cameraman and editor for news and tv productions.