Making Cheap Music Videos

Some advice from Settler on music video making DIY style. It's from 2003 but the principles are the same, apart from the recommended technical specifications… and the bit about getting on NoDisco.

From the ThingsYou'reMissing archives.

Making Cheap Music Videos
This article originally appeared on the ThingsYou'reMissing website back in 2003.

Settler have shot and edited 3 music videos and are about to do a fourth (as of 2003). Here’s how we did it and how you can do it too.

1. What kind of camera did we use?
We used a DV camera to record the footage. DV is a tape format (Digital
Video) and the tapes are about the same size as a DAT tape. Tapes are relatively cheap (about €10 for a one hour tape). The camera we used cost about €1200 and it has a facility called DV IN/OUT. This means that you can send DV signals from the camera to a computer (via Firewire, which is a very fast reliable way to transfer data) and more importantly you can send your finished video BACK to the camera to record onto a master tape. This is very important, as there are many cameras out there that just have DV-OUT, which would mean you could not record the finished video, back out to tape. DV IN/OUT is a feature that pushes the price of a camera up a little but is definitely worth it.

2. How did we edit it?
We used an I-Mac to edit it. The I-Mac we used cost around €1600 and the editing software is about €600.

If you want to use a PC then you will have to get a ‘capture board’.
Matrox make some very good DV capture boards for around the €60 – €90 mark but get someone at the shop to install it for you if you’ve never done such things before. You will need a fairly hefty hard-drive too.
Nothing below 30G is really suitable and it should be a fast computer too. Nothing below Pentium 4, preferably 700Mhz or more. Macs are just more reliable for this kind of thing.

The software we used was Premiere 6. Editing on a computer is called Non-Linear editing. Practically all films and TV shows are edited this way. Non-Linear editing means that you digitise your footage into the computer and you can then arrange the footage in whatever order you like instantly. Traditionally you would start editing a programme from the start and work towards the end in a straight ‘linear’ way. With non-linear you can start editing the mid-section, then the ending and finally the start and put them all in the right order afterwards. You could compare the differences between linear and non-linear editing with the difference between working on a typewriter and a word-processor.

Both will pretty much do the same job but one will do it more flexibly than the other. Premiere 6 allows you to have 99 layers of video and 99 layers of audio. This means with video work you can very easily do blue-screen work and add credits/text etc. and with audio, you can add in sound effects separate to the music or you could add some kind of voiceover if you wanted to. You can do slow-motion stuff, changed it widescreen, black and white, change the contrast. Any of about 40 video effects are at your disposal. When we went to Chicago recently we took a DV camera and 5×1 hour tapes. We shot about 4 and a half hours of footage and edited them together into a 90-minute home movie. The I-Mac has a 60G hard drive and our 90-minute movie took up around 38G, which still leaves plenty of space for other things. The good thing about DV is that it is a very cheap digital format and because it is digital there is no loss in quality when you transfer it in and out of the computer.
If you want to know what DV looks like then check out the Bachelors Walk TV show, as this was all shot on DV.

3. What do you do after the editing?
DV has become an acceptable broadcast format in the past year or two but broadcasters still prefer to broadcast from a format called Beta or DigiBeta. You can transfer your DV master to Beta with no noticeable loss in quality and you can transfer it to DigiBeta with absolutely no loss in quality. Places like Trend or Windmill Lane will do this for you. Prices change all the time so ring up and plead your case as a band down on their luck looking for the best deal they can give you.

So, €1,200 for a camera, €1,600 for an I-Mac, and €600 for Premiere 6 is not cheap. That’s €3,400 where I come from, but think of it this way; The equipment will be yours forever. If you were to hire similar equipment to make a decent broadcast quality video, then it would cost more than this. And an I-Mac that could run Premiere could easily run Pro-Tools and could double as a recording studio as well as a video editor.
You could hire out the equipment to other bands and make your money back pretty quickly.
You can create quick-time movies of your videos for use on your website too.

I-Macs, unlike PCs, are built for this kind of thing and are very reliable. They also come with a piece of software built in called
I-Movie2 which is incredibly flexible and can do many of the things that Premiere can do just as well.

The real thing to consider is that if you get your video shown on TV (No Disco in our case) then you will truly be stunned by the amount of people who will see it. Imagine trying to get that kind of instant exposure through radio or print advertisements. Nothing beats it. Check out and go to the downloads page. There you will see a video of a song called ‘Your Old White Coat’. This is the song that was shown on No Disco twice. Shot on DV, edited on I-Mac.

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