Music Video Production Process

 

Writing Music Video Treatments

At the beginning of every music video project, there is a need to work with the artist to define a desired treatment. A video treatment, also known as video concept, outlines information with regards to what the music video will be about. Conceptually, a music video could show the artist performing the song in front of a live audience or by itself; alternatively, a music video can also present a story line where certain situations and storytelling takes place. Furthermore, it can also be an experimental exercise where random images are shown to complement the music in a more abstract way. All of these angles constitute the treatment, or concept, of a music video.

However, a video treatment goes beyond this exercise of defining the overall direction of the video. The treatment goes down to describe the kind of locations, situations, stories, images, look and feel, tone and color, pacing and so on of the music video. Even though most treatment writers don't follow specific guidelines or structures, a well written treatment is one that can successfully communicate complete ideas to artists.

We have had the chance to write several music video treatments for several artists where different ideas and angles were presented for them to consider. Also, a video treatment can help with the process of creating the production budget where items identified in the treatment are included in the budgeting process.

Summarizing, a music video treatment is the starting point of every project. It allows the production company to communicate its ideas to the artists and it allows artists to make decisions regarding the direction of their video. The treatment also helps production companies to write production budgets that are accurate and that give artists a complete view of what to expect when embarking on the production of their music video.

Storyboards

Usually after a music video treatment is approved by either the artist or the record label, the next step is to create the storyboards. Storyboards are a great medium to help everyone involved in the production get a visual understanding of the treatment.

Storyboards allow the director to try different approaches to a scene. Storyboards also serve as a communication tool between the production company and the artist where either party can provide input or feedback in a more contextual way than if it was only based on a narrative treatment.

Another advantage of using storyboards during production is that they are a great time saving tool. Storyboards help keep the process of filming stay focused on pre-planned and pre-determined angles and takes.

Furtermore, everyone involved in the pre-production, production and post-production process can benefit from storyboards. From actors to camera operators from lighting technicians to producers, from editors to wardrobe, makeup and hair stylists. Having a visual reference of what is being filmed and how it will flow when cut helps everyone work towards a common, organized goal.

 

Casting

Casting is the process of hiring actors to play the characters in a script, typically done by a casting director, but with some input from a director, producer, or studio. (Internet Movie Database).

Music videos based on the artist's performance usually don't require actors as the only subjects on-screen are the band members. There are however, situations where a basic performance video can be complemented with minor appearances from actors helping depict a storyline or simply relationships between people.

In more complex storytelling situations, it is important to cast actors that can play the roles in a way that is as representative as possible of those described in the treatment.

In this kind of situations where the success of the storytelling depends on the actual artistic performance of the characters, it is essential that the chosen actors can match the requirements of the role, either naturally or by training.

In summary, storytelling-based treatments will require the hiring of actors, preferably with on-screen experience and that are versatile enough to adapt to the requirements of the roles.

 

Location Scouting

When filming on-location, as opposed to filming in a controlled studio, there is a pre-production step that needs to be taken: location scouting. Typically done by directors in conjunction with directors of photography and sometimes lighting technicians, location scouting is the process of selecting a right location for the different scenes of the production.

Locations have a significant impact on the final product. They can be either exteriors or interiors, studios, houses, living rooms, offices, stores, warehouses, open fields, etc. Every set where the action is filmed, is a filming location.

Choosing the right locations is the responsibility of both the production company and the artists as the locations need to please the artists as well as serving the technical and creative requirements of the treatment as interpreted by the director.

 

Broadcast quality digital video

Without getting into the technicalities of what broadcast-quality digital video means, it is more effective to concentrate on the practical applications of this format and what makes it compatible with broadcast standards.

When filming, or taping action using digital video, in most if not all cases, it is important to treat the captured footage to make it compatible with television broadcast standards. Technically speaking, there are certain limitations in the amount of color and luminosity that need to be respected. For instance, a very bright image or one with over-saturated color can fall outside the accepted scope, according to NTSC television broadcast standards. This is why it is important to do proper treatment to the footage through color correction to ensure the final product will be broadcast-friendly and therefore considered for broadcast by television stations.

 

Editing and colouring

Editing is the most important step during the post-production workflow. Without editing, there wouldn't be any cuts and there wouldn't be any video. After all the footage has been loaded up into the system, the editor will layer out the sequences on a timeline and will carefully select which part of which sequences will be used to build the final music video.

This process takes a fair amount of time and it's directly proportional to the amount of footage shot during filming, known as principal photography stage.

Once all the shots have been laid out into the timeline, it's time to do some colour correction.

The process of colour correction brings a few benefits to the final cut. Some of these benefits are:
ensure colour found in the selected shots don't exceed the limits set by broadcasting standards;
if desired, increase the consistency of colour throughout the video;
also if desired, create specific looks for some or all the clips on the timeline (high contrast, burnt image, saturated colours, etc.).

Once all the clips that need treatment have been corrected, it is now time to apply transitions and effects.

Transitions are used to join two clips together. Some of the most commonly used transitions are cross dissolve, dip to colour dissolve and fade-in and fade-out. Different transitions have different "meanings" in the language of filmmaking. For instance, cross dissolves can be used to cut between action in present time and a flashback scene. On the other hand, fades can be used to express that a longer period of time has passed between the situations depicted in the joint clips.

Once all the clips have been cut, colour corrected and smoothly joint together using cuts and transitions, it is time to master the timeline.

 

Production Insurance

With every video production, there's a risk for accidents, loses or other inconveniences that may ruin assets that are either irreplaceable or very expensive to replace. There are also other cases where dangerous stunts or handling of potentially dangerous elements are required during production. In these situations it is very important that the production company provides insurance to cover for these potential inconveniences. In some cases, when renting expensive motion picture equipment, it is a requirement from the company renting the equipment that this is covered by production insurance.

The cost of production insurance works in a similar way to any other insurance policy. It depends on the conditions in which the production will take place from the location to the stunts, weather conditions, cost of equipment, third party liability, and so on.

There are cases where productions are executed in a very controlled environment and where recreating assets in case of loss may not be as expensive. In such cases, it may be okay to not get a production insurance policy as it may end up being more affordable to cover the costs of redoing than to pay for a policy that after all, may not even be needed.

 

 

Mastering

Just like in music recording, mastering is the process of "flattening" all the effects, colour correction, transitions, and other effects into a format that can be distributed for broadcast. Mastering also includes making sure that audio levels are in the right place and that the final version is technically compliant with the rules of broadcasting.

There are a several formats in which music videos can be mastered. Here are a few:
Betacam SP: This format has been around for a while in television and most television stations will require this format in order to broadcast your content. An alternative to Betacam SP is DigiBeta, which is its digital counterpart.
DVD: This format is one of the most convenient formats when looking at distributing copies of the video to a lot of recipients. It is relatively cheap to reproduce and most people can watch it. The DVD format is also very popular when submitting films to festivals as it is cheaper to mail given its compact size.
MiniDV: This format is great for maintaining a master which can later be used as the source to make duplications. MiniDV is a digital video tape that delivers much higher quality than a DVD, thus making it more appropriate for master.
VHS: This format has been around for a very long time and most people have access to a VCR that can play it. It is very affordable to produce but its quality is not very good. It's also the format of choice by some film festivals although its larger size makes it less convenient than DVD or MiniDV when mailing it.

Web: There are many formats to choose from. Flash, Quicktime, Windows Media, RealPlayer. File sizes are something important to consider, if it takes the user ages to load no one will stick around see your video. Mastering your video for the web is crucial to its sucess. The web is key in bypassing traditional mainstream channels to get your music out there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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