How We Did Our First Music Video DIY
Updated: Apr 19, 2021
I had one camera that could video record. No extra hands to hold the camera. Maybe our phones. A couple tripods. No Money. It really wasn't enough to give confidence to say "Let's shoot a music video!". I still wanted to do it, though. I had a vision in my head, and I WANTED, no NEEDED, to make it come to life.
If you deep dive (or not really even deep dive, it's not hard to find) on our YouTube, you can find when we first started playing around with my camera. We would (poorly) DIY record a cover on my Blue Snowball, and then go make a music video to it. We had the four of us, a tripod, and my Canon camera. Passing off the camera to each other, I would teach the person holding the camera how to zoom and focus really quick, and we'd call action. It was just something we did for fun, for content, to learn and play around. They were never meant to be anything great, or at least not yet. We knew we were learning as we went. Plus, I had a new camera and I wanted to play with it!
That little toe dipping experience gave the confidence and a little bit of background for us to be like "Maybe we can do this". If you know anything about me as a person, you know that I have ideas swirling around in my head at racing speed. I can't even catch up sometimes. Yes, it is exhausting, but it's also kind of fun. I knew I wanted to make a music video for one of our songs eventually, but I didn't know which one yet. Then "Behave" came along, and when I was in bed one night, the whole idea for the beginning played in my head. We needed to make this video. As usual, we had very little money, so we couldn't hire professionals, and then on top of that it was Covid season (year, decade, lifetime). So that meant we needed to be careful who was around, and how we did it. When we started planning we still only had the one camera (my camera), and those of us in the video. I spent nights laying awake thinking how we could get cool group shots with it just on a tripod. I got a drone for Christmas (that we didn't end up using because it was too windy. Thanks a lot AV). I'm still not sure how I thought I would fly it and be in front of the camera, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. When I realized I couldn't do it all on my own (which is very hard for me to admit sometimes), I decided to ask some people in our "Covid bubble" to help. I told them "All I need you to do is point and zoom when I can't be behind the camera.", which was a tiny bit of an understatement, but we have amazing people in our lives (and I promised them food), so they were in!
Now we had our camera, our "Extra hands" (or as I like to call them "Super Heroes"), and our song. Then I laid up one night thinking (obviously night is when a lot of my thinking happens) "What if we want different angles of the same scene?" or "What if we want to shoot more of it at sunset, so we shoot multiple things at once?". We needed more cameras. Well, everyone has a phone, right? And all the phones have pretty decent cameras now. That should work fine I think. I don't know if I was right or wrong, but Janell and Tina came to the rescue with extra cameras. Literally, all in the same night, "Hey, I have this, will it work?" Ummm...YES!! Three cameras? This is great!
My little brain started reeling with all the ideas. All the things we could do with three cameras, and then Tina reminded me, we needed to make sure they were all on the same settings. Thank God she thought of that. If I'm honest, I hadn't thought of it at all! Not to mention I didn't know anything about the settings. I was too busy basking in the glory of three cameras and taking a ride on my runaway brain train. I had no clue what FPS was, what the resolution should be. NOTHING. Could my glorious three cameras even do what I wanted it to do? Ahhh! "We are now arriving at panic station". My brain train ride was over, and it was time to hop on the Google express (I promise, this is my last train analogy).
"Google, what is FPS?"....."O.k., what does that mean?"..."And what should it be?"....."How do I do that?".
Hello, Google rabbit hole! Goodbye, hours of my life.
I did finally learn how to do it. I think. I'm still not completely sure, but I did something. Now I could bask in the glory of three cameras. So I sat down to story board. I drew maybe four pictures and then realized that I am not an artist, and this would help nobody. So I resorted to little colored "X" marks to represent roughly where I wanted to shoot, where the camera's would be, which cameras we were using, what each camera should be filming, and who was on each camera. I just wanted to make sure we had it all laid out, because we only had a few hours with fading sunlight to catch what we wanted.
Leading up we had a few brain storm sessions between the girls. What we were going to wear, what we wanted to look like, ideas we had. We had decided on wanting to smash some tea sets to tie in the amazing art work we had on the cover (And because it's fun to smash stuff). We went to thrift stores, and grabbed props and everything for probably under $20 or so. Tea cups ran about $0.25! We knew we probably couldn't light anything on fire since we didn't want to start the next wild fire or anything, but we did have stuff we could destroy in the video, and that was exciting!
As the day got closer, we needed to find where we were recording this. So I spent a day out looking at locations with a friend, and he showed me some places he had filmed before in Rosamond. It was PERFECT! There were these cool mountains which we all lovingly named "Squishy Rocks", an area with pretty white rocks which we cleverly named "white rocks", and this really cool kind of jagged pointy mountain which we named the "Jagged Little Pill". I took pictures and video to send to the group, and everyone else loved it to. The only problem was I didn't drive there (since I can't), and I had no idea how to get there in the first place. Listen up, cause this is an important lesson.....pin your locations on google maps if you're in the middle of nowhere. We learned this the hard way when Janell an I spent a whole afternoon on google maps "walking" up and down the road virtually looking for the spots for hours...and hours....and hours. I never knew you could get carsick on google maps, but friends, I'm here to tell you you can. So save yourself the trouble and pin the locations!
We did a few make-up testing sessions, and practice sessions with the cameras to make sure they all worked well. I love lists, so I made lists of shots. Listened to the song on repeat and tried to visualize it and make sure I had everything I wanted written down. Then, before we knew it, it was the big day!
Some of us met at my place to get ready. Our friend Steven (I mean THE Steven Hall, from Janell Crampton's band) did some of our make-up, and Kristen (one of the coolest, hippest chicks you'll ever meet) helped with hair. We were looking fabulous, the boys arrived, and we all caravanned out.
When we got out there Steven and Johnny (Yes, the same Johnny that drew our cover art) took two of the cameras. Donny (Tina's super sweet boyfriend) helped load things in and out, clear out spaces, and helped us girls up and down the hills and rocks (we're independent women, but we definitely appreciated the help in our boots and dresses). The third camera I took, and passed to whoever could hold it whenever I was in-front of the camera. Just like the old days when we were just playing around (like we weren't still kind of playing around), it went the same way: "This is zoom, this is how you focus...
The music would start playing over Steven's large Bluetooth speaker. We'd play along, and three cameras would start whirling around us. It's definitely a strange feeling with that many cameras on you. It definitely took a second adjust, but the group we had was so much fun, it made it easy to loosen up. That's one good thing about DIYing it. You know and are comfortable around the people working with you. Kristen was great at pumping us up and helping us get out of our head, and Janell made an awesome "Mood Music" playlist to play for some of the "Glamour" shots. There's something about blasting your favorite music in the middle of the desert and dancing that just makes you feel free.
At the end of the night I came home and downloaded all the shots on my computer. I'm slightly crazy, so I started in on editing right away. I couldn't wait, even though I was completely exhausted. I started with syncing all the clips that needed to be synced to the music so I could just drop them in with the track, and they'd be on time. Then I went through and pulled out the "glamour" clips I wanted. In the process, I realized that even with the lists, and the charts, we still forgot a shot. I decided to try to make it work without it, but I just couldn't get my mind off of it. So the next day, I got back in my dress, and Janell redid my hair, and we went out to get the shot.
The next week was kind of a blur. I use a program called Wondershare Filmora for editing. I thought it was a great program before, but I didn't realize how much I was underusing it until I started editing the video. That also meant in-between editing I was going on more google deep dives, because there was so much that I didn't even know existed in that program!
It took me all day, all week, but FINALLY, the video was almost finished. There was just a one second clip that I wasn't completely happy with. I'm not joking. It was one second! Everything I put in there didn't feel right, but then I had a brain blast. Only problem was, I didn't have the shot. So, back in the dress I went. I also made Katelyn get back in her outfit, and dragged Marlon out to shoot it. Man, I'm surrounded by some troopers. It was worth it though, because that one clip was it! Exactly what we needed! With that, the video was finished and ready to release! *big sigh of relief*
This whole project we weren't sure how it would turn out, or how we would even do it half the time. We jumped in and all put our blood, sweat, and tears in it. We learned, and grew, and made it through the obstacles together creating a bond that grew in strength because of all of it. By doing it DIY we each held a piece of it, and it holds a piece of us.
Want to hear more about it: Check out our podcast where we dice deeper into the behind the scenes with all the artists on the project.