SXSW 2011 is behind us now but what an awesome, albeit exhausting 9 days.
We were at a music video panel where the topic was creating great content on the cheap. On the panel we had people from OK GO’s team, a video director, and a few music entrepreneurs. It was an interesting panel because it reminded me of a few important ideas while also giving me something new to chew on.
1. Concept Is King
When thinking about online video, the key is to catch attention. There are just so many videos being put up on a regular basis that your video needs to stand out. There are many creative ways to do that, but the video idea is worth taking time to flesh out. The OK GO videos are all about the concept. One shot with a well choreographed sequence that’s ridiculous. The Director on the panel showed his video for the band “We Are Augustines”. The concept was simple: one long shot with the band mixed with a bunch of couples making out. The song is depressing but hopeful and the video just works so well with it. I’ve included it at the bottom of the post so you can see.
2. Thinking About The Concept With Money Constraints
If you rented a high-end camera for the weekend, could your concept be achieved on film with the short time frame? Do you have friends who’d participate for free? How can you use the Iphone 8mm app to create something visually enchanting?
You can have grandiose concepts but if you can’t execute them with 0-to very little money it’s not going to happen right now. Be creative within the constraints.
3. Plan It Out & Practice
OK GO must have practiced a bunch to get their routines right as there are no real cuts in the video. They were prepped for the video and not just making it up as they went. If you have other people involved, having a story board (even if it’s just stick figures) can be incredibly helpful when trying to explain your idea. Knowing what you want in advance and being ready for it will keep any costs you do incur, very low.
On a side note, the guy was saying you can rent a top of the line camera for $US1500-1800/wknd. Still pricey, but you can get the best of the best if you’re looking for something visually satisfying.
4. Long Form Is Coming Back
With the introduction of the Ipad, other tablet devices, and bandwidth being able to handle longer video; people are watching online videos longer than 3 minutes. Artists can take time to create a long form video to create a real story that’s engaging and can take the artist-fan relationship deeper. It’s still new, but watch for more of this coming down the line. Think of short films/mini documentaries as music marketing.[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LYXhAmlfNP0]
I like the idea of longer firms for music videos. Look at Lady Gaga’s “Born this way” and “Telephone.” I think this can make things a lot more interesting if you have a bit more of a story going on that the song can feed into. A lot of videos just seems dumb as hell and don’t really get you involved in any sort of a mini-story line. I’m piling up the film books and learning how to use my HD camera.
OK Go seems to be the “go-to” example of how to get a million hits on YouTube, ignoring the fact that even the L.A. Weekly pointed out their fame came from getting exposure on the MTV music video awards in spite of having an album that was critically panned.
My main beef with articles like this is that it uses a ton of words to express one ambiguous point: do something ‘cool’ on camera to get attention. The problem is it doesn’t answer the question of what “cool” is. It tells you that you should probably have an idea first, and that you should rehearse before pressing the record button. If that’s helpful advice to any indie musicians out there, they probably shouldn’t be making music, let alone videos. And if the idea is for the video to get attention, well, there’s always Page 1 from the Hip Hop Video play book–lots of skinny girls in thong bikinis dancing in and around a pool. I mean come on, how many videos get looked out because the person in it sustained an ER-worthy injury during the stunt? Do you want people who entertain themselves with that all day as your music fans? I don’t.
There is a reason why when a record label wants to shoot a music video for one of their artists, they hire a director that is a filmmaker by trade. They aren’t just some guy who knows how to use a camera; they are a VISUAL artist. This is not to say there aren’t some musicians out there that aren’t good cinematographers. It’s just that most of the good cinematographers are in, you know, cinematography by trade (or at least hobby).
Put another way; this would be like a blog post on a DIY filmmaker looking for music on the cheap. “Sure, you could hire a band or a great DJ to record a soundtrack for you, but you don’t have that kinda money, so even though your craft is with a camera, try your hand at downloading one of the free multi-track recording apps and MIDI sequencers for your iPad and give it a whirl. Remember, you want something that’s going to fit in with the scene you’re doing!” Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?
So what should you do instead? No, I’m not going to tell you to go out and get an HD FlipCorder, shoot yourself in front of a brick wall, railroad tracks or a chain-link fence playing acoustic guitar with a Hipster Hat and then cut it together with Adobe AfterEffects. No. The smart money is on finding the college kid in film school (ideally at USC, which turned out George Lucas), and paying them whatever you can afford to at least draft a concept, if not actually shoot and edit something that might get on MTV (albeit, at 3am) or VH-1, if it gets enough YouTube hits.
Brainstorming ideas with a VISUAL artist, and not your own band, is a good idea because while you know what your Music is trying to say, someone who is a Motion Picture Director (no matter how small-time) is focused on what your Video should is trying to communicate.
Fair enough man.. making a video versus a song is definitely a different skill set. All I’m saying it is possible to mess around yourself and come up with something creative on the cheap. The ok video isn’t “cool” in my eyes. It’s interesting and funny. Those guys are embracing their nerdyness and people love it. I’m sure it would have done well without the MTV exposure.. and who watches MTV for music these days??
I took a look at your website and you’ve been in the game for awhile now, so you’ve obviously tried stuff on your own already and didn’t dig it. Hiring a film student is totally a good idea. Hopefully they get what you’re about.
Thanks for the passionate comment.
Redroom Recorders recently began releasing a series of live-in-the-studio performance vids of various invited artists – truly artists in the raw.
The Redroom Sessions are available free on YouTube and their website here: