After an enforced hiatus due to my MacBook dying with no hope of recovery, I was of course delighted to resume video work when I was back up and running again with a new laptop a few months later. I had begun a music video in August 2018 for Brevyn’s “Moonbow” from the Liquid Sunlight EP on Vulpiano Records and finished it in December 2018.
Brevyn, also known as dreamfortress on Rate Your Music and moonsandmelodies on their Tumblr music blog, is a talented electronic artist and a resourceful listener, possessing a wealth of knowledge about all manner of music, including library music and new age. After exchanging conversations on RYM and delighting in their 8tracks mixes, Brevyn released Liquid Sunlight on my netlabel (with bonus tracks!). The imagery of the album was so clear – the ocean, colors, times of day – that the ideas necessary for a corresponding music video came to mind readily.
My workflow for creating a music video that uses outside source material is usually like this:
- The artist sends me any reference images, videos, symbols, or typography that I should have in mind when creating the video. Brevyn was great about telling me just what they hand in mind throughout the process:
I feel the bluer shot of the ocean could fit more with a tint of another color e.g. a darker orange to fit the orangeish shots..do you think with some of the clips, e.g. ocean-then-moon, you could have them fade into the next? – As i said, the images already go very good together, but I think blending them in that sort of way would make it even better. I was thinking of the kind of subtler distortion they have in some vhs-inspired images / videos.
- I create a Google Doc to place all of this reference material in, as well as the resources I locate or create myself and any other feedback the artist gives me on draft versions of the video so that I have everything in one place
- In the Google Doc, I write out some keywords associated with what I should be looking for (example: moon, sunset, tide) to keep in mind when I’m searching
- I search on Creative Commons repositories such as Vimeo and Pixabay for any images or videos that I would be allowed to utilize in the music video. CC-BY (attribution) or CC0 / public domain are ideal; I am free to use these assets in a video legally and I do not have to write the creator asking for permission. I feel like it is important to gather more clips than you think you’ll need, but don’t five too far down the rabbit hole of clicking around for interesting clips, tempting as it is, or you won’t get around to making the video!
- I paste all the links I find in the above in the document and download any that I am thinking about using. I mark in bold the ones that make it in the final video and note the title and author information so I will have the accurate details for crediting appropriately within the video and in the body of the video’s description.
- I keep everything together (inspirational images, font, videos I may use and will use) in one folder on the desktop and backed up on an external drive (I recommend LaCie).
- Final Cut Pro is my video editor of choice. I personally find it much more intuitive than Adobe Premiere, even though I use Adobe in many other ways (such as organizing all of my photos in Lightroom and the ever-useful Photoshop for creating graphics).
- The next part is a bit trickier to describe: how does one actually make the music video? This is where listening through the track several times and picturing the scene unfolding in your mind comes in handy, along with your own personal techniques. It is important not to over-think it and begin to work; you can always adjust everything later. Here, I thought: how can I tell a story about a relationship between the tides, the moon, and the sunset? How should these elements best flow in-and-out? Lay everything down to fill the length of the song, chop clips up, see what works best. I think it is important to be light on effects the first go-around so that you can hear from the artist what they want to see happen next.
- After the initial draft, I then went ahead and made adjustments according to comments from the artist and applied color matching and correction where necessary to give the clips from various sources a unified feel. One of the desired changes was to add VHS effects. I managed to find an amazing and heavily customizable free plugin for FCPX that helped me to achieve just that. This moon phases font filtered through the familiar coral / sunset color throughout the piece also helped to set the tone. I created another draft, got further feedback of other areas where the transitions were a bit too abrupt, and worked until the final piece was complete.
- When the video is all finished, I upload it to Vimeo and YouTube and also back up all the associated files on a cloud service as well. I can’t stress how important it is for all video editors to always have back-ups in one or two places of everything they’re working on or finished with, as well as any of your files period! Before my laptop died a few months ago, I had done a back-up of everything two weeks before. As a result, I lost almost no important data. Get into the habit now if you don’t already and it will become second-nature.
There are other approaches I use when the video I make includes material I’ve shot myself, footage generated or manipulated with Processing, or footage from Second Life, but I will hopefully cover these processes in a future post. I hope you found this informative – feel free to comment with any questions or thoughts below.