Rho Stone’s Audiovisual Adventures: DIY Music Video Advice for the Unsigned
The Toilet Ov Hell cares about new bands. They’re the future of metal, after all. Who needs fancy budgets when you can have FUN?
Currently my boss and many of my peers are reading a book whose title roughly translates to “I’ve got no cash for making my film”. Also lately people have been asking me “what’s the minimal equipment needed for making a movie?” Everyone seems to think there’s a huge threshold for making something artistically worthwhile in the music, film, or/or macaroni murder ladies. Now, as someone who has religiously studied Cinemassacre since 2007 (btw I’m going total fanboy for the AVGN movie for those who know what that is) I can tell you that’s a load of crap. If you are creative and organized enough, you can write a kickass song on a shit guitar or make a film with just your phone camera and your smarts. You’re not contractually obliged to a studio or a label, it’s your own dime and you can do whatever the fuck you please. Here is some advice in case you’re wondering where to start:
Make sure you’re doing it because you want to and not because you “have” to. Do you think the world needs more of this? There’s some unwritten rule that says bands are supposed to make videos. Why? You need to make sure people know that song is your single? There’s no MTV to show videos anymore, they’re too busy showing fake tans and teenage pregnancies. Streaming killed the video star. In most cases nobody’s dying to see a music video. It’s going to end up sitting on YouTube, where people are going to click it to listen to the song while they do something else on another tab. So if you don’t want to make a video with the same vehemence you want to make songs, just don’t do them. If nobody really wants to do it it’s most probably going to suck anyways.
Work with what you have, not what you want. I believe the best art comes from adversity. The original Star Wars Trilogy movies are amazing because they were created from setbacks (if not they would have been another cookie-cutter Flash Gordon ripoff). They’re far better than the sequels because they didn’t have everything taken for granted, they had to take what they had and make it memorable. In my last post I called R2-D2 “cocky”. R2-D2 is a midget inside a can, but that has more charm than any of the cardboard personality characters in Attack of the Clones. Take your available resources and make something out of it. Take a look at Jari Mäenpää in his quest for finding a machine that plays his music for him or whatever else he’s asking his label more money for. Someone should tell him that his idea of perfection is tied to the zeitgeist and as soon as something new comes along his perfectionist ideals will become obsolete. You don’t need big ass sets and a whole production team. You could just take a look in your garage, find a rake and a spare wheel and use your imagination to come up with something. DSLR cameras are able to record amazing video and almost everyone knows a wannabe photographer who has one. If not, most phones today have a camera that films in 1080p. If all else fails, use crayons and magazine cutouts to make an animated viking battle in outer space. Be fucking creative.
Set the bar really high. I’m not using Star Wars as a random example. The original Star Wars trilogy will be long-remembered works of art. If you’re planning to make a video for you and your cat to look at on rainy days go ahead and make your best Solitary Son impression, but if you want to make a successful video “good enough for 5 guys and no budget” is not an acceptable phrase. If you don’t start by believing you’re making the next best music video of all time then you’ll never make it. Want some motivation? Remember you can make a better video than the ones critically acclaimed bands with huge resources have made. Let’s clog this toilet:
Megadeth – Poopercollider. Not content with making a shit dad rock album, they made a shit video. FLUSH.
Slayer – World Painted Blood. I guess Brendon Small was busy saying the word “dildo” into a microphone in different voices that week. FLUSH.
Soundgarden – Been Away Too Long. Beautiful photography, colors, locations and post-production. Ruined by a video that’s boring as fuck. FLUSH.
Metallica – The Day That Never Comes. This image summarizes how much you’ll enjoy watching this one.
Black Label Society – In This River. Am I supposed to be moved by this? I’m sure that’s what Zakk Wylde looked like when he was 8. FLUSH.
Gojira – L’Enfant Sauvage. Dear Gojira, stop being so french (Dear reader, you probably didn’t have to study movies for years. I had to. You won’t believe how often I had to sit through shit like this and had to take it seriously). FLUSH.
Dio – Rainbow in the Dark. So far in AV Adventures I’ve gone out of my way not to criticize old videos because I have a huge amount of respect for people who had to make videos with tape and a guillotine, but this is just awful. FLUSH.
Danzig – Ju Ju Bone (NSFW). Yes Glenn, women have tits. Yes, Army of Darkness was a great movie. How’s that pile of bricks doing? FLUSH.
Saxon – Live to Rock. Because Bill and Ted where THIS tedious. Also, this was made in 2008, Autodesk Maya was already out and this is the best 3D you can get? FLUSH.
Black Sabbath – God Is Dead. Peter Joseph made this. Trust me, if you’re able to point a camera at something and hit record you’re already a better filmmaker than he is. FLUSH WITH EXTREME PREJUDICE.
Ok, look. You don’t need to have the story of the decade. I could have stayed in my house watching Pocahontas (illegaly, I don’t own Pocahontas, mind you) instead of going to the movies to see Avatar to see the same story. But the presentation was the purpose. Also don’t get me wrong, you don’t need to produce Avatar in your driveway, just find a way to take your art to it’s greatest potential.
Be organized. Here’s a rule of thumb: If an idea has not been written down, it does not exist. I’m not going to give you the professional version of organization because I don’t want to scare you, but follow this and you should do fine. Before you even turn the camera on, you must make a list of everything you have: all the people involved, their roles, schedules and availability, all the props, objects, and locations that are going to be used. Then, when writing the story, everything must be put textually. Every character must be written by name, description and the way he acts. No “a man walks down the stairs”, you write “MAN 1 [about 25 years old, unkept look and overweight, clumsy] walks down the stairs”. Every object, location and situation must be expressed in this manner; there’s no place for figures of speech or idioms here, everything must be unambiguously understood. Then you separate everything by locations. If two parts of the story occur in the same place, they go together. Chronology doesn’t matter here; it’s better to film everything in one location and move than to be going back and forth. You must plan accordingly. If, for example, a character has half his head shaved in the beginning but not in the end, you film the end first, and then shave his head. Make a storyboard. Draw every camera movement, every pan, every close-up. That way you have everything planned out. Once you start filming, someone has to keep track of everything. He or she must write down which takes are good, which are bad, what is missing, etc. This will be useful for when it’s time to edit, so the editor already knows his material. I’m not going to cover editing or AV language here, or I’d be writing a whole book. I recommend you watch a shit ton of movies and see what looks good and what doesn’t. That’s how I started. In regards to software, I use Final Cut for editing and After Effects for post. For amateur Mac users I guess iMovie does it’s job fine (more than once, after presenting a budget, clients have told me “But I can just do it in iMovie”. Btw fuck those people). In regards to Windows, I remember Movie Maker on the XP was somewhat functional. I really haven’t used a PC since then.
Everyone’s an actor. There’s no such thing as a bad actor, only bad scripts and directors. Everyone that’s willing to act is able to do it. Now, maybe you want to do a serious thing and it’s coming out unintentionally hilarious, remember that you must work with what you have, not what you want, and in that case you probably don’t have what it takes to make something serious, so you should take another approach. It’s like trying to play sweep picking solos when you’re still not good at it, you still require practice (After countless hours of practice and this video Rho Stone is able to sweep pick).
This all might sound complex, but it’s really fun. At least I find it fun. Hey, beats raising cattle I guess. No seriously, it’s really fun. Now, amateur up-and-coming bands, go make your videos and show those production companies you don’t need them (Rho Stone doesn’t endorse the boycotting of production companies, or he’d be out of a job).
(Shameless Editor’s note: Are you in an unsigned band? SEND US YOUR SHIT. If we like it, we’ll feature it!)