How we take a music video concept from page to screen...
Producing a music video often takes more work than most people think. It’s not quite as easy as just showing up on the day and pressing record. We’ll spend just as much time planning a shoot as we do actually filming it. So what is actually involved in producing a musicvideo? Let’s take a closer look at a video we made for Keaton Rich.
How it goes in short...
Concept Pitch...Storyboards...Pre Production...Recce...Shoot...Post Production...Delivery
But there's more to it than that...
Above is an example of some treatment slides, storyboards, master deck and schedule for the music video we produced for our client Keaton Rich. This is just a breif look at all he many assets we pull together in the planning stages of production.
The Initial Conversation
It starts with just a conversation. The artist or the record label might have an idea, or a theme in their mind that they want us to follow. Very often those themes or initial ideas are inspired by the song itself or the artists backstory. Sometimes there’s no brief at all and we have complete free reign to pitch a concept we’d like to film.
When a brief comes in, or when we’re in talks about producing a music video for an artist, we’ll assign a director. Sometimes that person might be in house here at Graded and sometimes we’ll go elsewhere and pull in a freelance director to fulfil the project.
The director then begins to assemble the creative pitch in the form of a treatment. A treatment is essentially a creative look-book that explains a vision, process, style or theme over several pages of text, image and video.
Here’s a brief look at what a treatment might look like:
We use treatments for all our creative jobs, whether it involves producing a music video, a brand film or a commercial. It really helps us to explain our vision for the project and establish our project intensions. Referencing other pieces of work, films or particular creative practitioners helps us to get the client to see it as we do, so we know we’re all on the same page.
Storyboards & Animatics
After the initial concept has been approved and the project has been greenlit (given the go ahead) it’s pedal to the metal. But more important than anything else, is ensuring we know exactly what we’re going to shoot. So we do this in the form of storyboards and animatics.
Storyboards can be as simple or as complex as it needs to be. Depending on the budget scale, we may work with a storyboard artist, as these can become important components to reinforce our creative vision and ensure that the client is on board. This is more so the case on commercial work.
On a music video, the director will often draw up some simple storyboards to run side by side a shot list. This is then transformed into a simple animatic, enabling us to judge the timing of each shot, or to ensure there’s enough coverage across the video.
Here’s an example of an animatic we created for Classic.
Once the creative vision is established, the Producer and production team can begin Pre-Production. The treatment is very often used as a starting block for explaining what’s required to the production team until the director can have a full in depth conversion with the Producer to establish exactly what’s required.
A music video is like a puzzle. Pre-Production is an integral part of the process as all the jigsaw pieces slot themselves together. Sometimes this process can take over a month, sometimes it can be as short as a week to prep the whole job. From organising catering and equipment, to subcontracting crew and creatives, these are make or break days in the process of putting a music video together.
With Pre-Production in full swing, a recce is required to establish what locations will work and what wont. Sometimes there might be two of these; an initial recce where the director and producer will scout several locations to see what works best, and then a technical recce which will involve the director of photography and other creatives involved in the production. The latter is vital, ensuring everyone is on the same page, and knows what pieces of the location are being used and when. From here, the 1st Assistant Director (in charge of running the shoot on the day) can build a schedule. The director and DOP will then solidify their shot list, or adapt it for the location.
Final in-camera view of the Office location.
Recce image from the Office location.
Sometimes you uncover problems on a recce, and other times it’s an opportunity to test out shots or confirm a game plan. Taking photos and videos is vital. These can also contribute to a secondary animatic that features the location, or they can be used to reaffirm or adapt a shot list.
The biggest day of them all. Where all that hard work and planning spirals into action. All the pieces of the puzzle come together and work like clockwork to get the job done.
On Keaton Rich’s Classic, a big priority for the team was lighting, and also lighting in advance (pre-lighting as we call it). Because the location was largely without daylight, it was the lighting departments job to swap out all the existing fluorescent tube lights for controllable film lights. Although they may look the same, it allows the Gaffer (head of the lighting department) to have full colour and dimmable control of each light fixture all from one IPad. This also means we can do crazy effects like this: