Ladies and Gentlemen! In today's fast-paced society a musician needs to have quite a few skills to win (and keep) a contract and remain abreast of current trends especially in marketing and promotion.
That being said, usually a musician's best way of promoting themselves to clients is by using a promotional video.
***A great promotional video is THE KEY to gaining international contracts.
In this day and age a good promotional video is worth more to you than the ailing Greek economy. A good promotional video, correctly distributed, will keep working for you by bringing in job offers and attention long after you've forgotten that you filmed it.
But how do you go about making a good promotional video for yourself and/or your band?
Here's a brief list of what 'works' and what 'doesn't' work.
A Good Promo:
1. Clear focus and steady camera work
3. Not too long
4. Good sound
5. Costume changes
A 'Not-so-Good' promo:
1. Too dark or too bright
2. Poor use of distance
3. Overuse or misuse of angle changes
4. Poor sound
5. Lack of forethought
The truth of the matter is that you only need to follow those few simple guidelines to make a good video that clients will enjoy watching.
Let's discuss the qualities of a good promo video in slightly greater detail.
1. Clear focus and steady camera work. This is absolutely critical folks! Put yourself in the shoes of a prospective client. Ask yourself this- 'Would I like to watch a video that's permanently out of focus or moving in and out of focus and visually fuzzy? No. 'Would I enjoy seeing a video that looks as if it was filmed whilst sitting on the back of a horse? No.
So keep your camera focused and on a tripod or sitting on something that doesn't move.
2. Simple. Guys n Girls don't buy into the hype. You do not need to create a Hollywood style movie for your promo video. Simple lighting, a nice clean stage or background is ample. Clients want to see you and your band, not a lot of cutting-edge special FX, pyrotechnic displays, or laser shows unless it is out of Live Footage or that you can replicate that onstage or you have a special act that uses that media when playing live.
*** Tip: iPhones from about the iPhone 5 on are perfectly capable of filming a really good promo video. I'm not too sure about Blackberries or other mobile devices but it's definitely worth checking around your circle of friends to see if they have a device that is good enough to use for filming. The biggest limitation is the sound quality, but turning your levels down or moving the device farther or closer to the sound source can really help with any clipping or loss of signal that may occur. However, you should definitely try to record the audio separately with a simple recording software, such as Garage Band, using only the 'input mic line on your computer.
3. Not too long. A promo video for yourself or your band only needs to be about 4 to 6 minutes in duration. There is always a temptation to make the video longer but usually clients don't want to spend too much time watching promo videos. They may have to watch 10 or 12 videos and they simply don't have the time to watch you play full-versions of 8 or 9 songs. So you have to highlight and showcase the best of what you have in a limited time frame.
4. Good sound. Although this may seem like common sense and rather self-explanatory, some musicians out there that ironically don't put enough effort into improving the sound quality of their promotional video. Generally you have three choices.
1. Pre-record everything and then lip-sync to the audio track when you are filming
2. Record it live
3. Do both and mix some pre-recorded sound with the live sound for your promo
Most clients don't really mind which choice you make and if you've done it well they may not even know which choice you have made. Although, some clients' may be requesting that the video and sound be of a live performance.
*** Tip: Music editing software like SoundForge can be great for sweetening your sound. Just don't go overboard with the reverb and delay.
5. Costume changes. It is worth taking the extra time and effort to film two or three different 'looks' when you are shooting your promotional video. After all, performing is a lot about image and style, and a client would often like to see how you can alter your appearance. Clients often listen with their eyes!
What 'doesn't work:
1. Too dark or too bright.
Self-explanatory: Watch the lighting level before committing to long hours of footage.
2. Poor use of distance.
Set the camera(s) at a distance that can capture everyone that needs to be captured. If you only have one camera and its fixed, make sure you place it a distance where you can keep everyone in the shot, especially if they are dancing and moving from left to right or forwards and backwards.
The more people that are in the video the more complex it will probably become. But you can still shoot with one camera and use effects in your movie editing software as required to zoom in and out onto players when they solo or pan left and right to track the movements of the players/ dancers.
3. Overuse of angle changes.
Don't change your angles too often. Just keep it simple. Nice long steady shots are great, mix it up occasionally with a pan or a close up of a solo or some dance choreography to avoid monotony, but don't go crazy.
4. Poor sound.
As a musician you have a responsibility to ensure that your sound on your promo video is good. Poor sound usually comes from using the sound from the camera that you used to film the video or from using footage from a video that was filmed without the intention of using it as promo material.
In saying this, cameras have come a long way as far as sound recording quality is concerned. The easiest way to find out if your camera can handle the sound is to play at your loudest and quietest. If the camera can play it all back with no clipping in the loudest sections or a noticeable loss of signal in the quiet sections you're probably good to go and you can add some effects using software. Even movie editing software these days allows you to add some effects to your soundtracks. It is well worth the time to go through your soundtrack with a fine-tooth comb to fix any issues with the sound. It is amazing how just some simple normalizing and equalization adjustments can drastically improve the sound.
Recording everything from the desk live or individually or as a group in a studio will definitely give you the best results in terms of fidelity and post-production editing options, but it can be a lengthy and expensive process to organize and its largely dependent upon the hardware, the software, your or your teams' knowledge of recording and mixing, and the length of time that can be allocated to mixing it all down and mastering it.
5. Lack of forethought.
A video for a Top 40 club will have to be different to a video for a jazz lounge club. A small amount of time planning and executing a good video will get you work- guaranteed.
People, your promotional videos are the single most important weapon in your marketing arsenal. Give it some thought. Plan it well. Make sure it shows you in winning form, looking as good as you can, playing or singing your butt off, and enjoying doing it. Smile from time to time, put some energy into it; make sure you have tailored your look and your musical choices to suit the client.
How to film a great promotional video with limited gear, limited funds and unlimited ingenuity?
First things first: Limited gear and limited funds.
Most of us find that we just don't have enough gear when shooting a promotional video. We discover that our camera is too old and crusty, or that our camera is amazing but our computer is too old to edit HD video, or our sound is atrocious, etc.
Here is reality. We never seem to have enough stuff to get the job done. The best plan of attack is to assess what you have and develop a plan that will maximize the potential of all of your current gear. You may only have to purchase, borrow, or hire a few items to get your promo video up and away.
Let's get some basics out of the way:
1. A great camera cannot disguise a horrible dress or suit. BBOS (Beg, Borrow or Scream) to get whatever clothing you need if you don't already have something or splash out on something. If you buy a great dress or suit you can use it from the day you buy it. You can rent clothes too.
2. Don't buy or rent a great camera if you don't have access to a computer that can edit the footage. Even a decent computer can struggle with editing HD footage. Believe it or not SD is still perfectly ok.
3. Understand that usually finding a camera these days isn't too hard especially considering how many phones have wicked cameras built-in. The inhibiting factor is sound.
4. Always look at what is around you and if it has any value for you in your filming. Check what gear or skills your friends and family have.
5. Only spend money if you really have to.
6. Your trusty old PC, Mac or laptop may do the job. Check first before parting with those $
7. Everywhere you walk or see could be a potential location and possibly free too
8. Consider doing stuff for others to cut costs
9. Renting or hiring stuff is an option so is outsourcing tasks to others