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5 Creative and Reliable Ways to Make Your Own Music Videos

Jourdan Aldredge

Explore five methods for filming innovative and creative music videos with real-life examples from hits across genres and decades.

Whether you’re just starting off with your first camera, or a seasoned shooter looking to add some stylish breadth to your demo reel, the allure of shooting music videos remains strong for filmmakers and videographers of all backgrounds. And it makes sense, too. Both music and film are creatively tied together. And there can be lots of opportunities to either help out a friend’s band, or to be hired on to produce something based on an idea and budget.

And while it may seem easy and fun at first, the challenges of shooting music videos are more than just the practical ones. Instead, a music video’s success more often comes from how it stands out from every other music video ever shot before.

Let’s take a look at some of the best tried-and-true formats to see how you can make creative decisions of your own to create stylish, cinematic, and cool music videos.

Set Studio Location

In what seems to be the basic decision for big budget and mainstream music videos, the set studio location is a staple of the industry. And while it on paper might seem like one of the most boring approaches, working from a set studio location also might be the most creatively flexible in terms of the complete world building at your control.

From set design to lighting and practical on-set effects, for every boring ‘90s rap fisheye setup there are equally inspired setups that you can copy, compare to, and expand upon.

The One Long Take

Another hallmark of the music video tradition is the “one-take” concept. From Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” to Radiohead’s “No Surprises” to everything by the viral hit-factory that is OK Go, the idea of coordinating an entire one-take music adventure is quite compelling.

And while it might seem like this would be one of the most difficult styles to pull off, with practical camera tricks, deviously hidden cuts, and a focus on pre-planning, can actually be quite fun, save on post-production time, and revel in the DIY filmmaking spirit.

Thematic Short Film

While your hipster friends might believe that Kanye West came up with the idea of making an entire feature film around his music might be the first person to come up with the thematic film music video, the practice has actually been around for much longer. However, just because The Who made a literal feature film based around one of their albums, and Kanye and Beyonce have made some spectacular and ambitious music video features, doesn’t mean that you can’t put together a short but solid narrative of your own for your music videos.

Home Video or VHS Stylings

If you’re looking to really lean into the creative and DIY approach without breaking the bank, one consistent creative music video option is the home video or VHS styled approach.

There are a couple of options at your disposal. You can work with actual found footage (whether that being from your personal archives, or, you know, actually found somewhere else). Or, you can create new footage that looks as if it’s found footage. For the latter, you can always shoot with some sort of retro equipment — think camcorders or film stock. Or, you can always shoot digitally with your regular gear and retrograde your footage in post to make it look like it’s VHS or another older form.

If you’re looking to go with turning digital footage into a retro-styled aesthetic, here are some good resources to help.

New and Cool Camera Tricks

If there’s one style of video work that lends itself to trying the latest and craziest visual effects out there, it’s the music video. In part that’s due to the short length, but also because with the sheer amount of music video content out there, to stand out artists are quick to try every gimmick or stylistic effect possible. While you shouldn’t go overboard, taking this chance to try out a cool new practical or post effect can be quite fun—and actually helpful—for your music video’s success. Here are some great tutorials for some cool effects to can try out.

Cover image via OK Go.

Want even more tips and inspiration for making incredible videos? Check these out.

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