Our most recent project at the time of writing is this music video for band Sweet Surrender:

We think this is a good example of a budget music video. This point in time seems good to discuss how to plan a music video in order to reduce the video production costs.

Concept

When thinking about your music video, it is easy to get carried away by grand ideas which in reality ask for grand budgets. Present day superstar musicians spend budgets equal to small indie movie budgets for a single video. But not everyone realises the amount of money that goes into some of these music video productions. On the other hand the music video field has many examples of creative and interesting videos which clearly have been made with reasonable and affordable budgets, but still look fresh, eye-catching and interesting. The key here is concept.

When planning a budget music video production, try to develop a concept that does not require involvement of many locations, many actors, a lot of sophisticated shots that require special equipment etc etc.

In Sweet Surrender music video case we focused the video around the band as they are not only great musicians but also very capable performers. Sweet Surrender also has a sort of gothic and alternative vibe about it, so we chose to shoot in locations which translate that feel into visual imagery.

Locations and Travel

Locations is another aspect you have to think about when planning a budget music video. For Sweet Surrender’s music video we shot everything in one location, but different rooms. Therefore the travelling cost was reduced to minimum. This is something we would advise every musician looking for an affordable music video – think about a concept that can be shot in one or two locations which are close to each other. And remember – choose locations that will have that special visual feel as the environment is super important for any video.

Equipment and Crew

Equipment level and crew size is another component that can increase or diminish video production budget considerably. The crew filming Sweet Surrender’s video consisted of 2 people – director of photography/cinematographer and an assistant cameraman. We did need at least this amount of people as we used large 4k setup, slider and other grip equipment. So you can see that even a small production like this can be people intensive and is more hard to handle than one might think. This is something to remember when you are budgeting your music video.

Shoot Length

Shoot length is also something you should bear in mind when planning a budget music video. It is not always easy to evaluate the time needed, but as an approximation we can say that any video involving more than one location most probably cannot be shot during less then 1 full day. The Sweet Surrender video took us one full day to shoot. As a matter of fact we would be happy to shoot even longer if the project circumstances would allow that.

Actors

If your music video is story based and requires involvement of actors and extras be ready to increase your budget. Alternatively you can invite your friends and family to take part, but be careful and make sure you choose people based on their talents and not based on their relationship to you. As Sweet Surrender video was focused around the band itself and main character was played by the frontwoman Anna, we could reduce the overall budget considerably as no other artists needed to be contracted.

Makeup/Wardrobe

As beautiful you may think you and your bandmates are, there is a high chance that you would be more beautiful wearing a bit of makeup and thinking carefully about your wardrobe during a video shoot. Unless of course a “no style” is the style you prefer and  a natural look is your signature look. In Sweet Surrender’s case we could reduce the cost of video production even slightly more as they took care about their own makeup, wardrobe as well as props.

Conclusion

There are some main aspects every musician looking for a budget music video should think about when planning the video budget. Start with a concept that is easy to implement and will not require high level equipment (e.g. cranes etc). A tight concept will also reduce the time needed to complete shooting.  Also think about reducing the amount of locations. The smaller amount of locations, the less money spent on travelling and the less time spent for shooting/travelling. And lastly – if you want another option to reduce the overall cost of your music video, choose to take care about your makeup, wardrobe and props yourself.