How to make a performance music video with low budget


Part 1: How should my music video look like?

Since our formation last year, we have been constantly talking about how we finally need a video where you can see us play our instruments. A so-called performance music video is the absolute baseline among music videos and will never really be out. However, there are many mistakes that can be made here and we surely have been guilty of them in the past. For understanding it is perhaps important to mention that we have been making music in this formation since 2014, until about a year ago under the name This Is Not Utopia. In order not to step on anyone’s toes, I will therefore refer to our old videos in the article, at least when it comes to mistakes. After that, I’ll continue with a rough schedule of what you have to plan for if you want to shoot a video yourself.

I. Avoid clichés

How many videos of rock bands in industrial halls are there in this world? Definitely too many. But the industrial hall is not an exclusion factor for a location per se, it rather depends on how you use it. If you just openly show that you are standing in an old hall and that’s all, you have little chance of standing out from the crowd. But the hall can also be used to implement your own ideas. You can hang the walls with cloths, with direct light and lots of shadow you can really get something out of the old industrial hall. Also we thought in the deepest past, it would be super cool to rock out in an industrial hall.

We shot this video, as well as many others in this list, with videographer Daniel Prieß. He showed us everything we needed to learn. Daniel and we developed practically parallel to each other, even though Daniel always had a big head start in his profession, of course. That’s why we worked with him.
The video for Black Hearts is five years old, more recent videos with Daniel Prieß, which you can
find further down the list, show how high his production level has become. If you want a
guarantee for a really good video, I would work with him again and again. Here is his website incl. contact:

By the way, when I criticize our videos, I am not referring to the production value, but to the ideas
behind them. The conceptual ideas for these videos came from us, Daniel enabled us to
implement these ideas professionally.

II. Do you really need story sequences?

Story scenes in performance videos are really challenging to implement. Short cutscenes in which
someone runs through a forest or blurred images that are supposed to depict the relationship
between two people have simply been around a lot. If you’re not careful, the whole thing quickly
comes across as pathetic. The video below from our old band is still solid, if there was negative
feedback it was mostly about the story scenes. Of course, you also tend to look at your own
projects critically, but good story shots really aren’t that easy. Just think about whether the video
would work well without them. Often visual details are enough to make a video unique.

By the way, this doesn’t mean that story scenes and performance in the same video are mutually
exclusive. There are beautiful videos where both flow into each other and it works great! Here’s a
good example:

First the video plays outside and the band performs accordingly in the open air. Then the story continues in a tight, dark setting, which is also reflected in the performance.

III. Work with effects

Try your hand with visual effects. “I stand here and play my instrument” can quickly become boring. You really don’t have to be a pro to add visual variety to your video. By all means, get creative with your filming. Don’t just point and shoot, move around with the camera and see what looks good. The worst thing that can happen is static images in the video. This usually looks boring and undynamic. Our favorite trick is to hold things in front of the lens. Broken glass works great. There are also prisms for little money on Amazon that work great. If you want to push it to the limit, look for “trick lenses”. Stick red plastic foil on your lamp and you have interesting light. In general, always look for “DIY Photography Tricks” and stuff like that, the inspiration for the next video will come all by itself.

Admittedly, in this video we had professional spotlights, which simply give off much more intense light. But it also works great in DIY and cheap!

If you take these aspects into account, much is already won! Of course, it’s all a matter of taste. But producing a video that you will still like in 3 years is really not that easy. And if you do without cheesy stuff and make it interesting, these are the best conditions according to our experience. These considerations are really important because you need to be pretty clear about what you want before you get started.

Part 2: How do you shoot a video?

You’ll need: Location, camera, lights, and a computer with editing software. And all the props you plan to use in the video.

I. Scripts

As indicated above, good planning is half the battle. Write down exactly which scenes you want to shoot and what materials you need for them. Be sure to take screenshots of references that go in your direction! This will give everyone an idea of what the whole thing should look like. In our experience, it’s always a good idea to pack everything in the car that could be useful for the video. Old TV? Could be nice for a “glitch effect”. Old lamp from grandma? You can put it in the set, it will be cool! In general: The better the planning in advance, the less long faces there will be when the video is finished.

II. Get a location

It’s always good if you have a large room where you can make noise. Just ask your friends. The main thing is that you have electricity and can work undisturbed on the video. Especially at night, so you can regulate the light yourself. The location doesn’t have to look particularly exciting, in our video for “Apex Predator” (link above) we also shot in a small, simple hall, but didn’t show it properly at all. As long as you are close to the protagonists with the camera, the look of the location is not that important. Take our last video for instance, we just used gym somewhere in the middle of nowhere and brought a nice background. We didn’t even once use the location for how it looked. As long as we could work on the video the whole night and don’t have to be worried about being too loud, it’s perfect to film with.

III. Camera

The quality of your video is strongly influenced by the quality of your camera. Even though you can nowadays shoot music videos even with good smartphones, you have much more freedom and depth in your image if you shoot with a real DSLR. A camera that is really just a camera. With changeable lenses and all. You’ll notice that the plasticity and detail of a real video camera is a lot higher.
I bet that at least one of you or your friends has one of those around. We often shoot with a Sony alpha 7 II. In my experience, useful cameras start at 400€. A camera is always a good investment for the band anyway!

IV. Light

Bringing your own spotlights is absolutely necessary. The lighting conditions in the location are not designed to shoot a video with it, you can assume that. LED spotlights for video are available for less than 100€ in sufficient quality. Just search for “led camera panel” or similar. Get two of them directly, with one alone it will be difficult. On these lights you can easily attach colorful foils or, for example, mask individual areas with cardboard to create edges in the illumination. Creativity is needed here as well.

V. Cutting

Good computers are expensive and so is professional editing software – at least that’s what you think in the beginning! As I had to realize, I was completely wrong. Just get DaVinci Resolve – a complete professional editing program for free. No subscription, nothing. Your old laptop or the one of your bandmates will probably work as a computer for now. DaVinci, like all good editing programs, has a proxy mode that lets you adjust the image quality to your computer’s performance while editing. This should allow you to edit smoothly even on old computers. There are videos on Youtube for example just about how to set DaVinci Resolve to run optimally on old computers.

The rest is just gaining experience. From every shoot you learn valuable things that help you for the next video. Since Glassback was founded, we’ve shot every video completely ourselves. The longer this goes on, the more ideas we have. Good video ideas are often simple, we have definitely noticed. We hope you were able to take a few things with you, so you don’t have to make all the mistakes we already made. 🙂


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