So you just landed your very first music video gig. Congratulations! You’re about to enter a wonderful world where your creative vision will translate music into a compelling visual medium. But where or how do you start? You probably have a camera, a lens, and an idea that will help you realize your vision. However, a camera and lens alone probably won't cut it for certain shots and effects. In this guide, we’re going to look at some equipment that can commonly be found on a music video production set to help make your vision a reality.
Tripod & Fluid Head
The value of a good tripod and fluid head combination should not be understated because this will provide you with the flexibility to capture static and dynamic shots with ease. This setup allows for stable pans and tilts that you simply could not replicate with handheld technique. With some practice and repetition, you’ll develop robot-like shot accuracy, allowing you to nail crash-pans for those moments where you really want to make a statement.
A relatively simple yet incredibly useful piece of equipment would be the shoulder rig. Shoulder Rigs allow you to produce lifelike imagery because they provide stabilization without eliminating motion entirely. A shoulder rig is an extension of one's body, placing the camera/monitor directly in front of your line of vision, meaning no matter how you pivot or tilt, you will constantly retain visibility of your shot. This translates into lifelike imagery because the camera operator's own physicality and sense of motion is often reflected through the shoulder rig.
If you’re looking for a means to capture exceptionally smooth and floaty imagery, consider using a gimbal. A gimbal utilizes a series of brushless motors to stabilize a camera across three axes―pan, tilt, and roll; hence the commonly associated name of three-axis gimbal. These are used to remove jitters and shake from footage, creating the effect of the camera simply floating through space.
Handheld shots are often used in music videos; however, you risk unwanted jitters and shakes, as well as the fatigue that accompanies holding a camera for extended periods. Vested support systems such as the Easyrig Minimax, Ready Rig, and FLYCAM are all great solutions for retaining the handheld style while removing unwanted movement, greatly reducing bodily strain, and allowing for more efficient and effective shoots.
C-stands, although relatively minimal pieces of equipment, are quite useful. They allow you to hang and mount other important pieces of equipment from them, such as lights, green screens, curtains, flags, reflectors, and much more, all at varying levels of height and extension.
One of the biggest challenges of filming a music video is properly conveying a certain mood or feeling through atmosphere and set design. Haze is an effective and simple option to create more atmospheric depth; it is often used to establish a feeling of nostalgia or simulate a foggy/dusty environment. You can expect to see softened skin tones, diffusion of light, and when paired with strong sources of light, pronounced light beams. For a tight budget, or if you have a small set to fill, an Aerosol Haze Spray can be effective. However, if you need to fill a large space with haze or keep a space hazy for an extended period of time, you’ll be better served with a Haze Machine. Keep in mind that these machines also require Haze Fluid to operate―water will not suffice.
Filters are designed to enhance or remove certain visual characteristics during a shoot. There are many filters that exist but, for now, we’ll be looking at three kinds: neutral density, polarizer, and diffusion.
A Neutral Density (ND for short) filter is like sunglasses for your camera; it mounts on the front element of your lens and reduces exposure. There are differing degrees of light reduction, and NDs that are variable allow you to adjust how much light is passing through them. With these, you can keep your highlights from being blown out in bright environments and retain shallow depth of field if you choose.
Polarizers reduce unwanted reflections and glare. For instance, if you're filming a car window in bright light, there may be an excessive amount of glare bouncing from it, obscuring anyone/anything behind the window. A polarizer helps to reduce the glare.
A Diffusion filter is designed to create softer images by diffusing the light waves passing through it; this allows you to bring a dreamier look to your video. Skin tones are rendered softer, light halation is exaggerated, and contrast is reduced a touch. These filters are often used to emulate film on digital cameras.
No matter what kind of gear or shot composition you have, poor lighting can tank any shot, which is why it is imperative to learn how to light a subject/environment properly. There are tons of lights on the market, some of the most popular being panel lights and tube lights, due to their versatility.
A reflector like the Impact 5-in-1 can go a long way in shaping light in your compositions. It can simulate extra light, manipulate color tones, remove unwanted reflections, fill in shadow areas, and much more.
Using an external monitor comes with an assortment of benefits, the most significant being that you have a better view and understanding of your shot composition compared to the built-in LCD or viewfinder of your camera. Most monitors these days come with handy tools that aid your filmmaking, such as waveforms, false color, LUT support, peaking, and even recording capabilities if you have a monitor like an Atomos Ninja V.
You can never have enough memory. Whether it be SD cards, CFexpress cards, external SSDs, or whatever flavor of memory you choose to use for recording, be sure to always have some extra memory to spare, with additional cards/drives.
Music videos can be a tricky thing to approach, especially if it's your first time creating one. However, with the right tools, this process can become all the more efficient and allow you to craft your artistic vision. There are many tools that can be useful to you in your music-video journey―this was just a small list of some of the basic tools that you may commonly find on sets.
Which of these pieces of equipment would you think of using and what else would you add to the list? Let us know in the Comments section, below.