DIY - On how to do a music video

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DIY - On how to do a music video


To the why ... why should a band do it?

A band is about music and about performing their music. Therefore most bands have in mind "to make a good EP" and "to have lots of gigs", but by doing this they blend out the whole music machinery working in the background surrounding the music and the band as a performing artist. The youth of today, as far as we are allowed to speak for them, is an internet-savy one, one that grew up with MTV going from mediocre to worse in terms of music videos on TV and other channels, such as Channel V (in Asia) or VIVA (in Germany) taking its place. With the introduction of the internet in the 90s and the bandwidth explosion in the 2000s, Youtube is one of the biggest phenomenoms in the web, not just due to its Web 2.0 character, but also because it's one of the first sites to be used to find out about a new band. Take a typical IM coversation for example that starts off with

"Hey, have you heard about XXX? They are pretty awesome"

"No, I haven't, any good music around?"

"Yeah, wait, check out that video"

So why are most people using it? Because 1) you don't have to download anything! No mp3 download (no visible mingeling with copyrights!), no hassle in clicking several dialog boxes (save as... folders...) and later finding the mp3 again AND 2) the visual aspect that helps to build an association in our little human brains. People do remember particular things better if more than one of our senses is used, hence the popularity of TV and nowadays Youtube for such matters.

If you are a band that is talked about, then you better make sure the Johns and Jennys of this world have something to share about when they are on IM!

To the how ... how can I make a MV?

Most people will think of a high-end music video when asked about a MV; in the leage of Karen-Mok, Jay-Z or U2. Those that feature fantastic landscapes, endless CGI-generated fantastic worlds or spotless perfect synchronous dance rhythms studied by a dozend professional dancers shaking their legs to the melody of a popular tune. But then, there are also numerous live MVs or amateur MVs out there in the web, showing the band in a more natural way than those industrially produced videos. Googling up in the web, you will find lots of advices on how to do a MV, which camera to buy, how to do the lightings, etc. etc. etc.

Without going too much into the technical aspects, as for sure there are better pages for that, a couple of thoughts in general:

The live MV - Pro and Contra

Currently, as of 2010, most videos of Chinese bands one can find are live music videos done by fans and friends, taken in D-22, Mao Livehouse, Yuyintang and many other bars and pubs around China. As good as they are to give a feeling of the moment, as bad are they in terms of light quality and sound quality. It's cool to see everybody rushing together, jumping up, singing along to a great song, but if half the video is in shaken blackened darkness and all the basses are drown in noise, one will not like to see the video again, far away from really posting it to others to introduce a band. See some examples of these videos below.

Therefore the Pros:

  • good for the local community (foster your friends)
  • interesting to collect if your band is a couple of years old

Therefore the Cons:

  • usually bad sound
  • usually bad lighting


The tour MV - Pro and Contra

A lot of bands hadn't had the chance to get on a nation-wide tour, but some have done a smaller tour through the cities in the neighbourhood. Take a long a friend with a portable video recorder or get one by yourself and just start shooting the band taking a nap in the train, unloading their equipment, hitting the city monuments, playing the clubs, talking to the fans over there and make a couple of hours worth of material. Back home, sit at your computer, take the coolest parts and put them behind each other. Make an intro text, an outro text and put one your bands' mp3 as the background music. Voila, finished.


  • an interesting video for fans (see the tour) and fans-to-be (hey a song, plus nice tour...)
  • its a living thing, you get a nice reminder of what you have done in the tour


  • It takes time to collect the material (so many discs to review ...)


The amateur MV - Pro and Contra

Now let's talk about the amateur MV that can be done. What you need is a hipster friend not only able to handle a video recorder, but also a little bit creative, someone who is funky enough to tell you to shut up and just jump in that toilet or walk around with these greenish boots on an old stone wall. If you don't have someone in your circle of friends who is interested, post online for someone! Check out those fellows at Neocha, there are many graphical and video artists that might be interested in doing a side act thing. Once you have secured that, talk up with him or her how to do it. Decide on one of your songs and get in the vibe, the feeling of the song. Is it a melancholic one, is it an energetic one. You don't need that 10 thousand RMB lighting wall in the background to make your song cool. What you need is to find some visual scene that connects with the music. It can be a walk through the city, later changed to black white, it can be people endlessely diving into Houhai, it can be a short story filmed by the band playing scenes of the songs' lyrics.


  • You produce something more than just the music, something that people will connect to your band
  • Depending on who is helping you, you add a fancy edge to your portfolio


  • If the video is shit, you are in deep trouble!

Have a look at the following examples:

The (semi) professional solution in DIY

A major part of the Chinese music industry is based on different ways of DIY. Many famous TV/film directors actually started out as MV producers, e.g. Zhang Guoli 张国立 (info on China 10px.png). Even established pop stars often still take MV production in their own hands. There are many agencies, production teams, free lance directors/camera men/producers, video production hobbists etc. available to help accomplish the right production for your budget at hand.

For doing a live video, the difference to an amateur make lies in dealing with the sound and of course the picture quality itself. By standard you will have three camera positions: one on stage or in the front pit for close ups and ambulate shots, one at the side of the crowd and one at the back for the whole scene. Professional cameras can be rented for relative cheap at film universities, in most cases for ca. 300 RMB per day (e.g. at a small shop next to the entrance of Beijing Film University). To keep it easy, one or two camera position with or without profi-camera/cameramen will do it aswell, depending on what you want to achive. Soundwise, it is important to rent a special hard disk recorder to take the sound coming out of the FOH mixing desk but this part is more complicated. Normally, there is only one out put unmixed signal for your hard disk recorder from all instruments and microphones going through the front desk which means, the volumne relationship between instruments and microphones may not be mapped the way you would like to have for you video production. But in that case, just talk to the sound guy for the gig and he will help you out with extra channels/microphones. Sound guys of most live house venues know exactly what to do when it comes to live video productions. The recorded sound and picture materials will be edited and finalized via computer programs by skilled tech hands.

The lowest budget you need to get a live video done may lie around 5000 RMB.

As for a professional Music Video production, you'd better go for a professional production team or agency. You will need a script, scene description, maybe actors, sound, light, director, camera, mask/costume etc.


Irrespective of which of the above MV types a band prefers, the mere fact that if the MV is not bad, the positive effects outlast the maybe negative view on the MVs quality, especially if the band is pretty unknown so far. Therefore to everybody out there: grab your cam and show us what your music is made off!!!

Further information

About doing a DIY music video

Professionally produced MVs in China (selection)

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