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Story Boarding

Creating a storyboard is an extremely important step if you are making a film or video.

When you write out a story, you most likely envision what the scenes and shots look like....similar to actually 'watching' the video in your mind. The storyboard is nothing more than those scenes drawn out in detail, so that the director can refer to them as he/she sets up a particular scene. Think of them as comic-book representations of the images in your production. How well they are drawn out and what they look like does not matter, just as long as they convey to you and the rest of the crew reasonable idea of how the composition, framings, and cuts in your video will play out. I like to be prepared, and know exactly what look and feel that I'm going for, and storyboarding helps me do that. It also cuts the shooting time in half, saving money and lots of headaches!

Here is part of my storyboard for 'Breathe'. It is actually for the starting shots at the beginning of the video. Click on the pics to enlarge them.

As you can see, I start the shot off with a opening shot of a university. As the story progresses, so do the frames in the storyboards. Underneath each story block, I include the scene #, description of the shot, and whether it is INT/EXT and DAY/NIGHT. I also like to leave alot of space on the sides of each frame so I can include extra shot info, angles, and other notes.

Now, as you can see, I'm no artist by any means, but I try to include as much detail as I can for what the shot will tentavely look like. Even stick figures work, as long as an indepth description of the scene is there.
The amount of detail will depend on the type of scene you are creating. For a scene with 3 people sitting around a table eating, will probably be less detailed, and will serve better to help plan framing and cutting. For a crazy shot of someone running through a packed space-port out onto a moon runway will take far more detail, and will help the art dept. and visual effects crew plan and merge effects together long after the sets have been dismantled.

Now, it doesn't necessarily matter if you shoot exactly what you planned in your storyboards. It's more important what you learn while storyboarding. Until you start to plan things out on paper, you might not know how much coverage you will need for a particular scene, or if you will need specific sets pieces or props.

Whether or not you choose to draw out a storyboard, you still have to go through the 'storyboard process'. This means that you still have to plan out the visual images and details that you will use to create your project. This will range from how to frame and shoot a scene, to choosing a location, casting, sets, and props.

If you decide NOT to storyboard, you should at least create a shot list for each scene. The last thing you want to do is keep a cast and crew waiting for you to set up a shot you haven't even planned out!! You will look totally unprofessional - and it just looks bad!

Now, I'm more hands on, and prefer to use the pencil and paper method, but there are a few computer programs out there that will help you to storyboard:
You can download free trials of this sofware to try out, and they will give you a good idea of how to set up a proper storyboard.

When you've finally finished putting all of this together, it's on to the next step.

I hope this info was helpful, and apopreciate any comments about it.



Creepy!! Even the actress in this photo had a hard time looking at herself in the shot! This is the type of look and feeling that consumes Devoid's 'Breathe" hair is standing on end just thinking about it!! The song has a slow creeping feel to it, and the band wanted it to look that way as well. It wasn't easy to do. Certain effects can take up a lot of time, and they are a lot of work. But in the end, it's completely worth the effort.
I will discuss this topic further after reviewing my production notes.

Photo - Light Effects

Lighting Effects
It's really important to create the right mood for your video with lighting. Lighting is everything! This particular effect was used when our lead character opens a door in the asylum that he wished he hadn't!! The effect had to play as if the blue light from the opened room was spilling out onto him. It took a while to shoot the scene from different angles - I think there were 12 or 13 takes, and to get the light to play the same every time was a task in itself. Thanks to a patient actor, and band,we got what we needed.
I will go into further datail, after reviewing my lighting plan and production notes.

Step 5 - Finding Cast & Crew

(photo- this shot is of some of the 'asylum freaks' just sittin' around waitin' for their scene)

I'm assuming that you now have most of your locations found and locked in place. At this point, know that you are getting closer to shooting this, and it's time to put some of the pieces together. Depending on which style you are thinking of shooting, you may need an actor(s)/actress(s) and xtras, but you definetly need a crew. A music video is a big task, and requires more than one set of talents.
The main priorities should be camera, lighting, playback, an AD (assistant Director)and an assistant to do running around or moving stuff around. How many in each technical group depends on the size of the shoot.

The Music Video Crew

Director - The director is in charge of the set and crew. He is the one who makes the creative decisions, and the one who deals with the actors creatively.

AD - Whoever the AD is should be someone who is able to take full control of the set during the shoot. The job requires that they are strict by working to get the shots in time, and in an orgaized fashion. They definitely should have experience at this position.

Camera Op -The camera operator is the 'eye' for the shot. Unless they are the director, they follow what the Director asks for in a particular camera movement. They should be trusted to understand what style or look that you're going for.

Gaffer -The lighting master or gaffer is extremely important to the music video. They are capable of blending light and colors and are masters of creating moods and feelings with light. Bad lighting will destroy a video. If you want the right lighting, just get someone who has experience in lighting. Common sense.

Playback - Playback is a crutial part of the video, especially in the Performance style. Since the artist/ band have to be able to 'play along' with an audio track of the song being shot, you need someone who is capable of "playing back" the track from whichever point in the song they are shooting. Performing like an 'airband' is standard, and you need to have a guide to work with. This should be done by someone capable of pressing play, stop, and rew...and following simple instructions.

PA (production assistant) - the PA is very important, They are an extra set of hands when need, and can 'lock up' (aka act as security) during the filming of a scene. Good for coffee and food runs too. People cant always get up and leave, the PA should be able to perform those tasks.
Like I mentioned before, the size of the crew is dependant on the size of the procduction, but if these 5 roles are filled, you can shoot pretty much anything.


Casting can be very easy or very hard. I've experienced both. I am, however, lucky to know a lot of unknown acting talent from the independant film scene, and they love doing music videos. Make sure the casting decision is being made by both the artist/band and the director. The band knows what they want to have, but the director will be able to weed those out that may not be able to peform properly. Each actor has different skills, and/or looks that they can bring to the table. But what's important is what they can bring to the table in making the video work.
Will they fit the role? Do they have the right 'look' for the character? There's alot of elements.
I strongly suggest calling up small theater companies, or acting schools to search an actor out....alot of them will work for free and/or very very cheap, and they will act for you. That's all they want to do. They want to do a good job, and being a small 'film', it's something to add to the resume. I know because I've acted in numerous theater productions, and countless crappy indie movies! :)
Been there....done that! But you will see that after talking to a couple of actors, it won't be hard to find one that will suit you're needs. There's always some decent hidden talent somewhere. Maybe even look online for acting schools in your area. If you call them, they will come!

Did you find some local acting schools that may help with your casting? Was I right in how helpful they were in your search?
Let me know how this works for you.



Step 4 - Scouting Locations got the idea, the story, the style you want, and the camera. Let's find someplace to shoot it all!
Scouting for locations is not the easiest of tasks. In fact, it's probably one of the trickiest pieces to aquire in putting the 'video puzzle' together.
Now that you have the story, or an idea of what the story will be like, where does your story take place? Here are some things I take into account when scouting for a particular location:

  1. Start with the easiest first - I advise this immensely! If you have a location that you know will be tough to get, save that for last. It may seem more reasonable to do the hardest first, but tougher locations take the most time, and usually the most money. Better to know what you do have in place, and what money you'll have left over.
  2. Take a camera along - Video or regular digital. I get a record of every location I'm interested in..inside and out. And I ask for the manager or the owner, and explain what I'm doing, and ask to take the pictures. Some places may work for the interiors, some just for exteriors. I may want to mix and mingle different interior and exterior locations to create an effect of a 'made up" location, provided they can match up effectively. It's all about making it work visualy, but at the same time finding ways to cut your costs.
  3. availability - Very Important!!! There's no point in even thinking about calling people to a set if there isn't going to be one! The availabilty of a specific location is everything to a video shoot! I always make sure that I have an agreement on paper with the building manager or owner of the specific location. You really don't want to show up and find that either they've gone back on their word or just simply 'forgot' about you. Oh, and try to aquire a location legally! It's not a good idea to show up unanounced and start filming...police showing up or other events that may occur will just get your production shut down fast...and possible fines.
  4. power - I always look for the power source at the location and where breaker boxes are, light switches,etc. You need to be able to provide electricity for lights, camera batteries, playback, etc. Generators also work, but not indoors....poisonous fumes and whatnot.
  5. size - will the cast and crew fit? I take in factors such as the # of crew, amount of lighting, height of the ceiling, camera movements, the artist/band and the set, as well as props or other staging. Bringing us back to the camera idea - take a camera with you to EVERY prospective location so that you have a record of what that location looks like inside and out, and compare them to the others you've seen. Find what works for you and go for it.
  6. Know your area - If there was one thing that I can take from my experience scouting locations, it's that prior lnowledge of specific buildings and other locations I was familiar with was key! When I put the story together, I already started to get an idea about where I'd wanted to shoot, and set out to look them over. But is a specific location always feasible? Not a chance!! Writing a story where you're playing on the runway of a major airport is all fine and dandy, but be realistic about it. Can an abandoned road do the trick? Maybe a smaller airport outside of your area? Find the places that are easily attainable, and one's that you're familiar with.
  7. Cost - free or not so free?...that is the question....When I look for a location, I have to take into account that I just may have to pay someone to (a) let me use their property, (b) stay out of your way (c) be quiet. I have seen too many examples of people showing up to a location without paying before hand, or just refusing outright, and getting shut down, or thrown out..literally! And any property owner has every right to, unless there is a signed agreement &/or a deal regarding payment. Use locations if you know you can get them for a cheaper price, and talk to freinds...word of mouth is great for scouting, and sometimes people offer up their places for cheap or even free!! Maybe even pitch them into being an xtra if there's room for it...whatever works! After a while you'll notice that some people can be quite accomodating!
  8. Explain what you're doing - I find it easier, and just plain common courtesy, to let the people at the location know what I'm filming - especially for music videos. You don't want to have issues during production about loud noise, or crew running around, or fire/flash effects, or even with playback. If there is a drummer being filmed, the banging can be quite annoying take after take. Also, if you want people from a particular location out of your way, invite them to set to watch. I have worked on A LOT of sets and find that most will come and see what's going on, and after a short while, get bored and leave. I've learned that it's probably the best tactic to get someone out of your way, without actually asking them to.
  9. Be nice/organized/clean - If you are talking to someone about the possibilty of using their location for a shoot, be professional about it. Noone will take you seriosly looking like a dirty ripped rag. Would you ? Probably not, unless they gave you a crazy amount of money! If you really want that location, looking clean and acting professional will get you that much closer. Believe it.

For the Devoid video in particular, I used a building I had known as a former location for some films I've worked on. A fairly large warehouse (4000+sqft) on the 3rd floor. There was a shipping elevator - good for moving people, gear, and instuments up and down, which is obvious as a very important factor in scouting for a location - access. Now, because the owner and I were familiar with each other because of prior films, we managed to bargain a much cheaper price on a per day basis than I had planned - freeing up more cash for other things that were needed. The INT. of the "psych hospital' was a different area of the warehouse, and the EXT. of the hospital was a different building entirely outside the city! I used a local hotel for the "dorm halls"( actual dorm halls looked 'wrong'), a dorm room for the dorm room ( haha go figure!), 3 seperate schools played the INT of "the college",with different hallway shots of lockers and students(xtras)"...the actual EXT of the "college' was a local university, and the main warehouse was used for the performance parts. Quite the bit of work, and it wan't easy. But will a little luck, some leg work, and not alot of moolah, it got done.

So, once you have the locations you want, it's time to go search them out. If you take into account the 9 steps I gave you, you should have no problem aquiring a location that suits your needs. Just look around and you'll find it.

And have fun with it! You're making a music video! Having the energy and enthusiasm about your work will only brush off on the people you approach, and can only work in your favour.

If you have any questions, let me know and I'll be happy to answer them!



Step 3 -Picking a Camera

Ah, the camera.
Believe it or not, and I'm not trying to sound cliche here, but not all cameras are the same.

The real question is, "What format do you want to shoot your video in? or video? HD?
High Definition is prime, film was the norm, but with the advent of new technology, the Digital Video Camera (or DV/HDV cam), is becoming a more popular tool in making music videos. Not only is it because it's easier to use and handle, but the quality of the picture is fantastic,and the fact you can easily shoot and upload to any computer with ease, not to mention the fact it's much cheaper to use than film!
Now, I'm sure that you've already thought about what you want your video to look like and you got your story all figured as well, but choosing the right camera is an important step in making the video say what you want.

In fact, it's the most important step!
In choosing a camera, consider weighing these three factors:

  • image quality
  • price
  • features
Here are some examples of some cameras to consider for shooting your video:

Film Cameras - (Format: 16mm / 35mm)
These cameras are what most of the bigger budget videos are being made with. Along with the fact that they have the best 'look', they also come with the biggest expense. The real deal!! And some directors just perfer film over video. It's a personal choice nowdays.

HD -(Format:High Definition, digital)
The future....and if you can afford it, go for it!!!!Amazing quality.

DV / HDV Cams - (Format:DV tape, digital)
This is the type of camera I use. In fact, I strongly recomend the Panasonic amazing piece of technology! Easy to use, easy to handle, inexpensive to rent ( $100/day CAN)or purchase($4000), the quality is awesome, and the images are captured as a digital signal. This means there is no loss of generation no matter how many times it is copied! There are too many pro than cons with this choice! Most DV cams shoot in 30 fps (frames per second). Some of the higher end DV cameras have the capability to shoot in 24 fps , which is the standard for 35mm film, and therefore will have the similar look and quality as film.

Hi 8 video Cams (Format: Hi8mm tape, analog)
These cameras are a fairly good tool as they will provide a similar look and feel as film, but with the ease of a handy-cam. They are relatively cheap (around $300) but you need to digitize the recorded signal before you can edit. You need required software, and it's abit of a hassle.

VHS - ( format: vhs cassette tape, analog)
Ah, not recomended. Even though the costs that go with VHS are cheap, so is the eventual quality of the reording. Again, it's about the look, but any dv cam can recreate the same look as VHS, and come on....get with the times!! :)

If you're shooting a video yourself, I strongly suggest that you get an idea of what type of camera format you want to use. Film or Video.
It is very important to the look and feel of your video. Take a look at some different camera types that are out there in the 'film cameras' and 'DV cam' catagories. You'll get a chance to see what's out there, and get specific info on each style, and a general idea of the price ranges.....saving money on the project is the key here...cheaper the better!!

For the Devoid video specifically, I used the Panasonic dvx100b / Sony dsr250 / and a regular minidv camera. If you want to be successful in researching a camera, I suggest that you search for both film AND video cameras.
To look at more types of DV / HDV cameras click here...

They both offer so many different options.
Let me know what you think of this so far...if you have any questions, ask away!


Photo...Difficult Positions

Easy does it!!
You probably shouldn't do this with out having some kinda back up someone to catch the camera! Try and make the shots a little easier if you can.
I had my backup just out of frame but the point is, if you're willing to get a shot like this, be prepared to sacrifice pain for saving the camera!!
The shot had to be made with the stretcher in motion giving the effect of no one pushing it. Obviously it was being pulled and the two different angles are spliced together. What was shot looks great, but keeping my balance on a moving stretcher wasn't easy!

Photo...The band DEVOID, the actor, and me

The boys in the band - ( l-r)Ed, Chris, Steve, and Trevor
Me...back row (in the middle)
Byron - Lead actor -Front and center.
This was our final day shooting the psych ward stuff ...and that was a fun day! The wheel chair in the picture not only acted as a prop for the 'psych ward', but it was our dolly as well! haha
I believe some referred to it as the 'cripple cam"! Yikes.

Step 2 - " Say whaaat?"

Alright. By now, you should have picked the song you're going to use , and you hopefully saw some'visions' about what you want your video to look like. Now it's time to decide what style.
The trick is matching a good style with your story. I really hate performance videos, unless theres alot of jib( or camera crane) work. ...otherwise, standing onstage playing to waving arms just isn't my style. My style is Dramatic/ Performance...they're more complex, and I feel you can say more with both the story and band performance. My choice though. Every song is different however, and so every video should be as well. . In either case, you should have a clear idea of what the song is about, and what style of video you would like to make.

Each of the styles have different needs as well-ie.. locations, actors, probs, effect lighting, etc...

PERFORMANCE: the artist / a location/ playback / special lighting effects

This is a good style to use if you want to show what the artist is like performing in any location. This is the easiest route to go, but not very creative. You also must get used to shooting 'airband' style. Major things you'll need include a stage or a location for a set, band eqipment, special lighting &/or effects, props or sound equipment like amps, and stuff, PA system for playback. Get used to hearing the same song over and over and over.

DRAMATIC: artist or actor / numerous locations / lighting /some playback

This style works for telling a visual story. It's a bit more involved. You should create a story with a beginning, middle and end, in a 3 - 5 minute song. Thing you'll need include a treatment with a storyboard and tentative shot list, numerous locations, a larger crew for moving stuff around, locations, an actor or artist playing a role, and possibly playback.

PERFORMANCE / DRAMATIC: an obvious mix of both!!

This style is the most difficult, but the most creative. It allows you to tell the story, and at the same time, give a glimpse of the artist or band in an environment that matches the theme of song.

There are, of course, many other factors that one needs to think about for each of these styles, but the fact remains, find what style best suits what look your going for, and stick with it.

Getting The Story

Now you know the style you're going after, you need to have some sort of story line. Even if the video is nothing more than a singer/ band up on stage, you need to know when you will be switching from this angle to the next, this shot to that shot. This process is called storyboarding or making shot lists. Even though it's not necessary to plot out every shot, it's a good idea to know what you want ahead of time.

I also suggest breaking the song down into it's parts - musically. There may be something in the music that represents something you're trying to say. A hard snare and floor tom smash for a door slamming, cymbal crashes for glass smashing,or a guitar wail for a scream...all these sounds can create an extremely useful visual effect as well.

I'm currently working on a video for a band called Devoid. They wanted to make a video, and wanted some ideas for a plot. We discussed what style they wanted, and they wanted to tell a story, but also wanted to show how they rock out on stage as well! So we went with the Dramatic/Performance style.

The song they wrote is called 'Breathe'. It's a great tune and very dark sounding; almost underlying's about losing your will.....becoming powerless.

Anyway, I pitched the story of a college student, who while working at his computer in his dorm, starts to hear 'Breathe' in his head. It gradually becomes louder and more distracting till he finds himself. seeing things that aren't really there, and eventually finds himself in a mental ward with some extremly strange and creepy people..really fun stuff!!!!

So that's what we shot!!!

But at the same time, I had to draw up a treatment, a storyboard, and make a shot list of all the shots and angles that I needed. I already knew what type of camera I was using, and what format I was going to shoot in. In fact, I was using 3 cameras - panasonic dxx1o0b, sony dsr-250, and a regular miniDV camera ( all digital dv tape). They all provided a different look, and effect. I had to find locations for the hospital, the school, and a set for the performance parts, and I had to find a decent actor for the lead, one the band would like to be the face for their video. Not an easy task! Xtras were the responsibility of the band to find. They had no problem with this task, as they got a bunch of their friends to fill the roles. And Chris's wife supplied all the hospital gowns for the xtras, and the Dr.s garb for Chris. They all looked great too!

Now...remember..... all of this had to be completed and organized before we shot anything! It's so important to have everything in place before you shoot. I can't say it enough. I'm not saying that if you do everything I tell you to, a video shoot will go over without any problems, that's just not true. I've had my share of problems, and it will continue. Mistakes happen. But if you have your plan in place and everyone involved is on the same page, you can easily avoid any mistakes or easily deal with problems that arise.

That's the key to it all -


That's where Ill leave it for now. I'm going to find those storyboards and post them as examples.
You should take a look at some other music videos out there, check out some performance and drama styles.... a little bit of research doesn't hurt, and you may get some really good ideas.

Making Music Videos - Intro to Step 1

Hello and Welcome!!!
If you write and record music, to many, the obvious next step is to create a 'visual' interpretation of what it is that you're trying to say. But just like creating the music, creating the video can be just as daunting.
I've seen alot of bands go out with any old camera and hit the record button not knowing what exactly will show up when they get to the task of editing, or throw their money away hiring a huge production crew for a small project. Making a video isn't easy and it will cost a bit of money - but it doesn't have to be hard or expensive either!!!
That's why I'm doing this.
My goal here is to share my experience with those who wish to listen to it. Maybe you have other ideas you can share as well. That's what this is for.
For the purpose of this blog, I will use specific examples drawn from real events, and pictures from my own experience working in film, music videos and directing.
And since I am currently working on a music video project ( Devoid's 'Breathe) , Ill take examples from there as well. All example from current projects will be in
blue text.

First Thing's First

Ok. Lets get into it. Before you can actually shoot a video, you have to have a decently recorded song. It may sound pretty stupid, but some folks actually think that any old recording will do, and that's just not the case. If you don't, I suggest you hold off any video ideas until you do. You do not want mistakes or bad tracks upstaging any emphasis on the video. But hey, that just may be the 'angle' you're looking for as well, but a good recording definitely helps.


Not to overly simplify this, but there are 3 major styles of music videos out there:

  • Dramatic

  • Performance

  • Dramatic/Performance

It may seem like common sense, but it's important that you choose a style and stick to it. Do you want to show what you're like on stage infront of a crowd, or tell a story. Maybe you want to do both and have the drama intercut with the artist. It's totally up to you. But just as important, you don't want to be in the middle of shooting and want to change things around. That's when mistakes are made, and can be the cause of alot of arguments. It's best when everyone is on the same page right from the start.

So Drama, Performance.....what will tell your story and have the biggest effect?


In order for you to be able to make a good video that works for your music, you have to be able know what that song is talking about. A song is usually built around a theme and you're video should say the same thing It's a really good idea to write down the key words or phrases in the lyrics. This helps not only with getting some ideas out and on paper, but it will start the ball rolling on other possibilities you may want to explore......if you try this you'll see!!

Now another good exercise to practice is to close your eyes and listen to the song with headphones on. I ALWAYS do this when I'm writing a video, as it helps me visualize events in the story. You'll see that even after a few listens, the images will start taking shape on their own.

Now of course, if you start seeing helicopters and explosions, you better start remembering that all things wonderful in music videos have a price to go along with them as well!! haha

Budget is very important, and remember that the simpler it is, the cheaper and easier it is as well!

Humor me, and try out those execises of writing down the themes, and have a listen to your tunes with your eyes closed. You'll see what I'm talking about, and will be ready for the next step!

....or maybe you're already at this which case....on to the next step!

Please comment and let me know how this worked for you!