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Narrative Driven Music Videos

Hey kids, welcome to Will's discount Film School and foot massage.


Today, we're learning about different types of Music Videos (And.. I guess foot massage)


Performance Based Music Videos or Performance Driven Music Videos as I like to call it, everybody else calls it Performance Based..

This basically means that every shot is just the band playing.. You can get as creative as you want with it, you could have close-ups.. Semi close-ups.. Extreme close-ups.. Full shots.. If you're really crazy you might even have a wide shot.. Sometimes these videos will cut away to something weird just for the sake of variety, like a glass shattering in Slo-mo or a lion eating a guy or something. But there is no story. These are easily the most common type of Music Video.


Conceptual Based Music Video..

Look.. If its a Sia Music Video its a Conceptual Based Music Video.. These are also called "Abstract", usually the artist doesn't appear in the video at all. It could be similar to a "Human Video" or an expression piece, it may be centered around dance or art, but it is not centered around performing the song or telling a story, though it may have elements of each.


Narrative Driven Music Video..

A purely Narrative Based Music Video will not feature the artist, but instead actors who will play out some kind of story. These may even cut away from the music entirely at times in favor of dialogue or foley sound for a short scene before, after or even right in the middle of the song. Often subtitles are used when the story can't be understood through action alone and the artist doesn't want to cut from music. Its very common for a Narrative based music video to be blended with a Performance driven music video.


I set out to make my own brand of Narrative Driven Music Videos (That's why I named the post "Narrative Driven Music Videos"). I guess because that might be the closest I ever get to Directing a feature film. Though, I've never Directed a Music Video that was solely a Narrative, I've always balanced the performance with the story, often opting to merge the band members and actors into the same shots, or even use the musical artists to play roles other than themself.. Not original, I know..


I knew from my first official music video that I didn't want to tell a story that felt like an after-school special. I just wanted to gently weave it in to an otherwise pretty cool montage of a band playing. And I certainly wanted to make videos that added a lot to the song so that it changes the feel they get from the music every time they listen to it from that point on. I mean, if you're just shot for shot visualizing exactly what the lyrics describe, in my humble opinion you're defeating the purpose of creating a Music Video at all.


Embracing that philosophy, I've encountered the issue of plotting a narrative for a song that seems to have absolutely nothing to do with the lyrics. But really, the song is symbolizing something, the music video is symbolizing the same thing but in a completely different way. Maybe the song symbolizes divorce by describing it as an illness or disease, but the Music Video symbolizes divorce with a canyon splitting two lands apart. Its not usually that simple, but thats why I always take time to talk to the artist about the inspirations behind the music.


Like a book with pictures but no words, using narrative in Music Videos is a unique medium, and I'm still sort of finding my rhythm. I've shifted my approach a lot since lately I haven't been working with rock bands and I can't lean back on fancy shots of the drummer, bassist, guitarist, and singer, and then repeat in a different order. How many different shots can you get of just one guy when your budget is like 40 bucks and a cheese sandwich. That's what makes rap and pop harder in some ways. So with a project I'm currently in production on, my approach was to storyboard it like its almost solely Performance Driven, and then wedge story elements into animations that appear around the artist performing. We'll see how well it works.


But if I were to approach a solely, purely narrative music video, like a 3 1/2 minute long movie. Its very likely to be a lot more expensive than performance driven or conceptual. With a performance Music Video, the artist is going to already provide most everything you need: themselves, equipment, probably even lights.. That's like, halfway there.. But if you're going to make a decent short film you're going to have to cast several people with adequate acting ability, you'll probably need several more locations than usual, which means more shooting days, which means you have to herd cats for more time, which the only way you'll accomplish that is by paying them. You can't just use clips from the same few shots of the band playing, every shot is going to be a master shot that needs to have continuity and drive the plot forward EVERY SHOT, you can't ever fall back on performance. Again, that's going to take way more time to shoot. You might add cinematics; as in scenes with regular audio, not music, so now you need audio equipment and a boom mic operator, plus you've now made the whole video longer, adding to the time it will take to shoot. And its really difficult to tell a good story without using dialogue most of the time, so you have to find clever ways around that. This is why this kind of music video is not that common and is usually exclusive to songs that tell the whole story clearly in the lyrics. But... If you have the money and the right song, I'd totally do it.

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