HowTo: Produce a music video for just $430

One great way to promote an indie song is of course a music video. These days technology and software is so cheap that whatever could cost thousands of dollars in the ’80s, it now costs under a grand. Because the equipment suggested below is lower quality compared to what pros use, it will require extra creativity while shooting and editing the video. The only item that is not on the list but we assume it’s a given is a PC (if using a Mac, then you need Final Cut Express for $200, not iMovie).

Of course, the makeup and clothing is something that the band itself should take care of. If they have girlfriends let them improvise on them. 😉

So, after a careful planning on the location, the time, the weather, the topic of the video and its overall look, here are the hardware items needed to shoot:

* If you already don’t own a camcorder, get the Canon ZR900 (or ZR950) Widescreen DV 872×480 camcorder: $220 (at Amazon). Shoot in 60i, “neutral color”, in order to be able to better color-grade on post.
* Three DV tapes: $5
* A firewire cable: $5 (make sure your PC has a Firewire port)
* A full height tripod with a *fluid* head: $70 (make sure it’s marketed as fluid, I would suggest this one).
* A portable CD player playing back the song from an audio CD while shooting (just for lip-syncing purposes): $50
* A white balance gray card: $5 (used for indoor, and heavily lit night scenes only).
* Sony Vegas Movie Studio (or its Platinum Edition for HD support): $70 (sorry, iMovie can’t do the following:)
* Follow this workflow to make your video have a professional motion feel to it, and make 60i look like 24p: $0
* Color grade. Vegas Movie Studio has all the color plugins you need: $0

* For better quality video, buy an HD Sanyo Xacti camera with manual controls, or the Canon SX200 IS digicam ($300, highly recommended for its “filmic” look).
* [Optional] 2x250Watt lights: $110 (Adorama). Important if you are shooting indoors.
* [Optional] A Disk Light Deflector: $100 (Used to diffuse the sun or light).
* [Optional] A tripod dolly: $50 (on Amazon). To be used only if you need to physically move the tripod while shooting in order to achieve some “motion” on your clip. These can be used only on flat surfaces.

You don’t believe me? How much money you think this video really cost the band? I bet not much. And yet, it’s a pretty usable video clip. Technically-speaking, it can be done for under $430. Creativity and capability is all that’s really needed to produce something “acceptable” for cheap.

What’s cool about all this, is that after you buy these accessories once, for a second music video clip you won’t need to spend more than $20 (just a new set of DV tapes).

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