What is Post Production?
I’m going to discuss music video editing, but first a little bit about post production. Video post production is where the final product is crafted through colour correction, editing and the application of visual effects. It ain’t just editing. In the commercial post production world, there are people and facilities that specialize in each of those disciplines. But if you are self-producing a music video you are going to have to do it all yourself. Your lack of experience puts you at a disadvantage, but you can make up for that by taking all the time you need to get everything just right. For that you will need your own video editing setup at home.
When I first started working in video post (specifically visual effects), the software we used cost $500,000 and ran on Silicon Graphics computers as big as refrigerators. Nowadays you can color correct, edit and apply visual effects on your laptop using software like Adobe Premiere and After Effects. You could even use the video editing software that came with your operating system, camera or phone if you have no other option. For the purposes of this article I’m going to assume that you have a limited budget, but want a professional quality video. For that you will need some decent editing software installed on a reasonably powerful PC with lots of RAM (video files are huge and therefore video editing requires a lot of memory). A setup like that isn’t cheap, but in the long run it will save you money. It could even make you money once you have gained some experience.
Ready to get started?
Organize Your Footage
You will likely have all of your footage on SD cards. Transfer all of it to a hard drive for editing. Put any other materials you will be using in the video such as still pictures, audio files, etc. onto the same drive. Now open a project in your editing software, import all of your footage and watch every clip. Trim the clips to isolate usable portions, name them and organize them into folders. It’s important to be organized from the beginning of the editing process so that later you will be able to find what you want quickly. You will also find that familiarizing yourself with every frame of video you shot will pay off later when you realize that a clip that you never thought you would use would work perfectly as a transition or cut-away.
A Note On Colour Correction
While you are going through your footage, do a basic colour correction on each clip. There is a lot to say about colour correction but here are the basics. First, make sure black is black and white is white. You will often find that something that should be black in your video is actually dark grey and when you make it black, the image is richer. You might also find that something that should be white in your video isn’t as bright as it should be or is tinted red or blue. Adding contrast may help with the black/white issue, but it won’t fix the white if it is tinted. This is why people white balance their camera before shooting.
Next, look at saturation. You will likely want to add some saturation to get more vivid colours in your video, but be careful not to overdo it or it will look awful on-screen. If your editing software has scopes for measuring saturation, use them.
Now that your footage is corrected, it should all work pretty well together. And, if you want to add a “look” to your video with a filter or more specialized colour correction, all of your footage will respond to that filter in the same way.
More on Color Correction.
The Edit – Keep It In Sync
Cool, it’s time to start editing. Place your audio (the song) onto your timeline. If you have any full length performance clips (footage of the artist performing the entire song), stack those on the timeline and sync them with the audio. That way, no matter where you are on the timeline, you will always be able to cut to a performance clip and it will be at the right point in the song and in sync.
To do this you simply have to match the audio waveform from the video footage (the camera will have recorded the on-set audio while you were shooting) to the master audio. First, do a rough visual match of the video clip and master audio track. They should start at about the same time and be approximately the same length. Then find a distinct event in the audio waveform (a spike or a pause), zoom in and match the two wave forms by moving the video clip, not the master audio file. Place the video a frame later than an exact match with the audio for the best lip-sync.
Editing Your Music Video
You should now have a few – if not several – layers of video on your timeline, in sync and ready for editing. Each video track is a take of the artist’s performance in a different location, from a different angle, etc. Go through and find the best portions of each performance and see where that leaves you. Are there gaps to fill in? Are there no strong performances of a specific part of the song? Can you use a clip from the 3rd chorus in the 1st chorus? Edit together the strongest, most exciting performance of the song that you can. Refer to the audio waveform to make edits right on the beat if necessary. An un-mastered version of the song will work better for this because you will be able to see the peaks of individual beats better.
If your intention was to make a performance-only video, your edit will be done at this stage. But if you want to make it a bit more interesting, add some cut-aways. Got any behind-the-scenes footage? Dancers shaking their rumps? Cut it in. Maybe you actually have a story-line that you need to add. But don’t worry if you don’t have any cut-away footage. A good song and good performances are enough to make a music video great.