Music video production 101.
How I directed and produced Grace Amos’ latest music video without going mad.
Music videos are probably the most creative and challenging productions that we do at Noisy Creations. Given my long-term and both professional and personal connection with the music industry, working with a mixture of visuals and music is also the most fulfilling. One of the recent opportunities to work on such a project was directing and producing the latest single by Grace Amos – “Give Up The Chase”. What was unique about this project is the fact that it was a platform for the larger collaboration of Sydney’s artists and music industry supporters who jumped on board with Noisy Creations and co-organised Noisy Giveaway. The amazing partners were Woodburn Creatives, Cesar Echeverri and Hamoody Films who gave away the space, time, skills and creativity to create an opportunity for Sydney-based music artists to win a music video shoot and production. Thanks to social media and media partners like Jaxta or Women in Music Sydney, the word spread around and the winner – Grace Amos – was drawn from tens of entries.
Producing music videos can be intimidating, and especially a lot of music artists tend to think that only bigger stars are capable of making a world-class clip. Well, here we are to show you what the process might look like when shooting with Noisy Creations, and how we approach these creative video productions for the best artistic outcome and a cool experience for the musicians themselves.
Meet Grace Amos
Grace Amos is an Australian singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist with a finely honed talent for storytelling. Drawing on influences from indie, rock, and pop, Grace's music is characterized by honeyed vocals and emotionally charged lyrics that resonate with listeners. At just 18 years old, Grace has already made a name for herself both locally and internationally, performing alongside UK artist HRVY and winning the 2018 Maton Guitars Britton Morrison Scholarship. Her debut single "Listen Real Closely" has been streamed over 40,000 times and added to radio playlists throughout Australia, cementing her status as an up-and-coming talent to watch. Recently added to the MGM roster, Grace has big plans for 2023, including releasing her debut EP which a music video for ‘Give Up The Chase’ produced by Noisy Creations is now promoting.
After Grace won the Noisy Giveaway, we met a while after to discuss the plans and what song are we shooting for. It came clear that we’re going to work on a second single promoting Grace’s upcoming EP. When I first heard ‘Give Up The Chase’ I knew right away that we were dealing with a powerful rock bomb and images started building up in my head immediately. I love listening to the song for the first time, hearing the lyrics, and letting the creativity do its job, without talking to the author beforehand and listening to their story about the song. It works like looking at a blank canvas, watching the first shapes, colours and textures appearing as if from nowhere. Given that I’m also a musician, this part always has a special place in my approach to the whole production, and what makes my cooperation with other musicians special.
This is the first crucial moment in the whole creative journey when working on music videos. Letting the song tell you the story by itself. While trying to really sink into the song I always write down all the random ideas that come to my head, cause they often tend to flee in just seconds.
The second defining moment is talking to the songwriter and colliding the initial ideas with them describing the song, emotions and stories behind the track. Getting to know the artist’s vision and putting it together with mine is a super-exciting process and can initiate two different scenarios. The first one happens when both visions are similar and something clicks right away. The second one leaves us with different ideas on a table and pushes toward looking at all those varied tiles, picking some of them and building a completely new thing, new quality. When we met again with Grace to discuss the initial ideas, our visions aligned almost perfectly. My draft script resonated with Grace’s emotions embedded in the lyrics and I knew that we can continue this journey with a must-have element – trust. And this is where hard work starts!
Writing and pre-production
What I have learned during the last year of shooting videos is that planning and pre-production are extremely important. Not only it makes the shoot and post-production much easier, but personally, it gives me peace of mind when I stand behind the camera on set. And don’t get me wrong - being spontaneous on set can bring incredible effects! I always save 15-20% of the whole shooting plan for improvisation, but at the same time, I know exactly what has to happen to achieve the desired effect.
After having the vision, mood board and core plot discussed with Grace, I started working on the detailed storyboard, scenes, frames, colours and shots descriptions. In the scriptwriting process, I partnered with Hamoody from Hamoody Films, who was one of the project partners. Using online tools like Miro or Milanote is really helpful and lets me visually lay out all the story pieces on the board. Then comes the shot list – my best friend! This magical spreadsheet takes a lot of time to prepare, but it is an indispensable element on set, and in the post-production too. Over time I have prepared my own shot list template including all technicalities like gear, frames per second or camera movement and all the shot descriptions. In the case of shooting ‘Give Up The Chase’, we had two locations planned, hence two different shot lists had to be made. One of the locations – Woodburn Creatives’– was a part of the Noisy Giveaway and hosted the first day of the shoot for the “warehouse-like-vibe” scenes of the clip. The script also included beach shots at sunrise, which required a little bit more planning and taking into consideration factors like weather, time, crowd, and necessary permissions - especially because we were using a drone. When shooting outside, I always make sure to have a plan B, enough time to improvise when facing unexpected circumstances and ideally an alternative shooting day locked in, just in case of unsuitable weather.
Once we got the locations secured, I got to the production part which include lighting, gaffer, production assistants, clothes, make-up and all necessary aspects that need to be taken care of on the set. And here we’re looping back to the “trust”. No matter how big the production, it’s a blessing to work with people you can trust and rely on. And luckily that was the case when shooting with Grace, where the set was both professional and fun.
I don’t even attempt to count how many times I’ve growled that phrase over the two days on set! And I love doing that, standing behind the camera and directing. Thanks to the carefully done pre-production, the two days went smoothly and without any (almost) troubles – which believe me - isn’t usually the case! Shot by shot we followed “the magic shot lists” and even the weather was on our side on the second day of the production. Being ahead of schedule during both days gave me enough time to shoot extra frames and it’s a great thing when you just get inspired by the moment, space, light, colours or situation.
One of the most important things for me on the set is for everybody to feel comfortable, inspired and have a good time. When it comes to music videos, it’s foremost that the artist and all performers feel taken care of and can stay focused on their expression without any discomfort. Grace is a real artist and felt good in front of the camera, but sometimes it’s all about creating an atmosphere to help with that process. It’s not always easy when all the eyes and lenses are on you. Knowing that for myself and experiencing that many times being on the other side of the camera, I totally understand how it feels and what it takes from everybody on set to make it work.
Well-planned production, fun, great atmosphere and comfortable experience are key to a successful set.
Noisy Creations was also responsible for the post-production phase of ‘Give Up The Chase’. One of my favourite parts of all this magic is colour grading. Equally exciting as difficult, it gives - again - an infinite space for creativity and various directions. When colour grading music videos, colour correction is usually not enough and requires that “X” factor to make it that distinctive and cinematic look. I love watching movies and getting inspired but the different film looks and then trying to play around with the colours to achieve the artistic vision. And yet there is a lot of theory in colour grading, I will always see it as a form of art. And no wonder DaVinci Resolve (video editing software) was developed by Blackmagic, cause magic it really is!
The final effect & conclusions
What’s the most appealing in producing music videos is the artistic and creative freedom and challenge. There is something exciting and scary every time I start writing and planning a new production and it’s wonderful that I can discover and learn something each time. Directing and producing Grace Amos’ “Give Up The Chase” was a great lesson of successful collaboration with Sydney’s creators, detailed and complex production, and an in-depth understanding of the songwriter to tell their song with the motion picture.
“Give Up The Chase” premiered on February 7th and you can see the effects for yourself!
There is no one way or perfect recipe to approach music video production, there is no good or wrong when it comes to ideas, and the possibilities are endless. But to wrap up, here’s what I value the most in Noisy Creations’ approach:
Starting with a blank canvas and letting the music tell the story
Unleashing creativity and sinking into the vibe of the song
Brainstorming with the songwriters and listening carefully (!). It’s crucial that both music artists and I feel like it’s “ours”
Detailed and visual storyboarding
Kick-ass production planning and designing a comfortable set experience
Understanding the music industry and musicians’ needs and expectations