Making a Music Video: Manhattan by Jenny Dinh

“Manhattan” by Jenny Dinh

[Note: The first minute or so of the video doesn’t have audio, so you don’t need to adjust your audio settings.  Just an FYI.  I’ll probably fix this later. Also, you can like, comment, rate, and subscribe on my cousin’s youtube channel: JennyD12345]

Behind the Music Video

So, a few weeks ago, my Aunt and Uncle told me that my cousin (whom I had taken photos of in a previous post, here) was in need of a music video.  My cousin had recorded a demo of original songs, and were asked to provide a music video for one of their songs to participate in a contest.  They were referred to, and had spoken to, some guy who makes videos.  Apparently, in exchange for his services, he was asking for a woven basket full of beanie babies stuffed with unmarked twenties. Well, maybe it wasn’t specifically asked for in that manner, but the point is that it was an amount my aunt and uncle weren’t willing to pay that amount.  So, they came to me, their awesome nephew, looking for help.

Now, I had never done much video work, but since I have a camera that shoots video (the Nikon D300s), and I’m almost always willing to learn and try something new, I said, “Well, by golly, why the heck not?!” (But not really, because who really talks like that?  Not me, by golly!)

We shot this video at a park near Jenny’s home.  We didn’t realize how cold it was going to be, as it had been in the high 40’s (Fahrenheit, that is) that week, and only snowed that morning (and melted the following day).  We ended up having to go back home to get extra socks and a warm water bottle for Jenny as she was getting cold.

The Gear:

So, I shot this with my Nikon D300s, mounted on a Manfrotto 561bhdv-1 video fluid head monopod (for stabilization), a LED video light, and a handful of my prime lenses (the 85mm f/1.4D, the 50mm f/1.4D, the 35mm f/2.0D, and the 20mm f/2.8).

Overall, the D300s did a decent job.  It only shoots in 720P at 24fps (not the 23.98fps most cameras shoot), which is fine, but the overall control for video on the camera isn’t great.  But as long as you are aware of it, you can totally work around it.  For example, there are no manual settings for shooting video.  You can set your aperture only while outside of Live-View, and then use the AE-Lock to lock the exposure.  But in order to get the right exposure, you have to meter on something bright if you want it darker, or dark if you want it brighter.  Once you lock it in, it only stays locked in as long as you don’t exit Live-View or turn your camera off (which you would probably do if you want to change aperture, lenses, or the battery).  So, there were a few times when I forgot to lock the exposure, but this wasn’t a problem as long as the metering area didn’t move over to a darker or lighter spot during recording, as that would cause a visible stepping-up or down of the overall exposure).

What I would have done differently:

I wish I had shot more moving shots.  It would have added a lot more to the video.  I had relied on a lot of static shots, because I’m not really used to handling a DSLR to shoot video, so I wasn’t confident in being able to handhold the camera steadily.  I think if I had one of those LCD Viewfinder magnifier things (like a Zacuto Z-Finder, or a cheaper one, like this one here), it’d add another point of contact, and give me a little more confidence to handhold the camera.

It’d also be nice if I had multiple cameras.  This video was made using multiple takes, instead of having multiple angles of a single take.  This made it harder on my cousin (as her fingers were getting cold, so she couldn’t play through the whole song without putting onto a warm water bottle), and more difficult to synchronize in Premiere Pro. I had my other cousin, Brian, help out by playing the song on an ipod speaker, so Jenny could try and sync closely to the actual song.  So I used a lot of transitions to tie it together, and hide the majority of inconsistencies between the takes, although, if you’re paying close attention, you’ll still spot them.

Since this was my first time editing actual video, I didn’t have much experience with Premiere Pro.  I had initially screwed up the sequence settings when opened up my project, so the audio bitrate wasn’t matching up, and I spent hours trying to figure out why my audio was crackling with static.  Also, as I said earlier, the intro scene doesn’t have audio, and that was due to me screwing it up in Premiere Pro, something which I didn’t know how to fix at the time, but now I do.  So even though I didn’t start out with knowing how to use Premiere Pro, I was able to google, and youtube just about anything I was trying to figure out how to do (aside from the audio issue I had to troubleshoot for hours).  But, I guess next time, I’ll know a lot more about how to do what I want, or at least where to start. Also, I had Brian helping me out, and learning alongside me, which helped out with the frustrating parts.  He also added the title in the intro with After Effects.

So, that’s about it… I’d say, it’s not bad for a first effort, but, there’s always room for improvement.  If you have any questions, let me know in the comments below!  Thanks for checking it out!