Oakland-based progressive rock band Septacy marches to the beat of their own drum, so to speak. Infusing their music with authenticity and sonic diversity, the genre-bending five-piece shatters genre boundaries by incorporating sounds such as Latin-inspired jazz and hardcore punk along with classic elements of rock.
Coming off the release of their epic 14-track debut album Bookends, Septacy recently shared the music video for their danceable single "The Clouds Above the Giving Tree." Today keyboardist Ricky Marasigan takes the time out to deliver a guest blog for fellow musicians about how to make a music video on a small budget by explaining how they produced their latest visual story.
How To Create A Visually Stunning Music Video W/ A Tiny Budget
By Ricky Marasigan
When it comes to shooting a music video, it's all about how things look. This is an obvious, yet relevant statement. When you're part of an independent band with no financial backing from a label, you're going to have to do a lot of things yourself, and sometimes the trickiest thing to pull off with DIY content is making it appear not to be DIY. Again, it's all about appearances.
"The Clouds Above the Giving Tree" is the second full music video I've done for Septacy, the first being for our single 'Polaris'. The biggest differences between these two projects were money and preparation. The premise behind the 'Polaris' video was a simple one: let's bring my DSLR and some rented lighting equipment with us on our trip up to our bass player's parents' cabin in the woods and shoot whatever silly ideas we come up with and get as much footage as possible. It was the definition of DIY and it was a fun project to work on. But in the end, I think the video for 'Clouds' turned out to be an overall better product because of the difference in approach.
It took a long time to come up with the concept for the video, because I knew we had very limited resources. We couldn't afford to spend a fortune on it and with all of our odd schedules we only had so much time available for shooting. The idea eventually came to me when I was experimenting with some old footage of mine in Final Cut Pro X. I've been using the software for a long time, but I feel like I'm discovering new things you can do with it every day. I discovered a way to seamlessly layer clips on top of one another to create a very visually interesting, almost psychedelic-looking effect. That was the moment I realized that I could base an entire video around this effect. Not only does it create very interesting and memorable visuals, but the best part about it to me was that it was efficient. This concept didn't require that we hire actors or make up artists, nor did it require us to write out any sort of storyline. All that was required was nice looking footage of us playing the song and from there I could do all of the work in post.
Once I came up with the concept for 'Clouds', there was about a month of preparation involved for the shoot. There were two primary issues to be solved: acquiring a location, and a camera. Unfortunately, my personal DSLR that I've used for past projects was giving me some problems, and considering that it's not the greatest camera to begin with, (Rebel T1i) I decided that renting a nicer one is the better way to go.
Now those two things are very expensive endeavors. A quick google search will tell you that the cost of renting a nice DSLR as well as a nice looking studio, will cost at least a couple thousand dollars, and considering that we're all broke millennials who live in the Bay Area, we were forced to find a more affordable route.
Fortunately, the solution to both of these issues was found in our good friend Armando Armas of the post hardcore group Name. He has helped us with several video projects in the past and we can't sing his praise enough. He graciously rented us his very nice DSLR and tripod equipment for a very affordable price, and also gave us the name of Joey from Elev8ed Studios in Sacramento, a professional studio that proved to be far more affordable than literally any other option I found in my research.
The actual day of shooting was an exhausting eight-hour day spent rocking our hearts out in that oven of a studio on a hot July afternoon, sandwiched between the roughly two hour drives up there and back home to the bay. My band mates did not hold back in their disdain for me because my concept required that we get multiple angles of us performing the song, each angle requiring at least three takes. We were forced to take more breaks than anticipated due to sheer physical exhaustion, yet we still had to be time efficient with our breaks, meaning we tried to have as little time of no shooting at all as possible since we only had the one day for this. By the end of the day we all needed showers and none of us wanted to hear that song ever again. But as I watch the finished product, I smile at myself when I remember that to make this happen, we each individually only had to spend about $200. It's definitely the most money we've ever spent on a music video, but it's also not a bad price for how the finished product ended up looking.
At the end of the day, what you put into the project will determine what you get out of it. We put more money and time into our second music video and therefore it turned out better than our first, but that doesn't mean you have to go completely broke in order to get a beautiful product in the end. If you really dig, you'll find that up and coming cinematographers are actually almost as common as gigging musicians are, and sometimes just knowing the right person can make or break a project. The real secret is in knowing how to maximize the resources you have be they financial, personal or technical, and getting everyone involved pushing in the same direction to get something done in what may be an unconventional manner."
Watch the finished product for "The Clouds Above the Giving Tree" below.