Making a brilliant music video for no money in no time…

Thu 29.03.2007

Taken from the book How To DVJ – by Charles Kriel Download Charles' FREE DVJ clip "Malaysian Mirror" here Making a brilliant music video for no money in no time… …or, how to make a no-budget music video in 15 minutes or less! Working from scratch, of course, it’s not possible. But something equally useful is.

Not too long ago, I was approached by the BBC to create the first nationally telecast live DVJ mix for Glastonbury – 12 hours of television in total. It seemed feasible given the amount of material I had archived from five years on the road, and our initial meeting turned into a signing. As we were leaving the room, happy with our new deal, by way of goodbye the Beeb folks said, “Oh, and Charles, it all needs to be in 16x9.” The room went wobbly. All my work, hundreds of hours of video, was in 4x5. I would have to start over from scratch, and the deadline was imminent. To get through it, my team of Rich Belson and our good friend Deborah Ascheim, a brilliant media artist who was visiting from LA, created a system to rapidly develop DVJ DVD singles. It took the three of us three weeks, working full-time, to create the base material. Ever since, though, I’m able to knock up a DVJ DVD single in less than fifteen minutes. That means I spend two hours a week working on my set box, adding about eight tunes a week – as many original music videos as most DJs add vinyls. This book may be about a lot of things, but principally it’s about this: how to make a DVJ DVD single in 15 minutes. Before we get to the technical side, however, we need to look a bit at aesthetics so you can understand why you’re doing what you’re doing as you’re doing it. MTV vs. DVJ For DVJs, creating a music video is a different process than for music video directors. Directors start with a track, conceptualize a video, storyboard it, then go into the shooting and editing processes. A DVJ starts with a track, looks around to see what video he has on hand, and goes straight to the editing and mixing process. Why? First, as a DVJ, you’re adding at least ten tracks a month to your playlist. You’re going to need to work fast – really fast. Second, MTV music videos are selling a song and selling an artist. DVJ’s just want you to shake your ass. They’re selling the party. This means they can recycle content from old videos on their way out of the playlist, because the broad visual theme of the video is tied to the night, rather than the tune. Third, DVJ video can and should repeat across the course of the evening, and across different tunes. An endless stream of non-repetitive, quick-cut video puts the emphasis on the screens, sidelining the DVJ, the music, and even worse, sidelining the dancefloor. ESSENTIAL KIT Real-time DVD recorders There are three key methods for making DVJ DVD singles: • a live mix from DVD decks • a VJ style real-time mix from computer, or • editing a video on computer and recording it onto DVD. In all three cases there is one piece of equipment we don’t think you can do without – a real-time DVD recorder, preferably with a built-in hard drive. DVD recorders Time savings is the one overriding benefit of standalone DVD recorders. DVDs use a form of MPEG video, which is a compressed version of normal digital video. Rendering and compressing DVD images on computer using software encoders, even for short videos on fast machines, is often an overnight process. Creating your first crate of DVDs will take you a couple of months full-time, minimum, and for the fast moving DVJ with a regularly rotating box of video choons, this just isn’t going to work. Standalone recorders, on the other hand, feature real-time hardware encoding. Dubbing a music video from either a video mixer or computer is as simple as recording a VHS tape. You’ll also avoid the sometimes long learning-curves wrapped around DVD authoring, and focus your precious time on perfecting your DVD mixing skills. A hard-drive model, letting you record video to an internal hard drive and then create multiple copies on DVD, in real time, will double the buy-in price, but save you bundles on DVD media costs when you botch your mix. DVJ Compatibility You need to make sure the DVD recorder you buy is compatible with your DVJ decks. You also need to both control the input audio levels, and record your audio in an uncompressed (PCM) format. Make sure your DVD recorder gives you these options. One easy solution is to use the same brand recorder as your DVJ deck. We’ve tested several models of both consumer and professional Pioneer DVD recorders, and found the audio quality excellent and compatibility with the Pioneer DVJ-X1 seamless. Computer The other two pieces of essential hardware you’ll need are a fast computer with a Firewire (aka iLink or IEEE 1394) port, a stonking hard drive and DVD-R writer for backup (video uses huge data space for both storage and backup) and a video camera with DV (digital video, eh) in and out, again, via Firewire. Both Apple and Sony (PC) computers provide integrated software solutions for audio and video editing, making DVD authoring something any budding porn addict can handle. All new Macs ship with Apple’s iLife, all the software you’ll need to edit your own music videos. Sony has created the Vegas Movie Studio+DVD media editing software, which includes ACID, a loop-based composing package, as the PC answer to Apple’s iLife. And don’t forget Adobe’s excellent high end video software suite. Everyone’s in the video editing game these days, though, with even shareware video editors commonplace. How to make that DVD - The editing method First time video makers should reach for the easiest tools. This keeps your creativity fresh and your frustration levels low. On the Mac, that’s iMovie and iDVD, and on the PC, well, it could be anything. Sony’s Vegas or Adobe’s Production Studio are the closest PC things to an integrated suite like Apple’s iLife. Just as Reason eliminates the task of integrating several pieces of MIDI software, iLife, Vegas and APS let your video editing program, music production suite, photo librarian and DVD authoring program occupy the same creative space. Get started You want to start by importing your tune. If you’re importing from a CD or MP3, you’re laughing. Most video software handles either format. The ideal is to convert a CD track to AIFF and then import it into your editing program. An alternative is to import an MP3 into the video editing timeline, although if you haven’t made the MP3 file yourself, you need to be wary of both sound quality and copyright protection. We recently made a series of DVDs from MP3s which sounded great in a live mix, but the mix couldn’t be recorded because copy-protection schemes kept another copy from being made. This is a surprise you don’t want when you’re recording your Essential Mix debut. Importing from vinyl If you’re importing from vinyl, you’ll need a decent soundcard or audio break-out box, audio editing and recording software, and a professional turntable with a good cartridge. Your audio file, and therefore your DVD, will only be as strong as the weakest link, and a DVD with audio sourced from vinyl on a cheap turntable is a nightmare to mix in the club. Treating the audio After you’ve recorded your track from vinyl, be sure to normalize the audio levels in your recording software, apply DC offset, edit out any glitches, and export the file as AIFF to keep the next steps simple. Importing video Once you’ve banged that tune into your editor, start importing your video. If the video is coming in from a camera, the process is straightforward. A Firewire cable is connected from the computer to the camera before you start the editing program. You should then have controls within your software that allow you to capture sections of the video as you choose. If you don’t have a Firewire port on your computer, you can buy breakout boxes that convert analogue video signal to digital data. You can, but we don’t recommend it. A better solution is to install a Firewire card if it’s a desktop, Firewire to PCMCIA card converter if it’s a notebook, or better yet, buy a new computer. The bin and the timeline The clips you import will automatically get stored in a folder typically called a “bin.” You can then drag them into a timeline alongside the music track, and trim the front and back of each clip to suit your taste. Lots of editing programs offer multiple views of the timeline. In iMovie, for example, one view lets you treat the video clips as discrete blocks chained in a line, while another view is time-oriented, allowing precision editing to beats, markers and clock; not altogether different from many MIDI- and audio-editing packages. Exporting to DVD Once your video is complete, you’ll want to export it to DVD. If you’ve chosen the hard road, export your movie as an MPEG-2 file, then import it into your DVD authoring program. Some media suites like iMovie will let you export your movie straight to the DVD authoring program, and the MPEG-2 encoding will happen later – a much preferred option that we recommend you look into. Check the documentation on both pieces of software. One track, one DVD, no menus We suggest you record no more than one tune per DVD. Even multiple mixes of a tune on a single DVD are confusing in the darkness of the DVJ booth. One track, one tune, no menus is the ideal. Most new DVD authoring programs, professional or consumer, let you author “autoplay” DVDs that skip the menu when you whack the track into the DVJ-X1. That, too, is preferred, as the last thing you need to worry about is scrolling through a series of menus to get to your track. Dubbing to DVD If, like us, you’re using a standalone video recorder, your options are more broad, and infinitely easier. If your DVD recorder has Firewire input, then running your cable straight from the computer to the recorder might let you do a straight dub to DVD or HD. Might! You’ll have to experiment and find out. If it does work, think twice next time you consider updating your software. Updates often fix problems, but they also introduce restrictions that may not have existed in previous versions of the software. If it doesn’t work, connect the Firewire cable from your computer to your camcorder, and use the analogue outputs of the camcorder to connect to the inputs of the DVD recorder. What you’re doing here is using the camera to convert digital data back to analogue – and then the recorder converts it back to digital. No, it’s not ideal, but it almost always works, and beats the hell out of rendering a DVD overnight on your computer. You may need to fiddle with the input/output options of the software, camcorder and recorder to make this work. Specifically, enable anything that say something like “play through” or “monitor input”. Finally, if this fails, dub your video back to tape via the Firewire cable, then dub the tape onto the DVD via analogue. Check your DVD recorder audio settings to insure you are recording without compression, and your levels are perfect (that means no going into the red the way you do in the club, rudeboy). Make the dub, finalize the disc so it can be played on another machine, et voila, your first DVD single – done the hard way. Live VJ Mix Depending on your style, your DVD music video will have several edits – as many as a thousand on a seven minute track – which eats up significant work time when you’re trying to bang out a couple of videos a day. A quick and intuitive editing solution is to use VJ software to fire your video clips live, and record that mix straight to DVD. VJ software authors are a bit like bedroom producers – they often make their work for themselves and their friends, given there is no significant market for their product yet. This makes for some of the most interesting tracks around, as well as a lot of crap. The same is true for VJ software, only in this case, interesting is not necessarily good. “Interesting,” in this case, means there is no standard for how VJ software works – and there are dozens of pieces of software. The most common model is VJ-software-as-video-sample-player, as in the more professional packages like Vidvox Grid Pro, Arkaos, VideoFlux, Resolume, motiondive or FlowMotion. These programs let you collect a group of video clips and fire them from either a computer keyboard or a MIDI keyboard connected to the computer via MIDI or USB. In general, you’ll need analogue video out from your computer to record your performance. That’s the S-video connector on your laptop. Some new programs have Firewire output. This won’t really work for us, even with the Firewire in on your DVD recorder, because we want to record audio simultaneously from the DJ mixer, not the laptop. Choose your weapon, hook it up Choose your tune and your software weapon, collect your clips, and program a great VJ set. Connect the video output from your computer to the video in on your standalone recorder. Connect the output from your DJ mixer to the audio inputs on your recorder. Again, check the audio levels, and that compression has been turned off on the recorder. Start your tune and rehearse your mix a few times. Pay special attention to the breakdowns and the big moments. Now start over, press record, and perform your VJ mix. At the end, you’ll have a dynamic, VJ-style music video. If this description sounds too vague, it is, because no two pieces of VJ software work the same. You’ll need to dig into the user manual of your VJ software, and find the details about video formats (codecs), MIDI connections, clip firing and effects – just like you had to read the manual on your first CDJ1000 – except this is more difficult. We’ve dropped in some extra information about codecs and the like later, for when you get stuck. Hard drive + DVD vs. skint Two points: first, this is where you’ll be glad you spent the dosh on the hard drive version of a DVD recorder. Chances are you won’t like the first, or even the tenth take of your VJ mix. Without the hard drive, each take will cost you one wasted piece of DVD media. At a ratio of 15 bad takes for every good one, it’ll cost an extra $500 to fill a modest record box. With the hard drive, you can record each take, choose the winner and lose the rest, then make a dub to DVD. Finally, working this way (the VJ software to recorder method) means a walk into the dark forest of video codecs (compressors/decompressors) and formats. There are as many codecs as Ronaldo’s got randoms, and like our hero’s paramours, they’re appearing faster than they can be sorted out. Keeping track of which codec is best for which VJ application is a headache. Programs like Cleaner on the Mac or Video Cleaner on the PC will automate all of your format conversions, but they both take time and often degrade video quality. You’ll also need to determine the size of your file in pixel dimensions. Again, Cleaner on the Mac or Video Cleaner on the PC can make these conversions, but at a cost. If you have a (HUGE!) budget, have a look at purpose-built club media machines like Green Hippo’s Hippotizer line, which simplify the whole process. Live mix from DVD decks - DVJ-X1s as production tools If you want to create your own DVD clubland video singles, chances are you have or are about to buy the finest equipment available for making your own DVDs – a pair of Pioneer DVJ decks, a CD deck, a video mixer and a DJ mixer. While these are obviously great tools for playing out, they are also the best tools for DVJ music video production. Many an audio mash-up and remix are made with nothing more than a basic DJ setup and recorder – one of the most intuitive approaches for the producing DJ. The same principal applies when making a DVJ DVD single. It’s not only the best method, it’s the most simple method. Mute DVDs Start by taking your favourite footage and turning it into short “mute DVDs,” that is, DVDs with video but no audio. Break your video down into categories. For example, make a series of mute DVDs with titles like “girl on the beach,” “furry boot dancer in the club,” “sex in the Mini,” etc. They don’t have to be long – three to four minutes is more than enough (except for sex in the Mini). You can create these DVDs using one of the two methods above: the editing method, or the live VJ mix. Just skip the parts about importing an audio track. Alternatively, if you’re using licensed video already on mute DVDs, you can skip this part of the process (it will make sense in a moment). Set up your mute DVDs, self-made or licensed, in a DVD wallet or crate as you would your CDs for a DJ set, only this time you’re going to do a VJ set using DVJs. Choose the tune for your music video, whack it on the decks, and get ready to mix the mute DVDs along with the music, using a standard video mixer. You can also add a dedicated effects unit into the video chain, like the Korg Kaoss Entrancer, for more creative expression. Bosh away As with the live VJ mix, take the video output from your video mixer and plug it into the video input on your DVD recorder. Do the same from your audio mixer or CD player, this time to the recorder’s audio inputs. Again, check your levels and compression. Now press record and bosh away. Don’t be afraid to repeat some footage from music video to music video. Over the course of a dancefloor mix, people like to see the same characters or scenes return again and again. Just as music is based on repetition, so too is dance video, and an endless non-repeating stream can turn into information overload. Finalizing your DVJ disc Many standalone DVD recorders are set up so you can record an episode of Deadwood, put the DVD on the shelf and then pull it out again to record another episode on the same disc next week. The hitch is, you can’t play that DVD on any other machine unless you “finalize” the disc. Once you’ve finalized it, you can’t record anything else on the disc. If you do a straight recording of a DVJ track onto a disc – or make a dub from the hard drive onto a disc – you may think you’re finished, but once you put it in the DVJ, it won’t play. Be sure to go through the process of finalizing the disc. It’s usually a menu-based process, but check your manual. How to make that DVD worth watching! Anyone can play a DJ set, but a quality set is a work of art. The same goes for your DVJ music video. Structuring a DVJ music video Just as a great dance track has a song structure, so too does a great DVJ track. For all the intro-verse-chorus-breakdown stuff, go back and have a look at the chapter on song structure. Then apply it to the way you think about the structure of your video. For example, if you’re putting together a DVJ House track, there’s usually a long drums-only into and outro on the audio track to make it easy to mix into another track. You’ll want to do the same for the video. Lay down something visually simple to go with that drum beat – one of our favourites is a close-up of smoke against a black background trailing up from the end of a cigarette. This mixes well over almost any video. When you get to the chorus, you’ll want your video to get big – and when you get to the chorus again, use that same video. The chorus repeats: the video repeats! And don’t forget something atmospheric for the breakdown – maybe even the video you used for the intro/outro, but with a bit of effects. DVJ mute-VJ mixing tricks Fun, fun, fun, using the features of the DVJ-X1! • Scratch the video • Reverse the video • Slow the video down to nearly still for the breakdown • Speed the video up as you go into the build, then grab the platter and give it a spin as you explode your way into the chorus • Loop your favourite bits, and put them on the loop buttons, then switch back and forth between them in time to the beat • If you have a video of a dancer, run your finger around the platter on the one of every four beats, speeding her up slightly to emphasise the downbeat • Set your camera up on a tripod looking across a quiet road. Shoot until a few cars go by. Once you’ve got the footage on DVD, set up cue point “A” with just a shot of the road, cue point “B” with a Mercedes driving by, and cue point “C” with a hoopdee. Press A, then on one of every measure, press either “B” or “C.” Cars go by in time to the beat. You can do this with fish in an aquarium, girls on the beach, or just about anything Whatever you do, give it your best mix while recording in the studio so you’re always happy to play the track in the club. If you’re not completely satisfied, go back and do it again. And don’t forget to have a look at the chapter on video effects. Stay tuned for another excerpt soon! Download Charles' FREE DVJ clip "Malaysian Mirror" here For further information about how to get hold of this resource in its entirety, please visit: