How to Edit a Music Video
So you want to learn how to edit a music video? It’s fun and rewarding but also very tedious. This post explains the process of editing music video footage shot of the band “performing” their song. In most music videos the band plays along and lip-syncs to the song in order to artistically reproduce the effect of a live performance. In this article I call that section of the music video the “live performance“ and I’m going to explain the best and most effective method for editing that.
This article will be helpful to both to beginners and intermediate editors. My goal is to explain in detail how to edit a music video the easiest and most efficient way. The more knowledge you have the less barriers there are between your creativity and the final video. The footage I’ll be using for examples is from a music video shot in charlotte nc of the band Steel Standing. The footage was shot for a contest I held for my Video Editor’s Group on linkedin. It was sponsored by Red Giant, Noise Industries and Videoguys. (Also Singular Software, the makers of PluralEyes but the company was bought by Red Giant during the contest)
You can see all the contest submissions here. If you want a copy of the footage to practice with, contact us. If you’re trying to gain experience we’ll probably let you use it in your portfolio as well.
The winning music video, shot in Charlotte NC.
(Unrelated Note: Here’s a really cool music video I found recently that is shot entirely in slow motion. It’s incredibly well made.)
There are 2 standard segments that make up 99% of all music videos
Rise of DSLR’s (It’s relevant I promise)
The company that bought PluralEyes, Red Giant, has released a brand spanking new version that kicks butt and makes the part of the process within these graphics not necessary. However, currently the updated version is only for mac, pc users still have the same version, and this information still applies. Don’t worry, I’m sure Red Giant will get it out for pc soon, they better it’s been a while.
Short video tutorial for how to use the new version of PluralEyes for Mac, which really is awesome by the way.
*Update: The following process of syncing each clip to the studio track, one by one, is not necessary. On a blank timeline drop in the studio audio into track one. Then drop in your video clips one on top of another, each clip with it’s own video and audio track. The most important thing is that each clip is on it’s own track, stacked on top of eachother vertically. I’ve done this many times since I wrote this post and it definitely works. However I’m on a PC now, I switched to premiere pro and the new Pluraleyes still isn’t available for windows so if you’re on a pc like me we still have to use the old version which is not nearly as stable. Depending on how many tracks your stacking you could have issues. I definitely recommend trying to sync them all at once first. You shouldn’t have an issue but if you do then try syncing just a few at a time, that should work. When syncing audio you may have to go in and manually sync one or two tracks if you didn’t get decent audio with your on-board but for the most part it should sync fine.
*If syncing multiple clips at once works for you then skip down to the “Old Process Ends Here” graphic.
I’ve found that the most effective way is to play the song from the beginning. If you don’t like the first angle then trim that down and see how it looks with the 2nd angle, and so on until you find the opening shot you like.
Play the song until you feel an edit. I learned the method of feeling edits from Walter Murch‘s book “In the Blink of an Eye” He teaches to play the clip until you feel an edit and hit pause when you do. Keep doing that until you pause on the same exact frame 3 times in a row. I’m not usually that strict about it, I’ll usually do it until I hit the same frame twice or I’ll split the difference if it’s close and play it a couple times to feel it out. In my opinion timing is something you feel based on the music and the footage.
Music video I shot and edited. Very fast paced editing style on this. The band performance is about 2/3 through.
So you have the opening shot and you know where the first cut needs to be. Take your blade tool and make a cut at the first edit. Right at the edit point go straight up and down and make a cut on every clip above and below your edit. Then trim back all the tracks after the first edit point except the very bottom clip. Play through the edit. If you don’t like the shot it cuts to, pull the next shot in, play it again. Repeat this til you find the shot you do want to cut to.
By now you should be getting a feel for the process, unless you’re extremely familiar with your footage, it’s going to be a trial and error process, however it’s a great way to cut a video with great pacing. It’s a combination of feeling the edit based on the music, combined with trying each available option.
Pluraleyes is available for most non-linear editing platforms…final cut pro, fcpx, premiere pro, sony vegas, avid media composer and grass valley edius. (Final cut pro x has a built in way to do this but it isn’t nearly as good) Singular Software offers a 30 day full trial for every platform so try it out. This is one plugin that is easily worth the time it saves you. Here’s a link where you can download their trial plugins. Trial
*Note: I do not work for Singular Software, it’s just an essential product.
*Note: If you’re editing in final cut, I strongly recommend editing with a wav instead of mp3, mp3′s are very glitchy in final cut pro. (You can easily convert an mp3 to wav by adding the track to your itunes library, change the import settings to wav encoder then right click the song and select “create wav version”
*Note: Let me know what I left out in the comments. Or post a music video you edited and I’ll add it in, or just your favorite music video.
Some Favorite Music Videos