Videographer and musician Stewart French has come up with a couple of do’s and dont’s for classical musicians who want to look their best on short videos. Below are his five key tips to having a good short video
1 : Choose the piece, but film the moment
No matter how famous you are as a classical performer, you’re not going to rival Beethoven for recognition.The first step in getting views is knowing what your audience will click on.
Many things can put people off doing this — you’d be surprised. You might think filming Bach’s Goldberg Variations in one take is an amazing feat, but few people will click on an hour-long video in their lunch-break. But as long as the piece is something reasonably short (around 3 minutes seems to work well) and ideally brings something new to something familiar you’ll be onto a winner.
Once your viewer has committed it’s all about making a connection withyou. So film the magic of the moment. The atmosphere, your unique style or character. That will keep them engaged and coming back for more.
2 : Set the scene & shoot it lean
We’ve found filming performers is more about what viewersdon’t see than what they do. So while it might seem like a great idea to use a nice wide shot of Abbey Road Studio 1, it’s actually just a distraction once the viewer knows the time and place. Set up your scene & lighting to focus attention on what’s important: you.
Once you’ve done this, keep your approach lean. If the scene is good, you don’t need sophisticated multi-camera set-ups or sweeping drone shots. They’ll just distract you from your performance and you’ll never capture anything magical. During our studio sessions we use a single hand-held Canon 5D Mk iii, two spotlights and a bit of patience. Simple.
3: Keep it real
It’s incredible how astute people are when they are watching video. While most people won’t identify an audio edit even if you tell them where it is, mime along in a video and you run a real risk of alienating your viewer. And talking of edits, cut your video clumsily and you might as well put up a neon sign “mistake coming right up”.
Every edit comes with a subconscious credibility cost. Edit too often or too clumsily and your suspension of disbelief will be ruined. In our films we film in one single take and use some delicate microsurgery techniques on the audio to ensure the result is pristine.
4: Tell a Story
We know the “Where?” and the “When?” from point 1. But what about the “Why?” Filming a piece of music is okay. Some people will surely be grateful for another version of the work. But why are you playing it?
Musicians have rich, varied lives and careers. And if you’re being filmed, embed the reason in the details of the film. If it’s a recording project, let the viewer discover this with the edge of the microphone or a cable running across the floor. A viewer is far more interested in a musician who is being filmed living their life than someone who decided to film themselves for no discernible reason.
Tell your audience your story. They might just come along for the ride…
5: Get intimate
We all know what a person, sitting at a piano, playing, swaying backwards and forwards looks like. And we know that a piano has keys that get pressed to move hammers that hit strings. Six seconds of our film is quite enough time to communicate that.
For the remaining 2 minutes 54 seconds get intimate. Film your eyes, a sigh, the touch of your finger on the ivory, a moment of technical agility, the way you hover over the final chord. If the viewer wants to focus purely on the music they’re welcome to shut their eyes. But if they want to watch you making the music, make sure they are watching something interesting.