Beginner questions about making music videos with Hitfilm Express

MrFair Posts: 3
edited March 2018 in Practical Filmmaking

Hi everyone,

I'm quite new to film making and my goal is to learn how to produce simple videos for my music projects. The videos should focus on us playing our instruments and will be more like a live video than a pop music video with story etc. Here is a link to a video of someone else whose style I really like: 

I would ultimately like to be able to produce something similar.

I have already started learning about the basics of Hitfilm Express and filming, but I could use a "reality check" of my plans and/or tips on how to go about achieving my goal.

What I think how everything would work out:

  1. Record the audio track for the music video (completely off topic for this forum but I already know how to do this/I can use studio tracks of our music). I'll call this track the "master track".
  2. Plan the shots by planning different angles etc.
  3. Record each angle/shot by playing playback to the "master track".
  4. Put all the videos on different "layers" in Hitfilm and sync all of them with the "master track". The idea being that I can than easily cut, since all shots are in sync to the same master track. I have no idea if this is the right way of going about this, though
  5. Cut the videos, process them etc.

I know that this will be quite a bit of work to learn all this stuff and then produce such a video, but I feel quite motivated and am super interested in learning all this. Step 5 is obviously also be a huge step, but right now I am more worried about those "logistic" steps 3 & 4, which I am quite uncertain about. A few questions:

  1. Is this a realistic view/plan for producing this type of videos?
  2. Does step 3 make sense? If not, what would be the correct way to do this?
  3. How do I record the videos in such a way that it will be easy to sync them with the master track later on? I'm thinking of having a count in to a clap in the master audio, also clap while recording the playback video (to have a clear audio signal for syncing), then have a count in to the music and then record a whole shot through the whole master track for each angle. But this seems quite cumbersome to me. Any tips would be appreciated.
  4. I read that Hitfilm Express is not good with multi-cam videos. I wouldn't use multiple cams ,but different shots of the same cam, which seems quite similar? Would this be a problem? Is Hitfilm Express the right software for me?

Thanks for taking the time to read this. Any help would be much appreciated. I am also looking for tutorials on how to film such a music video, but I haven't found a lot so far (most videos about music videos focus on a different style of music video).


  • Stargazer54
    Stargazer54 Posts: 3,801 Ambassador

    @MrFair Wow.  That's a pretty tall list of questions.   And  I definitely like the style of the video you posted.   But if you have never done this type of work before, I would suggest starting small - with one performer, who you know well, and will assist with the production.

    Even with one performer, you will want multiple camera angles.  You will want a lock down of the "wide" shot.   Another camera tracking the musician's movements as they play - this will require a camera operator.  And a third camera that shoots in the "wild" and goes for the closeups on the face, on the hands, moves around the subject - basically constantly moving all around the scene catching those "hero" shots (or cutaways) that make the piece pop.

    Right there including yourself, you have at least two camera operators and you will have 3 streams of video to sync and edit.   The first wide shot camera should be your Master track, assuming you properly mic the performer and match impedance levels with your camera - or record on a third party audio device such as a Zoom.

    It is problematic to record a "master" track ahead of time because you will likely run into problems with the tempo being different than the on camera performance.

    Syncing your "wild" camera will be a bear.  Because you will probably not be continuously shooting with it.  If you pause recording while you move to a different view angle, then you'll be out of sync with the audio.  You'll have to slice up the good clips from that camera and sync them manually.

    So that is what I mean by starting small.  Maybe one lock down wide shot for the master track (and cover footage) and a second camera that runs continuously, as well, so you never get out of sync with the audio.  You'll burn a lot of footage while you relocate the second camera to a new angle, but who cares - it's digital, you can afford to let it run.

    And start off with a short song - no longer than 3 minutes or so.  Otherwise you'll be wading in footage and the whole point is to practice technique as efficiently as possible.  Once you get your work flow down between shooting and editing, then expand to include more performers or more cameras.

    Hope that helps.

  • Triem23
    Triem23 Posts: 20,199 Power User

    Good advice from @Aladdin4d

    One potential issue raised has an easy solution. Let your "wild" camera run the entire time. It's FAR easier to synch long streams and chop the wild cam in the edit than start/stop the cam on set and have to synch each clip.

  • MrFair
    MrFair Posts: 3
    edited March 2018

    @Stargazer54, @Triem23: Thanks for taking the time to help! :)
    I know it's a lot of stuff, so I really appreciate it! These questions have been floating around my head in the last few weeks and I felt like I really needed input from someone with more experience...

    Yes, my plan is also to start small. For example, I plan to only work with "fixed camera on a tripod" shots in the beginning (so no camera movement), to make things easier.

    The linked video is just like a far-away end goal for me, so that you know what I am looking for. I have a few more questions about your posts and things that I'd like to clarify:

    1. I don't have the budget to buy multiple cameras, so I don't think I'll be able to capture different shots of a performance at the same time. I also don't think that I'd be able to handle recording video and audio at the same time. This is why I wanted to use a  "master track" (and also because I can use studio quality audio this way).
    2. Regarding the tempo issue of the video and master track: I thought that this could be handled by having the performers play playback while the master track plays in the background (maybe even with a click track mixed in). I am pretty sure that the musicians in the above video are playing playback.
    3. I also planned on recording the WHOLE track for each shot, like @Triem23 said, to make editing easier. But I wasn't sure if this is a bad idea.

    So, my idea general workflow idea for my first projects would be:

    1. Record the audio master track
    2. Have the performers perform to the master track and playing playback. Only use a shots and only used fixed angles. No camera movement. Do this in multiple stages:
    3. Record a "whole scene" shot. (playback, whole track)
    4. Record one or two close up shot of each performer (playback, always whole track)
    5. Sync everything up.
    6. Edit.

    Does this sound more realistic? Do you have any tips on what I should learn? Especially on how to sync up the clips or how to actually film this to make it easier (see my suggestions in the original post... I have no idea if those make sense :) ) and if Hitfilm is actually the right software for this (regarding the multi-cam issue).

    Thank you again!

  • Have finished such a music video. Had the job to produce a finished mixed song a video in which at the end of the song the artist should stand on a meadow, and sing. Furthermore, we only had photos.

    What have we done:
    Played the song, the artist recorded against a green background, and just let sing to the song.
    In the postproduction the interpreter is synchronized with the song, done.

    So you could do it with several camera settings, the song is played as often as I would like to have camera settings. The musicians play again and again. Then I have different camera settings, which I can mix at will.

    Would be a possibility.

    English is Google translated.

  • HitFilm is just dandy for music video creation. I've been doing them in Pinnacle Studio and I'm in the middle of cutting a new one in Pinnacle, HitFilm, and DaVinci Resolve. Why all three? Because I'm switching away from Pinnacle (it crashes often, and bogs down to a crawl on longer or more complex projects with lots of long cross fades). I also tried Avid Media Composer First, but it was a disaster in most every way possible, including not being able to uninstall it for 4 months and some of the most horrible customer support I've had the pleasure of enduring in 30 years. ;-)

    Anyway, HitFilm Pro worked well, it's a pretty clunky in the edit timeline compared to Pinnacle but it's stable and didn't bog down... so even with it taking longer to do simple things like cross fades I was able to duplicate the Pinnacle cut in about 1/2 the time (no crashing and no waiting!).

    DaVinci Resolve is probably going to be my favorite.  It's edit timeline interface is nearly as polished, easy and in some way more powerful than Pinnacle and it's coloring features are the industry standard. But HitFilm is on the move and even the free version is enough to make music video's on.

    As to your other questions...  here is a sample of the music video's I create.

    My workflow list:

    1. Record the audio and mix to 2 track master (this need not even be a final mix, as long as you are not going to move any performance vocal or instrumental notes around in time. Export as a 48k wav and 48K mp3. use the mp3 during filming as your master audio that all players play with and "air band" perform too. Play back through a boom box, but be aware that the distance between the performer and boom box, and the camera and boom box should be kept very close to the same as each other... that will help you sync later. All audio tracks will need to be manually synced on the timeline in Hitfilm (the auto sync feature is doesn't help at all for music video projects (I've submitted a request on that ;-). You'll also want to include a count in click or beeps on your mix at every place there is silence before they music comes in without warning. It should be at the starting tempo of the coming section. (most songs just need a count in.. but some have dramatic pause, space or breaks in the... you'll need to cue those in so the performer knows when to come in or they will need lots of takes to get it right ;-)

    2. Setup for the shoot. Consider your desired look and feel before the shoot, consider lighting ambient and any added, setting, colors of the setting, the clothing, background etc. to make things visually play well together.  Consider inviting a friend with a camera to come assist and maybe shoot at the same time. You'll get an assistant, a 2nd camera, and you'll be done faster (1/2 as many takes in many cases), with more easily edited footage because cutting from one shot to the other will look more natural when the subject has the exact same expression on their face during the transition. It's ideal if they have the same camera as you but, beggars can't be choosers! Just be aware that in post you'll have to do some magic to make that 8 year old $1500 Nikon D7000 look as good as the $3400 Nikon D850, and in low light... it won't ever get there. Yeah, I've got the old D7000 ;-)

      Think through your shots. Wide establishment shot, Medium shot, and close ups... But from what angles and from what distance with what lens? how will that effect your lighting setup if any? And what about extreme close ups? Note the singer head shot and the cello close up detail in the Blush Video? People love detail. and they love seeing close ups of the instruments being played... you don't need to include a lot of it in your final cut, but having a lot of it to choose from is very nice for segues and transitions or interludes.

      "No camera movement. Only use single shots and only used fixed angles."

      Why no camera moves? The single most powerful production quality lifting thing you can do for your shots is... Nope, not camera moves! Lighting! Ahahaha! But adding camera moves is easier and less expensive than you think and it adds a lot!

      See this video... shot with one camera with a hand held gimbaled stabilizer - rented for $70 for the day. 

      You don't have to have a moving video like this, but having the ability to move the camera adds a lot of visual stickiness to your shots. 
      Even a simple monopod that you can slowly zoom in/out by just 2' makes a huge difference and you can do that with your tripod by just having one leg be 6" lower than the other two so they stay up out of the way as you move.

    3. Ready to shoot. Have the performers perform to the reference mix track. Shoot your master wide shot 2x each from a different angle,  
      Shoot your medium shots 2x each from a different angle.
      Now, you've got  your performer all warmed up to singing or playing to the track. Now is a good time to come in on the close ups and or extreme close ups if we are talking faces being in the shot. 
      I'm going to assume that you will be encouraging them to put a lot of physical and facial emotional expression into their performance, but now is the time to dial that up to level 10.  you're going to need to shoot each player once, and any singers or solo players 2-3 times. 
      Your talent is tired and ready to by done... so you need to know that you have gotten useable shots from each key player/performer at wide, med, and close up shots.

      Now take a little time to shoot some details of the players playing their instruments. You've gone to the location and look at it and shot some photos to see what you've got to work with and you've made a list of all your main shots and b-roll that you'll want... USE YOUR LIST but don't be afraid to prioritize it and drop some if you have to or add some that you didn't think of but are better anyway!

      Now take a little time to shoot some B-roll footage (might be good to shoot some of that before they get there too if you have time.) anything that gives a sense of the place, it's cool features and ambiance if it can be used to enhance the final cut.
      Of course if you took my advice and invited a friend, you'll be getting all of the above done faster with less takes, assuming your friend is shooting good quality footage. If they are not, lock their camera down to a stationary position and just have them start and stop it's recording for each take after you've set the framing, exposure and focus you want. ;-)

    4. "Record a "whole scene" shot" (playback, whole track) - This is great, and makes syncing your tracks at little easier but since you have to sync everything manually, BUT it's not that big a deal to find the right area and sync up a few tracks that you just started right before the chorus or bridge... get the shots and you'll be able to use them. and you're players will not get so worn. It will make your editing job harder but not because of they extra min. of sync work. It's because it increased the number of shots you have to go through and select out of. 

    5. Ingest your footage and convert to editing format of your choice if any.

      Import your Final Mix (if you are waiting for a final mix, pull in your ruff mix in the .WAV 48K format (you want your audio to be 48K because... your DVD or MP4 or MOV or whatever you output to - Video - is 48K and while most programs say they don't care, they often do and if you've got camera footage shot at 48K and you lay that down next to a 44.1K master audio track you just might find that your video drifts out of sync over time and that will lose you a lot of sleep and possibly cause a divorce or a dead pet. Just shoot in, record in, mix in and edit in 48K for video and you'll have a blissful marriage and a happy puppy!

      Now... review your footage and on a piece of paper make a shot list of your best takes, which clip and start/end times and what they are, wide, medium, close up, lead, guitar, foot tapping... whatever. This will take you time! It is worth it! Some takes will have lots of usable footage, note them all. some with only have that perfect expression for one phrase of music. You can mark you in/out points but you only get to make one per clip so don't worry too much about that unless there is just one. 
      By the time you've gone through all your footage, you'll want to take a break. DON'T! Everything is fresh. You've developed a sense of what you have and probably some good ideas how you want to use and where... start in and try to do a quick, dirty but complete rough cut of the whole thing in one hour or two. You'll come back and tweak and polish later, for now, just get the ruff thing in!

      I generally drag my whole clip down, sync it manually to the master audio track, then slide/trim the start stop points that I want for the clip. If I'm using 4 sections from one clip... they are all synced now and I'll just cut them each and delete the rest... based on my paper hit list. 

      I also often use sort of a pyramid layout... wide shots at the bottom - get that in first, medium shots, then close-ups on tracks above that. extreme close-ups above those and any b-roll up above that. I might have 8-13 video tracks on a music video. Plus, I'll often have a "what if" track or two where I can put in a good alternate clip  or even a whole alternate edit version that I can try by turning it on and hiding the layer that I'm comparing it with. That' gets pretty complex and confusing at times but you're probably young and keep track of it better than I can! For now... just keep it simple and go with your first pass best crack at it!
      The advantage of this is that I can to a nice cross fade between my background wide shot and anything above it or above what's above it... simply by dragging in a fade in or fade out on the higher clips. then if I change where it comes it or out... by fades are all good and just move with the trim point. I can also mix more than one clip at a time and have 2, 3 4 or even 5 clips all interacting as I want (plus I can use transparence on the whole clip too).

      It helps if you have a general structure... start with a wide shot, then move to a medium, then back to a wide from another angle, then back to a medium and another medium, then a close up. back to a medium another medium and then to a close up, another close-up and a medium and then a extreme close-up or some b-roll... back out to a wide or medium... Note that you are essentially zooming in visually as your song progresses and you are building intimacy as they songs builds to it's climax. Almost like you had a plan! ;-) You can pull back out after the chorus to a wide shot again and start all over as it builds just generally stay closer and get closer the last time around until you pull back out if you want to at the end. 

    6. Edit. Oops! Guess what, you just made your life more difficult because you didn't think about your editing until now! Think about your editing before and WHILE you are shooting. ask yourself, "How will I start this shot? How will I end it? How will it transition into the next shot? hard cut or dissolve? focus blur in to focus, or blur out at the end? slow or fast? Pan or tilt in or out? Am I going for artsy and moody or just static shots that make people fall asleep?" ;-) Anything you do in camera that considers and makes for better editing saves you lots of time and makes much better end edit.

      Home work: Go out an practice shooting with transitions in mind before your shoot, it will be very helpful - Trust me!

    Learn to light. Learn to see, use, modify and abuse light. Light is your whole box of brushes. Follow the light!

    Good luck!

  • Juda1
    Juda1 Posts: 298 Just Starting Out*

    @brucesearlcom Very imressive. The transition in the story where the guy legt the chair the cello girl then used: Everything smooth not only in the cut but also the story. 

    Honors to you, Bruce.

  • brucesearlcom
    brucesearlcom Posts: 25
    edited April 2018

    Juda1 Thank you. The idea was to illustrate the lyric idea of the singer having a crush on someone, who doesn't even know she exists, so I put her in the middle of a busy school hallway, full of kids, who don't even recognize that she exists. The mini story is either about the typical boy meets girl story, or is it about the boy that the singers has a crush on that doesn't know she even exists and falls for another girl instead. It was left intentionally open to multiple possible stories to allow viewers to wonder and identify with which ever situation they might have been in themselves. Who am I to tell them what my video really means! ;-)

  •  @brucesearlcom Oh, wow, thank you so much for your detailed post! Sorry that I didn't react sooner, I honestly didn't look into this forum since March! Thank you so so much for your help, I will go through your post very thoroughly. I'm working on a video right now - unfortunately I shot everything before I saw your list of tips, but I've been doing a lot of the things you said instinctively :)

    Thank you for taking the time to write this! I'm sure it will help me a lot! Would it be okay to ask some follow up questions?