Visual Effects for Music videos

Visual Effects for Music videos


 How to bring the latest visual effects into your next music video


 About the author:  Christian Darkin is an illustrator and animator and has written five books and countless magazine articles on animation and visual effects.


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Visual Effects in Music Videos 


Nowadays probably more music videos feature CGI and special effects than don`t.  Visual Effects and 3d animation are a great way to create a stunning and original look for your promo, and because CGI allows you to do more than ever before � even if your budget is measured in thousands rather than tens of thousands of pounds� the opportunities for using post production effects in your music video promos are greater than they`ve ever been.


One of the reasons for this is that video effects artists and animators tend to see music videos as a way to try out new visual effects ideas and techniques that they don`t usually get the chance to use in more tightly controlled, and higher budget video productions for TV and film.  They get to be more creative, and can often suggest their own ideas of how to use new cutting edge FX techniques that even film producers aren`t yet aware of.  If you`re prepared to be flexible, then you can often get a good deal on some really impressive visual effects.




A few visual effects and 3d animation tips:


 Talk to an animator or visual effects artist as early as you possibly can in your production.  They might be able to suggest ideas that will look great.  They`ll also be able to steer you away from potentially costly decisions.  The visual effects industries are closely intertwined so if the animation design studio you get involved initially doesn`t have all the skills needed for your project, they`ll know who has and be able to bring them into the production.


Bluescreen or chromakey effects:  Film yourself, your dancers, or anything else against a chromakey (single colour) background and you`ll be able to replace the backdrop in post production, superimposing your main subject in front of a 30 foot high video wall, or creating a club full of dancers or a stadium full of fans from a few extras.  A small bluescreen studio will cost you about �500 to rent for a day, but it`s probably the best investment you can make on your music video production because it will allow you to do so much with the footage.  Talk to an animation design studio and they`ll be able to advise and even shoot your bluescreen visual effects for you.


Doing a completely animated video is likely to be expensive � if your budget is less than �5,000 you`ll need to be very creative to make it stretch.  Short 3D animated sequences, CGI environments and other effects elements are more effective and cheaper.


Get your face in � the video is about promoting you as much as the song and you need to be in it and at the forefront most of the time � so don`t be tempted to create a visual effects 3d animation masterpiece that doesn`t involve you!          


 Post Production special effects � an FX artist can add a �look� to your video in post production giving it glows, contrast and colour effects, a grungy film feel, or a sharp digital look or even painted look.  It shouldn`t be that costly, but you need to know what you`re planning before you shoot because your look will affect the lighting and shots you take.


Think Feature film:  Think of your music video production in terms of a mini feature film � with a story and important moments.  Concentrate your visual effects on those important moments.


Inspiration:  Here`s a list of videos where CGI and visual effects are used to great effect � search for a few on youtube and get some ideas:

    • Madonna � 4 minutes 


    •  Kylie � can`t get you out of my head 


    •  Oasis � all around the world 


    • Fat boy slim � right here, right now 


  • Robbie Williams � rock dj (full version) 


  • Gorillaz � Clint Eastwood 


  • Bjork � hidden place 


  • Basement jaxx- where`s your head at 




OK � so what@s this going to cost me?


 Visual effects and animation is a pretty broad subject � covering everything from South Park to The Golden Compass, and the budgets change to match.  


  What`s usually better is to give the video animation studio a rough idea of what your budget is and let them tell you what they can do with it.  My usual method is to take the customer`s budget and give three options � one undercutting it, one using it to the full for the best possible effect � and one letting them know what they could get if they could find a little more.


 Of course that`s only possible if the budget is reasonable to start with � and if you`re working with a visual effects budget of less than about �1,000 (not including shooting the video), you`re probably better off doing the effects yourself.






Most post production and visual effects companies will ask for 25% of the cost up front, 25% on delivery of the first finished version and the remaining 50% at the end of the project (often � if no changes are needed � the last two invoices are at the same time).




What if I really can`t afford visual effects?


If your budget really won`t stretch to special effects work, try asking your editor what filters they can apply to give your video a unique look.  It`s also worth checking out stock footage sites like and where you can buy video and animation clips, royalty free for a few dollars.



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