Editing a music video – the balancing act

One of the interesting things about editing a music video, I find, is that there’s a real balancing act to manage the expectations of the artist(s) against those of the technical crew. This is even more apparent when working on relatively low budget productions.

The artist, of course, wants to look their best – and ideally that’s everyone’s goal for the video, as a music video’s primary purpose is to promote the artist and their music. The technical crew want their work to look the best – the shots they’ve taken, the way they’ve lit the set and every aspect of production that showcases their abilities. Their needs are also important as they are usually (at least in New Zealand) contributing their time and effort for a greatly reduced rate based on the understanding that they will use the resultant product as a calling card for their services.

The DP (Director of Photography) wants you, as an editor, to use only the shots with the best photography – the best lighting on the subject, the most interesting angle and ‘how’d they do that’ camera move. The artist wants only the shots that show their good side; those that catch their most natural moments of showmanship, not the ones where they’ve pulled a strange look to camera or performed an awkward move during the discomfort of trying to get “in the moment” at a public location with a crowded set and a tinny ghetto blaster providing playback(!). These issues may well be mitigated by larger budgets but with the scope of productions in New Zealand we are forced to deal with them on a regular basis.

The obvious issue that arises is when the needs of the two parties clash – the perfect shot that shows the DPs best-lit work contains a less-than-flattering angle of the artist, or the artist’s most natural looking moment of rock-star-cool happens as they pull back from their mark and go slightly soft focus… And when you’ve had to cram a three day shoot into one day there aren’t a lot of options.

Speaking of conflict between actor and crew, here’s the famous Klaus Kinski in one his many tirades at a crew member. The balancing act of managing volatile temperaments under pressure conditions is a whooole other post for another time…

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There’s no easy answer for this. My personal choice 95% of the time is to go with the best look for the artist over any technical issues – but I’ve also made the call at the 11th hour to completely reedit a significant chunk of a video because the DP was really unhappy with the shots used. In that case, the artist had made his own stipulations around any changes made to the cut he’d seen (i.e. we weren’t allowed to make any!) but thankfully, when it came down to it, he didn’t mind – I think mostly because he was unavailable at the time we had to make the edit and he only saw it much later so time had probably dulled his memory somewhat. I made the choice to edit, even so late in the piece, because my relationship with the DP was important to me and the shots used were important to him.

I don’t know if anyone else outside of NZ faces these issues but I know it’s something you have to get used to, working here. It keeps the tension high and makes for a significant personal win when everyone is pleased with the results! (fingers crossed for the current project!)

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