Todd Durrant’s Random Thoughts
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The No Budget Video Revolution

When it comes to promoting new music, there was something that I always felt bad about in years gone by– I was disappointed that A Different Drum didn’t have a sufficient budget or cashflow to afford cool music videos.   Back in those days, making a cool video meant that you had to hire somebody with the right gear and skills, and often even a “small budget” for a music video was around $5000 which was beyond the financial capacities of A Different Drum.    There were only a few bands in the underground that had videos, usually because of connections with friends and the efforts of the band themselves.

I remember that a couple of the well executed music videos I saw from the underground in the 90’s were from bands like Kiethevez.  I always loved this one for “Can’t See This”:

Or there is the cool video for one of the very cool early De/Vision hits, “Blue Moon”:

Those two bands were licensed by A Different Drum from other labels (October in Sweden, and Strangeways Records in Germnay), so ADD really didn’t have anything to do with the budgeting of the videos.   I remember when Leiahdorus had a new video for their popular debut single “Wake” it was because of a connection with a video student at a university.  The result was a good one:

Another video from the underground of A Different Drum’s label was for Wave In Head “The Other Side”.  This was one of the first times when a band from the label basically decided to pull out a home video camera, grab a friend, and go make a video without worrying about budgets:

I know that I’m leaving out mentions for others who did the same, like The Nine, Neuropa, B! Machine, Cosmicity, etc. who also put together do-it-yourself-videos.   I just can’t cover them all here.

Things have changed now.  The revolution of Youtube has made it almost “hip” and “cool” to put out no-budget videos, and the crazier the idea, the better.  It’s almost preferable to have that “shaky camera” approach of a hand-held video camera.   From the beginning of Youtube it has been a treasure trove of music videos, including all the old big-budget videos of the past.   Since MTV had long since given up airing real music videos, the public could go online and watch any video from any band.  Now, you can find videos even from underground bands, and it doesn’t matter that nothing was spent in the production of those videos.

In fact, the revolution of Youtube has created a sense that having a music video is an absolute necessity to promote new releases.   This has become so much of an unwritten rule that you’ll constantly find “videos” that are nothing more than a photo of the band or album cover with the song playing in the background (no actual action), just so Youtube junkies can hear the new tunes.   Personally, I’m not a big fan of those postings– I want to see something HAPPEN in the video.

Since my son Dylan became interested in making no-budget videos with his $60, out-of-date digital camera last year, I just told him, “let’s do it”.   For our first “official” music video, we got up from the sofa on a Saturday afternoon and went to the local Sam’s Club warehouse store and shot a quick music video for Rename “I’m Happy” (a remix I was working on at the time).   It was very choppy, very no-budget, but lived right up to much of Youtube’s low-fi video standards.   This was the result:

While watching these videos, be sure to click the “HQ” (high quality) button on the screen, which will boost the quality from horrible to just crappy.   We had a lot of fun making the video, and it kind of became a little “hit” with out neighbors who thought it was funny to watch Todd agonize about putting back the Dr. Pepper.   So, we did it again with my own Saudade song “Bad Dreams” which was filmed the morning after Christmas when a fresh blanket of snow had just fallen.  This time we get the whole family involved plus a few neighbors:

Dylan and I have since made more videos, including one for the German band Disreflect which left the “silliness” factor behind to simply create a mood that fit the song:

Oh, and we had a blast with a guy who has a legit C-3PO suit filming a couple different versions of “Like You” by Saudade.  This was particularly fun to shoot because we literally were stopped every few minutes by people passing by who wanted to get a picture with C-3PO.   While we were outside, people would drive by, circle the block, and pull over to get a photo.   The suit was very hard to move in, and even walking was a serious chore, so we kind of played that into the videos a bit:

Dylan, however, was becoming increasingly bummed that our videos were so fuzzy from his old, cheap camera, so he started saving up money earned from weekend labor for neighbors and Ebay sales. Eventually, he had almost $300, which was enough to buy a better camera, though still on the cheap side of the spectrum. This was the first video with the new camera, which could actually zoom-in without pixelizing (something the old camera could not do):

The latest of our no-budget video attempts was for the crazy techno band Das Merman, the second single called “Sharks”.  For this one we called a bunch of neighbors and bought a couple props at a local $1 store.   For about $8 total, we put together what I think is our most entertaining low-fi video so far:

As you can see, we are having fun, and thanks to the revolution of Youtube, there is a place where people can even watch them.  I used to think, “even if I DO spend all the money to make a video, we have no way to even use it except as a bonus CD-Rom track on a CD…”  That concern is gone now!

Now, to finish my little blog about no-budget videos, let me share a couple of my favorites.  These are particularly cool because of their minimal nature.  The first two are shot in a single “take” (no editing) which is nice.  The one for Sadman is probably the most minimal video ever, but I had to keep staring at it just to see what would happen:

And though IAMX appears to have a much larger budget than a lot of underground bands, they put together an alternate video for one of their songs which was more on the spectrum of “no-budget” and I like it better than any of flashier, bigger productions from the band:

OK, and just for kicks, here is one more that I like in the realm of Flash animation videos There are a lot of Flash videos because it is easy once you have the software to put together simple, low budget animation sequences. But this one has reference to the classic “Aliens” movie, so I really dig it:

Well, that wraps up this dive into the world of no-budget music videos. Dylan and I hope to make quite a few more once he is out of school for the summer. I figure, we might as well saturate the scene with these things now because there’s no reason NOT to. Honestly, we crank these things out in about 3 hours max, including shooting, editing, and uploading to Youtube. It literally takes an afternoon to wrap it up from start to finish. True, it lacks a lot of luster and may not impress on a technical level, but that has sort have become the expectation on Youtube now, where a chubby kid doing a dance with his hands in front of a web cam can break a techno song into a world-wide phenomenon! Seriously friends, if millions of people can watch this, mimic it, and embrace it, then we ARE in the midst of a no-budget video revolution!

-Todd

PS.  A buddy just reminded me of the entire sub-genre of no-budget videos on Youtube which entails the combining of favorite movie clips (usually taken from anime or other CGI productions) and putting them together with a favorite song.   Maybe I consider this approach a bit less “legit” because, A) people are using copyrighted songs without permission, and B) they are also using copyrighted movie clips without permission.   But honestly, nobody cares.   The bands often find it flattering that somebody put together a hodge-podge of anime scenes to one of their songs, and the movie-makers haven’t exactly cracked down on it either.   Just do a search for Final Fantasy, and you’ll see what I mean, where you can watch clips to about every music style in the world.    There are also videos made of screen-shots of role-playing game scenes, spliced together with favorite tunes to make a sort of “music video”.

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6 Responses to “The No Budget Video Revolution”

  1. Todd, this is a great round-up of low-budget videos. But don’t forget there’s a whole ‘nuther sub-group of music videos that use video captures from role-playing games (such as Halo and World of Warcraft) for the “video.” An excellent example is this video of The Echoing Green’s well-known song, Supernova.

    • Great point Chuck! I just added a “PS” to the post, though I focus more on the anime video clips collections, etc. which I think are even more rampant than the role-playing game clip shows. I’ve run into a bazillion of these fan-made videos that put anime movie clips together with favorite songs.
      -Todd

  2. Sorry, the link to the Supernova video has changed to:

    http://modernsynthpop.com/echoing-green-supernova/

  3. archive.org is a treasure trove for royalty-free stock video clips from the 50’s and 40’s, many of which have ended up in my videos!

  4. A couple of years ago, a fan of the Cruxshadows made a stop-motion music video using Legopeople for Marilyn, My Bitterness. It’s pretty easy to find on Youtube.

  5. Oh! I remember AMV or anime music videos way back in high school, especially DragonBall Z vids with techno music or Linkin Park, or basically any Nu-Metal band at the time.

    It’s true no budget videos are gaining momentum as MTV style music videos are becoming a thing of the past, much to my dismay, for I would of loved to see my favorite synthpop acts given the royal treatment for once instead of the usual rap videos.

    Second, I am studying film and want to produce/direct/even shoot my own music videos since it’s becoming to increasingly hard to find production companies to do music videos as many bands found a cheaper alternative to paying thousands of dollars by making their own shoestring budget videos with success.

    P.S. I wish more independent bands compiled their music videos into DVD collections, such as what De/Vision did a few years ago instead of floating around YouTube in crappy quality (HQ slightly makes it better).


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