How to Make a Budget-Friendly DIY Music Video

By Mree

I tend to be rather nit-picky when it comes to my music, so it’s always been important for me to have the control over my music videos. I’m lucky because I actually really enjoy filming and editing music videos, as I see them as an extension of my artistic vision. What works for me may not work for everyone, but if you’re working under a small budget and have a vision and the passion and drive to carry it out, these tips may be helpful for you.

For my latest music video for my song, “Into the Well,” I created the concept and did the editing as I usually do for my videos, but this was the first time I had someone else do the actual filming for me.

The first thing I did was brainstorm a video concept. What do I see when I hear the song? What is the heart of the song about? What lines can I draw out from the lyrics that would be the most visually compelling? I wrote “Into the Well” about my fascination of false nostalgia and the coexistence of dream and reality, therefore, I wanted my video to extend that vision. I wanted to place the audience in the beauty and unrest of the in-between. Being underwater captured that feeling of being both serene and suffocated at the same time.

I also wanted to pay attention to the line, “Bleeding borders run with colors seen before my time” because I thought it was one of the strongest in the song. In the video, I wanted the strings to appear to “cut” my hands, suggesting that the “well” is an internal thing. Our bodies, our skin and bones are mere borders that are filled with spirit, lost memories (which is the paint that spills from my hands) from the internal well.

Next, I created a basic video outline. The more detailed your vision is, the better. Especially when you’re planning to have someone else film your idea, it’s important that you are both on the same page.

Find someone to do the filming. I was super lucky that fan/photographer Joey See came out to one of my shows in NYC and took some pictures. I loved his work and we got in contact. I told him my rough outline to see if it would be doable, and he hopped on board. Having someone else film made this project such a great experience. I didn’t have to worry about guessing to make sure I was in focus, or having someone who didn’t know their way around a camera guess at filming the shots I wanted. Joey took care of all that as well as lighting, helping to make the sets, and providing feedback.

Finalize your outline. Like I said, the more detail, the better. Any sort of visual aid (even if they’re stick figures) is better than none, so use as many examples as possible to ensure that others can see what you’re seeing in your head and can carry it out.

Plan ahead. Search for shooting locations, schedule dates, and get your props in order. You don’t need to rent out expensive locations – get crafty! Use blank walls around the house, hang rugs, change the lighting, wear a different outfit/make-up/hair to create new scenes. Then, figure out which scenes you can tackle at each location. The more, the merrier, but make sure you give yourself enough time for set up and break down at every location (especially if you’re renting out a space).

There were three locations and three days of shooting for “Into the Well.”

  1. I rented a simple studio space for the shots with the hallway of strings
  2. Joey’s relative’s pool in Long Island for the underwater scenes
  3. In front of a blank wall in my basement for the shots with my hair up

Go out and get filming! Pretty self explanatory. Again, make sure to give yourself enough time fore prep and breakdown. In my experiences, filming always takes longer than expected. Also remember to save and back up your files. And, of course, have fun! Filming can easily get stressful as things don’t always go as planned, but think positively and productively.

After you’ve collected all of your video files, invest in video editing software. I use Sony Vegas for video editing. I’ve never had any training in video production/editing, so what really helps me is to learn by watching other music videos I appreciate and try to emulate what I like about them—how they do their transitions, what color correction looks good on certain shots, how the story flows across the video. *Sometimes, I bring my videos into PhotoShop, convert the video to layers and do my editing in there to get really pretty edits. Reading forums and watching tutorials online is also a great help if you get stuck on the technical side of working with the editing software.

Remember to save often and name saves differently so if you end up hating something you’ve been working on, you can go back to an earlier version of the project.

Render out your video and get feedback. Editing can be stressful and time consuming, so it’s important to step back from your work and get fresh eyes to take a look. It’s great to have who hasn’t been working so closely with the video as you have take a look and give their notes. Afterwards, make your adjustments and repeat if necessary.

And that’s my process for making my own music videos. I think this is a great approach for independent artists who don’t have the budget to hire a director and film crew. In addition, you have the utmost control over all that goes into the making of the video, which is great for nit-picky artists like myself.

If you do end up doing the filming yourself (as I have for my previous videos), invest in a good camera. I use the Canon Eos Rebel T2i (550d) which has been a great purchase. It can shoot up to 60fps which is wonderful because I love slowing down footage. Also, having a helping hand around, even if they aren’t extremely camera savvy, is great on set.

[Editor’s note: Head to iTunes to check out Mree’s new album, distributed by TuneCore. Ready to get your music on digital stores worldwide and then start your own music video?  Click here to get started.]

Mree is an emerging independent experimental folk artist from NJ. A skilled multi-instrumentalist whose voice is often described as “angelic” while her lyrics portray a depth well beyond her years, Mree is the consummate artist who writes, records, and produces her own music right from her bedroom. She also films and edits her music videos with stunning visual results.

Mree’s sophomore album, Winterwell, released August 6th 2013, features an electronica component to further enhance the acoustic, ambient, vocal layering that her fans are accustomed to hearing from her.  The album reveals the work of a mature artist who is finding her own unique sound and niche in the eclectic indie music scene.

  • Aaron

    Thanks that was a good read… thanks for sharing

  • Terri Carroll

    Thank you for sharing that.

  • Anelia

    Thats exactly what our little company is doing in Sweden. We are providing low cost video for new-born artists that are willing to broadcast their videos with a Youtube format… we shoot with a system camera and edit with professional tools.

    And this is our last tune now in preview on youtube:

    For any questions contact us 🙂

  • Craig

    I created this little teaser with ZERO budget using some CC Archive footage and overlaying a couple images of our label logo and my new album in Latex Brain format!

    I also created this promo video for my Crowdfunding campaign ( again for no money ) with a borrowed camera (from a friend) and all the overlayed images were drawn by hand , photographed (using my phone) and edited with Gimpshop (a freeware version of Photoshop)

    Hope you enjoy them and they inspire someone somewhere!

  • Plum

    I shot a very low budget, < $500, music video using 7D and got quite good response, 10,000 views for first 6 days. We took the idea from Caine's Arcade and Sweded films around the web, after Michel Gondry's Be Kind Rewind. Click cc for English translation. Hope it help inspire some people.

  • Cortex Food

    Hi @ all !

    My super-zero-budget solution was using VisualJockey SP1<—free free free !!! 😀

    I made all my vids with that tool. It has great fx stuff,nice 4 electronic music i think… you can throw in your pics and vids and mix all together…my vids are very simple `cos i had no time to go deep into the software…if you take you time you can do so much more…i have put the video file with the audio in windows moviemaker.

    VisualJockey SP1 is great 4 fx stuff…and it can do so much more than you can see below…take this as inspiration and check out VisualJockey SP1 if you like fx stuff…

  • Cortex Food

    UFFF…. sorry 4 posting 5 time the whole playlist…thought it is separerly link per link…and sorrry 4 scarry english:-)))

  • Sean Daniel

    Great post Ive made a number of film clips on zero budget with a 600d and final cut studio.

  • Willy Lux

    I used a sony Nex 5 camera with a 50mm lense, a fisheye attachment lense and a 55-210 zoom lense. I would echo alot of the things that are said in this article, especially if you are an independent artist. We live in a visual world, so being seen is very important. Also there is a wealth of information about editing on the net. I”m not a professional editor, but I do have a friend who is, and I always ask him for tips and pointers about my editing. I now reside in Japan, but I”ve had the opportunity to shoot back home in the states as well as Germany. For an independent artist, it would be a great investment.

  • countregular

    the first thing to do is recognize your limitations and reimagine you visuals to suit those limitations.
    I created this video for free, using an iPhone and 1 minute a day for five days at work. Knowing that the lyrics were suited to an idea of how to present the tune I used what I had on me…literally. The only thing that changes in the video from day to is the shirts I’m wearing.


    Thanks for your tips, Mree! I think when we talk about video the main thing is the picture. So the secret of my latest video success is the really scarry places I found near my city

  • the mic

    so how is this low budget? because you dont have P diddy money? because this is a High cost path to the common person.

  • A Whale Called Phoenix

    we also do all our own videos, but our concept is to only use iPhone. even then they still turn out alright

    this is our latest Awe of you of you – A Whale Called Phoenix

    awe of you – A Whale Called Phoenixand as Mree explains, just strip the song back to what your trying to say and your ideas will follow

  • Richard Day Gore

    Great article, and it’s wonderful to see everyone’s vids here. It’s very inspiring to see other artists doin’ it for themselves. Some of my vids are inspired by silent movie villains, and the bulk of the footage is public domain from the movies with myself edited in. My only real expense was the Cyberlink PowerDirector software.

    This one used the cheapo movie editing software that came with my laptop, and the built in web cam. WAY cheap!

    Thanks for the inspiration, everyone!

  • Richard Day Gore

    Here’s another one I did for $0.00–using PowerDirector editing software, self-made drawings, and art elements assembled from here and there—.

  • Great Tip.

  • Guest

    Get a decent DSLR camera. Learn your camera settings (iso, f-stop and shutter speed) and learn the 3 point lighting. Keep it simple and clean when editing. We shot this for less than $200 and used a borrowed sony NEX f3

  • Spencer Taylor

    Get a decent DSLR camera. Learn your camera settings (iso, f-stop and shutter speed) and learn the 3 point lighting. Keep it simple and clean when editing. We shot this for less than $200 and used a borrowed sony NEX f3

  • Tiziano Fioriti

    Same place, 4 days shooting, budget 1k euro.

    Totally DIY, totally INDIE.

    • SeohyunL Babe

      Was it the camera that cost 1k euros?

  • Nick Stillman

    Big White know what they’re doing when it comes to DIY videos:

  • Peter Hajdin

    What about this one: about a week ago, I have finished a DIY video for one of our band’s songs (the language is Slovak). The entire thing is shot on iPhone 6S plus, no additional lens or anything.

    Here it is, in case someone cares:

    • tunecore

      That’s very impressive Peter! Innovative and DIY – with the ‘cool factor’ of being shot entirely from an iPhone 6S. Keep it up!