Making Music Videos For YouTube | Part 1

Jordan Colley is the resident video production guy at Line 6 HQ. You might remember his work from "that video that you saw on YouTube" or his epic masterpiece, "that other video you saw on".

Making a compelling demonstration or music video can seem like a secret art sometimes, but it doesn't have to be. The financial hurdles of having to own expensive gear and more expensive studios are quickly fading and there are quite a few simple things that anyone can do to improve the quality of their videos.

Starting at the beginning, you'll want the highest quality of capture that you can muster. So we'll focus on that for this post.


Use an external microphone for dialog if you can. This can make a huge difference in the perceived quality of a video. For most of the videos you see from Line 6, anytime someone is talking they're miced up with an XD-V Wireless Lav Mic and/or a professional shotgun mic. Lav mics are great for creating presence in a voice and getting rid of a lot of the background noise. The only sticky point is that people often rub the mic by changing positions and create an annoying crackling noise (I've made this mistake many times). Shotgun mics often don't have this problem, but they can pick up more background noise and won't work with a moving subject unless you have another person, a boom operator, to follow the subject around with the mic. Because shotgun mics are super-directional, they'll primarily pick up anything in the direct path of the end of the mic. So it's usually best to position it over the subject and aim it down at their head. This way, the only thing in the path of the mic other than the person's mouth should be the floor and you'll minimize any background noise.

If your camera has XLR inputs, that's usually the easiest place to plug the mic in as you won't have to deal with syncing later. If not, then you need to record to a high quality audio recorder or to your computer via an audio interface. You can then sync the high quality audio with the camera audio later and mute the camera audio. If you're using one of the supported video editing programs, I highly recommend checking out Plural Eyes for this.

If you have to use the camera mic for dialog, try to minimize the background noise by finding a quiet space, turning off the air, shutting doors and unplugging any unnecessary electronics. There are also many computer programs that will analyze the recorded audio and help you dial down if not eliminate the background noise. I've had stellar luck with Apple® Soundtrack Pro's noise reduction.

• Record guitar tracks direct if you can. For most people that don't have tons of studio hours and experience, the quickest way to a great guitar sound is going to be through recording direct using a modeler like the new POD HD® multi-effects pedals or POD Farm™ 2 plug-in. You can use one of the presets or get more adventurous by building a tone from scratch. The important thing is to LISTEN. Every player has different "hand tone", so you'll often need to tweak a tone to respond to your particular playing style. Also keep the context in mind, because some tones might sound like utter crap by themselves but might be perfect if they're being integrated into a song.

Secret EQ Tip: The human ear is attuned to the human voice which often occurs most prominently around 3 to 6k. If you want a particular guitar track to be more present in a mix, you can often slightly boost 3k using the POD Farm™ 2 mic preamps. Use this sparingly though. You don't want everything to have the same priority in a mix. Sound design involves balance and space. There's an excellent short TED Talk on the subject here.

• Be aware of volume levels. First off, make sure that when you are recording the audio it's not clipping the input or too loud. It's usually good to adjust the input levels on your recording device until you're getting a good healthy signal that is never clipping but the peaks are just short of clipping. That way you make best use of the signal to noise ratio. Secondly, make sure that your audio levels are balanced between voice and guitar or various tones that you might be demonstrating. You don't want the voice in the video to be much louder or much softer than the music sections unless music and voice is happening at the same time, in which case it's probably best to have the music drop in volume whenever the dialog is happening.


Learn as much as you can about lighting. In my mind, this is the single most important skill you can have in doing video. You can do amazing things with mediocre or DIY gear if you understand lighting and the way a camera "sees" light. At a basic level, you can start with the 3-point lighting technique (smugness not included). You don't necessarily have to have professional lights to achieve this effect as long as you are aware of how the technique works. I've used everything from an IKEA Lamp Shade as a fill light to common work lights from a hardware store as key lights (you can see those prominently here creating a flare effect in the M9 video). If you want to really understand lighting, I highly recommend reading Lighting for Digital Video and Television by John Jackman.

• Take more pictures and study photography. This can be a huge help for learning about framing. Even if you're just taking pictures with your cellphone camera, you can learn a lot about perspective and what kinds of shots you tend to like. You can then transfer this knowledge to your video work. Also, the worlds of video and photo are blending with all the new DSLR cameras that also shoot HD video. I've been filming most of the stuff for Line 6 lately with a Canon T2i and you can see some of the things that are possible with that and a 50mm lens here and here.

• Pay attention to the background. Your eye is naturally drawn to things that are in focus, bright colors, bright light and other visual cues. Using this knowledge, it's often helpful to simplify the background in your video. This helps draw attention to whatever you want the viewer to focus on. You can do this by picking a clean and simple location to shoot in, filming in front of a backdrop of some kind or narrowing the depth of field so that the background is softer and out of focus.

What else would you like to know about video production? Let me know in the comments and I'll try to address it in the upcoming posts.