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How to Shoot a Live Music Video

Mackenzie Scott

Sep 8, 2021

Imagine a filmmaker that you admire arriving on a film set without a clue as to what the project is and thinking to themselves, “No big deal. I’m gonna wing it.”

If the very thought made your eyes roll to the back of your head — well, that’s a pretty rational response. We all know that video production simply doesn’t work like that. 

For any production to run smoothly, you have to put in the work during pre-production. We’re talking shot lists, treatments, storyboards, scripts, etc. And that’s because relying on luck and a good reputation alone won’t get you or your production far. 


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Even though this tends to be a very linear process (i.e., you’re always moving from pre-production to production to post-production), every team’s day-to-day looks different. 

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: the best resources for creators are other creators.

If you’re as eager to learn new tips and tricks from fellow creators as we are, this behind-the-scenes breakdown of our production process is something you’ll want to check out. 

In this blog and the video above, we share everything we’ve learned from shooting live music videos for our Soundstripe Live series. 


Make this guide your own

Here’s the thing. No matter how small or large your team is, the production responsibilities get divvied up and call sheets are made so that filming stays on track and under budget.

In other words, you don’t need to have x amount of crew members on your team to pull off a successful production. There’s room to be flexible here. 

So, as I run through our Creative team’s production process, make note of the tips that are most relevant to you and leave the rest. At the end of the day, we all just want to find better ways to improve our current workflow, right?

With that said, let’s jump right into our process for shooting Soundstripe Live videos.

Behind-the-scenes of a Soundstripe Live shoot

If you’re not that familiar with our Soundstripe Live videos, they’re an ongoing series where we showcase live music performances by artists like Timber Choir, Emorie, and The Night Driver

To produce these music videos, we usually have about 15 crew members on set that handle everything audio, lighting, and filming-related. This includes our producer, director, mix engineer, camera operators, and more. 

During pre-production, we’ll typically book a studio location in Nashville and plan to shoot  Soundstripe Live videos with two artists in one day. (You can see why it’s important for us to have a detailed call sheet, lighting overhead, and set design strategy.)

Leading into production, there are four main things that we want to make sure we get right: the music, the performance, the sound quality, and the set design.

It all starts with the music

Every music video production begins with — cue the drum rolls — the music itself. 

As obvious as this sounds, it’s our main priority to represent each song and artist in the best way. That means matching the mood and tone of the song with the visuals in the music video and involving the artist in the entire process.   

This brings us to our two golden rules for filming Soundstripe Live videos:

1. The visual representation of a song matters

The first thing we do when preparing to shoot a Soundstripe Live performance is consider the tone and feel of the music. Is it ambient and somber? Chill and electronic? Upbeat and hopeful?

By customizing the set design and lighting setup, we can accentuate the mood of the music and create a really powerful visual effect. (If you need a visual reference, check out these two images from Emorie and Luna Wave’s Soundstripe Live performances.)




This also means that when we’re shooting with multiple artists in one location, we can completely transform the look and feel of the set. And viewers are none-the-wiser that both music videos were filmed in the same place.  

2. The artist is't a prop, so don't treat them like one

We wouldn’t be able to make Soundstripe Live videos without the artists and musicians who write and perform the songs. So who better to work with when planning and shooting the music video? 

It’s important to have conversations with the artists early on so that we can represent them and their music in the right way. 

And if we’re shooting multiple songs with one artist, we have to be intentional about what songs we start with. Because if we’re not, an artist could easily expel all of their energy and vocals on a really loud and high energy track right out the gate — especially on long filming days. 

Recording live music videos

We use live audio instead of pre-recorded audio for all of our Soundstripe Live music videos (hence the name). Even though shooting live music videos is nothing new, it’s still more common for production teams to take the pre-recorded route.

There are a few reasons why this is the case, but the main one is that the performance aspect can pose new challenges for production teams. Here are a couple challenges we’ve overcome:

The camera setup

If you only have one camera, you’re going to need to do multiple takes and make sure that all of the footage will match up when you edit it all together in post-production. 

To cut down on the amount of retakes we have to do, we have a three camera setup. That way, multiple camera operators can cover different parts of the live performance at the same time. 

Sync think

The last thing we want during a shoot is to film the guitarist during a piano solo. To make sure all of our camera operators are in sync with each other and the music, we supply each one with a set of headphones. 

That way, our sound engineers can signal when we should capture specific types of shots during the performance (which again, saves time during production). 

Getting the right sound

Let’s face it. Soundstripe Live wouldn’t be possible without the mix engineers on our team. 

Since we’re not using pre-recorded audio, we have talented mix engineers on set to make sure that we’re capturing the best-quality audio in real-time. 

This involves creating an input list, labeling every piece of audio equipment, and planning ahead of time where everything is going to be plugged into on location. Once we arrive on set, our mix engineers take note of how sound travels in the room (i.e., if it’s too reverberant, etc.).

And when it comes to mics, we’re a big fan of dynamic microphones like the Shure SM7B. (It’s an effective way for us to reduce the amount bleed from source to source.)

For more insight about the audio setup process, be sure to check out the Tips & Tricks video at the top of this post. Our mix engineer Ken Baumann breaks down his approach to rigging the audio for each Soundstripe Live production.

Looking for more tips?

Whether you’re prepping to shoot a music video with pre-recorded or live audio, this isn’t something that you can just put together last-minute. If you’re looking for more content like this, check out the Soundstripe YouTube channel