Concept videos, man.
It’s hard to avoid the constant deluge of new dance videos that seem to pop up on newsfeeds every week.
The “concept video” genre is relatively new, and there’s plenty of space for all of us to learn and grow!
What is a concept video?
I suppose the simplest definition would just be a video that HAS A CONCEPT.
A one-shot of you and your homies doing choreography in a studio or garage is not necessarily a concept video (not that there’s anything wrong with these videos).
A concept video has some kind of unifying theme, whether that comes in the form of a storyline, aesthetic, allegory, whatever.
The choreography should be in line with whatever idea you’re trying to portray.
Let’s take this video for example:
Notice how there’s no discernible storyline here. But the video as a whole presents a coherent picture.
The videography, special effects, choreography, and general aesthetic all work together really nicely.
It’s abstract and beautiful and we need more of it. It’s a step away from just having fun in a garage.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of merit in just having fun with videos, but there’s also merit in creating art that’s wonderful in all aspects, not just in the choreography department.
Most people I meet say something like “Oh, I just want to film something small and casual, just for me.” I’m telling you to aim higher.
Give a damn about your art.
Push your creativity in ways that could end terribly.
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Dare to make a horrible disaster of a video instead of another bar-scene-girls-dancing-guys-come-in-and-drop-a-set-one-shot that literally anyone can do.
Real art is neither produced nor consumed at tedious lukewarm temperatures and at least when you fail spectacularly, you learn something from it.
You grow your ability to tell stories, to connect with an audience, to think abstractly, and generally to access those parts of yourself that art allows you to access.
If that sounds like something you’re interested in, read on for some tips.
Your first concept video idea will suck
I don’t think it’s possible to go an entire month without someone releasing a new video that follows the typical bar/club scene trope.
And chances are, someone has already thought of the idea that you’re planning to film, which is why you should scrap it.
It’s painful, but don’t be married to your ideas.
Scrap your first idea, then your second, and then your third.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but constraints breed creativity.
If you force yourself to throw the typical ideas out the window, you leave yourself open to coming up with truly original concepts.
By the time you get to your tenth idea, you’ll have something that nobody else has done before.
Take ownership of your project
As a videographer, not only is it extremely frustrating when a choreographer gives really vague noncommittal direction, its also bad for the product.
If you’re shooting a concept video, take ownership over your project.
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If you were to stage a piece, would you let a random person walk in and block it for you? No, because 9 times out of 10 it won’t turn out well.
They don’t have the kind of insight that you have as the sole creator of the work.
Shooting a video is no different. A videographer is not the same as a director, and certainly not the same as a mind-reader.
If you want your message to be coherent and reflective of your unique point of view, you have to be a director, choreographer, and editor.
Sit down and visualize how you want the entire video to look, shot by shot.
Explain this very clearly to your videographer.
And then sit next to your editor during the post-production process.
Nobody is going to work as hard as you on this, so you should be willing to bust your ass to make sure the final product comes out the way you want it.
I feel like this is fairly obvious, but it needs to be said. Failing to plan is planning to fail.
More than once I’ve shown up at a shoot only for the choreographer to realize that whoops, there’s not enough time to teach, block, clean, and film the dance.
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We had to just come back another day. Professional dancers can probably just meet up an hour before to learn the dance and film right afterwards, but most of us aren’t at that level.
Filming ALWAYS takes longer than you think.
Latching onto Gravity (5 min) easily took 5-6 hours to film.
Sweater Weather (3.5 min) took 8-10 hours over two days.
Lock down your filming days.
Create a loose schedule, make sure your cast is available the entire time, bring your props/equipment and it helps to have a shot list (list of specific shots you want). You want to have all this stuff planned out so you can…
There’s a lot of love for the run-and-gun style of guerrilla filming that a lot of amateur DSLR-users employ.
Plan out how your want your day to generally go, but don’t be afraid to deviate from that structure if you happen to be struck by inspiration.
The less you’re worrying about mundane, operational details, the more you leave your mind open to spontaneity.
The “Latching onto Gravity” video was a total fluke. Frankie and I initially showed up to UCI intending to just film the “Gravity” portion (which would have been horrible) but serendipitously decided to just throw the burrito part in for fun.
Sometimes your best ideas will come on the fly, so be prepared to roll with them!
Balance what you want to make vs. What people want to see
This one is a little tougher to figure out.
Ultimately, you are in charge of what you want to film and how you wish to portray yourself and your art.
But at the same time, viewers are in charge of what they decide to sit through.
Don’t shoot a 10-minute-long homage to your ego that creates a wave of eyes rolling back into people’s skulls.
Be true to yourself and your message but respect your audience.
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“Real artists ship”
Steve Jobs often told the Macintosh team that “real artists ship.”
In the context of the tech industry, to “ship” means to deliver your product to customers.
In the context of concept videos, it means that you have to get off your ass and film something.
The most important step to creating art is to actually create it.
If you spend hours in the studio or garage finely glossing your piece but never get around to finishing it, blocking it, or filming it, then you will never realize your potential.
Accept that your piece will never be perfect.
Grab a few buddies and a camera… and get to shooting!
All you really need to get started is a camera and some editing software.
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There’s no groundbreaking new information in this article. I’m just a guy that likes making videos.
Concept videos are still a relatively new genre, and there’s still a lot of experimentation and progress to be made.
Nobody’s asking you to be perfect or become the next Youtube sensation—that’s missing the point.
Make great videos for your own growth. Laugh and learn from your horrendous failures. We’ll all be better for it.
Our STEEZY Studio classes all have a concept video of the piece that’s taught – check ’em out on our YouTube channel!
Are there any other methods you have found to be tried and true for creating concept videos? Share them by commenting below!
This article was originally published on September 23, 2014.