Shooting a Music Video: Choosing your Kit when Resources are tight

I recently had the opportunity to shoot a music video with my friend and fellow cinematographer Gleb Volkov, who had planned out a concept for the promising Slovakian newcomer band Ve vykřičník, and needed a camera operator for extra support on the challenging shooting schedule. As music videos go, this was a no-budget shoot, meaning he had to make do with very little to produce something that would epitomise the feel of the band’s first release, and also meet his own exacting standards.


Sound familiar? So, how do you approach shooting on a tight-to-non-existent budget? In Gleb’s case, he researched inspirations he liked for the song in question, which also appealed to his aesthetic as a cinematographer, and were still simple enough to pull off on a tight schedule with minimalistic means, which is actually an incredibly tall order, all things considered! The camera we used was Gleb’s own Sony A7S II. We knew from the outset there would be no budget for remote focus or a first AC, so the lenses used had to be compatible with the camera’s well-developed auto-focus. The choice fell on a 25mm Carl Zeiss Batis e-mount lens. For the camera super-smooth camera movement, we would have had a dolly with a good 8-10m of tracks, in an ideal world, however this would have turned our shooting plans upside down. We were in central locations, which would have needed blocking off, levelling, at least 2 additional people on grips, and transportation for all of the equipment… And all that to perch a Sony A7S on top of!


The obvious choice for a decent budget and pro camera would surely have been steadicam, but for obvious reasons, this was of course entirely out of the question. So - a more realistic plan B would have been a camera slider. Albeit an extremely long one. We may have been able to pare the required length down to to roughly 5m, but again, in busy public spaces, this would still have required some blocking off of shooting areas, which means budget, and visibility, rather than fast, discreet shooting. And there was no such slider available at the time of shooting. I would have loved to try this with iFootage’s new Shark Slider Mini, which I recently tested and will be posting a review about shortly, but we did not have a sufficient amount of extension tracks for this to be a valid option.


In the end, after some preliminary shooting and post-production tests, Gleb opted for a gimbal, which, despite all the sophistication available even at a humble budget today, was quite a brave move and takes a good deal of practice. We used the Zhiyun crane 1, which has garnered a lot of rave reviews this year. Our “human dolly” technique worked out well for this video, thanks to the testing we did, both with camera technique, and with the post process, that Gleb had done his homework on well beforehand. We’ll keep you posted for the final result, if anyone wants to take a look!


What are your experiences with shooting on a stringent budget or other major constraints? And what kind of kit would work wonders in helping you reach your goals?