How To Make A Low Budget Daydreamish Music Video

12 August, 2015
An example of a low-budget music video that successfully achieves "daydreamishness".

High Budget Daydreamish Music Videos

In my article "Daydreamish" Content in Music Videos I gave some examples of music videos that I considered to be "daydreamish".

All the examples I gave in that article are music videos for songs by major artists, with high production values, and those videos probably had considerable money spent on making them.

A Low Budget Example

However, the basic techniques for adding "daydreamishness" to music videos don't necessarily require a big budget production.

The following music video, of YouTube artist Marina Lin, singing a cover of Selena Gomez's Good for You, caught my eye:

The video uses three major techniques which help to achieve daydreamishness:

Also important is what Marina looks at while she is singing, which is always one of two things:

A final aspect of the video is the background. Apart from Marina and her microphone, the only things we see are a somewhat abstract painting hanging on a white wall, and part of a black lamp. The background items are never fully in focus, and although they give us something additional to look at, they do not invite any strong attention, and there is not enough information in what we see for us to have any strong sense of where Marina is.

Effects not used in this music video

Marina's video consists of a single take of her performing the song, and there's no obvious editing or post-production. So the effects used in the video are limited to what can be achieved by camera technique and performance technique.

What other techniques could be used when making a low-budget music video?


Dancing can be an effective addition to a music video.

However, to achieve a significant effect, the dancing needs to have multiple dancers, and they need to be synchronised. The effect can be stronger if the dancing is choreographed. Relatively unchoreographed "dancing on the dance floor at a party" scenes can work well, but typically require a larger number of dancers.

Also, any synchronisation needs to be relatively good, because adding badly synchronised dance to a music video is a bit like adding out-of-tune singing to a music video.

Non-Performance Content

Most deliberately produced high budget music videos will have some content which is not the artist or artists performing. Non-performance content can be divided into two major categories:

  1. The artist or artists doing something other than performing (where "doing something" might actually be "doing nothing much").
  2. Content that tells a story or describes a situation about a person, or some people (which may or may not include the artist or artists), usually something that relates in some way to the lyrics of the song.

When you add non-performance content to a music video, you do have to be aware of the danger of making a video which is trying too hard to be a narrative film, in a manner that demands too much attention and 'connection' from the audience, and which, as a result, fails to achieve the desired state of partial dis-connection that works best in a music video.

Slow Motion

Slow motion is almost the standard go-to technique for music videography. It does require post-editing, and it does require that the original action be shot at a frame rate which is the normal frame rate multiplied by the slow-down factor (or something close).

Also, slow motion is more likely to be applied to action separate from the performance itself, although it is sometimes applied to performance shots.

Fast Cutting, and Cutting to the Beat

Another video effect commonly used with music videos is fast cutting from one shot (or scene) to the next, where the cutting may or may not be to the beat. This of course requires post-editing, and also requires that you shoot enough footage so that you have difference action sequences that you can cut between.

Poor Lighting

Poor lighting conditions can help to achieve daydreamishness. You can set the lighting to be poor throughout a shot, or you can arrange for the quality of the lighting to come and go.

In a low budget home production, this might be achieved by having a lighting assistant who plays with a dimmer, or switches lights on and off, or, if it's daytime, opens and shuts the curtains – possibly with the camera-person giving directions to the lighting assistant as the video is shot.

Post-Production Video Quality Degradation

Going out of focus, and reducing lighting quality, are two specific ways to reduce visual quality of a music video. If you do post-production, with suitable video-editing software, then you probably have a whole arsenal of image degradation effects available to be applied to the raw video. If you go down this road, you will need to experiment, because you will find that some degradation techniques "work" to achieve daydreamishness, and others don't.

The Importance of the Performer, and the Importance of the Song

A common theme in daydreams is that of the importance of the daydreamer, or the importance of what they are doing or what they are saying.

To give effect to this theme in a music video, there have to be other people in the video who act in a manner which suggests the importance, prestige, status etc of the performer, and the significance of the message of their song.

(This is one thing you can't do if the only person appearing in the video is the singer.)