Making Music Videos (1993)

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Also see Making Fannish Music Videos (1990s) by Mary Schmidt.

Title: Making Music Videos
Creator: Sue Wells
Date(s): 1993
Medium: print
Fandom: Vidding
External Links:
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Making Music Videos is a 1993 how-to by Sue Wells which instructs fans on how to create vids using a VCR.

It was printed in an unknown Weird Al Yankovic newsletter, and reprinted in Cold Fish and Stale Chips #14, a Professionals letterzine.


So you want to do something Al-oriented, but different - not just watching UHF for the umpteenth time, or rewatching AL-TV on MTV, or chortling over Al's contortions on that Arsenio interview. How about trying your hand at a fan video? A fan video (aka a songtape) is a sort of do-it-yourself music video. You take a favorite song recording and combine it with appropriate clips from a favorite TV show, so that the music and the video complement each other. Clear as mud, right?

I'll give you a couple of examples from existing songtapes. One uses "Eat It" and clips of assorted characters from a variety of different TV shows eating food. (Al's songs, like country western songs, make great fan videos because the words are recognizable - except for an occasional nawdle bartle zzouss ~ and form concrete images.) For instance, the line "If it's cold, just reheat it" is accompanied by a clip from Magnum PI where Magnum is taking a dish out of his microwave oven; the other clips mesh equally well with the song. Another song takes a recording of Tom Lehrer's "New Math" and vintage Star Trekclips, mostly of Spock pontificating to Kirk, McCoy and the rest of the crew. The line with Lehrer singsonging "Now let's not see the same hands all the time" goes along with the scene from "The Naked Time" where Spock orders Uhura to take over the navigator's post and Lt. Kevin O'Reilly (of "I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen" fame) motions her to the chair, waving enthusiastically. Get the picture? In short, a songtape is the Wrigley's gum of fan entertainment - you take a favorite song and a favorite TV show and combine them to "double your pleasure". And now, having whet your appetite, I'll give you the recipe for making a perfect souffle songtape. (First, a small confession. While I've collected many songtapes and am well-versed on the theory, I've never actually made a fanvideo myself, so please take my directions with a grain of salt.)


1. A song on cassette, CD, or record
2. Videotape clips from a TV show or shows
3. Two blank videotapes 4. Access to two VCR's
5. Stopwatch or digital timer (anything that keeps track of seconds)
6. Time and patience (lots of both).

Directions 1. Once you've selected the song you're using, it's a good idea to storyboard your idea, or make a written outline of your songtape. Type or write the words to the song, a phrase at a time, on a piece of paper. Use double- or triple-space, or leave a couple of blank lines between the phrases so that you can jot down a short description of the video scene that matches the song at each phrase. Check the lyrics on the album/ tape/CD cover to make sure you use the exact words ~ especially if they're unclear on the recording. Remember, you're trying to match the words and feelings in the song to the video clips, so you need to start with the right words. You probably won't have a scene to match every phrase of the song off the top of your head, so writing everything down lets you know what scenes you still have to fill in. Obviously, the next step is to fill in the gaps. This may take a little time, and you may have to watch or scan several episodes before you find that one scene that fits perfectly. This is why most people make fan videos of their FAVORITE shows, shows that they can cite scenes from chapter and verse, or that they don't mind watching several hours of, searching for the right clip.

2. Listen to the song and time each phrase with a stopwatch, etc. so that you know how long each video fragment has to be to cover the phrase. Also note the length of any introductions and instrumental breaks in the song. Write down the length at the end of each phrase in your outline.

3. When you've got a complete outline of your songtape, you need to start collecting the scenes IN ORDER on one tape. Cue up the TV scenes you're going to use and record them onto a blank tape. Start at the beginning of the scene and record a few seconds longer than the length of the song phrase that goes with each scene. Or you can record the scenes onto the blank tape, timing them so that each scene is as long as its corresponding music phrase, and then leave a few seconds of static between each recorded scene. 3a. An alternative method is to time the length of each scene so that it matches its phrase, record a few seconds past that point, and immediately record the next sequential scene on the tape. The theory is that the few seconds lag time from the first scene are overlapped by the start of the second scene and you get a smooth transition from one scene to the next without the rainbow color bar that says "this is where I added another scene". This is not the easiest thing to do first time out, so you may end up erasing and retaping - remember ingredient #6.

4. Take the videotape of clips that you created above and record it onto the second blank tape WITH THE TV SOUND TURNED OFF. Simultaneously, you should have your record/CD/cassette playing LOUD enough that the VCR will pick up and record the music while it's recording the video scenes. You want to use the "pause" button on the VCR so that you get a smooth overlapping of scenes onto the second, final tape and still have an even flow of music. THIS TAKES PRACTICE, and you'll have to experiment to see what works best for you.

5. Treat your friends to the finished product. NOTE: For best results, do all recording in two-hour mode.