You’re looking to promote your next release, so you checked how much does a lyric video cost, then decided to create one yourself. What software should you get? The short answer is Adobe After Effects. Using After Effects we’ve produced nearly two thousand videos for over a thousand artists from around the world that have gotten millions of views on YouTube alone.
Table of Contents
Before you jump into the excitement of the animation part, you’ll need to make some creative decisions for your video. This is where our first software, Adobe Photoshop comes in handy. My personal favorite way to go about doing this is to create a theme inspired by the album cover. Ideally the clients would provide a Photoshop file with all the different layers that I can import into After Effects later on. Since album art comes in a square aspect ratio, you’ll most likely need to crop/stretch all or selective layers and areas of the artwork to fit our wide video format.
Apart from generally being a good fit for the music, create a lyric video theme based on the cover art is a great way to emphasize the artist’s branding. But sometimes using the album art isn’t an option, so we’ll have to explore other ideas. In these cases I often like to search for stock imagery that can fit in nicely with the theme or topic of the song. There are virtually endless high quality resources online you can use, from paid options like Shutterstock, to free ones like Pexles.
Even when you find an awesome photo to use for your video, in most cases, you don’t want to just throw it in there. Consider what colors you want to use for your text, chances are your image is either too dark or too bright. If you want the lyrics to stand out, you can use Photoshop to slightly lighten or darken the image, or even shift the colors to work nicely with what you had in mind.
As you might have guessed, the bulk of the work is going to be done in animation software. So if you have to get only one program for your project, After Effects should be it.
I learned how to use After Effects in 2012 when I wanted to make a lyric video for one of my own songs. With virtually no previous experience in animation except for a couple of 10 minute YouTube tutorials, I was up and running within a couple of hours. The result was not a masterpiece by any means, but it got me where I needed to be. I found After Effects to be shockingly easy to get started with, and over the next few years I would learn how powerful it can be when mastered.
Regardless of the style or complexity of the video you have in mind, as long as it involves syncing words to a song, After Effects can take care of it. If you have no previous experience with video editing or animation, there are a ton of tutorials on YouTube that would teach you the core basics within minutes to get you started with your first lyric video. We also have a focus guide for country music lyric videos.
Even after 8 years of professionally making lyric videos, I still get the occasional idea for a cool video or effect that I have no clue how to pull off. And there’s almost always a video tutorial that I can follow for a few minutes to deliver a cooler end-result as well as add a new trick to my book for future projects.
Alright, we’re enterting the intermediate level so if you’re a beginner with After Effects, you might want to skip this part for now. Otherwise you might want to have certain elements in a video react to a specific sound in the music. Luckily After Effects has a function that converts audio into a layer of keyframes. You can then grab the element you want and “connect” it to the newly created keyframes layer and have it react to the music in any way you like.
However, if you use the final master for this little trick, you might get mixed results. For example, you may see reactions every time the singer raises their voice, which could be out of time with the beat. That is where Audacity comes in. Audacity is a free & open-source software for audio editing. I mainly use it to quickly run the master throgh a low pass filter to isolate the bass. That way when I convert the newly processed audio into keyframes, I can have elements in the video react to the beat of the song much tighter. Just don’t forget to remove or mute the new audio from the composition after you’ve converted it into keyframes.
So you’ve finished composing your lyric video, and hopefully you’re happy with the results. Now you just need to export it into a video file that you can upload to YouTube or wherever else you like. Unfortunately, this part can be a little more intimidating at first than one would expect. There’s way too many settings to choose from and each platform like YouTube, having their own requirements and recommended specifications, it can get a little overwhelming.
Fortunately, Adobe’s Media Encoder supports pretty much every format and codec under the sun, and we have a special guide for lyric video rendering for YouTube. And once you have your default settings set up, exporting any future projects will be as simple as adding it to the render queue and hitting the start button!
To sum up my lyric video production chain I explained above, it comes down to 4 key apps. Start with Photoshop to create a theme, then use After Effects to compose the actual lyric video. Optionally, use Audacity to extract key frequencies from the music which you can use for special effects. And finally export the video to your favorite format with Media Encoder.