In 2012, I wanted to promote one of my songs with a custom lyric video but I didn’t have the slightest idea where to start. After a little research and a YouTube tutorial, I may have done something right, because before I knew it, I was being asked to make more by fellow artists, and being offered pay to do so.
Now, after 8 years since my first video, my name is credited over a thousand lyric videos. Along the way, you learn a lot, refine some techniques, discard what doesn’t work and improve on what does. A lot of clients we work with seem to be under the impression that lyric video production is strictly a technical process. And while this might be true for some animators, I believe lyric videos can be a work of art, no different than the music they try to convey.
We have previously discussed the software we use for our lyric video production. In this post, we’ll explain the 3 creative concepts we consider when creating our custom lyric videos. What makes a custom lyric video custom and the method to the madness, of sorts.
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Think of this as the theme of your song, and try to put the lyrics into a matching physical space. Quite often the album artwork is a great place to start. They often work well with the music so whenever possible, we check if they can be adapted to fit our lyric video.
If the client does not have any artwork produced, our studio often works with designers like Matt and Simon, depending on what style we think best fit the music. In addition to album art, the designer provides us with graphical elements from the artwork, which we can incorporate into our custom lyric videos. Doing so ensures everything that appears in the video is in a cohesive style and matches the artwork. Moreover, this should be good for the artist’s branding as well.
Assuming that artwork is not an option, we look for stock image or videos that would work well with the song. You can let the topic of the song guide you for this. For example, if the song is about rain, you can look for rainy scenery. Don’t get too obvious though, and don’t be afraid to experiment with the abstract. If the song is about a heartbreak, try looping lights then experimenting with the colors. Avoid couples and humans in general. We recommend against putting text over faces, or having any faces in general except that of the artist/band.
How does each word enter and exit the scene. And what do they do while they’re on screen. If you’re a musician, you’re probably familiar with attack, sustain and release. This is similar. Before starting to work on the lyric video at all, we tend to go over the song a few times. We note the intensity and the energy level of the song as a whole, and also how they evolve with each segment of the song. With that information we map out what kind of animations we’re going to be using throughout the lyric video.
The quiet or calmer sections work well with long slow fades. Sharper beats or rapping can have faster movement on the words. Make a general map of the animations before starting the video, then adjust as you go along.
Just like a song that might have some backing vocals or guitar fill-ins to enhance the main composition, some visual effects can make your lyric video more immersive. A camera shake on an important beat or drop, soft lights moving over the video, or little particles in the background. These are all examples of little details that can give your custom lyric video some depth and really take it to the next level.
We do recommend using these with caution though, it’s really easy to get carried away as a beginner. Remember that the lyrics should be the main focus. Keep in mind the dynamic range of your song and try to reflect that. Don’t just try to add random effects without purpose, they can end up being more destructive than anything.
For our final thoughts, we reiterate how important it is to work with a plan to reflect your music visually. It helps to stop thinking of the lyric video as a separate entity than your music, but an extension of it. As the artist, you have the advantage of being familiar with your own music. Use that understanding to craft the perfect combination of space, typography and effects that best tell the story of your song.
If your music is in the country genre, you can also check out our how to create a Nashville inspired country lyric video guide.