How to make a lyric video
Updated: Aug 26
The initial stages of any creative venture are the most important, and as a result, often the hardest. The blank sheet of paper, the open brief, can be intimidating, and those first few days on a project, before a clear plan has been formed can be challenging. But over the years working on countless projects, we have honed our process to make this a little easier.
The key to making a successful music video, lyric or otherwise, is to completely understand the artist and track you’re making the visual for. The first thing we do when a new brief or pitch comes in is to listen to the track. Over and over again - this is such an important part of the process because for us, it is vital that our video enhances the song perfectly. We aim to make the visual feel inseparable from the track, as if they were made together.
The Kinks 'Time Song' lyric video
Whilst listening to the track, we begin our research. If it's for an older, classic track, this will often start with a simple internet search. The aim here is to learn as much as we can about the artist and the track. When was it written, why was it written, what the song is about, what do the lyrics represent, what is the social and historical context of the song. Again, for old songs we will research the time the song was released. The fashions, art scene, design trends and political events of the time, which if appropriate can all have a huge impact on how we approach the design of the final piece. Original album covers, sleeve designs and promotional posters for the track also provide inspiration at this stage.
Understand the artist
For new songs and artists there is obviously a lot less historical context, and we are usually dealing with as yet unreleased tracks, so there will be no existing artwork. In these cases, if there is no creative direction from the artists or management, we really have to rely on our sense of the artist’s aesthetic, and the musicality and expressions of the song. Researching the artist’s website and social media can give you a great snapshot of how they like to be portrayed visually and is often a great start.
Develop your concept
This initial research will give us an idea about how to move forward with the project. The next stage is to hone it down to a clear, defined concept. Building on our initial research, we will then start a design mood board and collect images that seem appropriate or inspirational for the project. These images could take the form of designs contemporary to the time the track was released, typefaces, or colours that seem to fit the song. Typefaces are particularly important to us as we create a lot of lyric videos. For the older songs we work on, we often like to restrict ourselves to typefaces in use at the time of the original recordings, which we believe adds authenticity to the work.
Present your idea
The next stage is generally building boards for the client. These are one or two pages with images and a brief description of our plans for the final piece. Depending on what is required, this will either be in the form of existing imagery, giving an indication of the stye and direction we plan to take, or a few test images we have created, demonstrating how we will approach the video.
The Rolling Stones 'She's A Rainbow' lyric video
Plan and storyboard
This goes to the client for feedback, and if they are happy for us to proceed we will then begin work on a ‘storyboard’. This is most often not a traditional, hand drawn storyboard, but an expanded set of images that show in more detail how the piece will progress. Again, this is sent to the client for approval. These early approval stages are key for us. All the important design decisions need to be made and agreed with the client at this stage to make for a smooth and timely production process.
With the storyboards approved, it’s then a simple case of making the video…