My first memory of a one-take video comes from 1997, when I saw Radiohead‘s video “No Surprises“. I remember thinking: “whoa, this is a pretty artsy and weird music video.” I liked it, but it was too slow for my taste and not much happening in the video. But hey c’mon, it’s Radiohead! So of course you give them credit. The power of the video is the simple idea behind, it’s the charismatic singer Thom York and how well it works with their music. Not many bands or artists can pull that off.
A really genius idea of one-take music video was made by the band OK Go who showed a Rube Goldberg machine in the music video of their song “This Too Shall Pass”. The whole video is so over the top with crazy contraptions doing all kinds of funny and entertaining things that keep the viewer entertained and occupied during the whole video. I can imagine how difficult it was to plan and execute this music video. I really like the idea that all the members from the band were participating on this “test”. It makes you appreciate the band more, because they go through this ordeal to make a different music video. It was no surprise that Ok Go got viral with this (so far the video has attracted over 52 million views). The video offered something new to the viewer, it was surprising, clever and entertaining.
This next example didn’t convince me much. It’s by Nicolas Godin for the song “Bach Off”. The video was filmed at the Orly airport in Paris. Visually the video looks good, but for me it lacks content. The video is too long (almost 8 minutes!) and I guess it’s meant to be like a short-movie-style music video, but it gets really boring pretty fast. If you are gonna make a one-take music video, make sure that it has a twist or something else that keeps it interesting and challenges the viewer. A cool place and solid camera work is not enough.
A pretty new acquaintance for me is a band called Astroid Boys from Cardiff, Wales. I ran into them on Youtube a few days ago. They are a rising underground band, but I have to admit, I admire their creativity. Their music video “Posted” published over a year ago is really awesome! Small details make it work: it’s black and white, but some parts are highlighted with color and a great original performance by the band members, switching places and executing their roles with attitude. Obviously this video was made with a small budget, but it doesn’t matter, because you get an “A-ha” feeling and enjoy what you are seeing, because this is out of the norm. These guys are breaking the pattern and going for something new and as a viewer I appreciate that.
So, one-take music videos… Are they a fresh idea or a boring thing to watch? Even though it has been used in music videos for years, I think it’s a fresh idea. These days it’s hard for artists to make something new so I would suggest trying out these kinds of videos to get that extra element of surprise and create something new that differs from other music videos. If the video is made in the right way and it’s interesting enough, then I wouldn’t see a problem in making it work.
A good rule of thumb is that if you are gonna make a music video with only one shot, make sure that your video has some or all of these elements:
It’s surprising or has a twist (challenge and surprise the viewer!).
It is entertaining. You are also allowed to do crazy stuff!
It has an interesting beginning and ending.
Don’t make it too long and boring. Make the “illusion” last the whole video.
Use the artists or band members in a creative way.
Don’t forget about continuity as this will bring rhythm to the clip.