Covid-19 forces artists to make cut-rate, minimalist music videos

By Dang Khoa, Hieu NhanJuly 8, 2021 | 11:35 pm PT
Covid-19 forces artists to make cut-rate, minimalist music videos
Vietnamese singer Le Phan, stage name Wren Evans, during the filming of music video ‘Thich Em Hoi Nhieu.’ Photo courtesy of the artist.
Artists too are feeling the economic pinch, and singers have been releasing new music videos made at a fraction of the usual cost.

Singers Tuan Hung and Khac Viet released ‘Sai Gon Oi! Xin Loi, Cam On’ (Hey, Saigon! Sorry, Thank You) on June 28 as an effort to cheer fans suffering due to the Covid-19 outbreak. It cost less than VND50 million ($2,100) to make, or a 10th of the cost of their previous MVs.

Initially the crew had planned to shoot the MV in Saigon, but had to change it due to the resurgence of the pandemic. The crew filmed the two singers in a studio for two hours, then shot Saigon landmarks such as Notre Dame Cathedral, Landmark 81, Binh Trieu Bridge, and others in one day before putting them together in post-production.

"This is my simplest and most economical MV ever," Viet said.

"The crew was small to ensure safety during the pandemic. However, we ensured the quality of the music and images in the final music video were good."

Earlier in June Nguyen Ngoc Anh released ‘Neu Mot Ngay’ (If One Day), the soundtrack of the film Hay Noi Loi Yeu (Let's Say Love), which was also produced at a low cost.

She used a relative's villa as the main backdrop, and again shot images separately and integrated them in the MV. It too cost just a few tens of millions of dong (VND10 million = $440).

"In the past my MVs would cost more than VND100 million at least and up to VND500 million," she said.

Singer My Anh made her first MV ‘Got You’ in May 2020 for a mere VND1 million, which was the rental for the backdrop, as she borrowed costumes and props from acquaintances and asked a friend to shoot instead of a professional cameraman.

Amy Tran, her manager, said the singer's second MV ‘Pillar,’ released on June 27, was made on a very low budget.

‘Hoa No Vo Thuong’ (Flower Blooms Impermanently) MV released at the end of June by singer Hoai Lam cost nothing to make.

Musician Nguyen Minh Cuong said he had planned to go to Lam's house in the southern Vinh Long Province to record the MV, but with Saigon authorities imposing social distancing, they decided instead to work remotely. He exchanged ideas and song content with Lam online.

He self-recorded and filmed in a studio for around 40 minutes using phones, and sent the footage to Lam so that he could edit it to make the final version.

In June last year the duo released MV ‘Hoa No Khong Mau’ (Colorless Blooming Flowers) made at a total cost of VND1.5 million. Despite its simple setting, the video managed to garner nearly 170 million views on YouTube.

It's not all about money

Cuong said that he does not advocate or recommend that artists should produce cheap MVs.

"More than anyone else, I understand that artists have to invest a lot of money to make high-quality products. However, that depends on the circumstances.

"Our aim is to bring the right emotional values back to music and to simplify everything, wanting the audience to focus on hearing rather than the visual aspect."

Meanwhile, the MV ‘Thich Em Hoi Nhieu’ (I Like You A Little Too Much) by singer Le Phan, stage name Wren Evans, was filmed entirely in a studio in one day, with the singer and background dancers singing and dancing on a round stage. The imageries in the MV are not too flashy and it mainly used a background of solid colors, limiting textures and lights so that the viewer could focus on the main character.

This helped reduce production costs compared to outdoor MVs.

Singer Hoang Quyen's MV ‘Xin Cho Hom Nay Troi Di’ (Let Today Go By) was also filmed in a studio and later had 3D effects added. In it, the singer walks on a road filled with contemporary silk paintings, oil paintings and lacquers made by famous Vietnamese artists.

David Duc, its director, said he used 3D animations in montage graphics to create many layers of real and virtual images and Quyen walking amid the paintings also reflects her inner world.

Through the MV ‘Dung Goi Anh Day’ (Don't Wake Me Up), rapper Phuc Du lies on a sofa that floats and hovers over tall buildings, through a jungle and above the romantic Red River. The rapper said he only needed to shoot the scene lying on the sofa for four minutes, and the rest was done by the visual effects team to create the finished product.

Amy Tran, manager of My Anh and Wren Evans, said: "During the pandemic, filming a simple and safe MV is more important for artists. However, the fact that the crews filmed in studios and used techniques and effects to create a quality final MV is not just because of the pandemic, but it is also a trend.

"It is important that the idea matches the song's content and the artist's creativity. Regardless of the form of filming or how much it costs, the artist still has to ensure the image quality and overall aesthetic when releasing it."

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