The rules of Directing Music for IMAG

Trying to teach people how to direct over a blog is very difficult. I would love to show you clips in order to give a more visual demonstration, but with Copy right issues I’m a ways out on getting something like that done. But I wanted to try and get a detailed post about directing IMAG, especially music. Most of us watch a lot of TV, but the hard thing about directing is when it is done right it should be almost invisible, So no matter how much TV we watch we shouldn’t notice the cuts, dissolves or how a show is directed, instead we just watch the story or end product because everything that is happening feels natural and makes sense.   So how do you learn to direct in an incognito way? How do you build a product or story that keeps people’s attention and interesting while not getting noticed that someone is behind the scenes making it happen? I believe it is all about learning the rules and setting guide lines; so much so that in the end as a director you can answer “why” to every shot, cut, dissolve and person that gets on screen with using your instincts. And like all rules, once you have these mastered, you can bend them and even break them from time to time.

So again, I want to go over the rules and I am going to focus on IMAG and specifically directing for music to put as much of a scientific formula to this as possible. But before I get into the rules let’s first touch on the purpose of IMAG. IMAG is meant to connect everyone in an auditorium to what is happening on the stage in a way that keeps people engaged and energized in order to enhance their overall experience. IMAG is NOT meant to CREATE a feel or atmosphere for a room, it is supposed to ENHANCE or TRANSLATE what has already been created by the band, presenters, and other onstage talent. IMAG is mainly necessary when an audience is unable to connect with what is happening on stage for any number of reasons.

A quick aside, Video delivers many other uses and can even be used to create an atmosphere or environment, but IMAG should only enhance or show the environment already created on stage.

Ok, so now for the rules,

Rule 1: Start with Camera placement

Before getting on Com or selecting your first camera there is a lot of planning that needs to go into creating good IMAG. First and foremost is camera placement. Where cameras are placed determine the quality of shots and the amount of shots each camera can get. Know what the key camera positions are and what they contribute to the show.

Rule 1.1: Key camera positions

The most important camera shot you will get is a tight center, usually located at Front of House which is why most people usually do a minimum of 2 cameras on center. It may not be the most exciting angle but the shots they get are so incredibly important in establishing talent and building the story. As Cameras are added, carefully think of where to place them and how they should be operated.

What needs to be taken into consideration here is what type of music or what time of show are you doing. For a speaker a down stage camera isn’t great but for music, down stage may be exactly where you want that camera. For a solo artist downstage on a tripod may be better than a Hand held to ensure smooth movements. Whatever your situation is and the number of cameras you have, there needs to be preproduction planning where you as the director plan the shots to get. This needs to be done with every camera available and may need to be redone based upon stage plots, talent, and show. Bad camera placement creates bad video.

Rule 1.2: Slash cameras need to be at a significant angle

When we moved from 4:3 to 16:9 one of the biggest differences was that cameras placed at an angle, known as ‘slash shots,’ had to be pushed out farther. Most of the time a Slash shot should be placed on a 35-70 degree angle from center stage but may be more or less depending on the distance from stage. The idea is when changing between a Center shot and an angled shot there needs to be a significant change of the shot. If the angle is too similar there will be a greater opportunity of a match cut/ transition every time those cameras are directly switched between. Camera’s like hand-helds, jibs, and stedi-cams offer differences such as height, dutch moves, and more that offer a different look where angle isn’t as key. But when you start to deal with angles, careful placement needs to be considered.

Rule 1.3: Don’t rely on POV cameras

POV cameras are great, you set them up on a drummer or keyboard player and you always have a shot to go to. But POV cameras don’t offer the same functionality as many other cameras do, they are stationary, they don’t move and can’t move. Many times they offer a fun shot but they shouldn’t be treated like a full camera, instead they should be treated like talent, how often should someone be on camera, and even when they are should it always be the same shot? We will go over this more in Rule 2, but know that POV cameras are not much more than a quick shot to be used and a Manned camera is always more useful than a POV shot. If you can get the same shot of someone with a manned camera then re-think the placement of your POV camera.

POV Shots should be used when you have talent that is placed on stage where it is difficult to get a shot of, or difficult to get a certain shot of. POV’s can get some great shots but over use of a POV camera can be destructive to the end product. Don’t be discouraged in using POV cameras just be very intentional about placement and use.

Rule 2: Talent matters, know how to use your talent

Have you ever tried to direct a show or simulate a show using manikins? If you have you know it is one of the hardest things to do because they don’t have any emotion. If we go back to our purpose for IMAG it is to Connect people in order to keep them engaged and energized. There is nothing engaging or energizing about manikins. This means that the talent on stage is the single greatest asset a director has in creating a great show. Great talent creates great shows, poor talent creates poor shows. No matter who or what you are shooting it is important to be able to identify good and poor talent and leverage them when you create your show and capture the action on stage. Yes, this means as a director you need to be a bit superficial and decide who get’s camera time and who doesn’t. JUST BECAUSE THEY ARE ON STAGE DOESN’T MEAN THEY NEED TO BE ON CAMERA OR GET EQUAL CAMERA TIME.

This means we need to categorize the talent on stage and set rules based on these categories.

Category 1: The Leaders

Category 1 is the Lead singer and band leader. They are the number 1 focus on stage, they lead the songs, the audience, even the band to a degree. Category 1’s can carry the show or a particular song on their own without any backing help. A strong “1” could have an entire band behind them and never give you the need to switch off of them. They have the lead parts but they do it with such emotion and energy that they create a strong connection with their audience. It is because of this connection that put’s them at number 1 and it is who the audience wants to see and connect with.

Along with a category 1 can be a 1.5 if they are leading the song but aren’t necessarily the band leader or if they are doing a duet. A 1.5 means that at the moment they are the strongest asset on stage but they still need the band to back them up (there can be 2 “1.5’s” in some cases but only 1 “1”). Either way, with every song, band, and situation you need to identify the strongest talent on stage who is leading the show and make them your number 1.

Rule 2.1: Category 1 Talent steals the focus

Category 1’s lead the show, which makes them the most important person on stage at any given moment. This means that they should be on camera more than any other person on stage by a significant margin. No matter how a show is cut it should consistently go back to number “1.” Because of their importance if they walk into a shot with a number 2 or higher the camera should switch their focus to the number”1” and follow them instead. On a wide shot pushing in, if a number 1 is in the wide shot, always push towards the number 1. If a number 1 was not initially in the wide shot but they enter it, again go to number 1. A number 1 will always steal the shot if they enter it.

Exception to rule 2.1:

An exception to the above rule is instrumental solo’s, if they aren’t lit or if a number 1 takes a break from being number 1 such as to grab a drink of water, cue an audio guy or something where they take their attention off the “show.” Instrumental soloists don’t in them selves become a number 1 but because they are the temporary focus many times a number 1 will take a step down to a 1.5. If a 1 or 1.5 enters a shot of a soloist the shot can either stay with the solo or move to number 1. On a wide shot during a solo always push towards the solo not the number 1. The exception should be voided the moment number 1 begins to talk, sing, or interact with the audience in any way.

Rule 2.2: Number 1’s get back-to-back shots if needed

Because number 1’s carry the show, it is ok to get back to back shots of a number 1 as long as rule 3 is followed. As a director, if you don’t know where to go, you can’t go wrong with a shot of number 1. Essentially a Number 1 is the show. Because of how important a 1 is to the show a dedicated camera to that person may be necessary, and that camera should be a center shot. It is the best shot of that person no matter where they go and it allows a director to quickly be able to get back to number 1. That shot also is the best shot for the audience to connect with number 1.

Rule 2.1 & 2.2- Why

If an audience can’t connect with number 1 then it becomes difficult for them to connect with the stage and get an energized, enhanced experience. If you can’t get to number 1 quickly the audience notices their lack of connection and your directing becomes a lot less incognito. Number 1’s are the most important person on stage, get them to lead your show. The stronger the number 1, the better opportunity you have to make a good show but if you don’t leverage a strong number 1 then you will be failing to connect your audience with the stage/ show.

Category 2: Front row supports

Number 2’s are the candy of your production. They back-up number 1 with high energy contributing to the show. They make themselves key contributors to the show and audience members want to connect with them. But since they are number 2’s and not number 1’s means they aren’t “leading” they may have solo’s and key parts but they are not the show. Number 2’s are usually placed in the front row because they keep the energy and connection going throughout the stage. These are typically Guitar players, Bass players and key vocalists, although not always. As number 1’s sometimes are number 1’s out of default number 2’s have to earn the right to be a number 2 by what they contribute to the show. They get into the show through their whole body, not just when they are called on key parts. They interact with the audience and other band members and in a way could carry the show themselves, but since number 1 is taken, they become number 2’s. Number 2’s are the best fillers when not on a number 1 and should get the 2nd most camera time. There can be multiple 2’s on stage at one time.

Rule 2.3 No back-to-back shots for 2’s to 4’s

Once a person is no longer a 1, there is no chance for back-to-back shots of them. Number 2’s will still get a decent amount of camera time but remember that 1’s are the show, not 2’s. Even though 2’s are key people that bringing lots of energy they still aren’t the focus. Back-to-back shots of number 2’s don’t flow well, they tend to feel like jump or match cuts.

Exception to rule 2.3:

Back to back shots can be done on a number 2 if they are in a solo or key musical part. At this point more than likely a number 2 has moved to a 1.5 because all focus has moved to what they are doing/ contributing. Even if a number 1 is still being a number 1 it is ok to get back-to-back shots if the part is that key, really this is because a number 2 has moved to a 1.5. There is a lot of gray area here, but the less a number 1 is doing the more it is ok to do back-to-back shots of a number 2. Either way once a key musical part is happening vocally or instrumentally it is ok to get back-to-back shots of a number 2. But if there is no key part or solo, rule 2.3 stays in place.

Category 3: Those in the Background

Number 3’s are usually important to the band or show but not the most important people in telling the story and communicating to your audience. 3’s are on camera less than 2’s and are usually good opportunities for POV cameras although not always. Number 3’s don’t always contribute that much energy and have a harder time to keep people engaged which is why they should be on camera less. Number 3’s tend to be drummers, Keyboard players, and backing vocals (not always).

Rule 2.4 the lower the number the shorter the shot should be

In rule 2.3 we established no back-to-back shots but it doesn’t mention the length of a single shot. 2’s can hold a shot longer than a 3 and a 3 longer than a 4. The higher the number the shorter the subject should be on camera in total and in a single moment. Number 3’s and higher have to earn the right to be on camera. 2’s put them selves in the position where they are a safe bet most of the time to get on camera, however, a 3’s need to be contributing in some way and earn the right to be on camera as well.

Rule 2.4 notes:

Most would disagree that a drummer is a number 3 because most of the time they tend to be a safe shot. They are always doing something and most of the time bring energy. The reason Drummers tend to be a number 3 is because when they get camera time it has to be limited and shorter than a 2 would get in a single shot. Drummers are realistically 2.5’s, most of the time, but their shots need to be more intentional than one of a 2, but they don’t have to earn it as much as a full 3 does.

Rule 2.5 the lower the number the tighter the shot

Higher number talent tend to bring focused energy. Meaning they aren’t all the exciting to watch on their own. Because of this when they do bring energy, shots need to be very focused on that energy through tight shots or shots that show the specific task they are doing. An example would be a tight shot of a keyboard player’s fingers, or a headshot of a backing vocalist singing. Number 3’s and higher focus their energy more which is why they are “back row” people. They definitely add to the show but less in entertainment and connection; more audibly through their musicianship.

Category 4: Might as well be manikins

Number 4’s are the people that just don’t work on camera. You grab a shot of them but in no way do they connect with the audience or help in telling the story. They might be in the background of a wider shot but should never be landed on when pushing in. Number 4’s usually are contributing audibly but just don’t have any stage presence and in most cases don’t usually have any key parts. A number 4 never really earns the right to be on camera, instead they may be defaulted to getting on camera because of a music part, but even then it should only be because no other options are available, be sure to follow rule 2.5.

Rule 2.6: Just because some is on stage doesn’t mean they should be on screen

It is superficial directing and it is something you need to be comfortable doing. If someone is stiff and not giving any energy or the energy they are giving is awkward, don’t put them on screen. As a director you need to identify good energy and engagement from talent. It may sound mean, but when engaging the audience it is critical not to put people on screen that will drop energy level.

Rule 2.6 note:

Some may say that by focusing on energy is the wrong thing, especially in a worship environment. Remember IMAG is simply communicating what is happening on stage. Energy is a loose term. Worshiping is a form of energy, dancing is a form of energy, smiling is a form of energy. All of these can help or hurt in translating the feel on stage. The old saying “Monkey see, monkey do” is important to remember here. Weather people are learning how to worship or need to get into worship, the best tool to get them to that state is the talent on stage. The audience will mimic them and take cues on where they should be in worship. It is why we call them worship leaders. This is true with or without cameras and IMAG. The only difference with IMAG is the cameras are instructing people where to look and as a director be sure to intentionally choose your camera shots to get good energy that communicates and engages the audience well to put their focus in the right place. If the talent on stage isn’t putting their focus in the right place then the audience won’t either. It all starts with the Talent.

Rule 2.7: Talent can move categories

It has been mentioned that talent can move categories. The reason this is a rule is because as a director it is important to recognize when this happens. For example a vocalist may be a number 3, then they lead a song and become a 1.5, the next song they may not lead and then are back to a 3. Other than 1’s and 1.5’s all talent categories need to be earned through their stage presence. Knowing how categories work and that at any time anyone can change categories is a reactionary skill needed in directing live music.

Rule 2.8: one subject at a time

Because we have different categories for our subjects means no two subjects can entertain a shot as well as one can. They will only compete, even at the same category level. Every camera shot should focus on the strongest number subject in their shot. If there are 2 people in the shot via a push or pull always focus on the stronger number. Never should a camera get an intentional 2 person shot.

Exception 2.8:

If two musicians are intentionally interacting with one another a two shot can be good, but as soon as they disband, go with the stronger number. If 2 vocalist are standing close together and there is no way to only get 1 person, then by default you have to get a 2 shot. But both should be in the same category and category rules should be followed as far as time on camera.

Rule 3: Wide – Tight Pattern: Avoid Match cuts

There is a simple pattern to directing. No matter what cameras you are going to or from or what type of production it is, directing is primarily an A-B pattern. Or Wide shot, tight shot pattern. Tight shot to tight shot doesn’t work, wide shot to wide shot doesn’t look. Instead they will look like match cuts. Match cuts are shots that look similar and are used back-to-back.   When switching between shots, shot A and Shot B need to be significantly different, simply enough that is wide to tight.

Even on the same subject such as a number 1, you can easily cut from a wide shot to a tight shot very easily and it will look good. If you are going between different subjects it can still be a match cut based on how tight or how wide the adjacent shots are to each other. The more different the two shots are via angle, subject matter, camera type and so on, the less difference there needs to be in how tight vs. wide the two shots are. But no two adjacent shots should ever be the same level of tight vs. wide.

Rule 3.1 Slower the transition the more extreme the difference needs to be

If you are doing cuts less difference in how wide vs. tight back-to-back shots need to be. Slower transitions require more distance in the shots. Let’s say you have a mid, chest up shot of a singer, if you cut to a knee’s up shot of that singer it looks fine, but if you slow dissolve it looks like a match cut. Because the transition, like a dissolve, allows you to see both shots at the same time and people realize how similar they are and notice it. But the less time the transition takes the less people realize the similarities and accept the differences.

Rule 3.2: let longer shots change from wide to tight or visa versa.

If you are doing pushes and pulls as a director you need to know what camera operators are doing so that the next shot you goes to doesn’t end up being a match cut. If a camera is wide and is pushing in and your next shot is a tight one, be sure to get off the camera pushing in before it becomes a tight shot. If you miss the opportunity or if the timing isn’t right the next shot may need to be adjusted or changed all together in order to avoid a match cut. If cameras are constantly pushing or pulling anticipate the shots for when you change to the next camera. This means directors should keep an eye on program while you are looking for your next shot.

Rule 3.3: Proper framing is incredibly important

Never settle for a bad shot just because it is what you need next. Train operators and coach them to give proper headroom and lead room. This makes transitioning between sources that much smoother and more incognito to the viewer when things are framed up right. Knowing how to frame a wide shot, tight shot and everything in between is critical in producing a good product. As a director you need to be a watch dog to make sure this is apparent and constantly coaching cameras with framing. You could follow every other rule but if the framing is bad, the product will look bad.

Rule 3.4 Still keep it tight

We are talking about IMAG still, nothing different. So even wide shots still need to be tighter wide shots. Depending on screen size and room size will determine how wide you can go. Most of the time a Head to Toe shot is as wide as IMAG can go without giving people the same shot they have from their seats. If you are getting wide shots and putting them on the screen then you have stopped doing IMAG, and you have stopped connecting the audience with the stage.

Rule 4: Timing is everything

More important the good shots timing is everything. Switching between shots needs to be done at the right time. Again, switching cameras should go unnoticed most of the time, it should be done incognito. A noticeable transition is either due to a match cut or a bad timing.

The problem with timing is that every song needs to be treated differently. Every now and again you will get lucky and get a music set that is basically the same but even when directing a specific band they will more than likely have songs that require different directing styles. And it isn’t as simple as a 4:4 beat vs. a 6:8.

Timing is what separates the good directors from the bad directors. Having rhythm or musical talent goes a long way in a director. The ability to anticipate music is also an important skill to have. The more of a challenge rhythm or timing is to you as a director the harder it will be to prepare for directing. The more natural rhythm you have the easier timing will be for you.

Timing is based on the feel of the song rather than the structure of the song. Meaning a 4:4 beat means nothing. There are times when cutting or transitioning on the “down” beat makes sense, there are times when cutting on the “up” beat makes sense, it all depends on the feel. This isn’t really something that can’t be learned through reading, only by developing rhythm and instinct in order to be able to cut in an incognito way.

This may sound strange but when directing turn up the music and… dance a little, move, get into the beat. Because when you are talking it is hard to get into the beat so let your body get into it and it will help to get good timing. As directors we need to be able to completely switch our style of switching from song to song if needed. This is hard! So when you can, practice different styles based on different song styles.

Rule 4.1 Don’t let the music direct you

It is important to get into the rhythm but don’t always let the music determine when you change cameras. Different songs warrant different things and when you are communicating what is happening on stage be sure get more into the feel of the song than the beat. Beats will direct you, because they direct the band, but don’t let the beat over do it. If you do you will only create flashy video that doesn’t enhance what is going on on stage, but instead translate the feel and environment. It is important to let the band do the communicating and develop the energy. As directors we just need to capture that, not create it

When cutting a song you can cut on the “on” beat, the “off” beat, rush a cut/ transition or drag a cut/ transition.

“On” beats or “down” beats are usually cutting at the same time a snare drum hits (Assuming the snare is hitting on the down beat but the average song is done this way). It is a very natural time/ instinct for a director to cut or transition. The problem is sometimes the down beat is harsh and very noticeable making transitions very noticeable. But at least half the songs out there, especially worship songs make it easy to cut on the “on” beat. This is the first thing to master as a director.

The opposite of the “on” beat is the “off” beat. This would be the beat after the snare hits in most cases. Or in rare cases could be between beats, again depends on the song. If a song has a sharp down beat cutting there may be too “flashy” so an “off” beat or “up” beat may be better to keep things incognito.

Dragging is not switching when it might seem natural. Let’s say the lead singer sings the last word and is holding it out and at the same moment a guitar solo starts. Rather than go directly to the guitar, let the lead singer hold the last note, drag out that shot before going to the next. This is what dragging is, holding a little longer than it may naturally feel in order to get that last bit of emotion from your subjects. This could be the end of a vocal line, instrument solo, swell, or any other number of situations.

Rushing is getting to your next shot a bit early. It is basically the opposite of dragging in the same exact situation, it is just a different style depending on what the song warrants. Let’s say a guitar solo is finishing up so you cut to the lead singer a little early to get them walking back up to their microphone or them giving a crowd cue. It’s the directors way of saying lets focus on what is next rather than what just happened. Another classic example is a drum hit. If you don’t get to the drums a bit early you will miss the hit and get the hit after the big one, so it pays off to get there a bit early.

Rule 4.2: Don’t always cut on the big hits, capture them.

When you use strategies such as dragging and rushing you let the Band and the overall production do the big hits. If you try to always cut on the big hit you miss the energy the band gives off doing that hit, or the lights flashing in the background. Sometimes it makes sense to cut on the big hit, it feels good and looks good. But this goes back to letting the band and what is happening on stage create the feel over you as a director creating the feel. Sometimes it is just better to wait, drag or rush so that a big hit gets captured rather than created. This is less of a rule, more of a style and a gray one at that.

Rule 4.3: Hold on to good shots

It seems pretty strait forward, slower songs require slower movement and use fewer shots, fast songs require faster movement and more shots. But more is not always better it always comes back to matching the feel of the song. Too many shots too fast does not create a good product. It is a hard balance to have but remember that if you have a good shot hold on to it. Let the shot take it’s course, if a shot keeps people’s interest then it is a good idea to keep it going, that goes for both fast and slow songs. Switching cameras is all about when people loose interest in the current shot. With faster songs people tend to loose interest quicker than slow songs, it’s part of the feel, but those shots that keep people interested are worth hanging onto longer.

Rule 5: Know music

If you don’t understand music as a director then learn it. Know what a Verse, chorus, bridge, tag, solo, bar, and more terms are that pertain to music. Learn the instruments/ position, and how they contribute. If there are two electric guitars on stage and one is doing a solo, and you can see both of them you should be able to know who is doing the solo and who isn’t based upon their playing. Having an understanding of music will help you out greatly with directing. Rhythm is just the start, understanding music will take you to the next stage.

Rule 5.1 Know where to start

The hardest part of every song is usually the beginning. Getting the beginning of a song right will set the pace for the rest of the song. Get notes going into a show with the set list, notes on the itro, who is the focus, and who starts the song? And when the first verse starts, always start with Number 1, the person leading the song. It establishes the audience to know who is leading and allows them to be lead. It is also a good idea to be on number 1 at the start of the first chorus as well but that is a bit grayer. But the point here is to know the beginning of the song and get on number 1 the first time they establish themselves on every song.

Rule 5.2 Building up and coming down

When a song is building a general rule of thumb is to have a shot on a pull, it simulates getting bigger with a bigger camera shot. When a song is coming down start wider and push in, getting smaller. This is one of those rules to bend, this is just a starting point. There are many ways to translate songs building up or coming down but this is an easy rule to implement and easily translates the energy.

Rule 6: Pre-Planning

The more planning you do the better chance you have at a good product. Planning starts long before getting onsite for a show. Things that should be preplanned are camera placement, stage plots, music sets and info pertaining to the set. The more details that get sorted out the better.

Camera placement and stage plots go hand in hand, if cameras can’t get good shots then the end product won’t look good. Spend time working with the band to get them in the right spots and move cameras into a spot that maximizes their range.

Info about each song can be incredibly useful. Get song charts that give you the arrangement and details of the song, talk to band members or sit in on rehearsals and take notes on who does what when getting every detail of the song down even if it isn’t used. This may be a task for an Assistant Director, but the more information about the songs that you have as a director allows you to get cameras in the right position sooner creating a better product. This is less of a rule and more of a guideline.

Rule 7: Commanding the ship

Once you get on Com the director needs to be in charge of the crew. Command them and lead them well. The level of production is dependent on how well the director directs and leads the team. The crew should know that you are in charge and build trust with you as you lead them. Every production is a new learning experience where the crew and the Director have to work as a team, and the director is the captain.

Rule 7.1 Clear, Concise, command

When calling camera shots it is important to first of all be clear. This means speaking up, being confident in what you say, and being direct towards who the commands are intended for. An example of this is always saying “Cam 1” before you ask Cam 1 to do something. This makes it clear who you are talking to. Remember most venues run music loud and you need to be heard over the music, so speak loud and clearly.

Be concise, long sentences don’t work, there is no time for that. Practice keeping what you say on com to a minimum, get to the point and get on to the next thing. An example of this is “1 push” vs. “Camera 1 can you give me a push please?” It’s great to be polite but you can accomplish that in your tone rather than your words.

This leads to the last piece, Command. Learn command words like: Push, pull, reset, go, stop, hold, focus, rack, roll, iris, shade. These words get to the point (concise) and get people reacting quickly.  It allows you as a director to really command the ship well.

Rule 7.2: communicate the energy

This rule is so important to get right. The energy you bring on com sets the energy for the entire crew and helps them perform how you want them to perform. During fast songs getting excited and speaking with energy will help get energetic shots. Slow songs speaking quieter with less energy slows people down. If you are always quiet and slow you will always get those shots out of people. Don’t be afraid to get excited! Have Fun! It all translates to the crew and their performance in getting a quality production.

This may mean finding things that amp you up while directing. Telling a joke during down time, cranking up the music, turning down the music, dance, and simply be silly.

Rule 7.3: Encourage

If you want your directing to get better, encourage your crew and compliment them when they do things the way you want: when they frame up a shot correctly, have good speed in their movement, find the right action at the right time, and the list goes on. Do it in the moment on com so everyone can hear. If the crew knows they are doing something right they will be more inclined to do it right again, and seek new ways to get your approval as a director. Sometimes this means complimenting the little things to win small battles with ops. This also means keeping your cool and developing patience when necessary on com.

Rule 8: Knowing Why

Once you learn the rules the only thing to do is to evaluate your directing. No director is perfect and they don’t consistently direct perfect shows. But humility and the drive to continually get better will make you a better director. The best question to always ask is “Why?” Why did I do that transition, why did it work or why didn’t it? Why did that did I cut to that person at that time? The idea is to have an answer for everything you do as a director both good and bad. If you can honestly answer “Why” to every decision you make as a director then you will continually get better at directing.

I think the worse answer to the “Why” question is “Because it breaks it up.” That answer tends to be cop out and only leads to the question, “Why does it break it up” or “why did it need to be broken up?” The answer to the “Why” question should be based on the other rules above, such as: the focus changed, the shot was no longer interesting, Number 1 stopped being a number 1, they are leading the song, the song warranted a connection to this musician, this person was bringing great energy that fit the song and so on… Remember the purpose of IMAG, IMAG is meant to connect everyone in an auditorium to what is happening on the stage in a way that keeps people engaged and energized in order to enhance their overall experience. This purpose should also support your why. Back to the worse answer “Because it breaks it up” did the shot loose connection or Energy? If yes, good, if no then back to the original question of “Why.”

So once again this is less of a rule and more of a self-evaluation, the rule is that the only way to better your directing is to always be evaluating and getting better.


There is a lot of information here, and a lot of rules to learn. So take it in pieces and learn one rule at a time and master it to the point where it becomes second nature where you don’t have to think about it any more. Remember, once Rules are learned and mastered can you then bend and even break them from time to time but be sure to know why you are breaking them. Directing music is not easy, at least not easy to do it well. And the chances of having a perfect show is almost next to none but the more you follow the rules the more consistent your directing will become, and the more engaged and connected your audience will be. And you as a director will fulfill the purpose of IMAG.

This post was centered around Music for IMAG purposes. Broadcast music, talking head, and other live video styles share many of the same rules but do have a few of their own.

About brhoda

I freelance doing a few different thing in the video and live production market. I worked for a church for 5 years directing services and designing control rooms.
This entry was posted in Directing. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The rules of Directing Music for IMAG

  1. markhanna888 says:

    Nicely written! There is a lot of good content in there.

  2. Randy Wile says:

    Very to the point, and well written. 150% agree with everything stated

  3. nicklolsen says:

    Great post! Thank you so much for such comprehensive content.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s