It stands to reason that sound is arguably the single most-important element in a music video. After all, the whole reason for producing a video is to showcase a particular song — and, on the surface, this seems like a pretty simple task. You bring your artist into a recording studio to lay down the tracks and then shoot the visuals that were inspired by the song. But the music video process is actually more involved.
Clay Walker is a multi-platinum-selling country music artist who records for Asylum-Curb Records. His new album She Won’t Be Lonely Long features the song “Jesse James,” which tells the story of a good man who fantasizes about being Jesse James, the legendary criminal of the Old West. “It’s the story of a good guy [who’s] trying to do the right thing [and] who has this darker side that he wants to explore in the form of Wild West shoot-em-up and drink and carousing fantasies,” explains Cinematographer Paolo Cascio, who shot the song’s music video for Writer/Director Thadd Turner and Walker (the video’s co-director).
As is the case with most music videos, there wasn’t a lot of production sound involved on the “Jesse James” shoot. In fact, there are only a few seconds of production sound at the very beginning of the video (when viewers see Walker driving through the New Mexico desert and fiddling with his car radio). Once the song begins, everything was shot to playback. “There wasn’t anything that we did special other than making sure that the mic was live to the camera, so that we could record a scratch track,” says Cascio. Turner adds that they put the song onto an Apple iPad, and one of Clay’s bandmembers came up with a way they could play the MP3 file on set. “With that system in place, I was able to call for the specific lines that I wanted for whatever we were shooting at that moment,” says Turner. “Sometimes we had Clay do a full performance as the song played. He would, of course, lip sync it for the video. He actually started singing several times instead of doing the lip sync, so we had to try and capture the images to match the sound and the movement. While that sounds pretty easy, it’s a little more difficult when you’re trying to sync everything together.”
Several times during the production, instead of lip syncing to the studio recording, Walker and his band performed the song live on camera — but when that happened, they ended up out of sync with the studio recording. Most of the time, the live performing wasn’t a huge problem, but there were occasional glitches. “We had one shot where Clay is performing in the back of a pickup truck where we had a tough time syncing him to the word ‘Baptist,’” recalls Turner. They ultimately fixed that problem in post by cutting to a shot of Walker in mid-verse so you won’t see his mouth moving.
For the number of times in the video when the performers’ mouth movements were initially and slightly out of sync with the audio in the rough cut, the creative team needed an exceptionally good editor to finesse the footage so that everything would look just right. “We were really lucky in getting [Editor] Adam Little of Filmworkers [Club] Nashville to cut the video,” Turner says. “He’s done over 500 music videos and is the top guy in the country music world. I put together extensive notes, which he followed very closely. He then did his magic as he began to see what he was putting together with some of his own ideas. Now we have an edited version that’s just spot-on. Adam nailed it.”