Hacks for newbie filmmakers

Hacks for newbie filmmakers


Making a film is a great way to tell your story.

You’re a filmmaker, just starting out and already broken. So many problems. They all seem inextricable.

Don’t worry. There’s a famous saying: You must learn to crawl before you can walk.

In this case hacks can be very helpful.

So, what do you need to know to effectively communicate your ideas to your audience?

Let’s discover together.

Filmmaking involves a number of discrete stages including an initial story, idea, or commission, through screenwriting, casting, shooting, sound recording and reproduction, editing, and screening the finished product before an audience that may result in a film release and exhibition.



First… What is hack?

A hack (sometimes referred to as a “life-hack”) is a clever solution to a tricky problem.

You’re making a film, but your budget is low.  Honestly, you shouldn't have to spend tens of thousands of dollars on top-end equipment to make great films.  Quality film does not have to destroy your budget.

Keep in mind, there is no "one size fits all" equipment package for everyone since there are so many variables (budget, type of project, locations, pro vs amateur, etc). Make sure you’re confident with your equipment before you start filming.

To be a successful filmmaker, you need to use different hacks.

Use Your Car (Tracking Shots, Trunk Shots ETC)

A car is usually available to crews most of the time, considering gear and crew transport. It can easily be turned into a dolly.  However, you are going to want to avoid a tripod for this shot.

Trunk shots (much like Tarantino’s) are also a great angle and use for a vehicle. By setting up a projection or moving backdrop, you can imitate driving, without actually driving. If you want to get more technical, place your camera on the hood facing the driver. Have fun with this, you will be surprised how versatile a car can be when it comes to filming.



String Tripod

This "old photographer's trick" involves connecting a cord to your camera and then looping it around your foot (or feet) for tripod-like stabilization. (It's not quite as good as the real thing, he notes, but much better than your shaky hands.) All you need is the proper-size stainless steel eyehook and a length of nylon or poly cord—parts available at the local hardware store for around $5.

Rollerblade Tracking Shot

The possibilities are endless when it comes to filming on roller blades. Use this technique for high-speed tracking shots, low angle dollies, or even slow and gentle tracking shots. You are really only limited to your arm length and body movement. As long as your filming somewhere that can support rollerblades, you’re golden. However, some shake in the frame might add the sense of action and movement.

Some camera hacks

  • Give your shot a vintage feel by shooting through an old disposable camera.
  • Put some tape across your lens to add rain drop effects or colorful filters.
  • Use your belt as a makeshift camera stabilizer.
  • Put some Christmas lights near your lens to create beautiful bokeh balls.

Lighting is just as important as any other aspect of filmmaking.  It is almost always a problem for amateur and budget moviemakers, but if you’ve got the right skills or personnel, you can take advantage of affordable equipment and build your own lighting solutions.

To make the most of a single light source—and that could even be a window—use a reflective surface such as a foam board ($3 at most photo supply stores) or a white wall to fill in the shadows.



Lamp Light

What you need is a lamp and likely a lamp shade. You can easily use various lamps and bulbs laying around your house to adequately light, if you know what bulbs to choose. To diffuse the light, you should use a white lampshade.

When it comes to shooting cinematic footage, stabilization is the name of the game.  So instead of spending hundreds of dollars on a specific rig, you could always use your handy-dandy tripod as a makeshift steadicam.

Sound is a really powerful tool for storytelling and giving your film impact.

Wild Lines

Record WILD LINES at the scene if marred by noise. Just pick up the dialogue spoken after the noise has quieted down for better chance of your sound designer placing it after the fact.

The ears reflex to a loud sound can be simulated by playing manually with the fine dynamics of the sounds envelope. For example, you can make that explosion appear super-loud by actually shutting down the sound artificially following the initial transient. The brain will interpret this as the ear responding naturally to an extremely loud sound – perceiving it as louder and more intense than the sound actually, physically is.

Already knowing hacks get started.

Don’t forget that everyone was once a beginner.



Tongal, Shutter stock, The Beat

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RenderForest Staff
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