20 March 2021

Top DIY filmmaking gear tips and tricks for your best indie movies

If you love filmmaking and are looking to create short videos or full-blown indie films of your own without going into a studio, you may be wondering if that's possible on a budget. Can you get good-quality mobile filmmaking gear that renders beautiful shots on-screen? What type of DIY filmmaking gear can you put together at home and what does it take to obtain great finalized videos using those tools?

You can make your own low budget filmmaking gear from scratch or by using second-hand or repurposed kit. With the help of a good video editing app like Splice, you can then put together your footage in professional looking clips and create amazing independent films. Here's a quick guide on DIY filmmaking tools and kit, how to come up with your essential kit checklist, and what you can achieve with it all on your own.

DYI filmmaking gear you can create at home

Normally, making movies is not cheap. While some people manage to raise a decent amount of money through crowdfunding or social media support, it's great to be able to rely on a lower budget and still shoot the scenes you've been dreaming of. Here's how to come up with your own essential filmmaking gear.

Affordable light stands

You can make your own light stand with some tape, PVC materials, and nuts and screws. You can probably retrieve most of these in your garage and the cost of individual items would be very cheap if bought from a DIY store or even online. This video shows you how to put it all together.

Microphone wind covers

One of the important parts of producing a high-quality film is to have good sound recordings. If you shoot outside, the wind tends to be a real issue for sound quality. To avoid spending money on expensive windscreens, you can create your own as part of your filmmaking gear list. Another low-budget option for budding filmmakers - check out the tutorial here.

Camera steadier

An essential part of your indie filmmaking gear will always need to be a tool to help steady your hand as you film. You can buy some bodycam equipment for serious amounts of money, or you can build your own following these instructions and spending less than $15. Bargain!

Additional kit for special effects

When you film a movie, you may want to create some different effects and visual transitions that post-production editing may not do justice to. For example, how about having a rain scene, or filming high-speed interactions or movements?

You can build your own rain machine with the help of some PVC and useful online tutorials. This video even covers two options: a cheaper one for $15 worth of materials, or a sturdier $60 one. If you're thinking of reusing it, we'd advise you invest in the sturdier one.

For a quick sliding support, add a slider to your low budget filmmaking gear by following the instructions in this video. This is a cheap solution, but it does the trick.

Mobile filmmaking gear to capture the best action shots

Beyond the essential filmmaking gear covered above, more specialist shots will need different pieces of equipment that studios invest big money in. This includes amazing aerial drone shots, big-budget high-speed movement shots, or close-ups of the actors' faces as they move around the set. If you don't have the money to spend on the original technical items, there are inventive ways to work around that.

Build your own SnorriCam

This is something you may not have heard about before, but it's a great piece of kit in any filmmaker's arsenal. The SnorriCam is a very popular type of set-up allowing the camera to face an actor directly, while being strapped to their body, so they don't look like they're moving, but the rest of the set behind them does. Think of movies like 28 Days Later or even in The Hangover when Ed Helms' character wakes up disoriented. It's a great perspective for the viewers.

Can you build this sort of device yourself and bypass the full cost of one? Yes, thanks to this tutorial, a few belts and a tripod.

Don't have a drone? Build a jib

Before drones were an accessible piece of kit, filmmakers used a camera jib for the over-the-trees aerial shots and beautiful scenes of scenery that then zoom in to reveal the actors. Here's a tutorial that allows you to build a small jib, and you can replicate the principles for a larger scale.

Of course, the "proper" camera jibs of big-budget studio movies had cranes to allow them the height needed for the shots they filmed. However, for a smaller production, a DIY camera jib could serve you very well.

Enhance your GoPro footage with a chest mount

For the best mobile filmmaking gear, you cannot beat a GoPro, especially for action shots. However, while GoPros are versatile and relatively cheap compared to big, fancy cameras, they will shoot shaky footage if you don't mount them properly. An option is to build your own chest mount, saving on the money you'd need to spend to buy one from either GoPro themselves or a different brand. Check out the instructions here.

Underwater shots

You can film underwater without a mount, but having a specific camera rig for filming ocean scenes gives you more flexibility and range of movement. This tutorial shows you how.

Build a car mount

How about filming a car chase or just a high speed adventure? For a low budget filmmaking gear trick, check out this video which shows you how to create a mount for a DSLR camera with some suction cups and a bit of plastic only.

Tips for filming on a budget

Now you have your essential filmmaking gear sorted, there are many other costs to consider when making a film, from hiring actors to renting out locations. To save you money while still creating some good-quality films, here are a few more tips and tricks:

  • Write your own script

Yes, you may have already done this or considered it. After all, it's your movie. Writing a script not only saves you money on hiring a professional scriptwriter, it's also a great way to prepare the shooting and that can lead to cost savings, too.

Having a script written down makes you consider the locations, the kit you'll need, the potential obstacles, etc. So, write it all down and then look at how you can tackle any parts of the filmmaking process for cheaper.

  • Don't hire actors

You can save on actors' fees by asking your friends or employees (if you're shooting a business video) to star in the movie. You might not get Oscar-worthy performances, but sometimes the raw quality of indie films makes them even better with non-professional actors. As for a company movie, what better way to make it look realistic than actually using the people who work there?

  • Shoot on location at home or at work

If shooting an artistic film, find locations you can use without having to pay a rental fee: at home, in your backyard, on a friend's property... there are many options once you stop to think about them.

For a business video, use your own location to keep the film realistic and low-cost.

All these tips and tricks should allow you to make great films with a pretty basic DSLR camera or even your mobile phone. Your footage can then be put together in a video editing app and you'll have great movies at lower costs. Whether you're looking for cheap filmmaking gear or just some inventive ways to put together your own DIY filmmaking gear, these ideas will get you started on your path to cinematic success.

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