The DIY guide for the frugal filmmaker

Frustrating is the life of the artist who lacks the tools for his craft. It can be especially daunting for us aspiring directors. Between lenses, camera bodies, lights, compensation for actors, rent, and whatnot, the cinematic life just doesn’t come cheap.

Here are a few tips and tricks on shooting your artistic vision on close to zero budget.


Mind the audio

If there’s one thing that immediately signifies an amateur video, it’s bad audio. I’m talking loud background noise and jarring sound discrepancies. This usually means you’re shooting in areas with loud ambience (e.g. city streets, cafeterias, next to an electric fan) or you’re in a fairly quiet place, but you’re too far away from the subject.

Whether you’re standing an arm’s length, or across the room from whomever you’re recording, the key to good audio is consistency. An easy hack for this would be using a phone and earphones attached to your talent. It’s not a be-all and end-all to your sound needs but it’ll at least promise consistency. Just sync the audio to your video clips and you’re mint.


Make your own light

Woeful is the director bound by fickle natural light. The sun’s too bright during noon, the golden hour’s perfect but way too short, and the indoor lighting is almost never enough. Luckily, you have your phone at your side… again. Most phones come with flashlights with varying degrees of brightness that you can use to your advantage. Overexpose your dark scene with light then drop down your settings to stave away that nasty digital noise.


Time travel

Day-For-Night is a film technique used by directors to achieve “nighttime” while shooting in real life day time. This is done by intentionally underexposing your shot, and avoiding telltale signs of the actual time such as the sky and reflections of the sun.

When in post, you’ll want to bring down the exposure a bunch more, and give the video a cooler temperature to simulate moonlight. It takes time and a lot of color matching, but it’ll give you the look of night, or at least past sunset, without the need to worry about bumping up your ISO or losing focus.

Continually digesting new knowledge and studying your craft really is the only way to improve your eye and mind when it comes to filmmaking. At the end of the day, it’s these factors that define your value as an artist more than the gear you have. Stay hungry, and keep making your film dreams come true.

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