You may not have the budget of a Hollywood movie studio, but you can make it look like you do. There are plenty of filmmaking tricks out there that can make your production look like it was more expensive. We will highlight several of them in this article but they all revolve around being resourceful. Take advantage of the resources you have access to and build your ideas from them.
The same also applies if you have a video idea for your small business or start-up. You don’t need the resources of top tier advertising agencies to showcase your product or service. However, if you still feel better letting professionals handle your video, contact us! As a small business, we know what it’s like to stay within a budget and we’ll work with you to give you the most bang for your buck on your next production.
Indie Filmmaking Tricks: Think Like a Micro-Budget Filmmaker
- LOCATION SHOOTING
A lot of money is needed to rent a sound stage or to build a custom set and most independent filmmakers are working with shoestring budgets. So write a story around that unique location that you drive by every week. Or a room in your friend’s house that is a character in and of itself. Turnkey solutions like this will save you money, time, and energy by removing the need to location scout. Ask yourself, how do these locations inform the decisions your characters make. Indie film techniques like this help stir creativity and allow your setting to drive the story instead of the other way around.
- INFORMED AND MOTIVATED DECISIONS
Having a plan and sticking to it should not be underestimated. Sure it doesn’t sound sexy, but simply by having everything organized you save time and reduce stress. This little indie filmmaking tip saves money, too. Need help getting organized? Check out our post on the best filmmaking software for some guidance to enhance your organization and production value.
When you think of low-budget films, your mind may automatically gravitate towards found footage films like Blair Witch Project or Paranormal Activity. While these are great examples of out of the box thinking and innovative filmmaking, they are also motivated decisions that the filmmakers made on behalf of the story. What we’re saying is, don’t use something like the found footage trope just because it’s cheaper. Use it because it makes sense for the story you’re telling. Imagine how weird Field of Dreams would have been as a found footage film if the directive was just to keep its budget down.
No Budget Filmmaking Hacks: Make the Most of What You Have
- RESOURCEFULNESS IS NEXT TO GODLINESS
Maybe you bought a camera three years ago but a newer model just came out. It’s tempting to convince yourself the newest, shiniest toys will make your productions look better or make your job easier. However, that new camera almost certainly isn’t so far ahead of the one you already own that it justifies the price tag. Not to mention, you’ve had three years of learning your current camera. You already know all the settings and that camera’s funny little nuances which allows you to move faster on set. Remember, time is money so anywhere you can save time, you’re saving money.
OR, as we highlighted in our last article, you have a more than serviceable option in your pocket right now. Feature films are being shot on cell phones and mobile filmmaking is on the rise, so the excuse of not having access to competent gear is no longer a viable one.
- ENHANCE YOUR SOUND
You’ll be surprised at how forgiving an audience will be to poor quality video. However, they will not be willing to overlook (or overhear…audio pun) bad sound. If they can’t understand what the characters are saying, have to strain to hear the dialogue, or cringe when a character yells and clips the audio, it can take the viewer completely out of the story.
One tip we picked up from Chris Riggi is, again, taking advantage of our smartphones. On an episode of Noam Kroll’s Podcast Show Don’t Tell, Chris describes taping the actors’ phones to their chests and using that to capture on-set audio. It’s a lot of work on the leveling and sound editing side of things, but you can’t beat the price tag. This option admittedly makes us cringe a bit but if you haven’t picked up on the theme yet, it’s that you need to think outside of the norm.
- CAMERA MOVEMENT
Movement is one of the most understated cinematography elements, and anytime you can incorporate camera movement your shot will be infinitely more interesting. Remember when you were a kid and playing with a cardboard box was cooler than playing with what came in it? This article from PetaPixel details just a few ways you can use cardboard to replace other common tools and techniques. The coolest hack they give is the cardboard slider. This cardboard slider is easy to make, costs next to nothing, and provides an incredibly professional look to your project.
Spend time thinking about what appears in your frame. Having objects out of focus in the foreground, with your character in focus behind it, gives the appearance of depth and mimics the style of larger productions. Keep in mind that the object should have some meaning in the scene and should belong in the frame. You can also frame through windows or doorways. These are not only pleasing to the eye but can provide subtext and serve as metaphors for your story.
At the same time, you should also think about what’s not in the frame, as sometimes, this can be just as important. Maybe you frame a character through a doorway, but suddenly she is obscured behind the door frame. What’s going on in there and why aren’t we seeing it? There is a great example of this in Rosemary’s Baby where the viewer is tempted to physically strain to get a better view.
Mirrors, or reflections of any kind, can also add subtext and act as a metaphor. They provide depth to your frame and provide for a more interesting image. Try experimenting with all sorts of household items to find odd or different reflections. Sometimes the simplest visual effects have the most impact.
- BOKEH EFFECT (BLURRED BACKGROUND)
When a character or object appears in focus within your frame and everything in front of or behind them is fuzzy or out of focus, this is called Bokeh. It’s aesthetically pleasing to the eye and can create an atmosphere. Neon lights that appear out of focus behind a character can spark feelings of wonder and grandeur. Alternatively, having only the character in focus can create a sense of isolation for that character. Again, it’s all in the motivation. B&H has a great video on how to achieve that buttery bokeh.
The big takeaway of this article is to be creatively resourceful when it comes to your film or video projects. It’s the special sauce that makes what we do so much fun. By having limited resources, it can actually force you to be more creative in finding solutions that you otherwise may not have. It also helps to surround yourself with creative people who love to collaborate and that will bring their own ideas to your project.
This is by no means a complete list of hacks, tips, and tricks that can help elevate your film or company’s marketing video but we think it’s a pretty good start. When you come up with that next great filmmaking hack please let us know! Now get out there and start creating!