March 28, 2014

Unorthodox DIY Film Studio Ideas That Are Also Ridiculously Cheap & Easy

Shanks studiosJust because you don't have a whole lot of cash or space doesn't mean that you can't have a highly functional studio. In this video by DIY special effects guru Joey Shanks, we're taken inside his garage-turned-filmmaking-studio and shown the inexpensive tools and items that he uses to make his studio an effective and efficient place to work, as well as a bunch of tips and tricks on how to make the most of what little you may have.

For a lot of us, our studios, at one point, consisted of a single shelf and a tiny rectangle of floor space inside our bedroom closets, and a desk littered with coffee mugs, empty soda cans, and take-out boxes. If that's you right now (it's totally me right now, too), you'll be happy to know that you're grossly underestimating the potential of your space, as well as how far your limited means can take you.

In the video below, Joey Shanks shows us how he turned his detached garage into a great place to work on films using inexpensive DIY solutions, proving himself to be the master of DIY filmmaking -- seriously. He shares clever tips and tricks, like making key-chain sized rolls of gaffer's tape, storing external hard drives in a fireproof safe, and what pieces of gear to look out for at thrift shops. Granted, the space he uses in the video may not be available to you due to lack of space/funds (Duramax sells a similar garage/storage shed for $2,000 -- ouch), but these tricks can be used wherever you set up shop.

What tips and tricks did you find most helpful in Joey Shanks' video? Feel free to share your own DIY studio solutions in the comments below (please!!!).

[via Shanks FX]

Your Comment

50 Comments

I'm not into bashing people but that was a completely rubbish video... Ok for 13 year old Lucy setting up a photo studio in her bedroom but for any serious work it was completely useless and irrelevant...

March 28, 2014 at 6:09PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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jake whitehouse

Serious work? Joey Shanks produces shows out of his garage for PBS Digital Studios on creating cheap DIY special effects. Is that not serious enough?

March 28, 2014 at 6:54PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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V Renée
Nights & Weekends Editor
Writer/Director

Oh come on now...you didn't like the "duct-taped-cardboard-to-the-back-of-the-chair" trick?

March 28, 2014 at 6:56PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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sid

You have never worked for PBS. Here is a link showing a pilot, we shot for PBS.
( https://vimeo.com/20098973) It was shot using the man's house we use the garage for instructions his party was used as a Design Studio in the bedroom was used as their office. With today's modern cameras you can get away with quite a lot, no grip truck no Mole Richardson lights and only a two man team.

April 15, 2014 at 1:11PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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I assume the previous posters have done far better than Joey as filmmakers by their insightful critiques. Even if the specific suggestions are not your cup of tea - if you know anything about filmmaking - you know Joey has exactly the right approach at any budget level. The shoes in the background of Return of the Jedi as well of hundreds of other examples on both zero budget and hundred million dollar budgets is why people like Joey get her done. Put up or shut up.

March 28, 2014 at 6:54PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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If someone (and his relatives and friends) could occupy/rent a few garages and/or basements, they could conceivably make that work for a sufficient number of indoor sets for a reasonable length short. Bring down some cheap furniture from upstairs, get a cheesy rug or two, rig a few lights and you can shoot.

March 28, 2014 at 7:01PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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DLD

I loved it, thanks :)

March 28, 2014 at 7:15PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Here are some of the tricks I used for my feature Space Trucker Bruce www.spacetruckerbruce.com

-wheelchair dolly combined with borrowed merlin stedi-cam for a really smooth dolly shot without a dolly

-use cardboard for sets. looks surprisingly well when painted and viewed at a distance. Mattress boxes give big sheets of wrinkle free cardboard

-old laptops and imacs make good display screens. they can loop simple animations

-use 1x2 boards and wood screws for set framing. the screws allow you to reuse the lumber for the next set. a couple of cheap cordless screw drivers allow you to drill pilot hole then screw in the screw.

-LED Christmas tree lights can flicker on camera at 24fps, so this is good if you want that effect but bad if you want a steady light.

March 28, 2014 at 7:39PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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You mean the cardboard chairs, tables, couches and so on? Or just backgrounds?

March 28, 2014 at 9:46PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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DLD

the walls, roofs and consoles. Chairs and couches wouldn't work too great although Bruce's pilot chair has a couple of cereal boxes on it. I think the thing to avoid with cardboard is to use pieces that have visible creases or ribs. I should have done a better job of this. I won't make that mistake again.

March 29, 2014 at 11:56PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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that was great!

March 28, 2014 at 8:10PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Chris

I watched a few of his videos. There are tricks on his channel you wouldn't learn in film school unless you had a mentor that had an old school approach to FX as compared to SGI. I enjoyed them after I turned the sound down. I liked his progression of materials with set up, filming, and then a very brief integration into a product, showing how you can make it look to your audience.

March 28, 2014 at 8:10PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Hari Har

For those who harshly criticize this creative work, I'm pretty sure that this type of creativity still goes on in Hollywood and in some of your favorite stock footage fx videos. To be this creative and this practical at the same time should be commended especially when footage like this can get relatively expensive to purchase. Just watching these clips can spark one's imagination.

March 28, 2014 at 8:18PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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DIY tricks upon DIY tricks, but uses a Mac. Lol.

March 28, 2014 at 8:33PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Cosmin Gurau

Longtime follower plea to NFS: Make people sign into an account of some sort before commenting. The amount of trash that is being thrown on this site is reminiscent of YouTube. It's counter productive to anything creative and really crushes the sense of community this site used to have. I for one am pretty tired of seeing it. The only people that trash someone else's creative work behind an anonymous account are the people that are either too afraid or incapable of doing so themselves.

Rant over.

March 28, 2014 at 9:17PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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I second this plea.

March 28, 2014 at 9:32PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Coty

All in good time. We're all excited for the re-launch.

March 29, 2014 at 3:04AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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V Renée
Nights & Weekends Editor
Writer/Director

Haters and unrespectful people will always be like that, no matter if they have an account or not. This is a very specific site, not a generalist like Youtube. Very few people will end up here by chance and even less of those will write a comment.
I don’t like the idea of having an account here, it kills the “original blog spirit” of the site and makes me feel I am “forced into something” if I want be part of it. This might be implemented for commercialization and marketing purposes, but to me it just makes me feel the site will head into a business-oriented model.
Don’t want to see my favorite blog turned into what little by little DPreview has become.

March 29, 2014 at 4:45AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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I have found that they all but vanish if some form of accountability is present. Those that do actually bring something to the conversation and give constructive criticism won't mind taking the time to set up an account and those that don't can still read all of the articles. It makes sense if only from an efficiency stand point.

March 29, 2014 at 5:39AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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How do we sign up now? How do we get pictures by our names, or is that only for people who contribute articles?

March 29, 2014 at 10:59AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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I think you just have to have a Wordpress account. That's what I'm using.

March 29, 2014 at 2:17PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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It's nothing special, you just get one of these and your picture will follow you around to lots of different places. http://en.gravatar.com/

March 29, 2014 at 4:17PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Joe Marine
Camera Department

Dude, who cares what anonymous haters have to say? Their words mean nothing.

March 28, 2014 at 11:18PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Mike Newman

It kills the vibe...

March 29, 2014 at 12:24AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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It pollutes the comment section and makes interested people not want to read on or join the conversation. Think it's pretty obvious this affects the whole site and NFS community. I don't even understand how people can write things like this. Please have respect for those who share knowledge or tricks or experiences, no matter how meaningful pr meaningless they seem to you. The most successful people all have little random nuggets of knowledge that might appear meaningless or banal to many, but there's so much value to retrieve from this type of advice. All great artists and accomplished professionals have them.

March 29, 2014 at 1:19AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Personally, I look at the comments like an extension of the blog. The moderators should take every step in ensuring that the content in the comments doesn't bring down the overall quality of the article.

If I were being completely honest I would say NFS is losing that battle right now. It's at the point where I'm expecting to see mostly negative/childish comments on every article. Turns the whole vibe of the site into something more like Yahoo than a niche site for Indie filmmakers.

March 29, 2014 at 5:48AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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I am a reasonable man, I think, yet I almost never register to comment on blogs that require it. I think it's a waste of time and I also worry about my privacy and the availability of my information to third-parties. One of the reasons I do comment regularly on this blog is because no registation is required.

A better suggestion, I think, is some sort of voting system where you can allow certain comments to go up or down. Several sites have this, and it works wonders in keeping the best content the most visible. The "first goes up" system NFS uses is outdated, I think.

March 29, 2014 at 6:52AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Should have removed at least one instance of "I think"...

March 29, 2014 at 6:53AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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I agree Rafael. Good idea.

March 29, 2014 at 2:18PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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It seems as though negativity breeds negativity in the comments section, especially if it's in the first few comments. That's what happened here and you all neutralized it by being positive, addressing the problem, and/or just simply talking about the article. Good for you!

(I'll be sure to spend more time moderating…nobody likes coming into a hostile environment when they're trying to learn and share ideas.)

Now, group hug.

March 29, 2014 at 1:57PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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V Renée

Hey V, I am currently shooting a shortfilm (still one week more to go) where everything is DIY (but the camera and mics). www.facebook.com/kollimator Even the actors are “DIYing”!(Filming themselves). The theme of the story is actually taking over production and it is becoming a way of fimmaking it.
This article for me was a good reminder than “I am not alone” in DIY and pushes me to go on with that concept further into my film even if some people might think my $0 windshields on my microphones look like crap. I decided to film some behind the scenes and bring it together with some more material to edit and share it all later. Who should I contact at NFS for that?
Keep on the good work.

March 30, 2014 at 8:02PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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That's awesome, Jupersan! Feel free to shoot us an email at editor@nofilmschool.com, and keep fighting that good fight!

March 30, 2014 at 8:16PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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V Renée
Nights & Weekends Editor
Writer/Director

DIY can be anything. In the famous documentary "No Subtitles Necessary: Laszlo and Vilmos", they show how one of them used a little trunk of a tree to stabilize a camera inside a car

March 29, 2014 at 7:31AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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One thing ill say with the wifi extender is there is a solution called power over ethernet that runs a virtual hardwired connection for internet through your power lines and is much faster than wifi. it would be much better than dangling a wifi extender. but really like the practicality of the garage!

March 29, 2014 at 9:17AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Mark K.

There are trolls everywhere. Don't let them bother you. These guys are jobless, brain-dead and pretty much useless. I think this is a great article. Don't let negative people affect you.

March 29, 2014 at 5:14PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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sanveer

Finding cheap work-arounds is my absolute favorite part of production. In fact, it still very much goes on in Hollywood at all levels. Several years ago I was working on a Super Bowl co-op spot with the NFL's robot and the Terminator robot from the Sarah Connor Chronicles. A simple little bumper. We needed a metal wall that the two robots could bust through. We were short on time and the 3D guys had their hands full with animation so I went to the facility's kitchen, got some aluminum foil, stretched it across a hole in a piece of cardboard and did an impromptu stop animation shoot, slowly peeling away the foil like a machine punching through a big metal wall. I did it outside in the parking lot. It worked great and, if you happened to be watching the Super Bowl when it aired, you saw it. It was fast but it was comp'd into the shot.

March 29, 2014 at 5:18PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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EssAyy

I'm going to go buy some ankle weights! Brilliant idea, especially for nanostands.
The rest is all good common sense. More power to him.

March 29, 2014 at 8:18PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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marklondon

Small Nit Pick... 1/4 20 & 3/8 18 are definitely NOT metric (They are NC). Metric threads are 1.0 or 1.25 * width... Won't work with each other .....

March 31, 2014 at 12:12PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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John

Instead of nitpicking, here's what I agree with:

- my collection of screws, nuts, adapters, doodads, etc. has saved me a lot of time/money. But, keep it sorted and in one place!

- right angle power cords can be incredibly useful. bonus: find left-hand and right-hand versions

- instead of using cardboard to flag light, try to find black, corrugated plastic. It retains stiffness (even in humidity), tends to be lighter weight than equally-stiff paper cardboard, and it lasts forever.

- I also have a decent collection of small fluorescent and led lights. Crap CRI, but gel them and they're great for accent lights.

- mini-rolls of gaff tape are a great idea. I just buy packs of microGaffer rolls, but DIY is still useful.

- Buying high end lenses brand new is for suckers. That factory line smell isn't worth the initial depreciation. If you need a warranty, buy refurbished from a reputable source.

- cubetap power splitters are a must - get at least two.

- ankle weights is a genius idea… cheaper than a small sand/shot bag and have a strap! Great for a counterweight on an improvised boom arm.

April 3, 2014 at 4:34PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Shanks is incredible. Learn from it. Thank you for posting your secrets.

April 4, 2014 at 12:37PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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I think often negative comments are way more useful than the positive ones but of course they have to have some constructive criticism in it.. As about this video, I find it entertaining but not very useful -- there are very few practical ideas that wouldn't spring to mind of anyone facing appropriate challenges. Also the editing style doesn't really let to have a good look at the studio or the man's workflow.

April 4, 2014 at 3:38PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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zetty

Be aware, a fireproof safe is not the same as a heatproof safe.

The integrity of the structure of the same will survive the fire, but the drives inside would melt under the heat.

Love the tips though. Everyone knows something you don't.

April 5, 2014 at 12:45AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Paul Clarke

Exceedingly helpful and inspiring DIY video from Shark -- and great interactions, despite the few spurious, difficult to reconcile detractions among the comments thus far.

I find it difficult to pass up trips to the thrift shop and that great cauldron of DIY solutions, the "As-Is" room at IKEA. Notable finds include high-density composite boards handsomely veneered or laminated in various colors.

As well, a great source for heavyweight velour drapes, sold in pairs for $30 -- sometimes less; these bring a terrific studio aesthetic, and sound-absorption character into a space. In the DC Metro region, on Thursdays (a.k.a. "Thrifty Thursdays" at IKEA), all As-Is items are sold at 50% Off! If the pricing sticker doesn't reflect that, see an As-Is Dept. Associate for official repricing, before advancing to the Check-Out. ;-)

April 5, 2014 at 4:01AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Peter Girard

IKEA of course is an excellent stop for As-Is lighting: in the form of lamp stands, fixtures, desk, floor, wall, string-type and ceiling variety too. Best deals include fluorescents or better still, really decent LED bulbs with a really decent CRI (color rendering index) -- already installed inside the lighting fixture (likely, these were units taken off the display floor, to make room for new models or fresh units of the same kind).

April 5, 2014 at 4:10AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Peter Girard

So, recycling of plastic is good strategy to guard our environment from
pollution and to save non-renewable sources. This is the most the most defining aspect of modern furniture.
For firefighters, being exposed to furniture smoke
during fires means an increased exposure to cancer-causing chemicals
like chlorinated Tris and penta - BDE.

April 6, 2014 at 9:50AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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I've been shooting for years and am always keen to pick up new tips, no matter who they come from. Feeding the light cable under the stand....embarrassed that I never thought of thart before.

April 8, 2014 at 12:30PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Rob

Taking note of all the successful videos that have been viewed
millions of time on You - Tube - Almost all of them have ranged between the length of 2 and 4 minutes.
But it's dangerous, damaging, and completely ruinous.
But blocking access to a particular website cannot stop
tech-savvy Internet users employing virtual private networks or other
technologies to access unbanned IP addresses outside the country in order to access banned sites.

April 9, 2014 at 8:39PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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other person's website link on your page at suitable placfe
and other person will also doo similar inn favor of you.

June 17, 2014 at 1:03AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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June 19, 2014 at 3:57AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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July 4, 2014 at 7:35AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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