April 9, 2019

How to Create Cool Lens Filters with Dollar Store Items

Can you create interesting on-camera visual effects with items bought from your local dollar store?

Filmmaking on a budget can be hard. There's so much that needs to go into every frame that it seems entirely unreasonable for you to save money on the things behind the camera, let alone apparatuses we use on it. 

But that's not the case. 

Music video director Chrystopher Rhodes of YCImaging challenged himself to do that in a recent YouTube video, focusing on effects that might be used in music videos especially. While some effects can be added in post or expensive professional filters can be used for unique visuals, there are many ways for do-it-yourselfers to create homemade lens filters. Maybe you're pressed for time (or cash) and would prefer something easy and simple.

Rhodes to the rescue. 

His stroll down the Family Dollar aisles inspired him to buy things like reading classes, an iridescent folder, and glitter glue. He used these items in the foreground of his shots to obscure or filter the shot.

He shot his test footage on a 50mm f/1.4 and advised viewers to shoot on a telephoto lens with a low aperture, so the item being used as a filter wouldn't be seen in the shot.

Items like the glitter glue could potentially be used to create a colored gel to place in front of your lens, but Rhodes gravitated toward the following items.

  •  A tinted plastic cup, which acted as a distorting colored gel.
  • A small flashlight. Rhodes noted that this is a simple tool all cinematographers should keep on hand for multiple effects.
  • A sheet of gem stickers, with a hole cut in the middle so the subject could be seen. These created the jewel-like effects in the screencap below.
  • The reflective material from a school folder. Rhodes removed the foil material from the outside of the folder and used the flashlight to cast its rainbow colors back into the lens.
  • One lens popped out from a pair of reading glasses, which was used to create a blurring or duplicating effect.

One unique item Rhodes picked up was a simple sink strainer. He compared this item's effect to what you would get with the Black Pro-Mist filter, creating a softening look which usually comes with a hefty price tag.

This might be a good option for those who don't have the funds for a professional-grade filter. What do you think of the comparison?

These are just a few creative examples of ways you can create interesting visuals on a budget.

Can you think of any other dollar-store items you might use to achieve cool visual effects?

What's next? Check out ten things you need to know when you start filmmaking

Ah yes, the first years of filmmaking. They're magical and wonderous. You're firing on all creative cylinders and bursting with motivation like a gas can in a fire.

And then you look back, years later, at your work and think, "Wow, I can't believe I made so many mistakes that could've been so easily avoided." 

I just so happened to watch one of my first films last night and had this thought...like...why did I decide to shoot two halves of a scene at different times of day? 

Read our list and get inspired!      

Your Comment