Are Any of These DIY Camera Hacks Worth Doing?

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"You want your shots to be fire, not on fire." 

Indie filmmakers have a lot to contend with when shooting a project. Budget, time, equipment, technical workflow, crew... did we mention budget? Camera package rentals are one of those line items that can eat into productions costs if you don't happen to own gear or are unable to borrow from a contact.

One way to balance that lost budget is DIY camera accessories and lighting setups. For the camera operator looking for new ways to create interesting inexpensive shots, creator Nick Sales has a few camera hacks that could be useful. Check them out below. 

Dryer sheets as a dolly

While we can't endorse using banana peels as a dolly replacement, placing dryer sheets or even soft cloth towels under each tripod leg on hardened surfaces can create smooth tracking shots. Before placing the camera on top of the tripod, it's best to do a couple of test runs to see if the surface is smooth enough. 

Use a tripod as a shoulder rig

If you don't have a shoulder rig for handheld camera work, you can always use your tripod. If using a Manfrotto tripod, all you need to do is pop up one of the legs and place it directly on your shoulder and the other two legs act as the handle. It's one of the oldest tricks in the book, but if you just happen to be a filmmaker starting out, it's definitely one worth knowing. 

A cheaper light dome 

If you can't afford something like Aputure's Light Storm 300d II and a Light Dome that sells for around $1,300, you can make an inexpensive version using different products for about $300. The workaround is to combine two light panels, a softbox, a camera holder, and a dual mount tripod bracket in order to create the alternative soft light source. While you won't get all the same features as the 300d, including color quality, output, control, or even reliability, if you plan on setting up the fixture as an indoor set-it-and-forget-it style light, it might be ideal for you. 

So what are some of your favorite camera tricks? Share them in the comments below.      

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2 Comments

If you are using a square softbox and want to make it seem like the light is coming from a window you can use some painters tape, so the adhesive is strong enough to hold but easily removed, and create a window frame within your softbox. Just making a simple X using all four sides (not from the corners) would give it the appearance of a four panel window.

August 6, 2020 at 9:22AM

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Nick Straub
Videographer
680

Not bad, but a simple set of furniture movers (~20) would do much better than banana peels and dryer sheets.

August 7, 2020 at 12:33PM

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Justin Gladden
Producer
570