If 2018 taught us anything it was how to enjoy the thrill of making DIY film gear.
Congrats, gang! We've just about made it to 2019! I'm sure that we're all feeling at least a little relieved that we get to start making our mark on a crisp new year of filmmaking. However, if you're thinking that maybe you aren't as prepared to flex your creative muscles as you'd like to be due to lack of funds or lack of skill, don't worry. As unproductive or unprosperous as it might've been for you, 2018 left many little treasures in the form of DIY tutorials for us all to learn from so we can jump into 2019 with fresh ideas on how to make movies without having to break the bank to do it.
Here are 10 of our favorite DIY filmmaking tutorials from the last year that show you how to make cheap gear, shoot easier, and hack your way to cinematic success. To learn more about each tutorial, click on the links in the titles.
Overhead shots come in handy for such a wide range of applications that it'd be wise to at least know how to put one together with the gear you already have. In this tutorial, filmmaker Peter McKinnon shows you how to put together an overhead camera rig using little more than a C-stand, a grip head, and a spigot.
I've included two tutorials from DIY Camera Guy for two reasons: 1.) He's the freakin' DIY Camera Guy, and 2.) these two builds are crazy cheap and crazy easy. For this one, all you'll need in order to build a shock mount for your microphone is a few inexpensive Nite Ize Gear Ties and some hardware, including a 3/8" -16 bolt, coupling nut, and hex nut. The cool thing, though, is that the hardware isn't really for assembly, because the Gear Ties, which are about $5 each, are strong enough to keep your mic in place. Not bad, not bad.
The DIY Camera Guy should rebrand himself as the Gear Ties Camera Guy because he's a magician with those things. In this tutorial, he shows you how to build a DIY GorillaPod 3K, a handheld stabilizer that can handle your heavier DSLRs, with little more than two, count 'em, two Gear Ties.
The DIY dolly is an indie film staple. We've all come up with some pretty wacky ways to roll our cameras around on a set of wheels, but Logan Baker of PremiumBeat has a build that will not only give you slick-looking dolly but only requires super accessible materials that will only cost you $50, including plywood, PVC pipe, and wheels from a rollerskate.
Dave Knop, also known as knoptop on YouTube, is a DIY filmmaker's patron saint. He has come up with some truly useful and extremely inventive DIY hacks over the years and this one is just as weirdly handy as the rest. In this tutorial, he shows you how to put together a DIY head mount for capturing POV shots with your smartphone using nothing more than a baseball cap and a mobile tripod mount clip.
Okay, if you're dying to get some sweet SnorriCam shots and aren't afraid of a super labor-intensive build, then you might want to take a look at this tutorial from Zach Ramelan and cinematographer Karl Janisse. The list of materials might be lengthy, but I assure you that most of the stuff on there is pretty affordable, like wood, 750 base plates, straps, grip heads, and Magic Arms. After a bit of sawing and assembly (and foam placement for comfort), you'll have a bonafide SnorriCam rig that really works.
If you're lazy like me, though, we also included a tutorial in the original that shows you an alternative method that may not provide results as good as Ramelan and Janisse's build, but it will definitely be way, way, way easier.
Video is no longer available: www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y8FydpK1Tsw
It is a freakin' pain to use fog outdoors. The loads and loads of fog you have to produce is impossible to contain without rigging up barriers and even the slightest breeze will ruin all of your hard work. However, Todd Blankenship of Shutterstock shared a tutorial that shows you how to turn an inexpensive bug fogger into a super effective and portable fog machine. And this thing pumps out loads of fog...granted, it'll take a ton of mineral oil to do it...and the bug fogger uses propane and a flame to heat the element, so it's potentially pretty dangerous. But...FOG, man! So much of it!
Shutterstock has put out such great DIY tutorials this year that I wanted to include two of theirs in this year-end roundup. Todd Blankenship, along with Logan Baker show you how to build a ring light similar to the one used by Oscar-winning cinematographer Roger Deakins. This build is for real, my friend—you'll need to do some sawing and wiring, but you'll end up with a big ol' ring light that fits roughly 25 tungsten bulbs and produces a beautiful soft light.
I store all sorts of stuff in waterproof Snapware containers and never even thought to put a camera in there. Honestly, this is one of those hacks where you go, "Why the hell didn't I think of that," but luckily the team over at COOPH thought of it and show you how to turn any old waterproof container into a DIY waterproof housing for your smartphone or action camera so you can get awesome underwater footage without having to break the bank on professional-grade gear.
10. DIY Sound Panels
Sound treating a room is super important if you need to record audio, but many new filmmakers may not know exactly how to approach it. There are methods for treating a room quickly, using heavy blankets and other materials, but if you want a more permanent solution, like something you can actually install, then take a crack at this tutorial from Ray Ortega. Learn step-by-step how to build your very own acoustic sound panels using a few boards and some relatively inexpensive rockwool insulation.
Want more DIY tutorials? Check out our coverage of other DIY filmmaking projects from 2018 and beyond.