Results count in the world of filmmaking and even seasoned professionals have a low-tech trick or two up their sleeve to get that crucial shot in a pinch and save the day.
Professional quality film equipment is great for consistency and ease, but what happens when the sh*t hits the fan and one tiny pin or screw breaks, rendering your entire rig useless? You have to improvise – and that improvisation is the mark of true professionalism.
YCImaging has a few tricks to share that could just make you the hero of the moment on an expensive shoot that is about to go up in flames, and if you’re just starting out these clever ideas might help you think outside of the box to capture something amazing.
Make a Slider Dolly Out of Anything (With Wheels)
Literally anything that moves can become a slider dolly with a little bit of imagination and some tweaking, so if you accidentally left yours back in the equipment cage give this idea a shot.
Take a rolling suitcase, place it on a smooth surface like a hardwood floor, and carefully put your camera on top.
The bumps and imperfections of the floor are going to cause the camera to shake a little so dampen those bumps with a towel, foam, or anything that can absorb some shock by placing it directly under the camera.
Now you can make relatively smooth dolly moves, and if you’re extra careful nobody will ever notice the difference. Big movies use real tricks like this all the time too; before the invention of the gimbal and the steadicam, indie films use to perform tracking shots by placing the camera operator in a wheelchair and pulling him along in front of the talent.
Lens Filtration Using Panty Hose
Tiffen’s Black Pro Mist filters help to ease up the digital look of camera sensors by lifting the shadows, lowering the highlights, and blooming out intensity. It gives a more filmic appearance to your footage, and helps makes skin look smoother too.
It is an excellent lens to have in your kit, but if the $120+ price tag is holding you back, you can get a similar effect with panty hose!
Cut the pantyhose at the bottom, leaving the foot section intact to fit over your lens.
Stretch the fabric over your lens as evenly, and tightly as you can. Now, take a rubber band and wrap it around to hold the fabric in place. You’ll get an effect that is nearly identical to Black Pro Mist, and it shouldn’t cost you more than a few bucks.
Shaping Light With Cardboard
I feel like I say ‘back in my day’ a lot, but even though I’m an awesome, young guy, reliable cool film lights are very very new.
Modifiers were traditionally made out of metal to avoid starting a fire, and I set many things on fire by accident with gels and C47 clips in college.
But now that LED lights are all the rage, you can use almost anything to modify and shape your light, even old cardboard packaging or a used pizza box.
Simply cut a slip, or poke holes into the cardboard, and place it on or in front of the light source. The edges might not be as razor-sharp as metal edges but it will definitely do the trick and add some pop to your footage.
Professionally, I do this all the time with Cinefoil, which is basically just a black coated, thick aluminum foil intended for shaping and blocking light. As long as you’re careful, you can reuse pieces of it forever.
Mounting a Small Light Anywhere
Those LED lights sure are getting small these days, and lights like the Aputure MC even have built-in magnets for easily mounting them on any metal surface. But what if you want to mount them to a wooden table or a car windshield?
Give this ridiculously cool, MacGyver trick a try!
Take two cheap, flat butter knives and tape them to whatever surface you’d like to mount a light on with packing tape. You’ve just created a perfectly flush surface that your lights will hold on to.
That is really it, there is not much more to it than that. It doesn’t have to be a butter knife, you could use any piece of metal but those are really easy to find in the heat of the moment.
Filmmaking isn’t an exact science, in fact, most aspects of filmmaking aren’t a science at all. It is an art form.
When you stop looking at the process and focus on the result, you realize it doesn’t matter how you get there are long as you accomplish what you set out to do. These little tricks of the trade are things your pick up along the way and are often born out of necessity and ingenuity.
Show me a grip truck that doesn’t have a bottle of lemon pledge somewhere on the shelf – they use it to grease dolly tracks.
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