Cheap Filmmaking Hacks Any Filmmaker Should Know

When you are an indie filmmaker you’ll often find that you’ll spend less time thinking about what camera or lens to use and more time trying to figure out how you can make the vision you see in your head come to life with the limited array of tools at your disposal.

Luckily there is a lot you can do with some cheap bits and a little know-how.

If you want to pick up a bunch of these tricks you should turn to the guys at These are the types of hacks that will actually elevate your filmmaking skills.

1. Focus Pull Marker

If you are fortunate enough to have a traditional follow focus you’ll find that many of them have a whiteboard-like area which allows you to mark points for very quickly hitting your focus during a take. It also makes things very repeatable.

Tiltaing Pocket Follow Focus

Image Credit: Tilta

You don’t have to invest in a fancy follow focus either. A standard PVC pipe (sized to fit nicely around your current lens’ focus ring) can do the trick.

Just cut a small piece that is comfortable for your rig, cut the ring so you can pull it apart to slide it on easily, and you have a marker-ready focus ring.

2. Flags

The first step in lighting for many filmmakers is to add light. Makes sense, light kits are essential to getting better control over your image. What often doesn’t get thought of is removing light.

A flag is often a piece of black fabric with mounting equipment to go into grip equipment.

Matthews Black Flag

Image Credit: Matthews

Using the flag you can keep light off of anything you don’t want it to hit, such as cutting the light hitting the background while keeping light on your subject. You can DIY it as well as pick up real kit that comes with standard mounting equipment.

3. Velcro Rolls

For DIY work you may find some Velcro rolls to be an essential tool. If you make a sun hood for your monitor and want to easily attach it then Velcro is a good way to go.

On the back of batteries, you can put Velcro to attach other accessories like video or audio transmitters. You can make your own cable ties or pick up custom Velcro cable ties. Adding Velcro to your gels and lights is also a good way to go.

There’s an endless number of ideas here.

Velcro Tape

Image Credit: Rip-Tie

4. Smoke Machines

If you want to add ambiance to your film then a smoke machine is the way to go. Cheap ones are quite good and affordable at under $50. Portable options that run on batteries are even available.

CHAUVET DJ Hurricane 700 Fog Machine

Image Credit: CHAUVET

You make want to get a fan to help spread the smoke around your space. This can help you create those god rays to elevate your lighting. The smoke has plenty of other uses as well, such as product and mimicking fire.

5. Vise Clamps

Sometimes you might have issues with where you can mount a light or other accessory and a stand isn’t the best solution for your space. Vise clamps might be the solution.

These clamps are strong and have a standard baby pin that will support directly mounting lights and other equipment.

Vise Clamp

Image Credit: Impact

You can even take two, mount them to a pair a C-stands, and create a background system. Clamping to a tripod or even a camera handle can provide a bit more control with the pole giving some reach and leverage.

6. Small RGB Lights

Small LED lights are invaluable. You should always have a few around and ideally you can get the ones with full RGB color control.

Popping them into the background behind props or furniture can help add some depth and interest. Using them handheld or on camera can help get the extra bit of light you need or if you want to get lighting really close or underneath an item for a product shoot.

Aputure MC RGB LED Light

Image Credit: Aputure

7. Step-Up Rings

ND filters are essential and expensive. Once you get a couple of lenses you may find that they all have different filter sizes.

Instead of buying a ton of different filters you can instead just get one larger one (usually 77mm or 82mm) and use step-up rings to use that one filter on all your lenses. They are only a couple a bucks, way cheaper than picking up a ton of filters.

Step-Up Ring

Image Credit: Sensei

Do you have any filmmaking tricks you want to share?


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