4 tips to make your life easier as a filmmaker

Home Motion Array 18/05/2023 5 min read

Use these 4 video production tips and tricks to make your filmmaking easier and more effective. They will save you time and money and keep you on track.

It starts with an idea. Everything starts with an idea, of course. And oftentimes it can feel as if making your beautiful filmmaking idea a reality needs robotic arms and technocranes and hours in front of a post-processing editing suite. Well, we’re here to tell you that often, you can achieve exactly what you want with some DIY filmmaking gear and a bit of creativity. We’ve put together these 4 filmmaking tips to help you deliver the results you want more simply, more effectively, and probably cheaper, too.

1. Keep it simple

There’s a very good reason that the mantra KISS, or “Keep it simple, silly” is deployed everywhere from the Navy to design agencies. And yes, it’s a crucial video production tip, too. Every layer that you add to a process, and each additional element you include can cost you time and money. It takes time to build these steps in your plan, find and set up the equipment you need, and learn how to properly use the equipment. All of that will cost you time and money. Also, the more complicated you make a process the more chance there is of things not going to plan, or flat-out going wrong. 

But is it worth it? In a word, maybe. Filmmaking can be a tricky business with loads of steps, and sometimes, this is unavoidable. However, our first filmmaking tip to you, especially if you’re just starting, or you’re working with a lower budget is — to keep it simple. We suggest that you strip your plan back to the essentials.  You can always add complexity and fancy gear if need be. Just don’t use it as a jumping-off point. 

DIY to the rescue 

Say you want an arc shot or a drop shot: does your brain automatically leap to a robotic arm or technocrane that you’ve seen in a behind-the-scenes video? It might, but how much would that cost to hire? And then how quickly could you learn to use it?

A quick bit of DIY would be far easier and cheaper. For an arc shot, securing your camera to an overhead rig and then sweeping it up and over your subject will do the job perfectly. It just needs a few poles, brackets, and power tools. Sure, you might need a few practice shots, but you’d still need those with a robotic arm, as well as learning how to use it and paying out to hire it. And if your hire is time-limited, that will put you under unnecessary pressure. You take as much time as you need with your DIY rig.

DIY rig

2. Run tests

On large-scale productions, it’s entirely normal to perform test runs of complicated sequences, stunts, or unusual moves before doing the real thing. It should be normal on smaller, DIY projects, too. The second of our filmmaking tips and tricks is to run tests and “try before you buy”.

In the business, testing out what something looks like as you move it from the storyboard to filming is called pre-vis. The term for doing the same in animation is animatics. 

A pre-vis is a dry run that you can do without necessarily having to set up your lighting or even have your cast there. You can test it out with a smartphone and your crew or even some friends, just to see if it works. Think of it as a proof of concept. It enables you to test out your vision without embarking on full-on filming.

All stunts should always go through a pre-vis so that they can be risk-assessed. This allows for the revision and refinement of the setup and choreography that might otherwise be too difficult or even dangerous. It’s much safer and certainly cheaper to do a practice run with the minimum of people and gear (except safety gear, of course) to see if something works and delivers what you were expecting.

3. Do things practically

Using post-production to, for example, move the hands on a clock in a scene or add comic arms to a computer monitor, might sound like the ideal solution but doing it practically could be quicker and simpler. That makes doing, or at least trying things practically before going for the CGI or green screen option our third video production tip.

What does this mean in practice? Take the clock hands example. Rather than digitally adjusting the time showing on a clock face in each shot, all you need is for someone to adjust it using their own digits for each scene. Remember to include the correct time for each scene on the brief, and it’s a very simple adjustment. 

If you want to add arms to a computer monitor, maybe for comic effect or a children’s show, or even to demonstrate how a computer program can help you or make your life easier, using an actual human’s arms might be easier than computer-generated arms. (Ironic, no?) A real person is easier to direct and can interact more easily and naturally with other people on the set. You will probably find that the results are more realistic and it’s both less expensive and easier to manage.

4. Use templates

 Often someone has already tried and perfected just the effect that you’re trying to achieve, and they’ve made it available for other people to use. From LUTs and presets to templates, it’s worth seeing if there’s already something out there that fits your bill. And the first place you should look for templates? Motion Array of course! You can download templates for anything from titles to transitions. There are LUTs and overlays. You can pick up illustrations, icons, and graphics. And there’s stock video footage as well. It will definitely make your life as a filmmaker a whole lot easier. 

Download Glitch Transitions Template

We hope that these filmmaking tips and video production tricks have inspired you to unleash your creative juices and try out that project that you thought might otherwise have been too complicated or too expensive. There’s so much that you can accomplish with some DIY. Just remember to plan carefully and test things out before you do anything for real. 

You can also check out these tips in our video tutorial.