5 Camera Hacks To Save Time and Money


Hi Guys this is Jordan with Motion Array.  We all love a good life hack.  Something that makes your life easier with little to no money or effort.  That’s especially true for filmmaking.  Not sure if you realized this but, filmmaking can be a really expensive thing.  Cameras, lights, stabilizers tripods, c-stands, memory cards, an editing computer, etc.  It just adds up.  So today, we’re saving money and effort and getting some great effects without spending more than 5 bucks for each tip.  Some of these you may have seen before floating around, but others I’m pretty sure will be brand new to you. And we’re going over 5, starting out with:

Use a Neck Strap

You may have seen this tip floating around.  If you’re like me, you got your DSLR and looked at it and said, “a neck strap? That’s for photographers.  I make videos.”  And immediately threw it into the corner.  But this can really help you to give some extra points of stabilization, and it’s something that probably comes included with your camera.  Unless you own like a RED camera or something, in which probably don’t need DIY hacks?

With your strap on your camera pull your camera until the strap goes tight around your neck and keep some tension as you go through your motion.  This will help to get rid of any jitters that you hands would create just floating around with the camera.  Now here’s the big trick.  Your goal isn’t necessarily to get your shot perfect, but to get it to the point where it’s way smoother and free of jitter and rolling shutter.  Once you pass a threshold of stability just capturing it raw, adding a warp stabilizer effect in either Premiere or After Effects will be WAY more successful and can give you some absolutely unreal results.  

Also, check out one of our previous video where we show you another method to, in a pinch, get smooth footage with no stabilization unit:

Fishing Wire

If you’ve seen any of these lists on the internet before the classic fishing wire over the lens is a trick you’ve probably come across before.  But it’s so cheap and effective, we had to include it.  I got a whole roll of fishing line for like 3 bucks and you only need like a fraction of it to put over your lens.  What does it do? Tape some clear fishing line going exactly vertical over your lens and when you shoot in front of an intense concentrated light source you get anamorphic style lens flares! It’s so cool!

Keep in mind if you use this on a lens under 50mm, you’re going to likely get this effect where your lens flare ends before the edge of your frame.  Your mileage may vary.  Also, try to do this only on primes as the lower your F-stop the better the effect will come across.  I mean, there are zoom lenses that have crazy low f-stops but, i mean, those are crazy expensive, at which point, again, you’re probably not looking for DIY hacks.

But why wouldn’t you just add flares in post?  Well there’s a lot of work that goes into compositing in the right looking flare and matching it with the motion of your light source.  And unless your name is (insert shot of Andrew Kramer saying) “Andrew Kramer”  then you’re probably gonna have to pay full price for a pack of high quality lens flares.  

Rubber Band

If your tripod doesn’t have a nice fluid head, it’s really frustrating to move it around and see that it’s jerky and jittery and doesn’t have that smooth motion you were hoping for.  An easy way to get around that is with a rubber band.  Wrap one end around your tripod handle and now all of your hand motion is evenly applied to the tripod head.  It’s all gradual and smoothed out because you’re not touching the tripod, it’s all going through the rubber band.  

Mask Your Microphone

This one isn’t a physical hack, it’s a digital hack.  You might know that the easiest way to get good sounding audio is to try and get your microphone as close to your subject as possible.  This is one of the reasons that lav mics are such a great tool!

But let’s say you’ve just got a standard shotgun mic and you want to get it close to your subject, but you also want a decently wide shot like this.  What do you do?  Bring it into frame and get it close to your subject.  Wait...really?

Yeah, just make sure that it doesn’t cross the frame of your actor, or the other way around.  As long as there’s distance at all time between the two, and as long as the background isn't moving like crazy, you can actually mask out this shot in post.  Bring your shot into premiere and make sure that at some point in time you have this shot with the same lighting but with a clean plate with no microphone.  Take a sample of that and bring it to the bottom layer and have your normal clip overtop.  Now mask out your microphone with the pen tool on your main footage layer.  Lastly feather just a tad and the result is that you get the quality of a close microphone without it being visible in your shot.

Dragging With a Blanket

I don’t know about you but read multiple places the idea of using a wheelchair as a makeshift dolly.  It sounds cool, but really? Who owns a wheelchair?  How do you get access to one?  You know what everyone has.  A dirty blanket.  And usually you use a wheelchair on flat smooth surfaces.   So we’re gonna use the blanket instead.  Have your camera operator sit or lay down on the blanket, then get a second pair of hands to drag you across the floor.  

The result, surprisingly smooth footage because all the jittering of walking is done by a person who’s not you.  And it doesn’t translate through the blanket and through your body to the camera.  So as stable as you can hold it is as stable as the final result will be.  This also lets you get super low to the ground for some epic foot-level shots.

We hope you found this video helpful.  If you did, we’ve got lots of other tutorials for Premiere Pro, After Effects, and filmmaking in general! If you have any questions, let us know in the comment section below.  

You can also check out these great website presentation presets, many of which feature the effect we just went over:

Thank you so much for watching and we hope to see you in the next video!

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