Making a movie that documents key family moments has become one of the benefits of living in the digital age. Advances in digital engineering has meant that the cost of creating, editing and screening a professional looking home movie can be within the reach of everyone. Many successful filmmakers have said that their origins lie in making little home movies with whatever equipment they could lay their hands on.
Someone once asked me if I had any tips to make their low budget films more interesting. The answer I said was simple: be creative!One way to get more creative is how you shoot it, for example using different camera angles add more meaning to films sometimes. Alfred Hitchcock was the master of this, in his films every time he would shoot a character with a high angle, this would indicate that this character is doomed. This is a technique that other filmmakers have since adopted.
So, what means are there available for the everyday person making home movies or for the low budget filmmaker? Below is everything you need to know!
Where to start?
When I was a kid, I used to love playing with all sorts cameras I could get my hands on. Which may have set me on the path I am on today. I once had an Action Man which came with an attached Camera for shooting 110 film before moving on to bigger and better things such as the Game Boy Camera and eventually a DV cam which was actually my Dads. I would generally shoot the classic home movie, the mini fly-on-the-wall documentaries featuring my family at various gatherings. Unfortunately, the technology wasn’t as impressive as it was today!
Anyway I digress…the point I am trying to make is that cameras are the starting point in your journey and are becoming much easier to get your hands on. Smartphones have changed the way home videos are made, with all of them now coming with a built in camera. The two top of the range smartphones in the world right now are most definitely the iPhone 6 and the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge.
iPhone 6S –
The Apple iPhone 6S 12-megapixel iSight camera captures sharp, detailed photos and it takes brilliant 4K video, up to four times the resolution of 1080p HD video. As well as that, the easy to use software is something that anyone can pick up and use.
Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge –
The top of the range Samsung smartphone, the Galaxy S7 Edge has some very impressive specs. The F1.7 lens and larger 1.4 µm pixels allows for the light to come out sharper and detailed. The pixels on the image sensor has two photodiodes instead of one, meaning the professional-grade Dual Pixel Sensor can focus more quickly and accurately. Every single pixel on the Dual Pixel Sensor is used for phase detection, enabling autofocus that’s so incredibly fast and seamless that even the most sudden movements are caught in the act, even when the light starts to fade.
iPhone 6S vs Galaxy S7 Edge Camera Test –
Samsung Galaxy 2 –
This is not a mobile phone but it does bridge the gap between smartphones and tablets as the worlds first ‘smart camera’. This is a digital camera that is connected to the internet via 3G or 4G LTE and runs the latest version of Android. It records on the crisp 21.2mm HD touch display. You no longer have to connect the camera to the computer to upload your media as the 3G or 4G connection allows you to share it instantly via Email, Facebook, Instagram, Picasa, Vimeo, YouTube or which ever you prefer. Although you can do this on Smartphones, this camera takes much better quality pictures and videos. So if thats the sort of more professional look you are after, then this costs around £350.
Sumsung Galaxy Camera 2 Test –
So you’ve shot extensive footage on your mobile phone and may have dabbled slightly in the Galaxy Camera. But you may feel something a little more professional and less mainstream may be the way for you. The GoPro camera and the DSLR are probably what you need to fill this gap!
GoPro HERO Session –
If you are looking for versatility on a budget or want some really dynamic action shots, then a GoPro camera is for you. Its lightweight body and one-touch button for capture makes the company’s mountable and ‘wearable’ cameras great for unique POV shots. Their most recent model is the most versatile yet, with waterproofing incorporated into the camera and Protune software which puts you in control of colour, ISO, white balance and exposure.
GoPro announced that they are releasing their own drone after continued support for the form. They are sponsoring the upcoming US National Drone Championships, but the release date of their own Karma drone has been continually pushed back.
Go Pro footage –
DSLRs are cameras that are just below the professional cameras photographers use and are quite expensive. Two of the more popular brands for these products are Canon and Nikon. There are a wide range of DSLRs out there and it might take time to find the right one. For instance, the Nikon D5 is around £550, has 24.7 megapixels, has build-in Wi-Fi and a number of other professional features. Whereas the Canon EOS , the newest and very top of the range Nikon, has 24 megapixels and can do the more of the same things.
The Sony a6300 is a mirrorless compact camera with 4K video resolution. The camera’s ‘Fast Hybrid’ AF ensures precise detail whilst also putting you in control, with adjustable AF Drive Speed and AF Tracking Sensitivity. At under £1000 for the body, this camera is a good choice for those on a budget wanting high quality footage and stills.
Uploading and sharing footage to your computer is easier than ever, and companies are increasingly looking to incorporate your phone’s tech into their device. The Sony a6300 uses NFC to share film and photos to your phone, whilst the GoPro allows you to control the camera via the app.
Another hallmark of the digital age, editing software has exploded in the last twenty years and has completely changed the way movies are edited. Before everything went digital, movies were literally edited by hand. Editors would physically cut the film and splice the scenes together. This is where the term ‘cutting’ comes from.
Now though there are loads of options for the home movie maker. Professional editing software is very expensive and needs some training before you can use it straight away. The software you will need will depend on what type of computer you use and by this I mean, whether it is a Mac or a PC.
For the Mac user, Apples iMovie is included in Apples iLife suite (which also includes iPhoto, photo editing software, and GarageBand, music editing/creating software) which is included in all purchases of Macs. Also available on iOS devices, it is a simple and easy to use programme. Among the variants of non professional video editing software available, iMovie is probably the most popular. With iMovie, users can upload photos, videos and add titles, effects, music, color correction and basic video enhancement tools. There is also a cool feature which allows you to create a trailer, using a variety of options. iMovie is a fabulous starter tool if you are a video editing novice. In 2009, I completed a short film for my Film Studies A-Level, a homage to Alfred Hitchcock called “The 39 Pence”, via iMovie. Although the quality of it today is poor if I compare it to the work I did at University, it was a triumph for me at the time. I immediately was at home using iMovie and found it easy to navigate through the various tools.
iMovie is not only useful for home movies, it is also popular amongst low budget filmmakers. Director Jonathan Caouette, used iMovie in the 2003 Documentary “Tarnation” as the films budget was a mere $218.
The PC alternative is the not-so-glamourous-but-does-
Both of these are quite similar in terms of what they offer so it will all depend upon what computer and operating system you use. Lightworks is editing software that is compatible with multiple platforms and has a very attractive interface. The limitation of functionality without upgrading to premium, however, may be frustrating. If you want to get more professional though, some great choices are Apple’s Final Cut Pro, Sony Vegas Pro and Adobe Premier Pro. There are plenty of others a simple Google search would find. They are expensive and are not as easy to use as the pick up and play alternatives but you will get a professional feel. After all these are the programmes the big cheeses in Hollywood use.
The film is completed, but that was the easy part! The real job is making sure people see it. Of course the obvious option is to burn it to a DVD and send it out to those who matter, be them friends, family, colleagues, studios etc.
However a running theme in this article has been the advents of the digital age. In the 21st century, the best way to do so is online. There are plenty of great websites you can use. The obvious one is YouTube, the giant of the video sharing market has millions of daily users so if you just want to get your home video seen by anybody, then YouTube is the way to go.
But if you want to promote yourself as a potential future filmmaker, then I wouldn’t use YouTube straight away. Vimeo is a similar video sharing website but has a different feel to it. In recent years, Vimeo has been the base of a community of indie filmmakers and their fans. A place where low budget/indie filmmakers attempting to make a name for themselves can share their work amongst peers. Not only that, it presents you with a great chance of networking with like-minded people and may give you some inspiration for the future. Its password-required sharing function is also useful when sharing footage amongst advice-givers during post-production.
So this is only relevant to the more serious type of filmmaker rather than home movies. However read on still as it could prove useful. Every film needs a budget, even your one. You will need money to buy equipment, software and most importantly… crew! But the key word in Low Budget filmmaking is ‘Low’! Obviously you don’t have the millions that Hollywood studios have so how do you do it?
The best way to quickly raise money for a low budget film is Crowdfunding. Crowdfunding is defined as being the ‘collective effort of individuals who network and pool their money usually via the internet’. You can either do this by getting everyone you are making the film with to put in an equal amount. We did this at University, we were only in teams of about 5/6 generally and we each put in around £50. It worked out quite nicely and we even got some of the left over money back! Or visit generate an online campaign and use your social media skills to get your friends, family and even total strangers help!
Kickstarter is one of many Crowdfunding websites that has gained some recognition recently by being used to fund notable films such as the “Veronica Mars” movie, which has raised a total of $5,702,153 and is being made. It allows users to sign up and contribute as much or as little money as they want to fund various projects (such as the two mentioned earlier). Some films include various incentives for ‘backers’ i.e. the promise of free merchandise, on set experience or meeting the cast, if you contribute X amount of money.
Another similar website is Indiegogo, Raindance is an official partner of Indiegogo and we have raised $16, 309 along 4 campaigns.
Scripts and Planning
Another question I have been asked was if one wanted to turn their film from simply a home video and into a more serious film then would a writing a script and planning help? Yes, if you plan to make a more serious film then a script will be more helpful. You just cannot make a film without a script, it doesn’t even have to be a good script…it just has to be a script; with characters, lines and a story (Just look at the film “Disaster Movie”). But I think you will (as will I) prefer a good script! So take some time before you start shooting and write your script! Write, rewrite and rewrite again! If you are short on knowledge for scriptwriting techniques, Raindance offers a wide array of scriptwriting courses which are posted on this website!
There is also a great free scriptwriting piece of software to start you off as well called Celtx which is a free download for both Mac and PC. It formats a script for you as it should be done so all you have to concentrate on is writing. If you get the writing bug a bit more then you can pay for more professional pieces of software such as Final Draft or Scrivener.
When I was at University, studying Television Production, one of my peers said that it is impossible to make a film with poor quality sound. He said that filmmakers can get away with poor picture quality because the story is still followable; but without sound you’re doomed.
Zoom are a company that makes affordable sound recording equipment and have a distinct professional quality about them. The price starts at around £75 and features include dual channel and stereo recording. It requires a 2GB MicroSD card but some packages may come with one in the box. It uses USB 2.0 for quick file transfers to any Mac or PC.
There are many different recorders available, some of my soundie colleagues have recommended the H4N recorder. However visit their website <http://www.zoom.co.jp/products/> and make sure you select the right one for you.
So hopefully by now you have all the know how you need to go out and make your own films. Whether they are just for personal use or you want to share it with an audience. If you want to know more then Raindance offers a wide array of courses to help you on your way. One worth mentioning is “Lo-to-No Budget Filmmaking” with Elliot is on the 20th July. Details here…