Okay, if you haven't already seen the prequel to this instructable then go here: https://www.instructables.com/id/How_to_make_a_Professional_Short_Film_for_80_Par/

With that out of the way, welcome to part II of how to make a "professional" short film for $80. We will be discussing the production process.

So you have your cast, equipment, location, and script. Notice I neglected to say crew. Well, for $80 we won't be hiring any big name cinematographers so congratulations on your new title you Producer-Director-Screenwriter-Location Scout-Technical Director-Casting Director-Cinematographer-Cameraman-Gaffer-Best Boy-etc multi-talented prodigy you. Even though your talents are prodigious in nature, you may want to bring a friend or two along as well - extra hands never hurt.

We will discuss lighting, cinematography, basic camera settings, basic directing, some audio tips, and whatever else pops into my head as pertinent in this section. Did I miss your favorite part? Shoot me a comment and I will amend this instructable as soon as I can.

Quick disclaimer - If you get arrested, injured or in anyway dead-ified (it is now a word) don't sue me - it's your fault. Apologies to various websites from whom I liberated pictures from and Keanu Reeves.

Let's get started.

If you haven't seen my $80 "professional" short then check out the trailer HERE and the full film HERE.

Step 1: Lighting

I have to admit something, I pretend to know a lot more about lighting than I really do. Actually, I hardly know anything. If you want to be a professional gaffer or best boy then you probably would benefit by NOT reading this guide. The rest of you who just want to get rid of that grain and make it look like your film was shot with a camera from 2008 instead of 1988 then feel free to continue.

The fundamental and most basic form of lighting that is used commonly professionally is called three point lighting. Essentially you have a strong and focused key light, a weaker and widespread fill light, and a soft backlight. This is commonly used in interview environments and gives a nice even look.

Doing an interview for a documentary and what that dramatic and foreboding look? Try something called limbo. Difficult to pull off, it creates a really fantastic look. What you try to do is modify the three point lighting so that your fill light and key light only light your subject - you must minimize all spill to the background (which I seem to have neglected should be a black or dark tarp, cloth, wall, curtain, etc.). You then take the backlight and pull it up high pointing just as you would with a three point setup. I think they did this for interviews in Saving Private Ryan but I haven't seen that film in a while so let me know if I am wrong.

Since I seem to be talking about interviews let me give a quick tip - pull your camera back and zoom in (unless you are doing limbo and only if you have an external microphone). This will blur out the background a bit. It also helps to have your subject far from the background. It may feel weird but it should provide a more cinematic look albeit within the confines of the limited depth of field consumer camcorders provide.

When on the set, try and use as much practical lighting as possible. Practical lighting is lighting that actually appears on the set and the scene - lamps, overhead lights, flashlights, etc. This will give you a lot of light without it being obvious that you are using extra lights. Honestly, I almost always depend on practical lighting and natural lighting (the sun) when filming... Not a good practice but I can be impatient.

Incandescent, fluorescent, and sunlight have different color temperatures. Ever taken a picture at night and the lights appear green? That is because your white balance was set for an incandescent or sunny mode instead of fluorescent lighting. Beware that if you mix types of lights (incandescent + fluorescent) you may have a funky white balance and different parts of your image may have different colors.

I get lots of questions about green screens. Let me say first that if you can then don't use one. If you have to though, get the biggest one you can find. Make sure it is not shiny (ie held together with clear packing tape) and make sure it is extremely well light but at angles so as not to bounce the green into your talent. What we want to avoid is getting any green on our talent that would make part of their outline disappear. Light the green screen well, light the talent well - from both in front and behind, and pull them as far forward away from your green screen as you can. Even professional production houses sometimes have problems with their green screens so don't expect stellar results immediately. However, it is possible and fun to try so don't let my warnings intimidate you.

The main thing to take away from this is that you should get as much light in your image as possible. Most consumer camcorders have automatic gain control meaning that as the image gets darker, the sensor is made more sensitive to light brightening the picture but introducing nasty grain that is nearly impossible to remove. You all know what I am talking about, the dancing digital dots that instantly give away that your film is actually nothing more than a brilliant (or worse) youtube video. You can always (and easily) make a scene darker in post but brightening always creates hideous results.

Whew, what a mouthful. On to cinematography.
When will you be coming out with the part III of this ible? I am trying to make a youtube video series and would like to see the post production stuff as well!! I am anticipating it excitingly!!!
I think what your trying to say here is: Let you actor act as normal as possible. Don't try to stress (Or. . . . Over stress) the importance of the act. Acting isn't exactly doing things different. Acting is doing things normal on stage, camera, etc. Your saying: A good way to get your actor to act, be as descriptive as possible! Instead of saying things like: Sneak across the room, say things like: I need you to get by this guy, but I don't want him to notice you. Can you just sneak through there as quietly as possible? <br> <br>It's especially best for those friends who like to screw things up a lot. <br> <br>~Zero
&quot;The key for audio is to get as close as possible and record it as loud as possible.&quot;<br><br>Actually, not entirely true. there is a limit to how high you want it. in this crappy diagram:<br><br>______________________________________________________________<br><br>You want the audio to average at the end of this sentence!<br>______________________________________________________________ <br>-30______-20______-15_____-10____-5_____-2_____0_____5____over<br><br>other than that, great i'ble! Hope this helps!
Amazing Film....but am I the only one waiting for the part on post production?<br /> (Part III that is.)<br />
<a href="http://www.videomaker.com/article/13751/" rel="nofollow">http://www.videomaker.com/article/13751/</a><br /> <br /> If anyone needs a crane shot for their films, read this, it is extremely helpful...
Part III anytime soon?
Awesome movie True u look kinda like vin diesel (well think it was u lol) i was like Get on the train Now now now Lol Make another !!!
Dude... that movie was awesome... I think that the acting could use a small amount of work, though I got to admit, it was damn good... Anyways, you had BETTER get into movies... I'm getting sick of all the new remakes that they're doing...
Great instructable!
Loved it. And thanks for the mic links, me and my drama class are actually working on a documentary (about the drama class, appropriately), and we've been searching high and low for good mics on the cheap. We don't get much funding from the school. So anyway, thanks.
Looking forward to part 3 :)
Once again, fantastic job!
Nice job hermes, a few things that should help one low budget film making (did plenty myself, including a whole three minute backstage film which was continuous shot around a school, which limited us to handheld. First of all tie a string to the camera, hold the camera up at the right height you need and tie the other end to a belt loop or your belt, this seems weird but it basically steals the principle from the string tripod, it's not hard to do and when still will give you a very steady shot in comparison, it also makes handheld panning much smoother. <br/><br/>For low budget lighting I've always had a lot of luck with sunlight bulbs, their wider spectrum and sunlight colour temps makes them great for photography and cinematic work. <br/><br/>Though dubbing never goes perfectly you can record the audio separately using a voice recorder or external mic MP3 recorder, if you record the sound and the scene well at the same time lining up is easy, one trick is to slap a wall or desk in the scene while recording as a reference. I learnt these things after doing the school play DVD, we stole all the mic input from the actors mics and used a set of three cameras to put it all together. However if you try dubbing afterwards then it's very hard to get the actors to say it the same again.<br/><br/>As far as a tripod goes it's always a necessity in the end, even if it's homebuilt it's important, granted one of our most interesting productions was an hour of messing about, around five minutes of video around the school, mini tripod between my legs while I was on a computer chair, following the <em>actors</em> around. <br/><br/>I liked your bit about directing, many amateur films fall down because people are either very silly or do something almost parodying what you told them to. <br/><br/>One last thing is that it's always easier to darker in editing and will look better but don't over blow the image with light, interestingly digital darkness is easily retrieved even if rougher but washing out to white is irreparable.<br/><br/>Nice job again, I'm looking forward to the rest of the series...<br/><br/>

About This Instructable




Bio: I am a filmmaker, student, and tinkerer. I love designig and building devices instead of purchasing them. Instructables is a great way to do that ... More »
More by Hermes:How to make a Professional Short Film for $80 (Part II - Production) How to make a Professional Short Film for $80 (Part I - Pre-Production). How to Build a Hank Drum 
Add instructable to: