How to make a Professional Short Film for $80 (Part I - Pre-Production).

Picture of How to make a Professional Short Film for $80 (Part I - Pre-Production).
The Shepherd.png
Part II can be found here: How to make a Professional Short Film for $80 (Part II - Production)

I've been making films since the fifth grade. In this time, I have created countless shorts that continually get better. As a senior in high school, I felt I should make a final film to sum up all I had learned. For this to be an official end cap, the film had to be finished before I departed for my first year in college. As a soon to be college student, I had no money but dreamed big. This is how I made my 20 minute short film for $80 and how you can to.

This is part I of what will be a three part guide divided into pre-production, production, and post production. It will be followed up with detailed individual guides on the more important steps in each large step.

This guide will not be an exact process but rather a collection of resources filled with knowledge and tips that should help you to create a very high quality production for almost no money. It is general simply because of the enormous scope of material that I will be covering. Look for more detailed and specific information in upcoming instructables that target areas of the process.

There are a few quasi-legal tips scattered throughout the instructable. I am not responsible if you go to jail. Be smart and make wise decisions.

With that said, lets see what we will be working towards (I highly recommend you see it in HD):

The Teaser ( See it in HD at Vimeo ):

The Film:

The Shepherd HD (Full Film) from Via Optima on Vimeo.

1-40 of 82Next »
mr_cambodia4 years ago
thanks for sharing.. i am actually looking for some tips and you gave me a lot. once done, i will give you a link of my creation and hoping to receive a critique from you.

As for a camcorder that can upload to a computer...

any camcorder can record to a computer. if you have either a flash or hard disk- based camcorder, just pull off the files.

if you have a newer tape camera, your computer needs a Firewire 400 port on your computer to capture the footage.

if you have a camcorder that doesn't contain a firewire or DV port (aka early hi8 or VHS) you have to get a TV tuner card with RCA inputs.
I forgot to add that you should transcode the video off of your flash cards and hard disks to ProRes before you try to edit it. trying to edit mp4 (H.264) in an editing program will multiply your time in the edit bay by at least 10, most of the time sitting and waiting for renders.

the only downside to ProRes is that the file sizes are enormous. (6 Gb H.264=75Gb ProRes)
I think in some situations, you could just ask the owner of the property you want to shoot at. If they say yes, you are in the clear, because you are shooting on private property with permission, thus negating the need for a permit. in most circumstances, it won't cost a dime. you could maybe make it even more likely to get a yes by dropping this line on the owner: "we will be responsible for anything we do on your property."
19samman985 years ago
dude the vids wont load make them faster
Unless you get a faster connection, the videos are going to stay as un-loaded as they are now.
oh ok sorry didnt mean to be snappy
It's okay. I was just being my usual snarky self.
smiletehk5 years ago
i would get a 1080p camera because thats the quality movies are in and burn the movie you made to a blueray disk so it looks good!
knoxarama5 years ago
snybody know where to get a good, cheap shotgun mic?
http://www.suntekstore.com/14-37-inch-professional-shotgun-microphone.html I own this one and it has amazing sound quality; and you cant beat it for $31 (you can also get it on ebay but it costs a little bit more)
kamrail5 years ago
that is a cool way to do it.....
 If you're still in high school, like me, try getting in close with the drama department. My sister is a total drama buff, so I was instantly added to the family this year. Since she's pretty high up in the hierarchy here, i can just ask her for the loads of props we have, and I don't need that much permission to use the multitude of expensive lights in addition to a bunch of experienced technicians (which I am proud to be), a stage, actors, and a whole bunch of other awesome resources.
 The most epic and amazing short film I've ever seen. All on a canon HV30 and $80 budget! 
Paul D5 years ago
So Hermes, Here is my dilemma. My prop-list is running about 200+ items, most if not all of which I can borrow but like you might have encountered during pre-prod I couldn't find any cheap SWAT or in my case full riot Police costumes for cheap, for some reason they keep coming up only for kids...anyhow. Here's the actual problem, I don't only need one or two SWATs, rather I need fifteen to twenty of those...So i tried local party stores and said "hey will you let us use some costumes for sponsorship in our creds and things like that. Seems like none wants to be nice. If you have any good suggestions I'd love to hear it cause at this pt we might have to end up making it a staged production, where we could conceivably get away with less SWAT costumes and more importantly cheap material to make these with. Let me know. Thanks, V
This is a classic dilemma I've run into quite a bit. Let me shoot a brief story by you quickly. When Steven Spielberg was making Sugarland Express (very early into his career), he had 20 police cars. He need 100. All through deceptive filming, short cuts, and jumping from multiple POVs, he was able to achieve his vision of having 100 police cars. My best advice to you is to get your 2 swat team outfits, and use some deceptive angles, cover the other guys with their shields, and have them wear clothes similar to the look and color of the actual outfits and make them look like they're all wearing a swat outfit. Also, try filming at low angles of the SWAT guys, because then the main features of the costume won't be seen, and make a lot of cuts between the officers and the riot. On a final note, if you can make a crude replication of anything, then build the prop and use deceptive angles yet again to make it look realistic. Hope that helps FF
That's great. Thank you very much for the feedback I will most likely be doing something in that nature. Appreciate it. V
Labot20017 years ago
Awesome instructable! I hope to see more from you on the subject! My friend and I do (very) short films - for now we just use a Kodak z1275 P&S camera, which has no ext. mic support. Any tips? Also, what can you recommend on the topic of green screens?
For ext. mic support, you can buy a mini disc recorder (Running from the balpark of 150-200 dollars) Just make sure the one you buy has a external mic port.

And on greenscreen, you should watch some Videomaker tutorials on it, they give you tons of information-

On a second note about greenscreen, there are several free software options, but I suggest investing in quality software, such as Sony Vegas or Adobe Final Cut
JuCo Labot20016 years ago
i don't know if you've already seen this instructable, yet... but your question made me think of it. so, hope it offers something useful... http://www.instructables.com/id/Cheap-Portable-Chroma-Key-Screen-Bluescreen/
Labot2001 JuCo6 years ago
Yeah, I saw that one before, but never read it. Thanks for bringing it to my attention again, it looks like something we can use!
JuCo Labot20016 years ago
no problem... and i figure, for portability, you could just make it easy to break down and move. they seem to've just glued it all together permanently. take care.
As for a external mic, if you're really diy and aren't terribly concerned (assuming there's an internal mic, your're up a creek without one) you could remove the internal mic and solder a 1/8in. or 1/4in. jack to it's wires (do some research on the connection first though) allowing you to plug in a external mic.
Eeek! Nooo way! lol I'm not good enough in the DIY realm to open up my camera!
I suppose you'll just have to capture audio separately and add it later then.
For a green screen, I'd recommend using several lime green posterboards (or foamcore, if you can afford it) taped together with clear packing tape. Another option is to buy a lot of lime green felt. If you were looking for chroma-key software, sorry for wasting your time! Hah
Hermes (author)  Jonny Katana6 years ago
Clear packing tape has been a bad idea in my experience. It glares white and as such is damn near impossible to key out.
I'm good on software; I use Wax. It's sposed to support green screens. I was just wondering about the actual screen. I don't think posterboards would work for us. We want something that's fabric, so we can roll it up and take it wherever. But why do you say felt as opposed to... anything else? lol
Felt is cheap, (fairly) durable, has virtually no sheen to it, and due to its thickness and stiffness, won't wrinkle up on you.
Hermes (author)  Jonny Katana6 years ago
Felt is great. If you can afford it, you may want to check out Muslin - it's what most portable green screens are made of.
Labot.... I went to home depot, found the color in the paint section and painted the wall in my classroom production room. Works pretty good if you have adequate lighting. Under $20 USD for a gallon.
Paul D5 years ago
Oh and great film by the way. Compliments
movie man6 years ago
I get that problem a lot. When I was filming in a hotel, and some other places we always had to do quick, and quiet filming so that no one would notice.
movie man6 years ago
I need to make an alien costume, a blaster, and a portal. Got any tips??
movie man6 years ago
I've been making movies since the fourth grade. Recently I have finished making a one hour and forty-nine minute James Bond Movie. It's not a million dollar thing but I enjoy doing it so I'm going to keep doing it.
tyler96136 years ago
Wait--Does the HV30 record to minidv? This one I found here (http://www.stopandshopdigital.com/products.asp?dept_id=&product_id=282) does. I thought it recorded to harddrive or memory card??
Hermes (author)  tyler96136 years ago
Yes, the HV30 will record HD video to miniDV in the HDV codec.
Cay976 years ago
me: im pretty confused. me an my friend want to turn this into a full-length movie, so we're scraping the barrel a bit. how do you find a flashy, greek and roman time sword with ivory dragon patterns on it? friend: first of all, cool site dude! how do you suppose we get $$$ for tha video mic and the camera? and do we need more than 1 camera to shoot from different angles? me again: we're looking at a fantasy film here, based on my book, and the heroine flys (nyad) do we need a harness, or something, green screen??? what should we use for the set?
Great tutorial. Craigslist has however become useless for a lot of filmmakers because of excessive flagging. Anytime I post both paid and unpaid ads on Craigslist for talent, they are flagged off within 24-48 hours. It didn't used to be that way.
lmao, yeah, I was wondering how you managed to get to film in a hospital. Very clever I must say, lol.
1-40 of 82Next »