How to Make a Movie... for Cheap




About: I'm Connor. I play drums, guitar, piano and make films. My favorite things are chocolate, cake and chocolate cake. That's enough for an about me, right?
 For years, I've been making videos with a group of friends using camera phones, cheap camcorders and webcams. These are great for playback on other cheap mobile phones and MP4 players but now video hosts like Youtube are allowing for better quality internet video. And so, being this sad, I decided to set about making a film. On a super super low budget.  

If you're interested in my work can click HERE to open our page in the iTunes store and watch our show for free (Mainly because no one would pay for it)

That done, Let's go make a film! 

Note: This instructable is not as good as it could have been. I'm working on a new one.

Step 1: Camcorders

The first thing is, when making a film DO NOT use webcam and camera phones. There is no need for me to explain. Now, on to camcorders.

Camcorders are great. They are relatively cheap, light weight and easy to use. There are some drawbacks though:

1. Sound quality; Small cameras with internal microphones pick up the sound of wind and the mechanisms inside.

2. Shaky footage; Without a shoulder mount, it is difficult to steady a camera, and tripods restrict movement.

3. Old tech that is an ass to use; DV tape camcorders get magnetic interference, and take time to rip to a computer.

4. Cheap digital camcorders with crappy PC suite software; Cheaper camcorders save to stupid formats that won't open in most video editors so editing must be done in the bundled software. 

5. Low quality; Must camcorders do not shoot in widescreen or HD

Step 2: Getting Better Quality From a Camcorder

 There are a number of ways to fix the camcorder problem:

1. External audio recorders; Plug high-quality microphones into a recorder and get propper awesome sound quality. Then align the audio with the video with a clapperboard in editing. I recommend this one. Also, a hand-held dictation device is cheaper, and will do the job. 

2. Steadycam; Shaky cameras can be fixed with a steady cam. Here's how to make one.

3. Get a better camcorder; Flip cameras should get the job done for most people, save to a hard drive and are generally, easy to work with.

Step 3: Script Writing

 There are loads of ways to write a script, which is something I'm awful at by the way. I'm just going to tell you where to find free scripts and how to set out your own. One thing to remember is that if your scrips is crap, then so is your film.

You can download free scripts from here. Make sure to check that the author says you can, you may have to email them to get permission. The stars system is based on formatting, not the quality of the script.

If your writing your own, use a good text editor, like Microsoft Word. Pages for mac is better, as it has a Screenplay template built in. I found a site which will tell you how to write a screenplay HERE

After you have written a script, have a read through with the cast and ask for feedback. Make any alterations and then go and shoot your movie! 

Step 4: A Good Setup

 I completed my setup on Christmas day, when i got a Nikon D5000 digital SLR. Normally SLR's - or 'the cameras proper photographers use' are used for taking photos and do not feature a video mode, but some cameras, like the cannon 7D and Nikon D5000 feature a full HD video mode. 

These cameras help you get amazing quality video, and are a lot cheaper than a big ass pro camera. They allow the user to attach high quality lenses, and save straight to SD card.

There are still some drawbacks to these;

Shaky; still no shoulder mount. corrected by steadycam, tripod, or pushing out on the camera with the strap around your neck.

Expensive; The nikon was the cheapest I could find, it was still over £500

Still poor sound, still no mic input; you still may want to buy a recorder. 

But the quality is awesome: Here's a video made on my nikon, without using an external mic. Instructions for the gun can be found HERE

Step 5: Camera Rigs

 If you need some cool camera effects in your film such as a dolly or crane shot, steadicam or shakycam then you will have to make them yourself. Either that, or spend £10,000 on each. Here's some tutorials and that... I lied about tripods. They're good too.

Shakycam: Essentially a piece of wood. Indy Mogul instructions

Dolly: Indy mogul made one HERE
Dolly: Instructions for a track-mounted one

There's loads of great ways to make a crane. Google for some, as which type depends on how much money you have.

Tripods are essential when using a green screen: Here's a video made using a greenscreen and tripod:

Step 6: Using Imagination

If you want something to be done, such as a blood shot wound, then go do it. But not for real. You need to think of a way to do this safely. First would be fake blood, recipes can be found all over the internet. Then you need a way to fire it, compressed air in a weed killer sprayer will do. Hook it onto a hose and bung the end up, cut a hole in the side of the hose, pour in your blood, cue action and fire.

Ahem. You can use the internet too. Your not the only person trying to blow a hole in someone for free. 

Crank 2 used some imaginative camera rigs, which told me that if it looks cool through your eyes, do it holding a camera.

Seriously: If you can in-line skate, do it holding a camera, it looks good. And areal shots look good from the top of a ladder. 

Step 7: Other Stuff You May Need

 Thats most of the stuff sorted, but for editing and to improve quality further these may be needed:

1. A good computer with at least 2 gig of RAM or a mac with at least 1
2. A large hard disk drive. (internal/external)
3. Editing software; I recommend Final cut for mac, or sony vegas on windows. Free software is always slow, buggy and a pain to work with. There are ways to acquire software for free via torrents. But I never told you that... If you choose to use this ILLEGAL option, then look for sony vegas pro, and final cut studio
4. A second monitor; If you can afford a second monitor, then buy one. It speeds up editing by loads.
5. A usb sound card mixing desk thing. I have a tutorial on this here. You can use one to overdub bad audio takes and hear the audio your editing.
6. A USB SD card adaptor (if there isn't one built into your PC, and if your shooting on SD cards)
7. A firewire cable to get footage from a tape camera onto a PC
8. A green screen; a really useful tool to shoot any scene you want indoors
9. Some high quality microphones + stands
10. A comfy chair to sit on while you spend ages editing your films :)
11. Royalty free sound effects, music and stock footage - so not to get harassed by WMG on youtube.

Step 8: Shooting

 To shoot a film you will need the following:
1. Your camera setup and microphone stuff
2. Your camera rigs + tripods and that
3. A camera man
4. A boom mic man (who essentially holds a rod with the microphone on it, if thats what your using...)
5. Mr. Director (ie. you, who will make everyone redo the scene until you are happy)
6. A member of the editing crew (unless it's you), so the director can tell them what he wants doing in each scene
7. Several copies of the script
8. Gaffers tape; the god of film making
9. Props
10. Perhaps more cameras, if you don't want to have to shout cut every 10 seconds.

To shoot your film:
1. Set your gear up.
2. Check everything work by shooting a practice take
3. Begin shooting the main take by rolling the camera and audio recorder, and then using a clapper board (or your hands) and clapping in front of the camera. Do this every take, as it makes syncing the audio and video easier in editing.

Step 9: Editing

 There's so many video editors that I couldn't even begin to explain how to work with them all. However, Youtube has loads of tutorials for editing with different software. The main way of editing remains the same:

1. Import your footage + audio; This is where using digital formats pays off (it's lots quicker)
2.Drag the clips you want to use into the timeline. In order.
3. Sync the audio with the clip. This takes yonks. Have patience. Find the point where your clapper/hands meet on the video footage. Then look for a peak somewhere near the beginning of the audio file that matches it. Line these up. On every clip.
4. Once in sync (after checking with a play through), Group the audio and video, if your editor gives you this option (if not you can still manage) and then trim both until it's the length you need it (so not the have the clap line up in your final edit).
5. Add any video filters to make your film looks good
6. Do color correction, if you can be bothered (I never do)
7. Add sound effects, stock footage, and music.
8. Re record any dodgy audio, if you need to
9. Export. Like a boss.

Step 10: Getting Hits

 Get your videos on to every video hosting service going. Add youtube embeds to websites (just because they're faster) and get them on to Digg, and all the other social bookmarking websites.

Facebook and Twitter help too!

Step 11: The End

 I hope that this has helped in someway, or at least used some time up of your boring day... 
Google for tips, as Google is just the god of the internet. After all, thats where I learnt GSCE maths from, as well as stealing most of the pictures in this Instructable from. Check out Indy mogul for tips and tutorials.

I'll be making some more instructables on film making soon. I think...

I'm doing a new filmmaking instructable that is a bit less crap than this one

If you want to be considered to be a wonderful person, then please have a look at this page, where I do stuff

Until next time,

Good bye world!



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    38 Discussions


    3 years ago

    Funny title for an instructable. Make movie for cheap? the gear presented are not even cheap. Well


    3 years ago



    7 years ago on Introduction

    will a standerd digi camra work i dk how the sound quality is?


    7 years ago on Step 4

    Shoulder mounts ARE available for the 7D. I worked on a film back in December where one was used. And the ability for interchangeable lenses and external accessories is one of the reasons they make television series like "House" on the 7D.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    It's just personal preference, but I would use this method for making a camera dolly:

    And this is the best gunshot tutorial out there:


    9 years ago on Step 2

    Aligning audio with video is very tiresome. If you are buying a new camera check if it can accept an external mic, it will save you endless trouble.

    3 replies
    Future filmakerjlms

    Reply 9 years ago on Step 2

    Actually, its not. All you need to do is either A) Buy a clap board or B) Clap your hands together. Then in your editing software, you just align the two spikes and then you're in bussiness

    Also, some clapperboard apps exist for iPhone, 'Movie Slate' automatically logs clip info on a clapperboard and syncs the TimeCode to other iDevices and to your equipment. Very cool.


    Reply 9 years ago on Step 2

     Agreed... Clappers make it insanely easy. I clap on camera to make sure not only the onboard audio but the ext. audio get the same tracking. I believe beside using audacity to level and pan your audio there is plenty of sync software out there for audio.


    8 years ago on Step 5

    you can make a crane for around 20-40 bucks


    9 years ago on Introduction

     Check out IndyMogul and Film Riot as they are both great shows on learning filmmaking on a budget. BTW The guy in the first vid isn't bad but he needs an HD camcorder and a decent cromeakey filter (eg. good lighting, and good color of green screen).

    1 reply

    Chromakey is a pain to get right. In a recent highlight video I made, the most time spent on any one clip was trying to get a blender sequence to key right in FCP. It still isn't perfect.


    8 years ago on Step 4

    what mic is that and can you put it on a t1i?


    8 years ago on Step 9

    For help with Final Cut, Look up the site another great editor is Adobe Premier Pro.


    8 years ago on Step 10

    For all of you college film students, also consider getting something for nothing. I found this site that allows you to set up your videos to sell. Check it out at


    9 years ago on Step 3

    There is software specifically for scriptwriting, the one I have seen that works best is Celtx (which is open source and free), no need to use Word or other generic software.

    1 reply

    Reply 8 years ago on Step 3

    You beat me to the punch. that is what I was going to suggest!


    9 years ago on Step 6

    "If you can in-line skate, do it holding a camera".

    No, don't do this.

    As you said you have to use your imagination to simulate this in order to maek the shoot safe.

    You may be doing movies in the cheap, that does not mean you have to be unprofessional ;-)