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5 Simple Cinematography Hacks for Under $50

Michael Maher

Need a makeshift camera rig on a small budget? Check out these five cinematography hacks that can be made for under $50.

Top image from Filmora

Being on set always requires you to be on your toes and use whatever materials you have to get the shot. Sometimes you may forget a piece of equipment, or something on set will break. Then you’ll need to figure out a quick fix to make sure that the shoot goes on.

Like the 5 Filmmaking Hacks we’ve previously covered, all of these cinematography hacks are great DIY fixes. Also, make sure you have plenty of gaff tape on set. You’re going to need it.

1. Camera Bean Bag

5 Simple Cinematography Hacks for Under $50: Camera Bean Bag DIY
Image from Chris Hansen via DIY Photo Cheapo Depot

If you don’t have a few hundred bucks to spend on a Cinesaddle or Vbag, try making your own. With a Ziploc bag and some beans, rice, or kernels of popcorn, you can instantly make your own camera cushion for some extra stabilization.

If you want something a little tougher than a Ziploc bag, try a pencil case for small cameras or a softshell laptop case. For best results, put a Ziploc bag inside of another case. Be sure to let the air out of the Ziploc bag, so it can conform around the camera.

Supplies: Ziploc Bag (~$0.08 each), Pencil Case (~$3), 1 lb Beans (~$7) or 1 lb Rice (~$5) or 1 lb Popcorn Kernels (~$4)

Estimated Cost: $8.08

2. Baby Powder Viewfinder

5 Simple Cinematography Hacks for Under $50: Baby Powder Viewfinder
Image from John Korda via Shitty Rigs 

Using an empty bottle of baby powder, this new dad built an amazing viewfinder. He cut out the bottom of the baby powder bottle, then attached a magnifying glass. With a little gaff tape and rubber bands, he had built his own custom viewfinder.

Supplies: Baby Powder Bottle (~$4), 2 Rubber Bands (~$0.17 each), Magnifying Glass (~$6)

Estimated Cost: $10.34

For the following Dolly Hacks, let’s assume you already have a tripod. Any tripod will work with these cinematography hacks. 

3. Dolly Hack: Furniture Sliders

Video from Filmora Video Editor

Stick moving furniture pads under your tripod legs to create a dolly. Furniture slider pads are designed to move heavy furniture throughout a house without scratching the floor. They’ll be able to handle just about any weight of camera setup.

Furniture sliders are designed for indoors, so these won’t really help you if you are out on location.

Supplies: Your Tripod, Furniture Slider Pads

Estimated Cost: $10-$20

4. Dolly Hack: Wheelchair (Rolling Chair, Stroller, Shopping Cart)

5 Simple Cinematography Hacks for Under $50: wheelchair dolly hack
Image from monnomestdavid via Shitty Rigs

Trying to pull off some smooth dolly shots without tracks? Try using a cart with wheels. A wheelchair is the best option, as they are built to give a smooth ride. Finding a wheelchair is a bit harder, but you can get them online. You can usually find a deal on a used one.

Also take advantage of your location. Shooting in a hospital? There are wheelchairs around. Grocery store? Try a shopping cart. Library? Use a rolling book cart. Office? Rolling chair.

You don’t have to have a stabilizer rig like the photo above, you can just as easily sit in the chair and have the camera over your shoulder.

5 Simple Cinematography Hacks for Under $50: Stroller dolly hack
Image from bdht via Shitty Rigs

You can also build a dolly rig out of a baby stroller. Go for the jogging stroller for extra speed and a smoother ride. There are plenty of used strollers available for cheap online.

Estimated Price: ~$50 for a Used Jogging Stroller, up to ~$100 for a New Wheelchair

5. Dolly Hack: Skateboard (Rollerblades)

In this video, see how Tyler Mannheimer builds a skateboard dolly rig.

Video from TPV Productions

In the video, you saw them attach a fluid head to a skateboard, but you can also use a skateboard many other ways. You can sit on it, and have a second person push you. If you already have a handheld stabilizer, you can also just hop on a skateboard and go. If you can’t skateboard, throw on a pair of rollerblades.

Estimated Price: $37

Want more DIY Hacks? Let us know in the comments below.