Rima Chibb, founder of bioflic.com and Director, Curation Committees at KidzCINEMA2020, is making her lockdown film using a mobile camera and editing apps at home

Tips for aspiring film makers to shoot one at home on a shoestring budget

Several gadgets with good editing software available online have allowed budding movie moguls to create their art from within the confines of their homes

Namrata Kohli | New Delhi

Many new film-makers were born in the year gone by. Harnessing the time he had on his hand and his creative skills, media person Praveen Nagda curated an online international children’s film festival where he was overwhelmed by more than a thousand entries and the response from kids. Original and interesting ideas were born out of curious minds and what came to their assistance were a host of easily available movie-making apps such as Adobe Premier Rush, YouCut, PowerDirector, Film Maker Pro, KineMaster, Motionleap.

Says Nagda, MD & CEO, White Coffee Event Management Pvt Ltd, and Festival Director, KidzCINEMA2020, “Children connect very well with a multi-media environment and easily understand the story told by the visuals. That’s why we find most of them getting hooked on to mobile phones. The pandemic has taken away their daily dose of joy, fun, play, and friends but at the same time, created immense opportunities such as exploring audio-visual storytelling.”

While the creativity remains the calling card, technology has been a great facilitator. The apps used in movie making today allow a user to merge videos and photos, cut and split, facilitate smoother and snappier editing, offer video transitions, effects, video filters, animated text, and play speeds like slow motion and fast forward. They also fix shaky-cam videos with stabilisers, replace the background with green screen, use chroma key, add voice overs, export the content into 720p, 1080p and even up to 4,000p with no quality loss.

Nagda shares how the likes of MXTakaTak allow you to not only create dialogue-dubbed content but also to shoot and edit videos online and even apply filters. You can even do animation, and add movement into still pictures. The apps offer a great asset library with 100 per cent royalty-free music. There are some advanced apps such as Scriptation, HeliosPro, and LumaFusion that address various intricate aspects that professional filmmakers look for.

The beginners’ toolkit

During the pandemic, thanks to better technology, faster internet connectivity, the availability of free time for people to research DIY videos on YouTube, aspiring film makers have been recording just about anything. What is trending are the under-five-minute digital films where amateurs record their own monologues to a dialogue between friends or just shoot kids playing in society or create educational videos.

For starters, all you need is a smartphone. “A lot of digital film makers have been born with the smart phone revolution,” says Ankit Ahuja, Founder, Red Comet Films. “Since you have such high-end phones available, the video camera and video recording feature are pretty advanced. And now you have such good video editors on the phone itself such as vivo has a vivo video convertor. As you go professional, what you need is professional sound equipment such as Ear Pods, mike. But if you want mike to be hidden and want clear voice then you can invest in a label mike which gets connected to a DSLR camera.”

Taking thousands of images is easy with a DSLR or a digital single-lens reflex camera. A versatile device, it allows you to combine the camera body with lens attachments of your choice, whether that’s a fisheye or a zoom lens. You can use the lenses that serve different purposes and give you different looks. The tripod stand is the next thing that you will need, after the camera, for stable shots.

The arsenal of a film maker consists of a mirrorless camera, DSLR or camcorder, microphones, headphones and maybe an audio recorder. Then there is the tripod to keep your shots steady, lights or reflectors and a computer with a good editing app.

Fortunately, the equipment is not only becoming cheaper but more accessible too. A lot of these are affordable and readily available on Amazon. Ring lights, for instance, would cost you about Rs 900, while a tripod stand comes for for Rs 1,500. A rotating one is a bit more expensive, at Rs 2,000. The bulk of the investment is made in advanced cameras and sound equipment.

Movies-out-of-home: The MOOH trend

Technology has open the floodgates in the realm of movie making–costs have gone down, cameras have become better and accessible, and editing software have become more easily available, allowing anyone to shoot and edit using a smart phone and a laptop.

Recently, during the global pandemic, Lenovo’s Intelligent Devices Group facilitated a project called “New Realities”, under which 10 films were made, each in 360-degree virtual reality, chronicling the individual journeys of a diverse group of 10 young women from LatAm, North America, Europe and Asia (including India), using technology to achieve their dreams and inspire others. For instance, the Indian movie was about how the female protagonist, Ashwini, went against her father’s wishes and enrolled in a skill-training institute in Hubli. Today, she is financially empowered and trains village schoolteachers to use technology in education.

The pandemic has proved that shooting a film can be done remotely. Says Amit Doshi, Chief Marketing Officer, Lenovo India: “If you look at all the variables of internet, high bandwidth, technology – these were available even before. It was just human comfort, or the lack of it, and you wouldn’t accept it any other way. The director would demand a full crew to be present during the shoot and even in the room when film was getting edited, to feel in control of project. The pandemic teaches you another way of making movies.”

During the pandemic period, plenty of OTT content, small digital and telefilms have been created with limited means. Film makers have made movies on Zoom at one third the cost and technology has helped save manpower. Says film maker Ankit Ahuja: “Instead of sending a full crew consisting of a cameraman, attendant, director and sound recordist, we ended up sending just one person with full precautions of a face mask and PPE kit. Automatically, when the manpower goes from four to one, the cost is saved. During the lockdown, the practice was to send the complete set-up of the camera, lights, tripod and backdrop to the celebrity’s house.

All he had to do then was create the video, send it to us, which we would edit and play on the platform. But yes, quality takes a beating sometimes.”

Story rules

An aspiring film maker needs to be strong on content, apart from being adept with techniques and tools. More than the technology, a film is about the story. Says Satyanshu Singh, a National Award-winning filmmaker and writer: “When you make a short film, no one is going to judge you by the quality of your camera or editing equipment. People will judge your storytelling technique, which is understanding the language of cinema, and it has little to do with your budget or technology.”

Identify the stories you want to tell, the stories you are passionate about. Then work hard towards giving them shape, exploring them in the written form, not just in the head. You will find one story is shaping better. Do not worry about the genre or format-whether it will be a web series or a short film. Says Singh: “If we say a certain genre or format is doing well, we are looking outward. We should look inward and ask ourselves what is in me to offer to the world. What is my take? What do I like which the world will also like? Always present your unique worldview and don’t copy other film makers. Chances are if we second guess trends, we will be forgotten in the trend. Remember that most pathbreaking and memorable films are ones that broke the trend and came with something unique.”

Singh’s film Chintu ka Birthday was a low-budget film, shot over 18 days inside one house. But it was a story that had universal appeal and that’s why budget did not matter. Till date, he says, he is receiving messages on how deeply people were affected by that film.

“Use this time to make mistakes. If you want to be a professional painter or poet, you will write a few poems, make a few paintings which are not so good. Every artist has to start somewhere, creating something bad and mediocre and meant to be rejected, so that you can then create something better. Don’t expect your first film to be a masterpiece”, he says.

“Today digital film making is so easy equipment-wise and money-wise that people should make a few short films just to learn the craft,” Singh advises. For the world, he says, his first short film was Tamaash for which he won the national award. “Before that we made some ‘terrible’ short films but they were meant to learn the craft,” he says.

Are films your true calling?

Technology is only half the work done. There are other attributes you must have if you are considering film making as a career. According to Madhu Chopra, an Indian producer and Co-Founder, Purple Pebble Pictures Pvt Ltd, and mother of Bollywood and international star Priyanka Chopra, “Many people have been tempted to hop on to the film making bandwagon. Some find their true calling, others drop out. But a true filmmaker should have vision, aptitude, creativity and a vivid imagination. A good filmmaker has to be a good story teller and have a keen eye for detail. And, most importantly he should be open to interaction, exchange of ideas and possibilities.”

Telling stories can be done in the form of a novel or a play, but to be a film maker, you must be able to tell stories in an audio-visual format. Ashish S K, Founder, Punnaryug Artvision Pvt Ltd & Chairman, Ficci-Animation, VFX, Gaming & Comics, shares his unique module, “My First Film”, which has been designed for students and amateurs to learn the basic grammar of film making like composition, continuity, lighting etc.

“My suggestion to all the amateur creators is to spend a lot of time on story, characterisation, and script editing. The more carefully one works on creating a production-perfect script, the easier it is to have the costs well defined and controlled,” says Ashish. Digital film making has brought about a revolution. Experts like Ashish feel that digital film-making and processing help save cost and time and have made it possible to get the desired results even if the shooting process misses a few things. A few directors also prefer a linear editing on a digital format, which saves a lot of time, as the visual effects, composition, colour corrections can be completed.

Finally, if you have taken the first few steps towards making films, do not stop. Because the most difficult part is to take that first step. Just keep going and continue evolving- the technology and techniques in the movie making business change very rapidly. One needs to keep abreast of the latest equipment and techniques, take a few masterclasses on film making and keep improvising.

Table: Prices of equipment required to make movies

Equipment Brands Price (Rs)

Mirrorless camera, DSLR

Canon 5D (DSLR), Panasonic GH5 (mirrorless camera) 40,000-1,75,000
Camcorder Sony, Panasonic 17,000-25,000
Recording Microphones AKG, Fifine, Rode, Congo 3,233-20,499
Headphones One Plus, Sennheiser, Audio Technica, AKG 3,500-14,999
Audio Recorder/Digital Voice Recorder Sony, Zoom, Technoview 2,250-6,849
Tripod Stand Digitek, Tygot 300-1,600
Lights and reflectors Shopee, Prolite 700-1,500

Studio Essential Kit- Light, Stand, Reflector, Tripod, Backdrop

VTS Studio Essential, Amazon Basics

Computer with a good editing app, editing software Lenovo, HP, Apple 30,000-1,00,000
Smart Phones Vivo, Apple, Oppo 8,000-80,000

Credit: E-Commerce Portals and Market Research

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