How To Shoot Cinematic Videos When You’re Broke

Make any video footage look like it’s straight out of Hollywood.

Team Nas Academy

29 Jun · 5 mins read

Always dreamed of making cinematic videos but don’t have an eye-popping budget for it? While not having a ton of money may seem like a roadblock to many, it doesn’t always have to be – not when you have these low-budget filmmaking tips to help you out. With a little bit of perseverance and a whole lot of creativity, you can make any video footage look like it’s straight out of Hollywood.


What Is A Cinematic Video?

You must have often heard content creators wanting to add a ‘cinematic’ look to their videos – but what exactly does that mean?

To put it simply, a cinematic video is one that looks like a “real” movie you’d watch in the theaters. It refers to any video or film that has the same features as a quality motion picture including proper sound, powerful visual effects, delicate lighting, choreography, etc.

This involves taking care of every aspect of film making right from the pre-production to the post-production stage. It might sound like a daunting task especially if you’re shooting your first movie on a tight budget. But luckily, there are enough online resources to help you out including video templates, stock footage and sound effects.

How To Get Started


1. Use your own smartphone:

You don’t need to invest in an expensive camera to shoot cinematic videos. In fact, all you need is a smartphone – even Hollywood directors will tell you the same.

American filmmaker Steven Soderbergh used only an iPhone 8 to shoot the 2019 sports drama film High Flying Bird – which ultimately went on to receive critical acclaim for its direction, editing, shooting and screenplay. This was his second film to be shot entirely with smartphone technology.

But before you turn your phone into a ‘cinema camera’, pay attention to these tips that can help take your phone filmmaking skills to the next level:

– Frame rates:

Using different frame rates is a great way to get awesome shots for your film. Ideally, you should aim to shoot at 24 frames per second (fps) if you’re trying to create an overall cinematic look. This is a standard setting for shooting video and is used by most filmmakers in their movies. For slow motion footage, trying shooting at 60fps or higher.

– Shoot high-resolution:

Most smartphones today are capable of shooting 4K videos too. This will allow you to capture more detail and you’ll also get to crop in if you want – without losing the cinematic quality in the final version. Make sure you have an editing app ready to crop and compress these videos on your phone.

– Stabilization:

Unlike the actual cameras used for making movies, smartphones are not heavy enough to avoid camera shake. You could get rid of this problem either by investing in a stabilizer (like a gimbal) or by using optical image stabilization available in most smartphones these days. So, this way, even if you’re walking or moving while filming cinematic videos, your shots will still look super smooth.

– Lenses:

You should consider investing in a smartphone camera lens in order to get past certain limitations on your phone. For instance, using a macro lens should help you capture far more detail and texture, helping you get more of a cinematic feel for all your shots.

2. Low-budget lighting:

Lighting can truly make a difference – whether you’re trying to create a visual mood to match a character’s psychology or trying to draw attention to a particular object/person in a scene – your lighting setup can boost the production value of your cinematic video in an instant.

How To Shoot Cinematic Videos When You’re Broke

Film noir, for instance, is a movie genre that relies heavily on its distinct lighting style to convey a dark, sombre mood – these are thrillers that often describe post-World War II crime dramas. As such, you’ll find that these movies create intriguing aesthetics by using a stark contrast between light and dark, deep shadows and unique framing.

If you can’t afford professional lighting equipment, here’s how you can still get creative and come up with your own setup for a cinematic video without breaking the bank:

– Natural light:

Using natural light is the cheapest way to create soft and organic lighting for your shots but it can also be the most challenging. You’ll need to plan your day so you’re able to capture your widest shots during peak daytime. If you’re shooting indoors, pay attention to the position of the sun so that lighting changes are not reflected in your footage.

– LED light:

Ditch those big expensive lights and settle for pocket-sized LED lights instead. These are a great way to add lighting especially in small spaces and give you the freedom to get creative with your lighting design too. Whether you’re using these lights for backgrounds or accent lighting, you can easily find a range of cheap options in the market.

– Soft light:

These are the ‘pretty’ lights that help bring out the natural beauty of a subject. Soft lights help to fix unwanted shadows that may be cast by other light sources. The cheapest way to diffuse or reflect light is to use a white bedsheet or a shower curtain between your subject and a floodlight. You could also choose to invest in an inexpensive folding reflector that can be used in different ways either to diffuse or reflect light.

– Household lights:

Don’t be afraid to use light fixtures in your own house including table lamps and kitchen lights. For instance, tilting a studio lamp up and down can help bounce light off of the wall. Or wrapping black cinefoil on the edges of the lamp can help focus the light better. These type of lighting setups can create a lot of interest in your backgrounds especially while shooting intimate dinner scenes or recreating light on a subject’s face.

3. Free editing software:

Editing determines four important aspects of any film narrative – how your audience will receive the plot, how much of it will be revealed to them, how they’re supposed to feel about the story or the characters, and how the narrative will be paced.

This is why, even if you’re filming a cinematic video on a budget, you still need to find the right editing software to make your movies impactful. Luckily, you can easily find free video editing tools online that offer a number of features to help you get started:

– DaVinci Resolve:

If you’re looking for a software with more advanced features, then this is your best bet. One of the most popular video editors around, DaVinci Resolve is perfect for high-level editing and covers everything from color correction to audio post production. You can even choose to collaborate with someone on a project for free using its audio editing software, Fairlight.

– HitFilm Express:

Whether you’re an experienced content creator or a film student, you can’t go wrong with HitFilm Express – with its professional-grade VFX tools and enhancements such as built-in voice recorder and custom light flares effect. You can get as creative as you want and even discover your own editing style along the way.

– Apple iMovie:

This is all you’ll ever need to make cinematic videos as a Mac user. From Hollywood-style trailers to epic video effects, there’s a lot here for any video editing enthusiast to use without spending a single penny. Editing and sharing 4K videos is also a breeze with Apple iMovie software.

4. Sound effects:

This is the last step towards completing your cinematic video experience – language, music, sound effects and even silence – can all be used to evoke an emotional response from your audience. Not only does sound define the overall mood of your video, but it’s also the one thing editing cannot fix. So, you need to pay extra attention to this one.

If you’re searching for royalty-free music or sound effects online, try out these audio libraries that will give you access to high-quality soundtracks for your cinematic video:

– Facebook Sound Collection:

As a content creator, you can take advantage of Facebook’s in-built audio collection that features an extensive list of tracks from all genres and for all moods. You can even specify the duration of the tracks along with the type of vocals you’re looking for – all for free.

– YouTube Audio Library:

This is another great tool available for content creators looking for free music online. Simply, use the filters to find that perfect sound for your shot or type in the name of a track or artist in the search bar. You’ll also find plenty of sound effects to choose from.

– Bensound:

Bensound is the go-to audio library for most creators that are making cinematic videos on a budget. With its huge collection of royalty-free tracks and sound effects, you don’t need to splash out on audio anymore.

Why It Pays To Be A Content Creator Today

Creating awesome videos is a surefire way to get noticed as a content creator on any social media platform – and it’s also easier than ever before. Once you have picked out the right tools and software, you can get started anytime and anywhere you want. As your videos get better, you’ll be able to find more ways to monetize your content and create a steady income stream.

How To Shoot Cinematic Videos When You’re Broke
This is why, now is the time to invest in yourself and improve your skills as a creator – whether you’re a beginner or are already far ahead of the game. By building expertise in topics such as Advanced Editing Effects or Visual Storytelling, you’ll give yourself the best possible chance to succeed as a content creator and as a storyteller. So, sign up and turn your videos into cinematic masterpieces today.

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