must have for
every video studio is sand bags. They are used to weigh down
stands, microphone stands, camera boom stands to prevent them from
tipping over and destroying expensive equipment. You'll also find
them useful in holding down the edges of your backdrop. See the
sidebar "Why Use Sandbags?" for further information. They are
must have and handy items to have around whether you are on location or
I figured I would
need about 10 of these things in my video studio. A set of two
will cost you $16 at Amazon, ebay, etc. That's $80 that wasn't in
the budget. That doesn't include the filler material to bring the
sand bag up to 10lb. Professional sand bags are
filled with lead shot, which as $1.37 a
pound (ala Google). That's $22 bag - way beyond my budget.
The ones pictured
here from ebay are yellow striped & blue striped. I'd suggest
using "don't trip over me orange" if you have a choice of colors --
especially if you're making your own sand bags.
I made my own out of old drapery material scraps for about $1
each. Here's how.
The first thing was to get the fill - as cheaply as possible. I
chose river rock (right)
which are marble sized pebbles that come in 50lb bags. To fill 10
bags, I figured I'd need 100lbs of rock or 2 bags, total cost $6 + $2
in gas to buy everything mentioned in this article. The first
thing I notice when I got the rock: it's exremely dirty. I had to
wash and dry the rocks (see image to the right). After drying, I
could then place the relatively clean rocks into the fabric bags I
made. For the super savers out there, you can use water expelled
from your washing machine after a white load like I did.
The bags were
prepared by cutting 14" x 14" scraps of old drapery fabric that I
had. The sides were sewn with the top left open. I put
velcro on the top of the bag so it could be sealed (and reopened if
necessary). You'll notice I put two 1/2 inch grommets into the
top of the bag (just under the velcro strip) which is where the rope
handle will be secured. I spent $8 for a grommet set (tool plus
extras). The two grommets came in a kit of 12
sets, very easy to install onto the fabric bags. The guy at home
depot can show you how easy it is.
As you can see from the picture to the left, I didn't worry too much
about the seams. I left them unfinished. The sewing machine
I used could barely get through this thermal drapery fabric and putting
a finished seam on the edges would have been just a little too much for
From here, it's
pretty much straight forward. Fill the bag with rocks, and seal
the velcro at the top (pictured to the right). Now, to hang them
from the studio equipment, I would need some rope handles and some
bungee cords. Every studio needs bungee cords, so put that on
your shopping list too.
The rope handles are fairly easy, get about 24 inches of rope per
bag, and tie a knot in the ends and voila, you have a rope
handle. Be sure to burn the end of the rope so they won't come
unravelled. I bought rope from home depot by the foot. Buying it
in 10 separate pieces of rope means I didn't have the burn the end of
each piece. They did it with their handy machine that cuts the
rope and seals the ends. I spent $10 on rope.
Now, I could secure the various stands and tripods that I had purchased
for the studio. I had to start thinking about the set design of
my video studio. The first step was getting backdrops.
Total cost for this phase of the project:
I've Lost My Mind
Somehow I lost my
mind after making 10 of these "sandbags." I found a promo on
digitaljuice.com for some software I wanted, but I had to buy a sandbag
to get it. Well since I wanted three pieces of software, I had to
buy three sandbags. At $20 each, that was a $60 purchase.
Actually, what I bought was called a shotbag (pictured right). I
figured I could pull the same trick and fill it with rocks. What
I found when they arrived is that they were so small that filling them
with rocks didn't make them heavy enough.
Oh boy. More money. Well I had to buy some lead shot to
fill the bags since they were so small. I found the cheapest
solution online was from rotometals.com.
I purchased 50 lbs of
recycled lead shot for a cost of $70. You can quickly figure out
that this cost me $1.40/lb.
I had considered using thousands of pennies. Post-1982 pennies
yield 181 a pound, or $1.81 a pound (source).
So for 50 lbs, it would have cost me another $20 not to mention the
strange looks from the tellers at my credit union.
Now do you see why you should make your own sandbags? Total for
the 3 bags+fill: $130.
New Total cost for this phase of the project: $156
|Why Use Sandbags?
Sandbags are an indispensable part of video and
film production because they have so many uses. Primarily, they are
used to add weight to objects like light stands and grip gear to
prevent them from falling over.
Practically speaking, sandbags are also employed in all sorts of other
- preventing the legs of a tripod from moving when a "lockdown" shot is
- adding stability to a tripod - hanging a sandbag from the center
lowers its center of gravity
- stopping a moving camera dolly on a track
- as an adjustable base to put a camera on for a ground level shot
- as a wedge used to level gear
- as a cushioned knee rest for camera operators or talent
- as a step for talent to stand on if an increase in height is required
Everyone involved in production, whether for video, film, or
photography can benefit from having sandbags.
Independent producers or camera people who regularly have to do their
own lighting, rigging and directing depend on gear that helps them work