Any filmmaker (or photographer) tends to accumulate lots of gear, or as my friend Murphy calls it; stuff. And as you know, most of the stuff is quite useful once you’ve dragged it all to set. My main focus these last years has been on getting my hands on all the wonderful tech-stuff you need (and want) and each time I’m heading out, I’m doing so with a bunch of suitcases, padded bags and backpacks. So I decided to step it up a notch and get some nice cases to keep my things safe, in one place, and to be honest; to make me look less like Kevin Costner on his rig in Waterworld (1995).
I did what everybody does and started looking at hardcases online. I decided that a few padded Pelican-cases would be nice. And then I came to my senses and realized that I’d rather save the $300 for more (you’ve guessed it!) stuff. So here’s what I came up with:
How to make your own fitted hardcase to keep your gear safe while looking fly.
1. Go shopping. I went to a second-hand store and found a really nice set of three aluminum cases in different sizes. I got really lucky here but you could just as well grab a hard-shelled suitcase (BONUS: the wheels and handle make transporting everything easier). The ones I looked at cost about $8. Make a run to the hardware store and grab a can of sprayglue, a sheet of styrofoam and a razorblade knife. Finally you’ll need a sleepingpad and some cloth.
Set of three second hand aluminum cases ($15) – Sprayglue ($7) – Styrofoam ($2) – Sleeping pad ($6) – Razorblade knife ($1) & an old black T-shirt.
2. Cut out a few pieces from the sleepingpad to fit your case. If you’re using a suitcase, you might want to start with some styrofoam in the bottom the gain some hight quicker (suitcases are usually quite deep but it all depends on what you’re planning to store in your case.) After this: trace around your objects with a marker.
For my smaller gear (audio-stuff and ND-filters + fieldmonitor) I just used three layers from the sleepingpad, for my shoulder-rig I went with styrofoam. The nice things about working with layers is that you can customize the shapes to really fit your stuff. It takes some planning since you want your gear to lock in and stay put between lid and bottom.
3. Start cutting. You can use your first cutout as a stencil for the upcoming layers. Remember to customize each layer; you might need to make each shape smaller as you go, it all depends on your objects and if they’re flat or rounded.
Don’t worry if your edges get a bit jagged and uneven. This will all be covered up with cloth later.
4. Before adding glue, make sure everything fits the way you want it too. It might be a good idea to check how much space you got when your lid closes. Remember, you need to fill the top of your case to lock everything in. I made my bottom pretty deep so I didn’t really need the space in the lid. To save time and effort, I filled the lid with styrofoam.
If you’re doing a lot of work with styrofoam and you need it to look clean – get a special knife for cutting styrofoam. I wrapped everything in cloth so I just went with the razor and ended up with fake snow all over the place.
5. Use the same shapes as before when cutting the top layer from the sleepingpad. Just think twice before putting it on with glue. Think vertical flip, mirror, the up-side-down and make sure it all aligns. The next to steps cover the shoulder-rig case so if you’re in a rush, skip steps 6 and 7.
Sprayglue is very sticky so think twice before you put everything together. You don’t want to end up cutting new squares just because your brain wasn’t all there.
6. For big objects (which go deep), you might want to work with styrofoam entirely. I did this with my shoulder-rig and it saved me about ten layers of sleepingpad. It’s a bit more time-consuming to trace everything and you need to sculpt it a bit more, but just think of all that money you’re saving. And the fun you’re having creating something on your own.
Here i wished I had that special electrical heated styro-knife, but if you’re careful a razorblade-knife does the job as well. More snow.
7. Keep cutting, adjusting, fitting, cutting. There’s a lot of in and out of the case when working like this, but the end result is satisfying enough, so keep going.
8. Once you have all your pieces, made sure it all fits so that your gear is all snuggled up and locked in, sprayglue each layer together (build it up layer by layer in the case to make sure it all fits). After this, add another coat of glue and cover it with cloth. I used a T-shirt here but technically you could go out and get some furry material or go wild and cover it in, papier-mâché perhaps? I’m thinking of going wild with some vintage comics I’ve got, and if I decide to do so, I’ll post the result here later.
End result. Three aluminum cases. One for the rig, one for the fieldmonitor and my ND-filters, and one for mics and the Zoom-recorder. All for under $35.
Was this helpful? Hit me up if you’ve got some questions or ideas for improvement. And thanks for checking in.