Filmmaking 101: The Shot List (w/ free template)

By PierreL | Content For Creators | 18 May 2021


Welcome to this new Filmmaking 101 post! Today I wanted to talk about one of the key elements of every photo and video production: the shot list.

As its name indicates, the shot list is a check list of all the shots you need to get during production. It gives a visual and technical description of every scene, shot by shot. Preparing an extensive shot list during preproduction will help you during production by saving you time, money and headaches, across all departments. Thanks to a precise and complete shot list, everyone on a film set, from camera crew to sound operators, from ADs to cast, will know what they have to do, when they have to do it, where they have to go and what they need to bring, every day during production. It can even help with the editing during post production.

So, how does a simple list help everyone, and how is it constructed?

Cinema shot list

During the preproduction, the director, cinematographer, and sometimes the assistant director, will collaborate to create a complete list of every single shot composing every single scene. The actual specifications of the shot list will vary from set to set, but you could basically find, for each item:

  • The scene number
  • The shot number
  • The camera used
  • The microphone(s)
  • The type of shot (wide, close-up...)
  • The camera movement
  • The location
  • The actors involved
  • A brief description of what is supposed to happen (like "Albert pushes the door and enters the room" or "both characters are seen from the back walking towards the car")
  • And any other element that might be useful!

There's no unique recipe, it simply has to fit your production, your means and your needs. The more thoughts and details are put into it in advance, the easier and smoother the actual shooting will be when the day comes, as you can imagine.

 

Other use cases

Shot lists are essential to making movies, but you can actually find them in any and all photo or video related event!

A wedding videographer can, for instance, have a less elaborate shot list that will always remain the same ("bride entrance", "exchange of the rings", "first dance"...) and can complete it by asking the bride and groom in advance if they want specific things to be filmed during the day.

A school photographer's shot list could simply be a list of all the students they're supposed to snap a portrait of that day.

You can't always write a complete shot list in advance but, as is the case with any type of work, the more you can prepare before actually jumping into it, the less stress, problems and potential mistakes you'll face when you start.

 

I've used a shot list for several of my Youtube videos, even when I'm the only one directing, acting and editing, simply because it makes everything so much easier, every step of the way. Director me needs to write down where and how camera operator me needs to set up the cameras, what actor me needs to do, and how editor me needs to edit.

Here is an example taken from the list I created and used for my running video:

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Simple, efficient, useful. Necessary.

Since I only had 2 days with my actor to shoot this video, in a few different parks, it was easier to refer to this list whenever I had a doubt to make sure we were not forgetting anything. It's basically the filmmaker's shopping list. You tick what you just did and move on to the next item.

I created a pretty extensive and fully customizable template that you can download on my Buy me a coffee (for free) if you want a good, functional starting point: Shot List Template

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It's a Google Sheet template, complete with filters, views, customizable content for each column, checkboxes and so on. Simple but powerful. Feel free to check it out, customize it and use it on your shoots! It obviously does not need to be this precise and extensive for all your videos, but I honestly could not recommend using one for every shoot more if you're not already doing it, it will make your life way so much easier.

Until next time, stay creative! See you!

 

 

 

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Thumbnail credits: Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

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PierreL
PierreL

French video editor, wildlife photographer, amateur space junkie, sports and history buff and crypto enthusiast.


Content For Creators
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