So, you’ve nailed your film treatment, and you’ve got your camera sorted. What other prep do you need to do, prior to starting filming?
Create a shot list.
What Is a Shot List?
A shot list maps out exactly what will happen – and what will be used in a particular shot or scene. And though it’s most often used for films, you can also produce a wedding video shot list, a documentary shot list, an event shot list and more. You could also build a shot list for a photography shoot.
Put together by the director and cinematographer during pre-production, a shot list is a detailed list of every shot that needs to be captured on a specific shoot day. Its primary purpose is to break down a scene into specific steps to serve as a blueprint for your day’s shooting. Creating the shot list can help a director to organize their thoughts before filming begins and will inform the shooting schedule.
Think of it a bit like a shopping list to ensure you’ve got every shot you need to tell your story!
As for what is in a shot list, the specifics are also detailed for every shot: what camera will be used and the lens, what’s the shot size, the camera movement and what shot type you’re creating – from a wide shot to an extreme close up, together with the location, characters, etc.
For a beginner’s guide to shot sizes, watch this video from Studio Binder, as they talk you through establishing shots, medium wide shots and extreme close-ups, together with examples of how and why they’re used.
Why Do You Need a Shot List?
Put simply, shot lists are what keeps a production organized – from the biggest-budget blockbuster to the smallest indie films. As most movies, TV productions and even some vlogs aren’t shot sequentially, the shot list helps you to work out the most efficient shooting schedule, both maximizing shooting time, and limiting downtime across departments.
The shot list also has the advantage of making sure that all the different departments’ members know which scenes are being filmed when – and the equipment the camera crew needs, the lighting set ups, the locations and props, plus the actors’ call times.
Also, based on a combination of the script time, the setup time for each shot, and the estimated number of takes, your shot list will automatically generate an estimated shoot time for every shot and scene.
Pull My Focus has tips on ‘lining your script’ to help you to put together your shot list in order to give you plenty of editorial flexibility when you’re editing, as well as building in options when you’re shooting, as you’ll inevitably face some changes when you’re on set.
What Comes First – Storyboard or Shot List?
Storyboarding is a great way to visualise the major shots that’ll move your story along. Use this as a springboard, and then build your shot list around the anchor points that your storyboard has created.
There are two parts to putting together a shot list – the first is to pick and design the shots (the director does this with the director of photography [DP]) and the second is then organising and scheduling the shoots for those shots.
How to Make a Film Shot List
When it comes to how to make a shot list, it can be as simple or as detailed as you want – and, of course, personalise it however you like, with colour coding and even some sketches. These, however, are the core elements that you need to include:
- Scene number
- Shot number – this is the reference number for the individual shot
- Shot description – a short description of the action or dialogue; you can put in as much detail as you’d like for this
- Camera movement – how the camera moves within the shot, for example a pan, tilt or tracking – or whether it’s static
- Shot size and type – how big/small the subject is in the frame, and the camera angle (eg, eye level, high angle, etc)
- Equipment and lens – the type of camera and camera lens you’re using. Minimise set up time by grouping your shot list by lens setups, as well as locations
- Location – where you’re shooting
- Subject – this can be the actors/characters, a prop, or an establishing shot
- Any props required
- Prep, shoot and start time
- Additional notes – for example, if you’ve got a complex sound setup
It’s best to create your shot list in a spreadsheet, so to start, choose a scene from the script and use the elements above as the columns. Each individual shot has its own row. Thinking about the scene, note down the establishing shot and where you’ll need medium or close up shots to tell the story. Each new shot needs a new row on the spreadsheet.
It may help you to draw a rough sketch or storyboard of the shot list to help you visualise how the scene is going to play out.
Organise your shots based on the location – if you group the shots, then you can film everything you need at the same time which, as we’ve said, maximises your shooting schedule. So, if, for example, you’ve got a number of scenes set in a park throughout your film, put them together on the shot list, even if they’re not in the order they appear in the script. Or let’s say you have numerous characters coming in and out of a café – even if, in the story they’re entering and leaving at different times, shooting these shots at the same time means that you’ve only got to set up and light that location once, saving you time on set.
Grouping your shots in the same way based on the lens setups will also make sure you’re not wasting any precious set time.
And a pro tip? Marking some shots as a ‘nice to have’ on your shot list in advance means that you can easily prioritise the essentials on set, which is very helpful if you’re running behind schedule...
What does a shot list look like? Well, to make your life easier and help you to get started, we’ve created a downloadable shot list template for you!
Shot List Examples
Want a quick look at how the pros do it? Check out this video of a selection of shots from blockbuster director Christopher Nolan’s films:
Documentary Shot List
For an interview-based documentary, create a list of interviewees, and suggested locations, then a shot list. Will they be sitting down, and shooting quite close up? Or full length?
The main questions that will help you to put together your documentary shot list are:
- Who do you want to interview?
- What locations do you want to visit and perhaps shoot?
- What activities do you want to capture?
Could your film incorporate some ‘wow’ shots, such as drones or animation, stop-motion, time-lapse or even green screen? Find where you can add this into the shot list, and whether you can cover off different scenarios with, for example, your drone camera, as with the movie shot list advice.
Wedding Shot List
If you’re a wedding videographer, then a shot list can be invaluable to capture all the major moments on the big day (from a variety of angles – and mixing wide shots with close ups) and make sure you don’t miss anything out.
Your locations are likely to include:
- The place where the bride/groom are getting ready ahead of the ceremony – plus any bridesmaids or ushers
- The location of the ceremony – featuring both outdoor and indoor shots
- The reception venue
Some of the key elements to include in your shot list will be:
- Shots of the couple getting ready
- Guests arriving at the ceremony venue, together with shots of the decoration, such as flowers
- The wedding party arriving at the ceremony venue
- The different highpoints of the ceremony, including the vows, exchange of rings and the signing of the register
- All the action at the reception – speeches, cake cutting, the first dance, guests dancing, etc
- The happy couple heading off at the end of the night
Event Shot List
From a product launch to a fundraiser, a special gala to a company party, the advantage to building an event shot list is that most of them follow a fairly set structure, so it should be easy to put together.
Here are some of the basics, which you can then demonstrate your creativity with, in terms of your shot choices:
- The set up – whether it’s a trade show stand, promo items or signage, make sure you’ve got this covered – get into the venue before any guests/attendees arrive, to get images that show everything at its best
- Shots or footage of any VIPs or execs that are important
- A variety of close ups and wide shots of any speakers
- The guests – again close ups and wide shots, showing that it was a well-attended event
And once you’re editing it all together, don’t forget some background music to bring it all together.
Shot List App
Looking for a shot list app? Look no further! Here are some of the top options:
Shotlister.com has a live mode and is customizable.
Pro Film Maker’s app stores the details, locations and notes for each scene and shot, in an easily viewable and editable form.
Offering web-based filmmaking software with a suite of integrated products, Studiobinder has a plethora of features for filmmakers.
For under $20 for its pro version, Shot Designer enables you to block complex scenes and may be the ultimate film app for directors, as it combines camera diagrams, shot lists, storyboards, and animation all in one place. (There’s also a free version.)
So there you have it – you’ve got your shot list sorted and you’re ready to shoot. Why not check out some background music to really make your production fly?
Whether it’s for an action spectacular, a nature documentary or capturing a couple’s special day on their wedding. We have every production genre you could possibly need – not to mention new, expertly-chosen playlists which are updated fortnightly, all of which are straightforward to license globally.
Need Music for Your Project?
At Audio Network we create original music, of the highest quality, for broadcasters, brands, creators, agencies and music fans everywhere. Through clear and simple licensing, we can offer you a huge variety of the best quality music across every conceivable mood and genre. Find out how we can connect you with the perfect collaborator today by clicking the button below!