A good shot list maximizes shooting time and limits downtime across all departments. In this post, we lay out the essentials of a shot list, and provide the only film & photography shot list template you’ll ever need, free.
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How to make a shot list strategic
A shot list is a full list of all the shots that are part of your film, with minute information for each of them. Creative shot choices aside, it’s easy to forget that a shot list is a strategic document. Creating a shot list is essentially like creating a shooting gameplan for the day.
How to write a shot list in three steps:
- Write out your list of camera shots.
- Group the camera shots by setups.
- Reorder the setups into the most efficient order of shooting.
That’s the gist of it. But like most things, the devil’s in the details. Writing out a shot is easy, conceptualizing is hard.
Adding a new shot is easy in StudioBinder’s Shot List Builder
Shot list examples: The anatomy of a shot list
1. Start with scene information
For clarity and ease-of-use, shot lists should be broken up by scenes. Just add the scene number, scene heading and page above the shot list.
Shot list example: Scene details via StudioBinder
2. Setup number
A setup is the unique placement and preparation of the camera and lighting. The setup number should be increased anytime the camera angle, equipment or camera position is changed. You can also use color labels to identify different setups within StudioBinder.
Shot list example: Identify setup numbers via StudioBinder
3. Shot number
This is a reference number for the shot / row. Simply list out your shots starting at 1. Reset the shot number back to 1 for every new setup.
Shot list example: Identify each shot’s number via StudioBinder
The subject is the focus of the shot. It can be a character, group of character, a prop, establishing shot, etc. The subject helps your team plan when actors should report to set or when a prop or location needs to be prepped.
Shot list example: The subject of the shot via StudioBinder
Provide as much detail as you’d like for each shot. It could be anything from an insert description to an action in the scene to a line of dialogue in the scene.
Shot list example: Add a description to your shots via StudioBinder
If you are on a multi-camera shoot, identify individual cameras, or specialty cameras (i.e. drone, GoPro, security camera, webcam, etc.).
Shot list example: Identify which camera(s) are being used via StudioBinder
7. Shot size
Shot size defines the size of the subject in the frame (i.e. closeup, medium shot, etc).
Shot list example: Select from list of camera shots via StudioBinder
8. Camera angles (or shot type)
The camera angle references the position of the camera in relation to the subject (i.e. eye-level, high angle, low angle, etc.). A change in camera angle calls for a new setup in your camera shot list. Here’s a list of camera angles commonly used in shot lists.
Shot list example: Select from list of camera angles via StudioBinder
If the camera angle changes during the take, phrase it as something like a low-med-high, which means the shot starts low, then moves to a medium, and ends on a high angle. This can be added in the Description.
9. Camera movement
Camera movement identify any movements of the camera during the shot. Remember that complex camera movements are time consuming to setup so use them sparingly.
Shot list examples: Select from list of camera movements via StudioBinder
Popular framing and camera angles for your shot list
Paul Thomas Anderson uses a combination of everything we’ve talked about to dazzle critics
Types of camera movements to use when creating a shot list
Our shot list template includes the following camera movement terms as drop-downs.
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Identify the camera equipment that will be supporting the camera (i.e. tripod, crane, dolly, etc). This helps you anticipate the set up time for equipment changes.
Shot list examples: Select key department equipment via StudioBinder
Pro Tip: Setup can eat up a lot of time over the course of a day. Once the camera is set with specific equipment (or lens) shoot as many setups with that gear before switching.
11. Camera lens
The Lens column helps your DP and assistant camera team (ACs) prep for upcoming shots. Changing the lens constitutes a new setup, and takes time to accomplish. Minimize setup time by grouping your shotlist by lens setups.
Shot list examples: Modify template options to add more lenses via StudioBinder
12. Sound requirements
Is a shot covered with a boom mic or a lav mic? Both? Is the shot MOS (without sound)? If you have a complex sound setup add it to the Notes column.
Shot list examples: Specify sound gear needed via StudioBinder
13. Custom notes
Our film shot list template has two notes sections: notes for specific shots and notes for the whole scene. These could be used in a variety of ways, including setups, meal breaks, etc.
Shot list examples: add notes for shots and scenes via StudioBinder
14. Script time
Script Time is the approximate run-time of the shot. This will help you identify the total shooting time. To approximate the script time of a scene or shot, time yourself as you read the scene and all the dialogue aloud.
Shot list examples: How to identify an approximate shoot time via shot list template
15. Setup time
Setup time is how long it will take to prep this shot. Breaking down setup times for every shot helps you develop a better understanding of the time cost of a shot. Don’t forget to account for non-camera prep time, such as production design, lighting changes, makeup and wardrobe changes.Pro Tip: Remember that insert shots are often the easiest to shoot, requiring minimal talent, crew and gear. Factor them strategically into your camera shot list while other shots are being prepped. It’s also a good idea to keep a list of insert shots on standby to keep shooting during downtime.
Pro tip: Keep a list of insert shots to shoot during downtime #filmmaking #indiefilm #filmmakers
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16. Estimated number of takes
This is an educated guess but will help determine the total estimated time needed to get the shot. Take into consideration the the complexity of the shot, its importance to the story, and the execution challenge for talent.
17. Shoot time
Based on the script time, setup time and estimated number of takes, the shot list template will automatically generate an estimated shoot time for every shot.
We also add an additional five minutes of padding to every estimate just to play it safe.
The Total Shoot Time for the scene is automatically calculated at the bottom via template
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18. Take number (mark on set)
This column is where you can mark your favorite takes when you’re shooting on set. Afterwards you can share the best take numbers with your editor.
Tip: Share the shot list template with your script supervisor (scripty) for marking via template
19. Status (The shot log)
Similar to the Take Number above, the first column is meant to be filled out on set. Once the shot is complete, mark the row with the ✓ to track your progress.
Pro Tip: Marking shots as Nice-to-Have in advance helps everyone better prioritize the essentials on set—helpful if you start falling behind schedule.
Shot list examples: Check off shots as you complete them via StudioBinder
Sync your shot list with your shooting schedule
A complex shot can tack on hours to a preexisting shooting schedule, limiting what you can shoot in a single day.
So, adjust according. Be sure to send your finalized shot list to your UPM, upload a PDF to an online file sharing sites like Dropbox, and hold a meeting to determine how the schedule will shift and what shots are feasible.
In some production management software, like StudioBinder, you can eliminate this process entirely. Since your shot lists are saved under your scene strips, your shooting schedule and call sheets automatically adjust.
Not to mention, everyone can view, edit, and comment on the shot list within the app.
Download the Shot List Template
There are times when all you need is a basic, quick shot list (i.e. a photography shot list template, etc.) and other times when you need something more robust. So we’ve created both! Download them both below.
DOWNLOAD SHOT LIST TEMPLATE
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And that’s the anatomy of a shot list! But why stop there. You can take your shot list a step further and incorporate a storyboard template as well. Storyboards are a great way to visual the project and lock your most important shots.
Before you dive into the nitty gritty of creating a daily shot list, it’s important to holistically plan the entire production schedule out. Check out our script breakdown example and 15 ways create a better shooting schedule.
Did we miss anything? Please leave your feedback or comments below!
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