You’re an aspiring filmmaker, and dream of becoming a famous movie director. Or maybe you just really want to make films that matter, and connect to people on a deeper level. That’s really great and all, but how do you plan to do that? The first step in making movies, aside from writing the script, is planning out how it will get filmed. That’s where shot lists come in. So, what is a shot list? This post will define it, and answer why they’re so vital to getting the best shots.

Defining Shot List

What’s a shot list and why do I need one

When you’re directing a film or even television commercial, there’s quite a bit to consider.

How can you keep it all organized? The answer: a shot list. Learn more about shot lists in the video below.

Learn the basics before you start  •  Subscribe on YouTube

Now let’s define it for ourselves.


What is a shot list?

shot list is a document that maps out everything that will happen in a scene of a film, or video, by describing each shot within that film or video. It serves as a kind of checklist, providing the project with a sense of direction and preparedness for the film crew.

 It is typically made in collaboration with the director, cinematographer, and even first assistant director. Shot lists are especially critical in managing and preparing for film scenes. Making a movie demands knowledge of shot type, camera movement, lighting, actor staging, and much more. Putting this information down in a shot list helps the filmmakers remember what it is they wanted, and how to execute.

With so many moving parts, having a concrete document stating which shots demand what equipment, and how long shot setups will take, determine so much of the schedule and budget. 

What goes on a Shot List?

  • Brief description of shot- action, characters
  • Scene number and shot number
  • Shot type (close-up, wide shot, etc.)
  • Camera angle
  • Camera movement
  • Camera equipment
  • Framing (aspect ratio)
  • Location (INT./EXT.)
  • Setup times
  • Sometimes audio notes, or prop mentions

Because the schedule, and even budget, are dependent upon what’s happening in the shot list, it’s important to share your shot lists with other crew members, especially those making the schedules.

Producers need quick access to the decisions director’s make as their collaboration is integral to making the movie. (Learn more about how the producer and director work together).

Which is why older shot lists, like the one below, aren’t as helpful as shareable shot list templates.

What is a Shot List - Shot List Example

Antiquated shot list example

Now, while there’s no question that this information is incredibly helpful before shoot day, it’s hard to make quick changes, and when you do, “sharing” really means emailing back and forth. And I wouldn’t call this the best visual guide. I don’t see any visuals!

More helpful maps have come onto the scene that are both visually insightful and easily shareable.

Let’s take a look at StudioBinder’s shot list below.

Notice all of the options you have, they’re in line with the shot list definition above - what goes into a shot list.

You can add a shot description, shot number, shot type, camera angle, movement, and equipment. You can also determine framing or aspect ratio you plan to shoot in.

Don’t forget about setup and prep times. Banners for meal breaks can also let your team know what’s on the pipeline.

The storyboards you draw can be easily dropped into the shot list. So now you have more of an understanding of what the shot needs to actually look like.

But you can also add the real shots in as you go. You can then use the shot list to determine if you need any reshoots.

What would that look like?

What’s equally awesome is that you can share all of this with one click. Your team can also leave comments in real-time. 

Now that you can answer what is a shot list, how do you make one?

Learn more below!

Up Next

How to Make Your Shot List

You may know what a shot list is now, the purpose of making one, but how do you actually do it? Our next post gets into the nitty gritty of each consideration and how to use the list efficiently. 

Up Next: How to Make a Shot List →
Solution Icon - Shot List and Storyboard

Showcase your vision with elegant shot lists and storyboards.

Create robust and customizable shot lists. Upload images to make storyboards and slideshows.

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