Let's look at what's involved in creating a shot list for your videos. First off, just note that our shot list template is available for download here. We've used it ourselves in many of our productions. For some context on why you might want a shot list in the first place, and an overview of what it contains, read on!
Within the plethora of tasks to be completed when producing any video, a large portion of them fall within pre-production. The type and number of tasks depend on the type of video. For example, you won't need to write a word-for-word script if you're shooting a documentary, and you won't need storyboards if you're only create an event coverage video. In that same vein, while shot lists can be useful for a variety of video types, they are best-suited for scripted videos. Scripted videos often rely on specific shots to be taken so that everything plays back logically in the edit. Given this rigid nature of scripted videos, a shot list becomes an effective tool for two main reasons...
Why Have A Shot List?
Firstly, you want a shot list in order to make clear all the logistical details that relate to capturing each shot. Going through the process of filling out the template ensures that you're considering ahead of time everything you might need and won't get stuck on a shoot day realizing you failed to consider something necessary to make the shoot successful (eg. missing a prop, piece of gear, or even forgetting to capture a shot itself).
Secondly, shot lists can be useful on the shoot day. As we'll mention below, timing is one of the ways that a shot list is most helpful. On the shoot day, your pre-planned timing for each shot should guide how long things take and will help to keep the shoot on a timed schedule. As with many shoots, not capturing everything in the planned time-slot could lead to issues such as increased financial cost, unhappy crew, and other unnecessary headaches.
Order, Number, Scene, and Description
So, let's start with the first four columns of our shot list template: Shot Order, Shot Number, Scene, and Shot Description. - Shot order refers to the order in which you plan to shoot the shots on the shoot day. - Shot number refers to the number a shot will actually take in the plot of the video. - Scene refers to any defined scenes in your script, and may be left out if your video script does not specify separate scenes. If you do have scenes, organizing shots by scene can sometimes be useful to make the shoot day seem more logical, as you're tackling each scene in one window of time, rather than jumping all around in the script and potentially confusing actors, crew, and yourself! - Description is just a brief reminder to let you know what the shot actually is.
Timing is perhaps the most useful part of the shot list. In planning the shoot, filling in the time columns allows you to estimate how long a shoot will take, allowing you to plan, schedule, and coordinate accordingly. On the shoot day itself, the time columns will be a useful reference to let you know whether you're on track and not heading towards a longer than planned shoot. Off-schedule shoots can lead to potential issues such as missing out on daylight, losing access to locations, or increased financial costs.
When it comes to Shot Duration, Start Time, and End Time, they can all be completed in such a way that it becomes incredibly efficient and easy to fill out and also tweak as you make changes after the fact. The secret to the timing columns lies in using equations that auto-fill "start time" and "end time", allowing you to input your own "shot duration" times and have the rest update automatically. Accomplishing this requires that you're using a spreadsheet application such as excel or google sheets. Fill out the columns as follows:
- each of the three time columns must use a consistent time format that is recognized by the software. We used 00:00:00 AM/PM
- Shot Duration will always be determined by you, with no equation being used
- Shot End Time is simply the Shot Start time plus the Shot Duration time (the very first "shot start time" is determined by you)
- Every additional Shot Start time simply equals the previous Shot End time.
For a visual of the equations, see below:
The remaining columns of Frame, Lens, Motion etc. complete the rest of the shot list. These columns pretty much take care of any additional information that must be known in order to shoot the shots. In the planning stages, filling out these columns is an exercise in diligence, making sure you have everything in order for the shoot. On the shoot day itself, these detail columns also become useful. Rather than needing to think back to the script and imagine what the framing should be or whether it's a motion shot or not, simply refer to the shot list and have that information literally at your fingertips.
Preparation + Execution = Desired Result
With scripted videos, the end result is directly related to the preparation you put into the shoot. A shot list is a fundamental tool to get things in order in the planning stages. Again, you can download our shot list template here