How to Create a Shot List (+ Template)

shot-list

This is a guide to help you create a shot list for your next photoshoot or filming gig.

Films are never shot as you see them on screen – that final result comes together in the editing room. The production takes place in a completely different order.

A video or film production is a lot of work from many different professionals that work together. You want to have everyone on the same page to achieve the results that you want – and you want to optimise time, effort and budget.

You wouldn’t want the actors getting in and out of their costumes and makeup continuously. It’s more efficient if you film all the shots where they wear the same thing, for example, before moving on.

The same goes for lighting setups, locations, etc.

That’s why having a guideline helps you to organize and make sure you have all the material you need to tell the story in the way that you want.

In this article, you’ll find a free shot list template that you can download and customize for all your projects.

You’ll also learn all the answers to the most common questions about shot lists.

Let’s get started!

What is a Shot List?

 

A shot list is a document that will help you organize your shooting. If you create a shot list for a photoshoot or film production, you can organize the shooting in such a way that you can optimize your time and resources.

For some video makers (or filmmakers) it’s better to organize according to location, and for others it’s best to do it by required equipment, etc.

There isn’t one way to create a shot list – it’s all about finding what’s best for you and your project.

What is in a Shot List?

If you’re asking yourself how do you make a shot list, here are the 16 essential elements to include when creating one for your next film production.

Remember – creating a shot list document that includes everything ahead of time is essential for the efficiency and success of your work as a creative.

Shot lists are more than just a simple run sheet – they may include details of camera angles, call sheets, notes from the assistant director, shot sizes and other things important to the pre-production process.

Here are 16 elements that you should include in your shot list template.

1. Reference

Having a visual reference makes things easier to communicate throughout the team. Many filmmakers make a storyboard before the shot list or at the same time.

If you’re doing one, you can include the guide number that links the shot with the sketch of the storyboard. Alternatively, you can add reference images or the sketch directly to the shot list, in conjunction with a reference number to connect them.

If you don’t want to use any visual clues, you can put the script page as a reference.

2. Sequence number  

In filmmaking, a sequence is made by multiple scenes. To accurately identify each shot, you can start by the scene number.

3. Scene number  

A scene is a portion of the film that normally takes place in a single location in a definite and continuous time frame. It can be done in a single shot or many shots.

4. Shot number  

A shot is a single take that can last for seconds or minutes. The shot number should identify each shot – so, unlike the sequence number and scene number, it won’t be repeated throughout the shot list.

5. Location 

Depending on the number and variety of locations where you’re filming, you can go into more or fewer details. It can be as simple as indicating if you’re indoors or outdoors – to a more specific place.

6. Shot description 

Here, you can write a brief description of what happens during the shot. For example – Man walks into a restaurant and approaches the hostess.

7. Framing

The framing is also known as shot size. This is because you’re deciding how much enters into the picture. A wide shot will show a big part of the location, while a close-up can show only a detail from the location, props or character.

Generally speaking, you can divide the framing into three sizes: close-up, medium and wide (also called long shot). Then, each of them can be further categorized – for example, extreme close-up, medium close-up and wide close-up.

8. Shot type  

This refers to the camera angles. You can shoot at eye-level, over the shoulder, from the top, from below, etc.

9. Camera movement 

Is the camera going to be static? Is it going to follow the character? Is it zooming, panning, tilting? Here you’ll make the notes about how the camera moves.

10. Equipment 

You can make this a single category or you can further break it down into the camera, lens, filters, accessories (i.e. camera dolly), etc. This is defined according to the framing, shot type and camera movement.

11. Frame rate 

Both video and film are made of a series of still images called frames. The frame rate is the speed in which they are captured and shown.

12. Lighting

Film and video lighting setups can be very complex. Adding this information to your shot list can make the photography director’s work more efficient.

13. Audio 

You can input in this column what sounds are going to be recorded and how – if they are dialogues or special effects, etc.

14. Characters 

Here you can make a list of the actors and actresses that participate in the shot. You can also note if you need some extras – if so, how many and any other characteristics you believe are necessary.

15. Dialogues  

Some filmmakers include a category where they note the dialogues in the shot – if any. Otherwise, you can skip this and just rely on the shot description.

16. Notes

Here you can put anything that wasn’t covered by the specific categories of your shot list. For example, you can include the props, makeup, etc.

Also, you can use this space to write down any other information that can be relevant for the rest of the crew or even assistant director. Remember this tool is not only about organizing but also about communicating.

Shot List Template (Free Download)

Click here to download a free shot list template to use in pre-production when planning your video shoot.

Here’s how to create a camera shot list using the template:

  1. Break down your script into sequences, scenes and shots.
  2. Visualize how you want each of these components to look like. It helps if you make a storyboard or sketches.
  3. Open the template.
  4. Analyze each shot and determine what you need to make it.
  5. Organize the shots to optimize your resources. You can put together every shot that happens in the same location, or each shot that involves the same set of actors – this is up to you.
  6. Fill in the template.
  7. Customize the template according to the needs of your project and your personal preference. You can add the shooting schedule for example. Also, delete the ones that aren’t useful for you.
  8. Once you’re done, save it as a different file. This way, you’ll always have this file as a template for new projects.

How to Make a Shot List FAQs

Why are shot lists important?

Shooting video or film in the same order as they will be seen by the public would be expensive and time-consuming.  A shot list helps you to stay organized and make the most out of the shooting time. Also, it helps you to communicate your creative vision to every crew member.

Who does the shot list?

Normally the film director and the photography director work together to prepare the shot list in the pre-production process.

What comes first storyboard or shot list?

Many creators make the storyboard first – once you know how it looks like, it’s easier to break it down. Other’s like to work on both things at the same time.

What is a master shot in filmmaking?

A scene can be composed of one or multiple shots. When a scene is done in one shot that covers from the beginning to end – that’s a master shot.  it usually is a long (wide) shot.

What is shot breakdown?

A shot breakdown is an analysis of how a shot is done. This includes the shot description, camera angle, shot size, etc.

How do you write shots in a script?

You can write a shot in a script using shot headings. Add one every time there’s a change in framing, camera angle, lighting, location, etc. In other words, every time a new shot starts.

Final Words

I hope this article was helpful in explaining to you why you need to create a shot list for your video or film projects.

While not normally required for the average photo shoot, you’ll need shot lists when working on bigger photography productions too.

Once you start using a shot list to organize your production, you’ll see how much smoother the process can become. Also, the crew members will be able to understand your creative view and help you put it into action.

You can download the free shot list template provided in this article, or you can create your own – whichever works best for you. If you have any doubts or suggestions, you can share them in the comments section.

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Ana Mireles is a Mexican researcher that specializes in photography and communications for the arts and culture sector.

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