Pre-Production: How To Create a Shot List

One of the best ways to plan out your shoot is to create a shot list. Though this may seem like a simple task, you should be careful to keep it clean and organized in order to get the most accurate preview of your scene.

Step 1: Do Not Edit

The first thing to know when making a shot list is that you do not want to be editing your movie as you are shooting it. If you are new to this process, in all likelihood you are watching your movie in its end form as you envision your scene. So, you would be seeing a close up on Jill when she speaks, close up of Jack as he says his line, then back to close up on Jill. Do not write this as 3 shots. This is 2 shots: a close up of Jill and a close up of Jack. You are not going to shoot Jill's lines one at a time. If you have trouble wrapping your head around this, you can first write out your pre-edited version of things, then adjust it to a shooting version.

Step 2: Frame Sizes

There are many things that you will want to note in your shot list in order to keep it informative. One of these things is frame size. Frame size is measured by how much of a person is showing in the frame. A wide shot shows the full body of a person from head to toe. A medium wide (abbreviate as MW) is commonly referred to as a cowboy shot and goes from head to knees. A medium shot (write MED) goes down to the waist. A medium close up (MCU) goes from the chest up. A close up (CU) is just the face. An extreme close up (ECU) shows only details such as eyes or a hand. You should also specify whether these shots are singles (only one person), 2-shots, etc. Note that close up does not mean single. Keep these definitions in mind to create the most accurate shot list.

Step 3: Angles

You will also need to specify what kind of angle you have your camera shooting the subject from. Not all of your shots will be straight on or frontal. Some will be profile shots meaning from the side. You may also want to have a shot looking down on the character, which you would note as high-angle. Predictably, low-angle shots come from below. During coverage, you may want to see a piece of the character to which your subject is speaking. This is a dirty shot or an over the shoulder (OTS).

Step 4: Movement

In some cases, you will have a dolly or zoom planned. For this you should describe the frame at the beginning and the shot and then the frame at the end. If there are any key frames in between, then you can describe this as well. Make sure it is clear that this is all one shot.

Shot lists will help you schedule your movie and make sure that you get all the coverage that you want. To keep communication at its best, write your shot list precisely.

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