Pre Production Shot composition

Shot List: What is a shot list? The ultimate shot list guide!

Being organised is critical when filmmaking and a shot list is integral to keep your film shoot on track. 

Formatting and curating a shot list isn’t the easiest of feats, but don’t worry we are here to help you. The shot list is imperative to keeping your shoot to time constraints and helps the whole crew understand their priorities per shot. 

This helps save time and money on your film production but ultimately will improve your film quality and creativity beyond your imagination. 

The shot list will help you plan each shot meticulously and help you to envisage each shot to help you bring your story to life.

In this article we will look at what is a shot list? Why a shot list is important, how to create your own shot list, and a free downloadable shot list for you to use as and when you wish. 

What is a shot list? 

A shot list is a list of every shot you need for each scene in the video production to create your film. A shot list is created by the Cinematographer and the Director in the pre-production phase. A shot list is used to outline each shot’s specifics, including the camera, shot size, and shot type. 

This is created, so the Assistant Director and Cinematographer know what they have to capture visually to tell the story of the film.

Read more: What is a Cinematographer? 

Why is a shot list important?

A shot list is essential. Even with the smallest of teams, a shot list is incredibly important to ensure your projects are on track. 

The shot list helps the Cinematographer and Director collate their thoughts and build them into the day’s schedule through a shot list. 

Your shot list will help each department individually, which speeds up the process on shoot day. Each department can get what they need set up before the shoot and know exactly what they need to do on the day.   

What does a shot list include? The key elements of a shot list

What does a shot list include?

All shot lists include these key elements, but they’ll be formatted slightly differently from Director to Director. However, all shot lists will consist of the following: 

  1. Scene number
  2. Setup
  3. Shot number 
  4. The description
  5. Equipment needed 
  6. Movement 
  7. Angle
  8. Shot size 
  9. Audio used
  10. Lens needed
  11. Time estimate 
  12. Camera used
  13. Cast used
  14. Your best take

Scene number

The scene number is the number of the scene you are currently filming. This is to distinguish the scene of the shot taking place. Smaller productions that shoot all in one go may not need to use this. 

Setup

This is for every time you shoot with a new camera. As soon as you reposition the cameras or change the lighting setup, you update the setup column. This is useful if you are looking to group shots together, as it will save time on the shoot.  

Shot number

The shot number is simply the number of the shot. Every time you change the shot, the number increases. Some Directors prefer to reset the shot number per scene as they find it easier to manage this way. 

The description

This column is simply to describe what stage you are at in your script. List what the subject is – is it a prop, actor, actors, or a setting. Describe what’s actually happening in this scene and all of the action that entails.

The description will tell your Director what is exactly happening to ensure everyone knows the score when it comes to the shoot day.

Equipment needed

This column is the column you use to list the equipment supporting the camera, for instance, the Dolly, Steadicam, or Tripod. 

Movement

The movement column is to simply show what movement the camera is making in the scene. Use it to describe the motion (pan, dolly, zoom, still, etc.). 

Angle

We use this header to describe the angle from which the shot is being taken from. Whether it’s a high-angle, an eye-level angle, or a low-angle, use this column to describe the angle of the shot.

Shot size

Here we describe the size of the shot. Having different shot sizes allows you to tell the story from different perspectives, and the change in shot size helps to build different feelings and effects. 

You’ll probably start with a super-wide or wide shot to establish where the scene is taking place, then slowly move into the closer shots (Close up, extreme close up). The closer you get, the more emotion you can display to the audience. 

You’ll use a range of shot sizes. Read our guide below to understand the different shot sizes and how they best tell your story. 

Read More: A guide to framing: 6 essential camera angles to tell your story

Audio used

Next up is the audio column. This is used to display how you will be picking up audio in the shot. Examples of audio would be voiceover, Boom, lav, shotgun, etc. 

Read more: A filmmakers guide to buying the best microphone for filmmaking

Lens needed

The lens column is to simply list the type of lens needed. I.e. 24mm, 50mm, and so forth. 

Read more: Low budget filmmaking equipment list: The essentials

Time estimate

This column is to list the time it will take to set up the shot. This is for the setup only, not the time it will take to shoot.

The time estimate is beneficial to build out your daily schedule and highlight any setups that take too long.  

Camera

This column is to highlight which camera or cameras you’ll be using for the shot.

Cast used

The cast used column is to show which cast members will be used in the shot.

Your best take

Your best take column is there to show which take was the best in the shot and mark down the best shot’s timecode. 

This is great for the editing team as they’ll know which shots to check out first in post-production to ensure your film gets the preferred shots used.  

How to create a shot list

A shot list is an important document for film production as it ultimately saves time and money. It is also critical to the creative side of film production as it allows you to choose what angles, movements, and setups will bring out the plot and tell the story uniquely and imaginatively. 

Shot composition is fundamental and will help you tell your story uniquely and powerfully.

You will take the above elements (What does a shot list include? The key elements of a shot list) and use our shot list (Download Here) document to help you create a shot list for your latest film. 

Your crew will automatically know what they need to do for each scene and shot within the scene. 

Here is how to create a shot list: 

  1. Pick a scene from your script, the elements listed above will have their own columns, and each shot will have its own row. 
  2. Next you’ll breakdown how you want to capture each shot within the scene. You will use different camera angles, shot types, movement and placement to tell the story in your own unique way. 
  3. Now you can give each shot a unique number. This starts at 1. Creating a new row everytime you film a new shot. 
  4. Make sure you cover every part of the scene off with it’s own unique shot. 
  5. Draw sketches or use a storyboard to help bring each shot to life. This will help you visualise each shot and bring your story to life. 

Read more: Our top tips for improving your shot composition: The ultimate guide.

A shot list template

Here is our shot list template for you to freely copy and download! It’s simple and easy to use. Simply click the download button today and make a copy. Then all you need to do is add your own personal assets to it and you are ready to build out your list.

An example of a shot list

Below is an example of a shot list, which you can use below. Simply follow the rules above in “How to create a shot list,” and you’ll complete one in no time.

Shot list example

What are the different types of shots shot sizes in film?

There are multiple shots and shot sizes in filmmaking to help you tell your story. Each shot is used for different reasons. 

For example, a super-wide shot or wide shot is used as an “establishing shot.” This establishes the location, the character’s world, and tells the audience where they are currently in the film. 

Whereas, a close up shows the raw emotion of the character and helps the audience connect with the character on an emotional level. 

Here is an overview of the shot sizes you’ll be using. Read our guide on shot angles and framing here

Six essential camera angles to tell your story.

  1. Close up
  2. Extreme close up
  3. Wide-angle shot
  4. Medium shot
  5. Over the shoulder shot
  6. Point of view shot

Read More: A guide to framing: 6 essential camera angles to tell your story 

Our final thoughts

Shot lists are an important part of pre-production but ultimately help the flow and creativity of your film shoots. No matter how small your production is, a shot list will help you picture each shot and get a timeframe per shoot day that you and your crew can stick to.

To sum it up, a shot list doesn’t have to be fancy, it can be a couple of columns and rows, with sketches to envisage your shot. But, it is necessary to have one to have a productive filming day.

We hope this article on shot lists was useful to you. Let us know what other filmmaking articles and resources you’d like us to write below. In the meantime, here are a few handy topics to help you with your filmmaking journey below.

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