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The Perfect Video Shot List + Templates

Updated: Apr 18, 2022


The videos that entertain and educate us, irrespective of scale, take some planning and foresight to come to life. As craftsmen that first must imagine the final result, shot lists are the tool that keeps every production organized, from high budget commercial productions to small indie films. Formatting and creating a shot list is no easy task, however. In addition to understanding what a shot list is and how to read it, every filmmaker and visual artist must experiment.


What Is a Shot List?

A shot list is an A - Z list of camera shots that you as a creator want to include in every scene of a video or photoshoot production.

Created by the director and the cinematographer during preproduction, it outlines the precise specifics of every shot—such as the camera, shot size, and shot type—so the creators know exactly what needs to be captured to tell the story visually.


Why Shot Lists are Essential

Videos are rarely shot sequentially, as that would be inefficient and slow down the production process.

The shot list helps establish the most efficient shooting schedule possible. For example, if a scene requires multiple shots with a 50mm and 85mm lens, the crew can save time and group the shots according to lens setups.

A shot list also doubles as a guiding light for all crew members to help them stay synced no matter what task entrusted. It determines what equipment the camera crew needs, what lighting setups are needed, call times for the subjects, and what locations, set pieces, and props need to be ready.

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Facets of a Shot List

Every director should format their shot list as they wish, but as a rule, they all contain more or less the same information

  1. Shot number: the reference number assigned to each individual shot.

  2. Shot description: a short description of the action and/or dialogue.

  3. Shot size: how big or small the subject is in the frame.

  4. Shot type: the camera angle, or how the camera frames the subject.

  5. Movement: how the camera does (or doesn’t) move within the shot.

  6. Equipment: the type of camera that captures the shot.

  7. Lens: the camera lens used to capture the shot.

  8. Frame rate: the frequency at which the frames are captured.

  9. Location: where the shot is captured.

  10. Subject/Actors: the subjects or actors to be included in the shot.

  11. Sound: Any details relevant to acoustics and how the sound and/or dialogue are captured.

  12. Notes: remaining anecdotes the director wants to convey to the crew about the shot.

Is There actually a Perfect Shot List?


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A shot list is a paramount record to a production and its team, but it’s also a creative exercise for the storyteller and filmmaker. It challenges you to think about how particular camera angles can deliver your story, make a moment more impactful, or reveal easter eggs.

This is a space where it is encouraged to go as old school and simple as you desire. Though something simple akin to google sheets is just as solid a bet.

Create your shot list in an easily shareable spreadsheet that you can organize and effortlessly rearrange the details of what’s required for every shot. When any stakeholder looks at the shot list, they should quickly understand the vision and know what they need to do to help bring it to life.

If your shot list can accomplish the above it is perfect. The shot list is both a Gantt chart, Storyboard, and language of sorts. You can even utilize it on a run and gun. A shot list is what aids any visual artist in ideation and mapping out how to make it tangible.

“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” – Lao Tzu @Visualisevalue


Here’s how to create a shot list:

  1. Choose a scene from your mood board or script and open a new spreadsheet. The 12 elements listed above are the columns, and each individual shot gets its own row.

  2. Break down how you want to capture every individual shot in the scene one-by-one. Using your knowledge of shot sizes, shot types, and camera movements, consider how you want to capture each shot and fill in the columns on the spreadsheet accordingly. For example, share where you’ll do the establishing shot, where you’ll do individual coverage, and where a medium shot or close-up shot may be necessary.

  3. Give each shot a unique number, starting with 1. Every time you start a new shot, create a new row in the spreadsheet.

  4. Make sure you assign every part of the scene its own shot.

  5. Draw rough sketches or a storyboard of your shot list to better visualize how it will come to life and tweak it as needed.

Filming Beyond the Shot List

While the shot list is your guiding document, many last-minute changes or obstacles might and will appear. It is important to stay flexible and have additional contingencies set. It is more important to trust that you have put in the work to adjust accordingly and as long as you’re capturing everything listed on it, there’s usually time to capture bonus footage not included in it.


Every film needs breathing space, and in the editing room, you may discover the need to show the passage of time or simply transition between locations. Throughout shooting, plan to collect a bank of images that don’t necessarily fall strictly under your scheduled shot list but could (and will) come in handy and provide options during editing. Be transparent and work with your stakeholders to make sure they understand what visuals excite and encourage them to explore the potential of each filming location to capture these bonus pick-up shots.


TEMPLATES:

Media Morii - Basic Shotlist Template
.xlsx
Download XLSX • 15KB

GOOGLE SHEETS

Have fun creating and always feel free to reach out!

Team Morii

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