Shot Sheets – A “How to” Blog on Video Production

 In Arts, Home Page, Uncategorized

Written by guest blogger, Tom DeAngelis
Owner, The Production House

We’re Back!

Just in time for returning to school, we’re giving you a few more things to think about as you approach your next video project.

There are a number of preparations you need to make before you bring gear, talent and crew to a location for a shoot. Today we’re going to talk about reorganizing your shooting script into the list of shots you will need to finish your show.  We refer to this list as a Shot Sheet.

Like most things in the production process, there are many levels and degrees of detail of how you can approach this.

First, the assumption is that you have followed our first two blogs.  At this point you have a solid idea for the storyline and you have put together a workable shooting script. If you haven’t gotten there, I suggest you go back and read the first two blogs on Pre-Production. (Read post #1 here and post #2 here)

Okay, you have a script. From this script, you need to develop a shot sheet. In a short show like a 30 or 60 second commercial, you may develop a storyboard.  The storyboard is a more detailed form of a shot sheet.  It is a sketched out view of each shot you intend to use to visualize your show. The storyboard illustrates the kind of shot (close up, long shot, etc), the angle or point of view (low angle, high angle, etc.) and any motion in the frame should be designated as well as what dialogue will accompany the shot.

Most producer/directors do not storyboard, in detail, longer shows.  Alfred Hitchcock, however, was somewhat obsessed with the preproduction, organizational process and would storyboard his entire feature length films.  So have at it if you like.

Most shows that rely primarily on candid/fly-on-the-wall or run and gun type of shooting are not storyboarded, but most times videographers will have at least a rudimentary shot sheet. Even in run and gun photojournalism, an experienced videographer has in mind what shots he wants to get and where and when he will get them. If you do not storyboard, you should have a written shot list that includes the same information that a storyboard would minus the graphic illustrations.

So, why do you need the shot sheet? The answer goes back to efficiency and budget.  But the results of being organized effects many different areas especially attitude and focus of your talent and crew. When things goes smoothly and people work quickly without chaos, you have a happy work environment, and good things come from a happy work environment.

Traditionally film/visual storytelling is shot out of sequence. 

Unlike live theater where one scene follows another in more or less a linear progression, film through the magic of editing can distort time with flashbacks, split screens and any other number of visual effects and transitional devices. But even when a storyline progresses in a linear timeline moving chronology from one event to the next, there will be scenes shot in the same location. The trick is to minimize your travel and your number of setups (lights, microphones, cameras, etc.).

By listing and describing each shot and then color coding your shot sheet you can easily recognize which shots, let’s say, will be:

  • outside by the edge of the lake,  BLUE
  • which might be in the sailboat, GREEN
  • which will be back inside the cabin at the kitchen table,  RED
  • and which will be in the truck driving to the cabin.  YELLOW

It doesn’t matter when these shots/scenes will appear in the show. Some sailboat shots may occur in the beginning, some may come at the end.  Some shots at the kitchen table may be used in the opening scene and then show up again midway through the show.

As a producer/director trying to keep an eye on time and budget, you would be wise to shoot all of the scenes that you will need at a location to finish a show during one setup. It doesn’t matter that they are out of sequence.  The trick for the talent (if actors are involved) is to get in and out of character for the scene when it will appear in the show.  They may be happy in the first scene and angry later in the show.  It’s their job to make that attitudinal change from one shot to the next…two entirely different scenes shot perhaps 30 minutes apart but happening years apart in the final edited show.

Unless you have issues with light or weather for exterior shots, you should make every attempt to get as many shots as you can from one setup. Consult your shot sheet and check for continuity in dialogue, movement, wardrobe, etc. As you successfully complete each shot, check it off and go on to the next one or the next set up.

Just a short note: some people refer to the Shot Sheet as a Shot “Log”.  There is no definitive right or wrong in terms of the descriptive vernacular.  However, we look at the Shot “Log” as the list of shots we’re choosing to use in the editing phase of our project.  For us, it’s part of the Post Production Process. So we will talk about that when we address that component of the workflow.

That said: your Shot “Sheet” outlines the physical execution of what you visualized on paper in your script before you load up gear and transport the crew.  If you stick closely to the Shoot Sheet during your shooting days, you’ll find your days will move along smoothly.  You’ll hit your deadline, and budget.  And your talent and crew will thank you for making their job a pleasant experience.

Next time we’ll talk about some of those things that need to happen before you get on location to actually begin using your shot sheet and shooting your award winning show.

To Learn more about generating Shot Lists as part of your Pre-Production workflow check out this article from School Video News.

Until next time…

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