Jen Buchanan (Banned)
By Jen Buchanan 1315 days ago



Organizing your project before you shoot can save you time during the edit stage.

Why bother with shot lists? Simple: shot lists are the most effective ways to improve both the quality and efficiency of your next video project. Hollywood directors like Steven Speilberg, George Lucas and the legendary Alfred Hitchcock have all relied heavily on storyboards and shotlists to help communicate their vision to everyone from the cinematographer to the set designer. If everyone has a picture of exactly what it is you are after, you're more likely to get the desired results.


Essentially, a storyboard is nothing more than a series of sketches that represent the different shots in your scene, with each frame or panel in the storyboard depicting the angle and composition of a particular shot. By arranging these frames in sequence, a storyboard gives you a good idea of how your scene will play on screen.

Shot lists serve a similar purpose, listing each shot needed for a particular scene, in the order in which you plan to shoot them. Storyboards and shot lists insure you'll have enough coverage to meet your needs before you ever start rolling tape.


Begin by creating a shot list. Take a set of index cards (small squares of paper) and, using one card per shot, write a description of the shot. On the top line, indicate the type of shot (full shot, close up, medium shot, XCU – extreme close-up), the setting and the subject. On the lines below, write a concise description of what action takes place. Include any camera movement (pan, zoom, tilt). A shot list for the scene above might look something like this:

·    Card #1. Full Shot. Restaurant. A woman sits alone in a booth. The only other customer is a man seated at the counter.

·    Card #2. Medium Shot. She glances at her watch.

·    Card #3. Close Up. Watch. The second hand sweeps past the 12. It's dead midnight. Camera tilts up. Rack focus to the door. A man enters.

·    Card #4. Medium Shot. The man spots the woman. Camera tracks as he joins her at the table.

·    Card #5. Medium Shot. The man at the counter. Stirs his coffee and throws a discreet glance over his shoulder.

·    Card #6. Two Shot. The couple seated opposite one another. The man pulls a coin from his pocket and slides it across the table.

·    Card #7. Medium Shot. The woman picks up the coin and toys with it.

·    Card #8. Close Shot. The coin. Zoom in. It's covered with ancient Chinese characters.

All this may sound like a lot of effort, but it will be time well spent. Good planning will help you in the long run – especially when it comes to editing your film!

The Jargon you need to know

XCU: Extreme close up. For people, maybe just the eyes.

CU: Close up, the subject fills the frame. Emphasizes detail. For people, this is a usually a head shot, with perhaps only the tops of the shoulders visible.

MS: Medium Shot, the subject seen from the chest up.

FS: Full Shot, the subject seen from head to toe.

WS: Wide Shot, the subject seen within the larger environment.