How to Create a Shot List: Step-by-Step Guide [2024]


Before diving into the how-to of creating a shot list, let’s briefly revisit what a shot list is. 


A shot list is a detailed outline for every scene in your film or video project, including information on shot types, camera angles, movement, and more. It’s an essential tool for filmmakers, ensuring that every aspect of your production is meticulously planned and executed.


Why do you need a shot list?

Creating a shot list is crucial for several reasons:


  1. It keeps your filming organized and efficient.
  2. It ensures that you don’t miss any critical shots.
  3. It helps in visualizing the final product even before filming begins.


What are common elements of a shot list?

Scene and shot number: For organization and scheduling.

Description: details of what occurs in the shot.

Camera specifications: angles, movement, and equipment.

Audio requirements: noting if the shot includes specific audio elements.


We will dive further into more details later in the articles.


Tips for an effective shot list

When crafting your shot list, it’s essential to be detailed yet flexible.

A thorough shot list sets a clear path for production, but it’s equally important to stay adaptable. Be prepared to adjust your plan based on real-time scenarios that arise on set. This flexibility can be crucial for capturing unexpected moments that enhance your film. 


Collaboration is also key in this process. Regularly discuss and refine your shot list with key team members, such as the cinematographer and first assistant director. Their insights can greatly enrich the planning and execution of each shot. 


Finally, organization is vital. Choose a format for your shot list that is easy to read and modify. Many filmmakers find spreadsheets to be an effective tool, but if you want something that really helps your team and makes things easy, you can try Shai for free and leverage our AI Shot List software to make shot lists easily.


The step-by-step guide to create shot lists in 2024: 5 steps


  • Read and analyze your script


Script analysis is the process of reading a script to identify its key elements for visual storytelling. It involves breaking down scenes to understand the narrative, character development, and visual requirements.


Who is responsible for analyzing the script?

Typically, the director leads script analysis, often in collaboration with the cinematographer (Director of Photography or DoP) and sometimes the writer. They dissect the script to envision how it translates visually.


How do you analyze a script?

Read for the narrative: the first read should be about understanding the story and characters. Look for the narrative arc, character development, and themes.

Identify key scenes: highlight scenes that are crucial to the plot or character arcs. These scenes might require special attention visually.

Visual elements: on subsequent reads, focus on visual elements. Look for descriptions of settings, time of day, and character actions that impact visual storytelling.

Dialogue and subtext: pay attention to dialogue and subtext. Consider how they can be visually represented or enhanced.


What are some examples for analyzing a script?

Scene: A tense confrontation between two main characters in a rain-soaked alleyway at night.


Narrative Importance: The scene is a pivotal moment where the protagonist confronts their past.


Visual Elements Noted: The rain, dimly lit alley, close-ups of the characters’ faces, mid-shots to capture body language, and the use of shadows to enhance the tense mood.


  • Scene breakdowns


Breaking down a scene is a crucial step in pre-production, where you dissect each scene to determine exactly how it will be visually represented on screen. It’s about translating the written script into specific, actionable shots that will collectively tell the story. 

This process involves a meticulous analysis of each scene’s elements to ensure that every aspect of the script is captured effectively and creatively.


Who is responsible for the scene breakdowns?

The director often takes the lead in breaking down scenes, in close collaboration with the cinematographer (DoP). In some cases, the first assistant director and even the scriptwriter and producers may be involved, providing additional insights.


How do you perform scene breakdowns?

Read and visualize: start by reading the scene and visualizing it in your mind. Picture how the action unfolds and how the characters interact.

Identify key moments: look for pivotal moments in the scene that are crucial to the story or character development.

Decide on shot types: based on the action and emotion, decide what types of shots (e.g., close-up, wide shot) would best capture each moment.

Think about transitions: consider how shots will transition from one to another. This impacts the flow and pacing of the scene.


What are some tips for the scene breakdowns?

Storyboarding: creating storyboards can help visualize the scene before filming. This can be particularly helpful for complex scenes or action sequences.

Location scouting: visiting the location beforehand can provide insights into how to best shoot the scene.

Dialogue vs. action: pay special attention to how dialogue and action interact. This affects choices like shot size and camera movement.

Emotional impact: always consider the emotional impact of each shot and how it contributes to the overall feel of the scene.


This process can take hours, depending on the length of the script. It has been done traditionally in a manual way, but you can try AI Shot List software to do this automatically in a matter of seconds.


  1. Detail the shots


For each shot, specify the camera angle, movement, and type of shot.

Include technical details such as lens requirements and any special equipment needed.


See below in specific what should be detailed.


Camera angles and movement: specify the camera’s position and how it will move during the shot. Will it be a static shot, a pan, a dolly in, or a handheld feel?


Type of shot: define whether it’s a close-up, medium shot, wide shot, establishing shot, etc. This impacts how the audience connects with the characters and the environment.


Lens and framing: choose the appropriate lens for the desired shot size and composition. Consider the depth of field and what needs to be in focus.


Lighting and mood: describe the desired lighting setup. Should it be soft and diffused for a tender scene or harsh and shadowy for suspense?


Blocking and action: outline where the actors will be in the frame and how they will move within the shot.


Again, as in the script breakdown process, this phase can be quite complex and lengthy. AI pre-production softwares like Shai can help in automate most of the work for you, and get you a few steps ahead, reducing the headache.


Who is responsible for the shots details?

Typically, the director, in collaboration with the DoP, is responsible for detailing each shot. They might also consult with the production designer, gaffer (chief lighting technician), and other key crew members to ensure that every technical and creative aspect is feasible and aligns with the vision.


  • Consider time and logistics

Estimate the time required to set up and shoot each scene.

There are several factors to consider when estimating the time needed for each shot. 


Below you can find a comprehensive list.


  1. Camera setup and movement: complex camera movements like dolly shots or crane shots require more setup time than static shots.
  2. Lighting requirements: intricate lighting setups, especially those involving multiple light sources or changes within a single shot, can significantly increase setup time.


  1. Location accessibility: hard-to-reach locations may require additional time for transporting and setting up equipment.
  2. Environmental conditions: outdoor shoots are subject to weather changes, which might necessitate adjustments in scheduling.
  3. Special equipment: The use of specialized equipment like Steadicams, drones, or underwater rigs requires extra setup and calibration time.
  4. number of actors in the shot: more actors typically mean more time needed for blocking and rehearsals.
  5. Experience of crew: experienced crews tend to work faster and more efficiently, but the learning curve for less experienced members can add time.
  6. Complexity of actions: scenes with intricate action sequences, stunts, or choreography may require additional rehearsal time before the actual take.
  7. Makeup and wardrobe: elaborate makeup, prosthetics, or wardrobe changes add to the setup time for a shot.
  8. Set changes: time needed to switch from one setup or location to another within the same shooting venue.
  9. Resetting props and set decorations: reorganizing the set for different shots can add to the time, especially if it involves significant changes.


Let’s make a practical example showing how to estimate a time per shot to be used when you are creating a shot list.


Consider a scene involving a dialogue between two characters in a busy café. A wide shot might take around 30 minutes to set up, considering the lighting, background noise control, and positioning of extras. Close-up shots of each actor might require an additional 15-20 minutes each for repositioning the camera and adjusting lighting. If the director plans to capture the scene from multiple angles or include reaction shots from other café patrons, this will further add to the time required.


  • Create a storyboard


Creating rough sketches or storyboards can help visualize the shots more clearly.

This step is particularly useful for complex scenes or action sequences.

A storyboard is a visual representation of how a film or scene will unfold, shot by shot. Storyboards are crucial for pre-visualizing the cinematic narrative, providing a clear picture of how the story will transition from paper to screen.


Who is responsible for the storyboard?

Primarily, storyboard artists. These artists are experts in visual art, transforming written scripts into a series of visual frames. They collaborate closely with directors and DoPs, capturing the essence of each scene through their illustrations. 

In smaller productions, directors or cinematographers often take on this role, creating rough storyboards to share and refine their vision. 


The process of creating storyboards can be quite lengthy, complicated and expensive; that’s why Shai has developed an AI Storyboard Generator that allows users to generate storyboards entirely automatically. 


What are some tips to create storyboards?

Keep it simple: storyboards don’t need to be works of art. Simple sketches that convey the framing and major elements of the shot are often enough.

Use storyboard softwares like Shai: AI storyboard generators can simplify the storyboard process, offering templates and easy-to-use tools for creating and organizing frames.

Include key details: note important elements like character expressions, significant props, and the type of shot (e.g., wide, medium, close-up).

Sequential flow: ensure your storyboard flows logically and matches the script sequence. This helps in understanding the pacing and rhythm of the scene.


Hope this article helps to get you started, or to make your process even better.

If you’d like to try Shai out, and help you during your shot list creation process, you can sign up for free here.


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