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Storyboards and Shot Lists, Changing them


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#1 Alex Donkle

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Posted 16 October 2008 - 09:17 PM

Sorry if this isn't the right board for this, but if it isn't can you just let me know of a better source for this questions...

Working as a director on my first well crewed student short film (most of my shorts are just me holding the camera and doing everything), I had some trouble communicating with the 1st AD about scheduling shots on the day.

Normally I shot list and/or storyboard everything (which from what I gathered is what my 1st AD always works from strictly), but for this short I was on the fence so I had a shot list I drew up the night before but deviated from it significantly while shooting. Got through everything in the end but I'm trying to fine tune a way to flow more efficiently in the future.

What I would prefer to be able to do is block the actors and have all the camera ideas in my head, then rattle them off quickly to someone for writing down (writing them down myself I end up missing stuff). And being able to describe shots in cutting order rather than shooting order (i.e. I want an overhead shot here, then CU on Fred, then helicopter shot, then OTS on Fred).

Is this a standard way of working? Or can most directs think of all the shots, then just reorganize them internally to tell the AD...

The AD I was working with wanted me to rattle through every sticks shot on each character, then every dolly shot, then every handheld shot. With a lot of shots and thinking in shooting order instead of cutting order I got rather mixed up by the time I was thinking of handheld shots. If that's just a skill I have to learn for a good shot without a perfect shot list then fine, but should I be able to find an AD that can work in the way I'm describing?

(My one, admittedly odd solution, was having a cheap video camera just record me walking around pointing out every camera position/direction we'll be getting, then the AD can just re-watch it pausing and playing the video to write down every shot) But I haven't been on a pro set before, so I don't really know how other directors handle this.

Any help would be appreciated.

Thanks,
Alex
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#2 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 16 October 2008 - 09:32 PM

Highly Highly depends on the set.
I've been on shoots where I've shot listed everything with the director and followed it exactly, those where I've not, those where we did and tossed it, and those where it evolves while shooting (most common).
The best way to work would be getting the Wide, Medium, Close, Inserts/Specials.. As for dolly, why not just leave the camera on it? Moving camera on dolly is common. Then pop it off for the hand-held.
It takes some skill, but as you go along you start keeping shots in order. It's always nice to have a shot-list, though your script supervisor should be keeping track of what you've shot. Also, an AD with camera logs can help.
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#3 Mike Washlesky

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Posted 21 October 2008 - 10:54 AM

What I would prefer to be able to do is block the actors and have all the camera ideas in my head, then rattle them off quickly to someone for writing down (writing them down myself I end up missing stuff). And being able to describe shots in cutting order rather than shooting order (i.e. I want an overhead shot here, then CU on Fred, then helicopter shot, then OTS on Fred).

(My one, admittedly odd solution, was having a cheap video camera just record me walking around pointing out every camera position/direction we'll be getting, then the AD can just re-watch it pausing and playing the video to write down every shot) But I haven't been on a pro set before, so I don't really know how other directors handle this.



I guess you didnt have a DP? Usually that would be the guy that would write out your shot list in shooting order and then hand that to the AD. Rattling off the edit after blocking doesnt help anyone but you and the editor, and thats kind of problematic when you are in the middle of shooting. As a DP I usually talk in depth with the Director about every single scene and how it will all break down visually in edit-order, then go back after we've created that shot list, and break it down into shooting order. There is never an AD involved in those situations. Your DP is the one who needs to be checking off mentally what shots are needed and what have been shot. At least in my experience thats usually the way it shakes out. Also, having an overhead diagram of camera positions with a number by each camera position to signify shooting order really helps. Thats really the simplest way to convey your ideas to anyone who needs that info and that reduces confusion. The whole video camera thing you mention seems like a "time-suck 2000" and if you are working with experienced production folk, wouldnt want to spend the time viewing that. I know I wouldnt..

Was this AD an experienced veteran or a student filmmaker?
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#4 Serge Teulon

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Posted 21 October 2008 - 11:17 AM

I think what has been said already is extremely valid.
It does sound to me though, that your AD wasn't aware of what effect he was having on you. It's not his responsibility to that but it helps if you understand how you are affecting others.
Saying that, it is your ship. Therefore, if you feel someone is confusing you then you have to vocalise how their actions are affecting you. He is after all your AD!

I personally like to SB everything, as I find that when shooting you can add and take away things with less of a chance of confusion happening. But really it is down to the Director whether SB happens or not.
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#5 Alex Donkle

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Posted 21 October 2008 - 07:35 PM

The AD was a student, but had worked as a 2nd AD on a couple low budget features (everything in Indiana though, so he may have just learned slightly off-beat standards). We had a DP, but I collaborate with him like Spielberg with his DPs. Namely that I handle 98% of shot and lenses choices, then have him focus on the lighting of those shots. That's actually the first I've heard of a DP scheduling a shot schedule though, everything else I've read lead me to believe that the AD set that up himself. (Actually, if anyone know how he handled creating shot lists on the fly during Schindler's List I'd be very interested to hear about it)

In regard to whether the AD was aware I didn't like his preferred way of working 100%, it was mostly left unsaid as when I originally said that I wanted to change the shots and started walking through the new ones (in cutting order), he stopped me and said he really needed just to know the CUs on one characters first, then the CUs on the other, then the other, then the dolly shots, then the handheld shots (in a shooting order)... And talking to him later he said for him to make up a shot schedule without me putting any thought into the shooting order myself, he would want a complete shot list from me a week before at least.

So I think every set he's worked on followed strict shot lists basically. I put this together while on set and I probably could've twisted his arm to write down shots as I tell them, then do the entire order himself, but opted against that because since he hasn't worked that way before inevitably there would be some mis-communication and something would be missed (plus having not worked with crew a lot I had some fright that how I wanted to do it was just completely non-pro, something I learned doesn't really matter as long as everyone is on the same page and the results are good).

I certainly got a much better handle on how I prefer to direct with a crew though, so on future films I can be very clear in pre-pro about how I like to work and what I'm looking for an AD to do.
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#6 Bob Hayes

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Posted 21 October 2008 - 11:35 PM

As a director you get to do what you want to do and pay the consequences for not doing them correctly. The ideal is you know all of your shots ahead of time but are flexible enough to change if better solutions present themselves. You have to articulate to all involved what you want to organize them in an order that makes sense for production and for the cameraman. The more you understand how to do this the better a film maker you will be and the more in control of your future. I like to draw put the sets and then diagram all the shots from above. I then think of the most sensible way to shoot. It is important to involve all the departments in your decisions so they are caught short.
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#7 Serge Teulon

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Posted 22 October 2008 - 10:42 AM

you nailed it Bob!
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#8 Alex de Campi

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Posted 22 October 2008 - 11:53 AM

I have always seen the storyboard as the place to work out your shot flow in edit order, then the shot list takes the SB and turns it into a sensible working document for the crew - noting which shots in SB can be done in a continuous take or on the same setup and grouping them together (possibly tweaking shot ideas to allow them to be done in the same setup as another shot), and thinking through production issues.

As I'm sure you know, the things that really slow a shoot down are re-lighting and moving grip. It is in your best interest to group your shots out of sequence into setups - in a one-day shoot, I generally try to order my shots in the following manner:

1. Anything with a large amount of extras, shoot first - this isn't a camera thing, this is an "omg, get all these people off my set" thing - and also extras (especially unpaid ones) have very limited patience. Keep the shoot short and exciting for them, wrap them early, and they'll come back on your next shoot.

2. Then light the wides (establishing your lighting "feel" for the entire scene/location)

3. When selecting which of the wide shots to do first, I suggest picking all the work with large pieces of grip: dolly work or jib work. It is worth, for example, grouping as much of your jib work together as possible so you can wrap the jib early on. Then move onto the big dolly moves, etc. Also, people get tired as the day goes on. The more resource intensive shots with jib / steadicam / dolly are always nice to do when folks are fresh.

4. Then work through the mediums, then the closeups (which will require lighting tweaks but! because you've already lit the wides, this shouldn't take too long) for each camera setup.

Basically, move the camera as few times as possible. Light the wides first, then move in. Do the stuff with grip first, then the stuff on sticks / h/held. Why should you do all this rather than shooting in edit order? Simple: efficiency. You will get a lot more slates shot over the same time span.

I generally organise my shot list into discrete groups of similar shots to give some flexibility on the day. If something isn't ready in time for what I had scheduled as the next group of shots, I can then skip ahead to another group without getting myself confused. Plus, crossing things off a list as you do them is a way I love to work as my brain has been known to completely shut down on the day due to OMG DETAIL OVERLOAD.
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