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How to estimate time needed for a shot


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#1 Pete Varnai

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Posted 21 May 2012 - 05:21 PM

Hi,

please tell my what is your technique for calculating how many shots to plan for a day. How many time will you need to light, and so on.

Of course there is no formula for doing this, but what are your experiences? What factors should be counted in for doing a fairly precise estimate.

(I also heard something about a BBC recommended shot/day standard)

Thanks, and Cheers,
Peter
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#2 Tom Jensen

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Posted 21 May 2012 - 05:31 PM

It varies. Normally it is broken down in pages per day. In the old days on big movies, as low as 3 pages per day. I think now it's more like 5 pages. 5-7 pages up to 10 pages is a great long day. In TV land. I forget, it's been so long since I've stepped foot on a set. Say you have a 90 page script and you want to shoot in 5 weeks working 6 day weeks, that will give you three pages a day.

Edited by Tom Jensen, 21 May 2012 - 05:32 PM.

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#3 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 21 May 2012 - 08:00 PM

Depends on the complexity of the shots, and they can get pretty complex on a big-budget movie. It also depends on the schedule -- are you on one set all day? Are you doing multiple sets? Are you changing locations within the day? If you have to factor in loading into and wrapping out of a location more than once during the day, that will affect how many set-ups you can accomplish. Also, do you have a 2-camera package and crew or only one?

For a typical low-budget movie with a single camera doing mostly dialogue scenes, I generally tell the director to limit his shot list to 25 set-ups -- sure it's possible to shoot more but I wouldn't plan my day around that. If you have a two-camera package and crew, you can get more done, but not twice as many set-ups.

So far, I think my record is 60 set-ups for a single camera day, 75 set-ups for a 2-camera day, and 91 set-ups on a 3-camera day. But that 60 set-up day was shot outside doing a handheld fight scene mostly. And those 75 or 91 set-up days were in large sets lit for a crowd scene so there was a generalized lighting set-up for the wides and mediums and I only had to clean up the lighting on a few close-ups. Obviously if you find yourself in a situation where you don't have to do much relighting, like in a grocery store with the overheads on, you should be able to get more set-ups done.
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#4 Matt Day

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Posted 21 May 2012 - 08:02 PM

My experiences actually vary quite vastly but here are a couple of my recent shooting experiences that might help inform you..

I was on a relatively simple shoot, one scene in one room, lighting was simple (so i thought), I'd planned for about 4 lighting setups and there were a few different camera setups too i recall. We were shooting 3 pages of script in a 5 hour time slot, that's cutting it fine but we could just about manage given the simplicity of the scene. We made it with about 5 min to spare, mostly in part due to complications with the lighting setup for one shot.

Consider this also, i was working on my last shoot with a very naive producer, i was told they had prior experience but you wouldn't have guessed (maybe they just pressed the button on the coffee machine?)
So he says we can shoot 3 pages of script in a single day. Sounds plausible, until you read through the shot list and realize there are about 19 different setups. That 3 pages of script ended up taking all of a week to shoot, due mostly to various complications imposed by the location.

Personally my trick is to overestimate the easy shots, doing so gives you leverage when problems pop up and eases the pressure slightly. Just don't over-do the over-estimations!

~Happy Days
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#5 Tom Jensen

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Posted 21 May 2012 - 08:25 PM

Also, one stunt could take all day or night. A big explosion will have multiple cameras going and is very dangerous. It takes a long time to rig and takes less than a minute to shoot.
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#6 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 21 May 2012 - 08:26 PM

I know that if you have a 12-hour day and say that a single camera might get 24 set-ups done, that sounds like you are only shooting one set-up every half hour. But keep in mind that you may only take 10 minutes to set-up a shot, which is not much time if lighting is involved, but you may spend 20 minutes shooting takes on that set-up. A lot of time can be spent on a set shooting takes. If I see that a director is averaging 7 to 10 takes rather than 2 to 3, then my estimates of how many set-ups we can get done in the day will be modified to take this new reality into account.
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#7 Jon Rosenbloom

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Posted 22 May 2012 - 09:34 AM

In my humble experience, it seems that your average TV show (NOT Boardwalk Empire) will take about 90 minutes from call to start shooting. Of course, on these shows, the actors and the beauty dept's all start work earlier than the call. If it's a low-budget, or student film (like I would shoot), it seems like it takes two hours to get rolling.

In planning my own shoots, I always have a tough time adjusting to how long things take when instead of a photo crew of 40 (cam, grip, elec, plus riggers.), I have a crew of 5. Also, we always seem to forget about costume, beauty, and "actor-time." Never-the-less, it seems to average out to a half-hour per shot.

As for finding a formula for figuring it out: I don't think such a thing exists. You have to immerse yourself in each script, break it down, figure out what you want to do, draw up your ideal schedule, watch it get trashed and adjust accordingly.

The biggest non-photographic factor is moving the gear: Loading in, packing the trucks, driving through traffic can have a huge impact on your days.
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