The Production Process: Part III – The Shoot


Photo Credit: Shoot Factory UK

This is probably the most exciting and most gruelling part of the process: the actual production shoot itself. It’s everything that all your time and effort in pre-production has been building up to, and if prepared well, it can truly be an amazing and rewarding experience. As long as you go into a shoot well prepared, and never take anything for granted, you will save yourself a lot of time, trouble, and confusion.

When you arrive on set with your crew, everybody should know their respective roles clearly and proceed to set up the scene. If you’ve done your due diligence during pre-production, you should have the following details or documents:

  • Call Sheet: A breakdown of your shoot day schedule; what time everybody should be gathered, what time you should finish setting up and be ready to shoot, how much time you should take to finish each scene, lunch hour, and wrap time. Try to abide by the schedule that you’ve planned out as closely as possible.
  • Production Floor Plan: A layout plan that indicates where everything should be positioned at: camera, lights, mics, actors, etc. This should be derived from your location recce and/or blueprint supplied privy.
  • Equipment Inventory: A checklist of all the gear that you should need for the shoot, and hopefully all the gear that you brought along during the shoot. Prepared well beforehand and this should only come into use when you’re wrapping all the equipment up afterwards.
  • List of Shots/Scenes: A document that lists down all the different shots and scenes that need to be done on that shoot day, and the chronological sequence that they should be shot in. Note that the production sequence may not necessarily follow the sequence of your storyboard, and should rather follow what are all the different shots that can be accomplished in one particular setup, before changing it for another scene.
  • Storyboard & Script: The finalized storyboard and script to always keep the story or content in perspective for the director and the actors.

Next up, you have to set up your shot. Here is a rough order of how to go about it:

  • Equipment Check: Checking, laying out, and assembling all your gear.
  • Framing: Positioning your camera at the angle, height and direction to properly frame your shot.
  • Lighting: Setting up your key, fill and back lights according to the scene
  • Set Design: Addition, removal, or rearrangement of certain props or environmental elements within your frame.
  • Blocking: Precisely staging your actors within the frame and adjusting your lights accordingly.
  • Sound: Setting up your boom mic at position just outside the frame and an angle that best captures the dialogue or sounds that you want, or attaching lapel mics to your actors’ clothes.
  • Rehearsal: Monitoring how the actors look as they go through the scene through your camera frame, and tweak accordingly. Also practising any camera movement required in the shot.

In a smaller production, some of these steps can be accomplished much quicker and easier, or even eliminated altogether depending on the type of content you are producing. Note that these are just the basic steps to a production shoot. Everybody works according to what they’re comfortable with; at the end of the day these are mainly just guidelines, and not a rulebook. So try them out and see what works for you.

Once you’re done setting up, and everything checks out on the technical side of things (camera, audio recorder, and microphone recording properly), you’re ready to say that magic word: Action!