Scheduling your short film shoot: set-ups

A set-up is a shot. The set-up changes every time the camera changes position.

The rule of thumb for every set-up is:

  • 30 minutes for an average shot
  • 45 minutes for complicated shots (e.g. dolly, steadicam)
    • If there are added complications, such as traffic, lots of extras, or weather, I would allow 60 minutes
  • 20 minutes for an easy handheld ECU

Beginner filmmakers may be a bit confused. “How,” (they may ask), “can me and my friends with a DSLR take more than 10 minutes per set-up?”

If it is just you with your camera with no lights and no separate sounds, sure, 30 minutes is a lot.

However, on a professional shoot, with lights and sound and actors, this is what happens in a set-up:

  1. The 1st AD calls “moving on”, and directs the crew for the next setup;
  2. The Director may have the actors do a quick block through, while the HODs watch;
  3. The Director and actors move away;
  4. The camera department move the camera; change the lens; change the height of the tripod or put it on a dolly or whichever;
  5. The Gaffer and the Sparks may need to change the lighting set-up;
  6. The DP and Gaffer and their teams make sure the lighting and camera are right (which can take a lot of faffing time);
  7. The sound recordist checks where they can be to not cause boom shadow, and where the top of frame is;
  8. The AD calls the director and actors back in;
  9. The actors do a technical block through;
  10. The AD checks if the director is happy;
  11. The AC puts markers down for the actors and checks focus;
  12. The AD calls last checks;
  13. The MUA and wardrobe check make-up, hair, and costume;
  14. Once they exit frame, the AD calls quiet on set;
  15. The Clapper Loader (2nd AC) holds the slate in front of camera;
  16. The AD calls turnover;
  17. Sound and Camera roll; their operators call “Speed”
  18. The Clapper Loader slates;
  19. They exit frame; as soon as they stop moving…
  20. The AD calls “action”
  21. The action
  22. The Director calls “Cut”
  23. The Director gives notes to the actors; the script supervisor gets feedback for their notes.
  24. You go at least once again (steps 15-23) for safety (assuming you got it right the first time)
  25. Print: moving on

And that is what takes 30 minutes.

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Author: phetheringtonnz

Film Producer, Director, Lecturer. From NZ based in London.

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