Logging Your Shots in Digital Filmmaking - dummies

Logging Your Shots in Digital Filmmaking

By Nick Willoughby

During a film shoot, you’ll be capturing a lot of footage. Because your actors made some mistakes or because you wanted to take a few extra shots for safety, you may end up with several versions of the same angle or shot. During editing, these shots will look similar, which makes it hard to know which shot was the one you liked the best.

For this reason, you can make notes about each shot captured on a shot log sheet, which makes editing much easier and ensures you don’t miss the best take from each angle.

A shot log can be completed by an assistant director or by the director if you have a small crew. Ideally, the shot log will be the sole responsibility of one person during the shoot. Not using a shot log sheet makes editing very difficult if you don’t edit the film straightaway, because you’re likely to forget which shots were the best.

Some shot log sheets can get very complicated, especially for big‐budget films, because they record information about the footage, including details of timecode, type of lens, focus, and filters, which isn’t always needed for smaller productions. The following list includes useful information for you to note on your shot log sheet when filming:

  • Shoot date: This is simply the date that you’re filming the shots you log into your shot log sheet. This can be very useful when importing your footage and editing because it helps to track your footage and refer back to your shot log sheet at a later date.

  • Page number: Here you enter the page number for the shot log sheet you’re completing. You may find that you end up working with more than one sheet, so it’s important to number the pages. That way you can keep the shots in the order they were filmed.

  • Project name: Here’s where you complete the name of the film — a working title or a final title — you are shooting. Including the name helps make sure that you don’t get your shot log sheets mixed up with others you’re working on at the same time.

  • Production company: Enter the name of your production company or the name of the director here. This can be useful if your shot log sheets go missing because if they’re found, the finder may be able to send them back to you.

  • Clip number or name: This is where you enter the name of the clip or the number of the clip on the media card you’re recording to. (The clip is a segment of video recorded as a file to the media card or tape.) Some cameras will show the name of the clip when you watch the footage back on the camera. If your camera doesn’t show the clip name, just enter the clip number, which will be “1” for your first shot.

    You can record a few seconds of nothing at the beginning of a shoot so you can find out what the clip name is and make sure that the camera is working okay. Record this first clip on the shot log sheet as “test shot” so that the shot information doesn’t get mixed up, confusing you when editing.

  • Scene number: This is where you enter the scene number that you’re filming. This is useful because you may end up shooting more than one scene in a day, and because you may end up filming your scenes out of order. By recording the scene number, your shot log sheet will help you organize your clips when importing and editing your footage.

  • Take number: Here you enter the number of times a shot has been taken. (The number of “takes.”) This number resets every time you change the angle or shot. If you set up a close‐up, for instance, the first recording you make from this angle gives you the take number of 1. If you retake this shot without changing the angle, the take number will then be 2. Tracking takes helps you keep track of the number of times you filmed a shot. Usually, of course, the last take is the best.

  • Shot description: This is where you enter the details about the shot you’re filming. Here you may wish to note information about the shot type, the characters in the frame, and what happens in the shot. This information helps you identify the shot when importing and editing the footage.

  • Comments: Here you can enter any notes about the shot and how it went while filming. Include information about any mistakes made, reasons for retaking the shot, or if it was a good take or not. Here you can also make notes about which was the best take. This is the most useful part of the shot log sheet when importing and editing your footage because these notes can help you decide whether to use the shot in the final edit or not.

Here’s an example of the shot log sheet.

Shot logs can be handy tools. Don’t forget to use one.
Shot logs can be handy tools. Don’t forget to use one.