Now that you've tested your gear, you have a story idea for your commmercial, and even have some preconceived shots planned, it's time to create your final plan for your shoot before you head to the location. A plan is important for which tasks are done, in which order are tasks done, and who does each task.
A plan for any shoot is sometimes called a "brief." The brief might involve the following:
- shot list
- shooting schedule
- list of locations
- list of actors
- equipment list
- a storyboard (optional)
What can help you immensely at any shoot is a shot list. This is a list with each shot that must be taken for the purpose of telling a given story. For narrative films, a shot list can get really complicated. However, if you are shooting a commmercial, you might keep it simpler by listing each shot you need to get for your intended story. Figure out the best and most convenient order for each shot, then move to the task of creating a shooting schedule.
Make sure to vary the frame size of the shots, the camera angle of the shots, and leave time to shoot cutaways or "b-roll" for each location or setup so you can have more choices for editing once you get back to that task. Don't forget to get some audio presence (usually referred to as room tone or natural sound) from each location for your edit later. Room tone can be very helpful in fine tuning edits, especially for adding pauses (sometimes referred to as "beats") to your edit. You can put these details in the shot list.
A shot list is crucial to have for the purpose of making sure you have enough "coverage" for your story. It also ensures that you are not leaving out any crucial elements you need to tell your story the way you want.
Once the list of shots are made, you can create a shooting schedule. You should already have your shots arranged in an order that makes sense and makes the best use of your time. Don't forget to schedule in breaks and meal time for both you and for others helping you with your shoot (if you have others assisting).
Different setups that take place during a shoot, so plan on finding the ideal location for each setup you are planning. Ideally, "scout" your intended location ahead of time to determine any plans to shoot in that location. If you do not have time to scout the location in advance, consider building in some time for scouting once you have reached the location. Consider the equipment, requirements for equipment (like power outlets or lack thereof), and staff that is needed for each setup in each location.
List of Actors
Are you going to collaborate with others for your commmercial? Make sure you have a list of the people you plan to have in the shot for each location. Each person should be made aware of the time and place they are to meet you for the shoot well ahead of the shoot day. Call or email each actor the day before to check in with your talent. See if there are going to be any issues getting that person to the shoot. Plan to provide food and drinks for talent in your commmercial, especially if they are doing you a favor by appearing in your commmercial.
List of Equipment
You should already have a checklist of the gear if you've been following through this workflow. This helped you prep your gear. Bring this along with you to the shoot. This ensures that you leave with the gear you brought to the location intact. It's easy to leave behind small pieces of gear at a shoot. Going over your checklist on the way out prevents this problem.
A storyboard is crucial for shooting a commercial. Even before you head to the shoot, a storyboard can also be used in rehearsal to allow you the ability to practice what actors are going to perform live in front of the camera. A storyboard helps you plan ahead about how you might shoot the sequence, where you are going to place the camera, and what kind of camera angles you are going to need. Creating a storyboard is a helpful aid for not only realizing the look of your commercial, but it can also assist you on the set to make sure your vision is communicated to collaborators. Note that if you can't draw at all, storyboard artists can be hired for a nominal fee.
With your shot list, schedule, lists of actors, equipment, and a storyboard in tow, you are now ready to head to the location to shoot your commmercial.
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