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Planning Your Short Film Shooting Ratio - Beverly Boy Productions

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Date published:

November 14, 2021

Planning Your Short Film Shooting Ratio

How do you when you’ve captured enough footage? Planning your short film shooting ratio can be a little bit tricky. Of course you want to capture enough to know that you’ll be able to produce the desired finished project at the desired length, but there’s also an essential balance between capturing enough, and overdoing it. Capturing too much footage wastes time, money and resources unnecessarily. 

The mathematic relationship between total footage and total runtime is more than just a number. It’s actually one of the most important decisions you’re going to make in regards to your production. Whether you’re producing a low-budget short film, a commercial, or a feature, understanding and planning your short film shooting ratio is going to help you to save time, make the most of your resources, and maximize your budget to get the most out of what you’ve got to work with.

scriptwriting by hand

Shooting Ratios Vary

Unfortunately, shooting ratios vary greatly. We’ve seen short films produced at a 2:1 ratio, and we’ve seen them produced at a 10:1 ratio. Naturally the filmmaker that shot 2:1 maximized their resources and got more bang for their buck than the one that shot 10:1. But how did they do it and why? What is it that causes one filmmaker or production crew to get so close to just the right amount of footage without jeopardizing their project while others go so far overboard?

First off, you’ve got to understand what a shooting ratio is. The shooting ratio is the number of seconds of footage captured for every second of footage that is used in the final cut. So a shooting ratio of 2:1 means that 2 seconds of footage were captured for every second of the finished project. Likewise, a shooting ratio of 10:1 means that ten seconds of footage was captured for every second of finished footage. 

You’re going to have different shooting ratios for different projects. For example, a quick social media blurb that you create for fans is probably going to have a lower shooting ratio than a television commercial. When you’re posting on social media, there’s less focus on making sure every single element is perfect, whereas when broadcasting on television you want higher perfection because you’re reaching a larger audience, likely people that are not already part of your close circle, and most definitely it’s costing you – quite a bit.

The average shooting ratio for a shot film is usually between 5:1 and 10:1. This is much lower than some of the insanely intricate feature films that are produced with amazing special effects and are touted to have a shooting ratio of up to 400:1. 

short film location scouting

Planning the Short Film Shooting Ratio

So how do you plan your short film shooting ratio? You start with a determination of how many total seconds you want your short film to be. Then you think about things like budget, precision, and post-production. The more film you have for the post production team to review, the more resources you’re going to be using up. 

In fact, more footage means more resources used when filming, more resources used when editing, and more resources used in reviewing the footage. All of this costs time and time is money when we’re talking about film production. Thus, if you’re on a tight budget, you should really consider carefully planning your shots and all of your footage and trying to keep your short film shooting ratio as low as possible. It will save your crew time, and money.

Be Care Cutting It Short

post production editing of short film

While you definitely don’t want to go overboard with your resources, it’s equally important that you don’t cut it too short. Much of your planning should consider the special effects, b-roll, or other needs of your short film. If you’re producing a short film that’s heave on the special effects and post-production elements, it’s possible that you’re going to need a bit more footage than say, for instance if you’re filming a basic commercial or promotional video. 

Keep in mind that if you don’t capture enough footage, or if you capture scenes that are poorly filmed because you were rushing or merely trying to keep your shooting ratio low, you could risk getting to post-production only to find that your team doesn’t have the footage they need – and you have to plan a reshoot. Reshoots can be incredibly costly and they’re time consuming. They can set your project back substantially in terms of budget and completion time.

To minimize your shooting ratio, take steps in pre-production to storyboard and really hammer down your ideas. It’s better to test and try out all of your different ideas on paper before you begin to attempt those ideas on set. You can include camera movements, character movements, set and scene changes, and a variety of other creative element sin your storyboarding, on paper or with graphic software, prior to filming to save yourself a lot of time, money, and resources.

Ultimately, planning your short film shooting ratio is going to be largely about your time, budget, and individual project needs. Films with more effects are going to have higher ratios than those that are very simple. Those with a higher budget can afford to have a higher ratio than low-budget short film projects. All in all, you’ll want to aim for probably somewhere around 5:1 as a goal to make the most out of your time, resources, and money. 

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