October 17, 2014 8:47 PM   Subscribe

How much more footage does a director tend to shoot for a 60 minute show than for a 45-minute show (i.e., 60 minutes with commercials?)
posted by michaelh to Media & Arts (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
What type of show? The format and the ambition of the director of the show and budget for the production will drive the amount of footage shot.
posted by mmascolino at 9:12 PM on October 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

In my experience, none. You shoot to the end of the budget. You trim for time in editing.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:18 PM on October 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A screenplay (or TV script, sometimes called a teleplay) clocks in at something like one minute of screen time per page.

A narrative TV crew on a conventional network with an average budget will shoot anywhere from five to eight pages a day, depending on how ambitious of a show it is and what is specifically required on a given day.

In my experience, an episode of an hour-long TV drama (on American TV with commercials) has a script about 50 pages long. Most hour shows shoot eight days per episode, though more ambitious shows run more like 9 or 10 days.

Half-hour single camera shows (e.g. something like Community or Modern Family) typically shoot 5 days, with scripts that run about 30 pages, though there are some exceptions to that.

I'm not sure how much actual footage, timewise, is shot per day on average, because that's not really a number that's measured by productions nowadays (I'm sure feet of film stock used was important back when actual film was used, but these days we use hard drives and it just doesn't matter unless you run out of drive space). However, it must run to hours per day. And keep in mind that a given shooting day will only complete a few pages of the script. So, in general "how much footage" doesn't translate neatly to "how much screen time", since inevitably you will have a zillion un-usable takes that ultimately don't matter at all. You could execute setups quickly and shoot a hell of a lot of footage, but it's still only a 50 page script. It's not like if you finish early the writers come up with more scenes to film.

FWIW, it might help to know that film shoots are meticulously planned in advance. Every day's work is scheduled to the hilt, factoring in locations, cast members, important effects, etc. There is basically no flexibility to shoot more than what was originally planned. Though very occasionally a director will come up with an interesting angle on the fly (adding to the shot list) or the actors will ad lib a line (adding to the run time of a scene). But all in all there is no real way to shoot an amount of footage not indicated by that day's schedule, which ultimately reduces to what is in the script. Which, if things are in any way sane, was written far in advance and can't be changed easily.
posted by Sara C. at 1:29 AM on October 18, 2014 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: I'm starting to get a picture of how this works. An hour-long with no commercials would have a 60-70 page script, shoot for 10-13 days, and be budgeted accordingly?
posted by michaelh at 6:49 AM on October 18, 2014

Depends if you have action sequences, CGI fantasy scenes, special effects--some of these can be done in post-production or by a second unit. Some shots, like sunset on the beach or aerials of a freeway, can be added from an existing library of footage (stock footage) and not factored into your shoot days but will affect your budget.
posted by Ideefixe at 7:21 AM on October 18, 2014

This is totally unanswerable. You can imagine various constraints, but every project is different. Content, cast, locations, time of day, effects, production company, director, producers, type of camera, number of cameras -- I could keep going ad nauseum but every little thing is going to be a factor.
posted by BlahLaLa at 8:27 AM on October 18, 2014

It would depend who is making the hour-long show, and why.

If HBO, maybe? Though I think their episodes top out at 10 days, with the assumption of running additional units to make it work. (So, fewer total shooting days, but you have the budget to hire en entire second crew to shoot other stuff at the same time as the first crew.)

Other less flush cable networks probably jam the full hour shows into the 44 minute production format and hope the entire crew doesn't quit due to burnout.

If it's a pilot, often they have completely different shooting schedules than a regular episode would. Often as many as 20 shooting days.

If it's a Very Special Episode of a network show, they probably are on the same schedule, the episode is just cut together differently. Maybe the script is a few pages longer? Again, here, tandem units are most likely used.
posted by Sara C. at 8:54 AM on October 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks to everyone so far. One final question - if the genre/network is the type to have additional units, do they shoot quite a bit more footage since the additional units are cheaper (presumably)? Or, are they still sticking to about the same number of pages but on the compressed schedule?

Also, I know it is a very general question, but I wanted a very general answer.
posted by michaelh at 9:16 AM on October 22, 2014

Best answer: You're still getting way too hung up on "footage".

Now that everything on TV is shot digitally, there is no such thing as "footage" anymore in a quantifiable sense. At one time, it was important to know literally how much film stock the crew was burning through in a given day, because stock is money. Too many takes wastes a specific and finite resource. But now that's no longer an issue at all.

You shoot the script you're given, in the time you have. That's about 50 pages in about 8 days, with a few exceptions.

Nobody except a few people in the post-production department ever bothers to quantify how much footage was obtained, because it just doesn't matter. At the end of the day, you can have three hours of footage or three thousand, it's still a 50 page script shot over 8 days that reduces to an hour-long hank of television.
posted by Sara C. at 10:58 PM on October 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

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