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The ultimate list for avoiding mistakes on the movie set

The ultimate list for avoiding mistakes on the movie set

If detailed web articles about making movies and thick film school books appear too long, confusing or complicated for you, here you’ll find a short check list that you can use at the start as a kind of cheat sheet. In short: if you have mastered the following points, you’re ready to make movies.

Preparation and materials

  • Before you start shooting: Check the charge on your camera’s battery and pack the accessories you will need. Making lists of accessories beforehand helps.
  • Perform a manual white balance before starting to shoot a new scene in which there is a change in the lighting conditions.
  • Regularly clean your camera lens.
  • Think about what you want to film before shooting. Decide on a topic and think about your target audience.
  • Save your material not only on the camera, but also make sure to copy it regularly to a computer hard drive, so that you won’t lose everything in case there’s a technical problem with the camera.

Shots and perspective

  • Rule number 1: Hold the camera steady! For distance takes with focal lengths starting from about 135 mm, it is advisable to use a rifle group (chest support), one-legged tripod, or preferably a three-legged tripod to avoid shaky camera work.
  • Addendum to rule number 1: In special situations, a shaky shot can bring an extra dose of excitement or authenticity.
  • Don’t film everything from start to finish in chronological order. Instead, you should collect settings, or scenes, that you’ll edit together into a movie at the end. If need be, make a shot plan.
  • Change perspective. Don’t always film “straight on”. Take shots from knee level, lying down (frog perspective), or from higher place (bird-eyed view). Children and animals should always be filmed at eye level, while interesting buildings should be filmed at an off angle from below.
  • If possible, take many close-ups (faces, hands, flowers, fruits, posters, street signs, menus, and so on).
  • Move the camera towards the object instead of using the telephoto lens to zoom in.
  • Shoot the same scene from many different angles, so that you can choose from the takes to pick the best for the edit.
  • Use the “shot/countershot” model as often as you can.
  • Consider cinematic solutions for time or location changes in the movie! Create transitions from one location to the next.
  • Use close-ups to bridge leaps in time. If you use a close-up, zoom out after 7 to 8 seconds to a knee shot or long shot and let it stay there for 7 to 8 seconds. You can always shorten it later.
  • Use facial close-ups from different angles during dialogs.
  • Move the camera either only vertically or only horizontally. Never pan diagonally.
  • Film consecutive shots from different camera positions. The camera angle should vary by at least 45 degrees.
  • Avoid gaps in continuity. Make sure that illumination or the position of the sun isn’t radically different, and that the viewer doesn’t immediately notice that several hours or even days separate scenes that belong together. Ensure that in a perspective change, all objects and people are at the same position as in the previous scene.
  • Avoid change in axis.  Take note of the right/left motion in sequential shots.


  • In no case should camera movements be edited next to one another. Camera movements, zooms or pans should always be separated from each other through stationary camera settings.
  • Start with a long or medium-long shot, then a full to medium shot, then close-ups and detail shots. Always move from the whole to the detail.
  • Use cuts as the actors move. The viewer is diverted by the movement and hardly notices the cut. You can also switch to a long shot in the middle of a movement.
  • As a rule, the less movement there is in a shot, the shorter it can be. No still shot should be shorter than five seconds. in contrast, scenes with rash movement edited one after the other could be much shorter.

That’s it. And now, we wish you tons of fun and success with your movie projects, and hope that we could be of help.


Duc's been part of the Social Media Marketing team since joining MAGIX in early 2016. When he's not active on social media, he enjoys trips to the cinema, hanging out and playing computer games with friends, and playing sport.

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