How Many Takes in a Film Scene

How many scenes is too many? This is a question may aspiring filmmakers ask themselves, as they don't want to do to many as to exacerbate their subjects but also, they don't want to do too few as to compromise the integrity of a shot. The truth is that the number of takes in a scene can range from as little as one or two to as many as a several hundred. How many takes it takes you to get a scene just right really depends on how long it takes for every aspect of a scene to come together just right.

Reasons for Multiple Takes

There are several reasons filmmakers prefer to shoot several takes of the same scene rather than accept the first take as is. For one, it takes a while for all actors to get their lines and actions exactly right. Even if the actors nail their lines the first time around, the lighting may be off, or the actions may not be in line with the desired future special effects. Also, props may not be properly aligned, or the camera settings may be off. It takes directors multiple takes to figure out where they want everybody and every object and which settings will result in the scene they envisioned.

Some directors prefer to do multiple takes because doing so tends to loosen up actors and help them perform more naturally. One such director is David Fincher, the director of Gone Girl, Zodiac and The Social Network. The scenes of Fincher's films often average 50 takes or more.

The Stages of Shooting

While there is no right or wrong answer for how long a scene should take, you can speed up production by knowing the five stages of shooting and how to optimize each. Those five stages are as follows:

  • Block: Know where on set the actors will be.
  • Light: Position the camera so it captures the desired light.
  • Rehearse: Run through the scene once or twice.
  • Tweak: Make adjustments as necessary.
  • Shoot: Shoot the scene and repeat the above steps.

It could take you as little as one or two scenes to get a scene just right, or it could take you as many as 100. You can also find professionally curated footage for your next project on Shutterstock’s stock video library with millions of high-quality clips.

Need quality footage for your production?
Shutterstock has millions. Explore our footage plans today.
View Collections
  • Was this article helpful?

Can’t find what you’re looking for?