Shooting Ratio

After roughly six weeks of organization and media management, we finally have our fingers on the final shooting statistics of the documentary. A month ago, on August 19, 2017, we shared this photo of a camera slate with the current stats on the project.


275 Scenes

066 Rolls of Film

At that time we had ingested and logged 066 rolls of digital cinema, which equaled 275 filmed scenes. My Assistant Editor and I waged a friendly bet to see who could guess what the sum total of scenes (without going over) would be. We knew there are a total of 103 rolls of film; and so, we made out best guesses. Some of you participated too. Here is a record of the submitted guesses via Instagram and email:

Ellen Blaser: 685 Scenes

Deon Sagers: 649 Scenes

Kimberly Sagers: 633 Scenes

Bryan Pitcher [director]: 618 Scenes

Carla Pitcher: 598 Scenes

Loi Almeron [assistant editor]: 518 Scenes

Rupensil Milne: 500 Scenes


Today, I took this photo of the updated camera slate, reflecting the final stats on the project.


525 Scenes

103 Rolls of Film

With that, the person who came the closest without going over was Loi Almeron. Congratulations!

So, what does this mean and why does it matter? As a filmmaker, knowing the amount of scenes and the amount of raw footage you have on a project is important because it says a lot about your creative process, productivity, and efficiency. I’m not a sports buff, but I suppose it is akin to knowing how many base hits, fouls, and home runs you’ve had in a season.

In fictional narratives, you only film the written scenes of a screenplay. If you’ve never read a screenplay, I recommend you do it at least once in your life because it is inspiring to see the differences between the page and the silver screen. Sometimes the differences are vast, sometimes not. That said, screenplays are broken down into scenes. Scenes that happen outside are called exteriors. Scenes that happen inside are called interiors. Every time the screenwriter changes locations or moves a character from inside to outside within the story, it is written as a new scene.

Even though documentary films are non-fiction, I followed this structure of breaking down footage into scenes. Every time my subjects changed location or moved from inside to outside, I organized that portion of footage into its own scene. Ergo, the documentary has 525 self contained scenes.  Additionally, while I was in the field I kept detailed notebooks, where I would handwrite the scene location, time of day, and a summary of what happened during the filming of said scene.

The Shooting Ratio in filmmaking and television production is the ratio between the total duration of its raw footage created for possible use in a project and that which appears in its final cut. 

This week, I was able to tally the run time of all of the raw footage that I took while on Misima Island. Here is the breakdown by camera:


Canon C300 & DJI Aerial Drone | 193 Hours 34 Minutes 30 Seconds

GoPro | 47 Hours 11 Minutes 00 Seconds

Sum Total Hours | 240 Hours 45 Minutes 30 Seconds


In order to give you perspective, here’s an infographic that compares 8 fictional films shot over the last 35 years. As you’ll note, films are increasingly shooting more and more raw footage. In terms of shooting ratio only, the documentary Misima is on par with Apocalypse Now.

For documentary films, however, it can be different. While you usually have a conception in your mind about what the final story will look like, you are not shooting from a screenplay and have to be ready to follow your subjects wherever the story takes you. For example, the documentary Please Don’t Beat Me, Sir!, which is 75 minutes long, the filmmakers shot over 200 hours of footage. The thing to understand about shooting the unforeseeable is you might interview someone for an hour but only end up using a thirty second sound bite from the whole interview. 

Thank you for your support and encouragement.

I am glad you are along with us on the production journey.