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Creating a Costume Reference Sheet

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 3/12/2010

Here is an easy way to build a Costume Reference sheet for your film or digital video production.

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    Pre-Production Forms

    There are a large number of forms that are used in pre-production to make sure that you are ready to go when production actually rolls around. This is done so that during production most practical questions are already answered and problems are troubleshot before they even occur. This is often why storyboards, shot lists, breakdown sheets, photo release forms, group release forms, and the rest are put together so thoroughly during pre-production. One pre-production form that is often overlooked is the Costume Reference sheet.

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    The Costume Reference Sheet

    A Costume Reference sheet is put together either by the wardrobe person, art director, or director them self depending on how large the crew is on the production. The Costume Reference sheet is supposed to act as the reference document for all clothing that is essential to the film. This is done so that everyone is aware of what should be worn, what has been worn in other scenes, and what needs to be worn in upcoming shoots. Just as every prop, shot, and location is planned and prepared with appropriate documentation, so should the wardrobe with the Costume Reference sheet.

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    Film Costume Preparation

    Creating a Costume Reference sheet is actually not as easy as some of the other pre-production documents. First, you need visual representations of the clothing. The best way to do this is to first find every piece of clothing that you know you want to be worn. Make a list of who wears it and when. Begin to take digital photographs of each piece of clothing in a position that allows them to be seen easily. Then begin to make character sheets for each person that is going to where specified clothing. On that character sheet you will put that character's name, the actor's name, the name of the production, the name of the director and art director, the shooting days that they will be on, and the locations. You will then arrange images of the pieces of clothing below that headline information. For each piece you will list the specific shooting day, specific location, and specific time period that they will be worn. After you do this for the entire cast you will have a complete Costume Reference sheet.

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    Completion of Documents

    Many Costume Reference sheets are not as complete as this, especially on small productions. On large productions, such as studio feature films, they will be much more detailed and will be backed up on a digital database. There will also be information for backups in case one of the pieces on the Costume Reference sheet gets damaged or lost. How complete you want it to be, and some of the specifics of the Costume Reference sheet, is dependent on how detailed you want to be in pre-production and how important the costumes are for your film. If you will be shooting the same scene over multiple days then this is going to be more important than if you are going to have different clothes in most scenes.