How to scout for the perfect film location
A successful shoot begins with selecting the right location. In fact, one of the most important steps in producing a high-quality video is scouting.
Most of the time we forget to check if the places we want to include in our video are actually really suitable for filming. But bear in mind that this process is as important as making sure your equipment functions.
Here are ten essential tips from production services company Benetone Films that will help you when shooting out on location.
Master your story
It is important to get familiar with the story plot so you can choose the best setting that will match every scene.
Always get back to the main reason why you are searching for a location: you have a story to tell to your audience. So, you don’t want to leave them confused because of an unsuitable backdrop.
Many locations will be available for you to choose from, but there will be very few that will best fit the story of the film, series or commercial.
Get your pen and notepad (or phone, tablet, camera) ready. They are your best friends when scouting. No matter how sharp your memory is, you have to take down all your observations as you go – often in one day – from one location to the next.
You will come across many settings when you walk or drive and various places will have similarities, differences, advantages and disadvantages that you might need to get back to later when someone asks, the script changes or your future job requires a similar setting.
Along with your notes, taking photos and/or shoot some video with audio so that you can give others the best possible idea of the potential your chosen location has.
Be aware of the weather forecast
Environmental factors such as rain, snow, sun, wind and temperature are crucial in selecting a location. They are simple things to check but could dramatically improve your output, depending on your story line.
Do not forget that equipment is also sensitive to these factors. For instance, exposing video cameras to rain, sand, or even moisture from water fountains or a waterfall may cause damage not only to the equipment but also to your reputation.
Too much bright light and hot temperatures caused by sunlight can also damage equipment if left exposed for too long without the proper care.
Moreover, low temperature can cause batteries to drain quicker. This is true to all type of batteries but some perform better than others. So, if you need to shoot some scenes in a cold climate, consider advising the use of external battery pack.
Audio is equally as important as the visuals
Use your microphone to check the surrounding noise at a location. Silence can contribute a lot to achieving great audio results in your film.
Also test wireless microphones, boom mikes and any other audio recording devices so you can listen closely to any interference.
Consider noise caused by the direct environment, including traffic, running water, echoes, and even any movements in the surrounding which your microphone may catch.
Coming back to our first point: the story, choose the location that best fits the scene and the sound that you need.
Observe light effects
Looking back at your story, it is important to work out the lighting capacity of every location. Indoors, there are quite a few things you can do to ensure a lower or higher amount of natural light without the help of electricity.
But there are some locations, such as homes, function halls, auditoriums, churches and temples, which often have a lower amount of light and are harder to adjust. You can try sample shoots to figure out what the best thing to do is in that area. Consider the option of changing lightbulbs, removing doors and other light-adding measures.
Before you decide on the location, check if it is exposed to full sun during daylight hours or covered by, for example, the shadows of a tree or building. Plus, don’t forget to check the average forecast for the time of the year in which the shoot is due to take place as well – one month can make all the difference.
Think about a power source
You always need to check for power sources. Even if the crew bring multiple battery packs, ensure you know where the nearest electrical connection is to ensure a smooth shoot under every circumstance. This does not just apply to outdoor locations but indoor locations as well, so you have to consider its availability during the scout.
During the hunt for locations you also have to take into consideration that there must be enough room for the storage of equipment, for example, trailers, a dressing area, and a room where crew and cast can wait. It is important that you can move freely in these areas to create a comfortable working environment.
Check nearby facilities
Checking facilities around the location is essential to ensure the smooth flow of activities during filming. These can include the availability of telecommunication signals for your mobile phones or even a pay phone in the case of a signal outage, hotels, food shops, a bank, and electronic stores for electrical supplies, medical clinics, and emergency service access.
Knowing these facilities are there and how to find them will help you prepare for any challenges that the crew can come across during the actual shoot. Problems are unavoidable, but preparation is just within reach.
Check all the legalities
Make sure you are aware of any permits or paperwork that needs signing before the scout or before the actual shoot. Parks, highways, cemeteries, government offices and private owned areas such as groceries, residential houses all require their own approach. When the deal is signed and the filming can go ahead then have those papers with you at all times so you can show them when you are asked for them.
If during your scout you don’t need any paperwork in order to inspect a location, then still make sure to ask permission verbally. Many owners of locations will help you if you tell them about the intention and will even assist you until you are done.
Check, check and double check
Once you have made a shortlist, you need to double check the locations on your list once more. Revisit the places that you want to include in the production to check whether they are still suitable for the story at the agreed shoot dates. Remember, conditions of locations inevitably change depending on the season, time of the day and even the day itself.
Again, the situation of a certain location depends on so many factors, so, rechecking its availability and appropriateness really is a must.