Scout smarter, not harder. Here’s everything to consider on a location scout, plus download a free checklist!
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A great location scout is someone who is particularly adept at finding wonderful places for filming. While the task may seem rather simple, it involves much more than a leisurely stroll through a potential venue.
While scouting a location, there are many factors to consider beyond the visuals. These range from basic needs such as power and parking to potential problems such as a demolition derby going on next door. Even the smallest overlooked detail could prove fatal to your video shoot.
Make it easy for yourself with a dedicated location scout checklist to help you to fully assess a site’s amenities and limitations.
Get a jumpstart on location scouting with our free downloadable checklist and then start building your personal list with the help of the following suggestions.
Consider crew and production needs
No matter the size of your production or the type of location you need, every video shoot requires several basic accommodations.
Facilities for eating, sitting and using the bathroom are nonnegotiable. Do not consider a location that lacks these essentials. This may seem harsh and limiting, but think of it as a strategy for narrowing your search. No location is worth sacrificing the basic welfare of your crew and talent. Failure to provide these basics could impact the success of your video.
On the production side, power is paramount. Video shoots run on electricity. Be mindful of the power needs of your gear. Consider everything from lights and cameras to cellphones and chargers. You may need to make room in your budget for a generator.
It is also essential to have enough parking space to accommodate the vehicles you plan to bring. An inadequate parking situation can be a logistical nightmare for production. Focus on locations that offer free on-site parking near the entrance or loading docks.
Accessibility is another vital consideration. A shooting location should be reasonably accessible for the crew and for a video shoot. Think of how the crew will navigate to the site.
Is there adequate road access to the location? Will road closures impact the commute? Are excessive tolls necessary to reach the location? Make sure production vehicles can reach the site without significant trouble. Also, ensure that there will always be a way to enter the building when needed.
Then consider the site in terms of how it functions as a shooting location. Note if there are stairs or elevators, restricted hours of operation or areas that will be off-limits to production. For instance, if your location is on the top floor of a skyscraper but the elevator is broken, how do you expect to get everyone and everything up there? Be realistic and don’t waste time trying to solve a logistical problem that is unique to a single location. There are plenty of other sites in the sea.
Mind your surroundings
You will also need to realize that the act of scouting a location isn’t limited to just the area that will appear in the camera frame. You have to be aware of everything inside and outside the shooting area and how it might impact your shoot.
If you will be indoors, check to see if there are ambient noises such as an HVAC system or a water fountain that may affect the audio. If so, find out if and how you can disable those while you’re shooting.
If you will be outside, find out if the location is near an airport, a construction zone or a fire station. What about a public playground or a skate park? Take note of possible noise or continuity issues from the surroundings that could halt or delay production. Also, be aware of any scheduled events or activities that may coincide with your shoot date and time. Anything from a Thanksgiving Day parade to the noise from weekly yard maintenance could become a headache if it interferes with your video shoot.
There are many factors to consider when scouting a location. Whether you’re scouting one site or multiple sites, it's important to pay attention to all the details. Thankfully, a checklist makes location scouts more manageable and less daunting.
Download our free checklist to guide your next scout, or adapt it to fit your project.
Kathryn Price is a video producer and designer at United Methodist Communications in Nashville, Tennessee.