7 Tips That Will Help You Really Nail Location Scouting
Finding perfect location for your project takes time, planning, and most importantly, attention to detail.
Real estate and filmmaking are not all that different in that one of the major selling points they can offer their respective clients (home buyers/audiences) is location, location, location. When crafting the world of your film, the physical places you take your viewer to have a major effect on the emotional places they’ll be taken to, which, of course, is your ultimate goal.
This is precisely why location scouting is such an important step in filmmaking, but it’s often one that new filmmakers tend to either phone in or skip altogether. So, to get some practical advice on how to best scout locations, watch as Jakob Owens of The Buff Nerds offers some up in the video below.
When are you planning on shooting your project? Morning? Afternoon? Night? Whichever it is, you should scout your locations at that time so you can take note of what it looks like, how the sun affects shadows, colors, and the overall look of the area. Also, pay attention to what your location sounds like at the time you plan on shooting. Does traffic pick up around noon? Are kids being let out of school during that time? These are all things to keep in mind.
Take note of the sound of your location
Again, paying attention to what your location sounds like is important if you plan on recording audio. Some filmmakers forget this step and are unprepared to deal with noise from heavy traffic, buzzing and beeping from electronics, and hissing and whirring from appliances. Knowing what your audio obstacles are before you decide on a location can save you from securing a place that is impractical and impossible to shoot in.
Take pictures of interiors and exteriors
One important piece of gear to bring with you when location scouting is a camera, whether it’s your trusty DSLR or your smartphone, because you’ll need to take lots and lots of pictures of all the interiors and exteriors you’re interested in shooting. There’s nothing worse than being back home trying to decide on a location when you have no way of referencing it with your team.
Check for power
Does your location provide enough juice to power all your gear? Count sockets and take note of what kind they are (two or three-prong). Do you have access to a circuit board? Does the owner/manager of the location even want you using their power sources? If your location doesn’t have power, you’ll need to ask yourself about your options, like whether you need/can afford a generator, if you can use light modifiers alone to shape light from the sun, if you can get your hands on some battery-powered LED lights.
Evaluate the area
This is more of a logistical tip: make sure you evaluate the area for essential services, including internet and cell service, food, water, and gas availability, banks or ATMs for withdrawing money (if you need cash). Also, make sure that your map actually takes you and your crew to the right place. I can’t count how many times an online map has taken me miles away from my destination to the middle of nowhere.
Bring a notebook and pen or use an app in your phone to take down as many notes as you can. Do not rely on your memory for everything, because you’ll be filling your head with so much information throughout the day that you’re bound to forget something—something that is probably incredibly important.
Don’t underestimate Google Maps
Google Maps is an awesome resource for location scouts because it provides satellite images of almost every square inch of the entire world. And once you find something that piques your interest, you can zoom in and get a 3D 360-degree view of the area without having to actually get in your car and go searching. Seriously, don’t underestimate the power of Google Maps for location scouting.