4 Reasons Why Location Scouting Matters

When it comes to cooking up a successful video production project, planning and preparation is the secret sauce. It’s no surprise that we want your video to turn out great. But it may surprise you to learn that the ultimate success or failure of your video often hinges on what happens before the camera begins recording. In this post, we’d like to share about one of the things we do to make your video spectacular:

Location Scouting (noun)
A process by which a person or persons involved in a video production visits a shoot location prior to the shoot itself to collect data for planning purposes.

Below, I’ve outlined 4 key ways that location scouting can benefit your video production.

1. Environmental Preparedness

A location scout will note the size and condition of the space, from the parking areas to the filming areas. Can production vehicles get to where they need to be, and is there room to park and unload the crew and gear kit? Is that steep hill a smart place to park the grip truck if it’s the only option? What are the alternatives? Terrain and access can cause huge headaches if not planned for ahead of time.

What is realistic for gear and needed shots? In that tiny room with the emotional scene, will the slider actually fit in the corner with the person operating it? Can the jib fit down that hallway? Is there room to stage equipment somewhere safe? Maybe it’s a hot area; is there a cool place to store batteries? If an outdoor shoot with potential for rain, is there a safe place to store sensitive equipment? All of these things and more can be addressed before a circus of people and equipment arrive onsite!

location scouting photo example
A shot from a recent location scout we did in the Willamette Valley.

2. More Beautiful Videos

Photography and video, is, after all, “painting with light.” Location reference photos and accompanying notes are worth thousands of words in planning. (Pardon the cliche reference!) Pre-shoot photos (and sometimes videos) will help smooth out logistics both in front of the camera and behind it on the shoot day.

A scout will take photos that show lighting factors such as light color (yellow, daylight blue, or even flickery and greenish), direction, intensity, shadows, quality (harsh vs soft). These photos also provide information about space and potential background issues (i.e. – the cyclone fence with the outdoor swimming pool behind it, or the grossly bland walls). The scout can also look into light control (i.e. – Can we turn on and off the house lights in this conference room, or close those floor-to-ceiling drapes?). Seeing a location through a camera lens equips the crew to plan for how they can make a location look the most beautiful.

light meter example image from Cine Meter cellphone app
A location reference photo from a recent scout we did, using the Cine Meter app.

Photos and notes equip the DP to bring the most appropriate lighting equipment, lenses, and support gear for a given location. Believe me, knowing ahead of time makes a world of a difference! We’ve had potentially ugly videos turn out beautiful because the DP saw the location ahead of time and had the time to prepare accordingly!

3. Electrical Integrity

Will the crew need to plug in lights? Might they simply need to recharge batteries? A scout will want to know where power sources are located and their capacity. Will there be enough power, and will it be accessible? In some cases, a crew will need to bring a generator. If a crew is planning to use large lights with location power, the location scout will note where circuits are divided and their amperage. It’s not unheard of for a circuit to trip from one too many production lights!

4. A Better Soundscape

Refrigerators, air conditioning units, nearby airports, public areas, and even ticking clocks all become part of a video’s sound. Poor sound can make or break your film, and no amount of post-production work can fix truly bad audio. A location scout can listen, take notes, and equip the sound tech to plan accordingly. They might ask if the A/C in the building can be turned off for a specific period of time. They may touch bases with the person in charge of the jazz radio station echoing through the building. In some cases, the area’s soundscape may result in a mandatory change of filming location. Regardless of what happen, it’s always best to know ahead of time!

In Summary

Success comes from preparedness. Location scouting can make a potential disaster into a masterpiece. Potential benefits include environmental preparedness, more beautiful videos, electrical integrity, and a better soundscape. Any one of these elements can make a big difference in the cost and end product of any video production project.

At Outside Communications, we consider location scouting to be nearly essential. However, some locations are simply inaccessible ahead of the shoot date. That’s where our barrage of emails, phone calls, and meetings come into play. While gathering information onsite is ideal, gathering information via other means is the next best ticket. It’s all about being as prepared as possible. That is why we’ll take the time to scout before the camera rolls: our goal is to make your video a success, from start to finish.

About the Author

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Rachel Jones

As a project manager at Outside Communications, Rachel coordinates projects in content creation, web development, video production and digital marketing. Her background includes commercial video production, project management, drone piloting and chocolate making. She loves working with people and learning something new every day.

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