Strong talent, clear direction, and competent editing are just part of successful cinematography: good filmmakers know the value of finding the ideal setting – they know the value of location scouting.
Location scouting involves searching for spots that fit the bill. Armed with scripts, notes, and checklists, scouts research multiple locations online and in person to set the perfect tone for an enthralling film.
Scouts don’t just look for the positives. They also uncover the limitations and flaws of different sites, laying the groundwork for smoother filming.
For any budding filmmakers out there, here are ten crucial tips to remember to ensure your location scouting is of Hollywood quality.
Ten location scouting tips for any film production
1. Know your script
Finding a location that looks good on camera is only half the battle. Ensure you understand the script’s pacing and content to find locations that reinforce the narrative. Looking good is one thing – but does it match the tone, style and vibe of your script?
2. Location scouting requires the right time
The same location can look wildly different depending on when you visit – the differences can quite literally be day and night. When picking a spot, be sure to come at times that match the story — like at night for evening scenes — and let you explore without fighting crowds and traffic. Make sure you get a sense of how the location looks at polar opposite times and situations.
3. Mind the lighting
Bring a light meter and be ready to shoot test footage: few locations have perfect natural lighting for film, so you’ll want to inform your crew what to expect. A stunning location will quickly become a hindrance rather than an asset if it can’t be properly lit.
4. Confirm available power supplies
Make sure your spot has accessible, reliable energy: there’s nothing worse than running out of battery mid-scene or keeping people waiting in bad weather on long shoots. From camera gear to fans and beverage coolers, your gaffer will need dependable power to keep things rolling – and your location must be able to accommodate that need.
5. Monitor the noise
You can’t control every source of background noise, so the next-best alternative is preparing for it. Spend time at your locations and develop a good aural sense of them. Note when vehicles, people, planes, and other noise sources are the loudest. Your sound production team — and editors — will thank you!
6. Your gear needs space
Film shoots demand more room than what shows up on camera. Ensure you’ve got enough space not only to shoot the actors but also for the crew, directors, lighting, and equipment. If the location can’t provide the room for all these, you’ll struggle to bring it to its maximum potential on screen.
7. Location scouting sometimes requires permits
Not all locations require permits, especially for low-budget or indie films — but it’s better safe than sorry. Learn what legal permits you need in advance, ask the locals if they mind you shooting there, and always ask property owners if you can occupy their space. Don’t miss out on an amazing location because you assumed you didn’t need to clear any legalities.
8. Pick a convenient location
Simplify the logistics by choosing a location that’s easy to access and work in. Your crew shouldn’t have to struggle to get food, find backup equipment, and relax between scenes. If your dream location is out in the sticks, plan ahead with supplies, snacks and protection from the elements.
9. Record what you learn
Photos, audio comments, and written notes make productions infinitely smoother. Always record your observations for later reference. It’ll save you tonnes of work later. As a bonus, such materials can also provide a fascinating glimpse into the filmmaking process and could help you retain some harshly-learned lessons for future projects!
10. Get the proper kit
Location scouting is easier when you come prepared with:
- Mobile phones or tablets: essential tools for referencing scripts and taking notes
- Maps: phones don’t always cut the mustard in remote areas that lack 4G
- Compact video and still cameras: pick something easy to carry with optics similar to what you’ll be shooting on
- Tripods: you’ll produce better reference images for storyboarding and pre-production in general
- Light meters: a must for accurately measuring conditions which may appear quite misleading to the naked eye
Gain the location scouting access you need with our Aluminium Trackway Panels
Location scouting is essential, but it isn’t the whole story: getting everything and everyone onsite is a huge job.
Fortunately, our Aluminium Trackway Panels make the journey easier by offering a level, slip-free platform for everything from people and gear to vehicles, wiring, and camera dollies.
You put a lot into realising an amazing cinematographic experience. Why not make sure your locations can accommodate this?
Reach out to us here at Ground Protection Ireland to find the ideal temporary access solution for your next masterpiece – and don’t forget to also check out our blog and resources for more topics related to ground protection and access solutions.