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What To Look For When Scouting a Location for Your Video

You’re shooting video in what could be the ideal spot. The sun is shining. The air: still and crisp. Yet every time the star of your shoot begins to utter their lines, they’re interrupted by a noise that sounds like an airplane taking off.

The reason? There is an actual plane taking off. That’s right; the (otherwise) perfect location for shooting your video also happens to be the perfect spot for a regional airport.

Scouting locations for your video can be exceedingly easy to screw up. Yet, it only takes a pre-flight check and a steady hand to find the ideal spot and help your video soar.

Why Do You Need to Scout Locations for Your Video?

There are a variety of variables that can make the difference between a smooth day of production or one rife with budget and calendar overruns. Even if you’re shooting in a familiar space, like your office’s conference room, you may find that it has poor acoustics or dominating shadows fill the room.

So, as part of your pre-production process, you should take time to scout locations. Doing so will help you answer several questions about the space before filming takes place:

  • Does the location match the director’s vision?
  • Do you have permission to shoot at the site?
  • Is the shooting area easy to find with enough parking for cast and crew?
  • How much will it cost to rent the space from the owners or apply for permits?
  • Are there bathrooms, power sources, cell phone reception, and room for craft services nearby?
  • Will the location have any extraneous sounds (like roaring traffic, babbling brooks, or humming air conditioners) or visual distractions (like pedestrians, building lights, or graffiti) that make it difficult to record sound or video?
  • Is the location safe for filming?

What is a Location Scout?

Your production team doesn’t necessarily need someone whose sole responsibility is to scout locations. However, someone does need to fill that role whether they have other duties or not.

Sometimes a producer, a director of photography, or other crew members will take on location scouting. It’s helpful to have someone who knows the ins and outs of video and audio recording as part of the location scouting team, as they are best equipped to know what could interfere with their production duties.

Additionally, while we are using the term “location scout” to encompass all aspects of finding the right space to shoot your video, there are two specific subcategories scouts fall into:

  • Location scouts research locations online and in-person to find a place with the ideal aesthetics for the production.
  • Tech scouts help prepare production by ensuring there are places to store equipment and plans to shoot around the location’s quirks (like creaky floorboards or excessive echoing).

Whether you dole out these responsibilities to one person (or group of people) or two, they should physically visit any potential shooting location and bring a camera, measuring tape, and a notebook with them. This lets them document the site and answer questions for anyone unable to make the scouting trip.

How Do You Scout Locations for Video Shooting?

Larger productions may require additional scouting trips, but whether the production is small or gigantic, location scouting generally boils down to these four steps:

  1. Read the script to identify how many and what types of locations they will need to scout.
  1. Find real-world locations by checking online real estate listings, reaching out to your local film commission, or asking crew for suggestions based on experience or personal connection. A quick look at Google Maps can give you an overview of the surrounding area to ensure it’s suitable for filming.
  1. Visit the location at a time similar to when you plan on shooting. That is, if you plan on shooting on a Wednesday afternoon, visit on a Wednesday afternoon. Take photos, notes, and, if possible, a member of the production crew with you.
  1. Receive permission to shoot at the location by asking the owner and filling out any necessary forms. Ensure that the owner signs a location release form and any budgetary considerations are in writing.

Where Can You Find More Information on Video Location Scouting?

When it comes to scouting locations for your video shooting, finding the right place is half the battle. Physically visiting the area will allow you to determine if it’s logistically possible to shoot video there and keep your production from getting hammered with delays when you should be getting hammered with celebratory drinks.

For more information on the B2B video production process, keep an eye on The Video Reformation blog.