Location Scouting

Michelle Lee
11 Jan 2022

Before shooting a video, you need to plan where you’re going to film and configure logistics. This is what’s known as location scouting and it falls under the pre-production umbrella. 

It’s not as simple as finding an aesthetic place online and deciding to film there. Location Scouts scope many places that have the necessities for a successful shoot. 

For large features, a company hires a Location Scout for their services. They look for anything that could make or break production. Part of the Location Scouts job is doing the due diligence.

Scoping a place online isn't enough. Maybe the lighting wasn’t as top notch as it looked in the photos. Maybe there was a lot of loud construction nearby. Maybe no one’s even allowed to be there in the first place. It's a Location Scout's job to assess what accommodations a potential set has. If the place doesn't meet a standard for what's needed, then it's on to the next place. 

Planning for corporate productions can be different. It's typical that intimate shoots use a company's office space to stay on brand. If the client has a larger budget, exploring other locations to use along with their office space is a possibility. Scouting within that context has its similarities, but it is different altogether. 

So what exactly should you consider when location scouting?

Availability and Permission

One of the first questions you should ask before scouting a location is, “Is it available?” 

This means that the locations need to be open and available for filming in the first place. If they’re not, then you won’t be able to use the space. 

If you're going to use a public area to shoot, a Scout goes through the process of obtaining permission. 

A lot of research goes into this part of planning because the Scout has to find who to contact. 

It could be as simple as going to your local government to get a permit. But it could be as difficult as getting the building owner to sign some legal documents. 

Stay organized by developing a spreadsheet with all the locations you've gone to. Cross off unavailable locations so you don't revisit them and rank the ones you like. You can create a checklist for the things you need and what each location offers. 

Another thing to configure is what do the location logistics look like? 

Logistics

A Location Scout assesses all possible complications that could arise on set. Here is a checklist of things to make note of when you arrive:

Power Sources

  • Outlets are important because you’ll need to plug in your equipment for them to function. The closer they are and the more there are, the better. 
  • If you're shooting outside, communicate with the Producer to budget for extension cords and a backup generator. If not, recommend a battery station. 

Elevators

  • Elevators are only necessary if there are stairs and if the location isn’t on the first floor. 
  • Having an accessible area is necessary to a successful shoot. This limits the amount of effort you put in to move equipment at the location. 

Size of the space

  • Having space for crew and equipment facilitates the setup and wrap to run smoothly. This is usually resigned to what your budget will allow. 

Weather

  • Weather is especially important to note if the location is outside. You should ask yourself, “What if it rains? What if the sun is too bright? What if it gets too windy?” These are all things that could hinder the production process. Keep that in mind and always prepare for the worst.

Accessibility and Parking

  • Ramps for equipment are necessary if the building has stairs to the entrance. If the building isn't accessible or doesn't have proper accommodations, then you have to account for that. 
  • For some locations, finding it is the easy part; parking is not. There may be limited parking spots, and they may charge a parking fee. As a result, you may need to carpool or ensure the client validates parking.  
  • Once you figure out parking, relay that information to the Producer so they can put it on the call sheet. 

Environment for Lighting and Sound

Now that you got all the logistics down, you can ask a more technical question: “Is this a good environment for lighting and sound?” 

Photos can be misleading, especially when scouting. It's the Location Scout's job to come prepared with their own photos to show the Producer. That way, there's no surprise or unmet expectations when it comes time to shoot. 

Take pictures of what the set will look like at different times of day. If there are lots of windows or if you're shooting outside, the sunlight will affect how the set will look. 

Another thing to note is the sound. 

Sound is essential to a video - especially if it’s an interview. 

Unwanted noise like refrigerators making ice, or the HVAC humming, disrupt and delay the production process. Ask the owner for permission to turn unwanted noise sources off while filming if they're clearly heard.  

Make note of anything that would make noise, such as school bells or nearby construction.

What’s Next?

If all is clear, then you are ready to film there. Make sure to give Producers photos, videos, and any notes you took so they know what to prepare for. 

Want to dive deeper into Location Scouting? Check out this awesome video made by StudioBinder. Their website and YouTube page provide awesome resources for organizing your production and teaching you everything that goes into a successful shoot.

Video by StudioBinder

BW Producers have plenty of experience with location scouting from past successful projects. If you need assistance with any pre-production planning, our Producers are always happy to help. If you’re ready to get your project off the ground, work with us!

Michelle Lee

UWIPP

Utah Women in Production and Photography was founded by women for women. Their mission is to advocate for women in their respective industries. Women provide unique perspectives, skills and insight, making impactful decisions on set. BW Productions is proud to represent a dedicated group that advocates for and collaborates with women.