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April 22, 2013 at 8:00 AMComments: 2 Faves: 1

Location, Location, Location...

By Dayton from SLN More Blogs by This Author

Photographers and videographers alike know the importance of the location in which they are shooting. With photography there seems to be a lot more generalizing and spontaneity when the location is picked, but with video, the location needs to be picked much more meticulously, mainly because of the movement that comes along with video. With "still" photography you can frame your shot and completely ignore some unsightly items in the background. With video, sometimes multiple angles are necessary, especially in scenes with dialog.  A film may need different lighting conditions due to the inherently fast shutter speed of video compared to the huge versatility long exposure photos provide. If there is on-site audio being recorded, that can throw a whole other wrench in the cogs. When the director completely "wings it" and just goes somewhere he thinks is cool, (I'm guilty of that) there always seems to be something unexpected that you need to work around, but it very well could be the death of a video.

Plan Instead

Pre-production requires much more than just recalling a location from memory, or even worse, finding a picture online and just GOING to that place on the shoot day. When you go, take these into consideration:

Light conditions: What is the light like where you want to go and when you plan on being there? Is it outdoors during the summer? You will need to consider what lens type to bring and then which filters to bring.

Compositional Integrity: When you go to a location, there should be much more than a "hey looks good" and then leaving. Make sure you have the list of shots that you need and envision the specific places that you will film. It may be very advantageous to bring a camera, take stills, and maybe even a placeholder model as actors. It is also possible to get something called a director's viewfinder, a tool created for the sole purpose of envisioning a shot.

Also, keep in mind environmental pieces that you want integrated into your film (landmarks, artistic backdrops) and know how you will facilitate those scenes. Will you need to bring any special apparatus to get the shot you want? 

Events: This is probably one of the most annoying things that ruins a good idea. When you go to the location, or even just researching on the internet, research if any events are taking place at your location (assuming it is a public place). The entire project may derail when, what is supposed to be the lonely street corner at high noon turns into a parade for gay-pride veterans that swear by the luck of the irish and are commemorating their dead relatives at the same time.

And now, an epic interlude.

Permission: It is typically good to have permission to film from whomever it is that is in charge. This can mean making phone calls beforehand, or it may be a face to face meeting. Make sure everything is squared away before you shoot. If you are on your shoot and then are informed that you are infringing on sanction 1294042A-6, section 17, sub-section 5, paragraph 2, specifically the clause that says "any filming, or photographing, of any 'thing' or 'stuff' is prohibited at the sole discretion of and shall not BLAH BLAHHHHH," that may figuratively (or literally) burn the project to the ground.

Props: This tip may be a little more obscure than the rest, but make sure that you know exactly what props you are going to be using. I was on a shoot in Mears, MI once and we were going to go sand boarding. The place that we were going had sand board rentals for the surrounding dunes (which were epic), so we thought that we would just strap them on like snowboards and off we'd go making movie history. Instead we got handed super cheap, dollar store quality boards that had no way to strap yourself to it, and as it turns out, sand is really susceptible to that "friction" thing...whatever. Moral of the story, don't depend on buying/renting the props on-site unless you know exactly what you are getting.

Climate: On that same shoot in Mears, we apparently didn't do that much planning. We found ourselves in the middle of a massive sea of insanely hot sand, walking for miles, and had no water. Yeah...not too bright huh? It gets especially dehydrating when you are walking up and down sand dunes. Always take note of what the weather tendencies are! Is it super hot and awful? Is it typically rainy? Will you be filming in a frozen tundra? All things to consider...

Buy a freaking map: When you are being a good lil' cinematographer and going to your location before your shoot, you will need to actually show up. So, it is incredibly important to get good directions and then remember how to get there. Pretty simple, but can really ruin life when it is overlooked. 

SOOOO...we went and done learned to plan. So do that. Anyway, til next week kiddies! Happy Filming :D!

More from Dayton from SLN Others Are Reading


  • Solid check list that I would have never considered till it was too late.

  • I think a lot of people take these sorts of things for granted when they watch a commercial, television show, or film. There's so much work and detail that goes into every production, and you do a great job in this blog of highlighting that. Good read.

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