Just imagine it. You’ve written or gotten your hands on a compelling script. It’s one of those stories that causes your imagination to start running wild immediately. You’ve already envisioned the perfect location, the right atmosphere for nearly every scene of the film or video production.
So, now it’s about finding the location that best matches the one you’ve created in your mind. However, it’s nearly impossible to find something that looks exactly like the setting you imagined, and it’s truly miraculous when you find such a place.
If you’re lucky enough to stumble on your dream location then, by all means, use it. However, it’s much more common to find something that is in the ballpark of what you had in mind, but will require some effort and good old ingenuity to make it work.
Plan and prioritize.
First and foremost, do not underestimate the time and effort required for the location scouting phase. You want to make sure to give yourself enough time to figure out the best possible location, or you’ll risk settling for something less than what you intended for your film or video production.
It’s not just about looks either. There are some other basic requirements besides how well it fits, visually, with the script. Elements like the lighting and sound conditions must be considered, and it takes a bit more than just popping by a week before you intend to shoot the scene.
For example, the time of day you scout the location could have drastic effects on the conditions. The light may change depending on the time you visit and if it differs from the time you intend to shoot. Also, if you intend to use professional equipment, check the power availability at the location.
It goes the same for sound as well. Everything may sound fine at first until that AC kicks on unexpectedly. Also, nearby residents or businesses may be less busy at certain times than others, making the location more manageable at specific times of the day. That’s why it helps to visit locations multiple times on different days.
On top of that, you need to think about prioritizing what’s needed at each location. You can make a checklist and review it at each stop. The point is, decide what’s most important to the scene and look for that first. Then, go down the list and, at the end, review your findings to find the best overall fit.
Let the content dictate where it’s shot.
That sounds simple enough, but when you find that amazing and picturesque setting along your scouting travels, the one that doesn’t actually happen to fit any scene in your script, it gets a bit more difficult.
Too often, artists go with a location for their film or video production simply because of its striking visual quality or the level of convenience it presents. While these things should factor heavily into the decision, they shouldn’t be the deciding factors.
Let the nature of the material dictate where you shoot it. Also, if during the screenwriting process you’ve taken heed of the age-old advice to write about what you know, then the location scouting may not be as challenging.
If the story is set in the world you live in, then take advantage of any and every location you can. Whether it’s your house, your friend’s business, whatever it is, just be resourceful.
Look for potential over perfection.
Like we mentioned earlier, it’s nearly impossible and somewhat of a miracle to find the perfect location, the one that’s a spitting image of what you’ve been imagining since the film or video production process first began.
That’s why it’s much more beneficial to look for potential in locations rather than perfection. Unless you’re working with a sky-high budget, keeping costs down is always a factor. So, again, resourcefulness is the name of the game here.
It’s not just about making a particular location work for a certain scene either. If you’re really clever, you may find that you can have a single location work for multiple scenes, and appear as multiple, separate settings.
Talk about being resourceful. If you can manage to knock out 2-3 scenes, set in different physical locations in the script, in one single place, then you’ve made some real progress. You can save a lot of time, effort, and money by being clever with your locations this way.
The tools of the trade.
Luckily, there are some tools available to make the location scouting for your film or video production a little more manageable. Some things can’t be predicted, but you can prepare and equip yourself to deal with them as they occur.
A smartphone cam or other type of camera can be incredible tools for the process. This is where a storyboard can help too. If you’ve taken the time to create one, you can take pictures of the locations you visit that best fit the shots you’ve designed.
You can even make an updated photographic storyboard this way. It’s a great way to start judging the space availability too. If you’re having a hard time getting the frame composition you envisioned, just imagine how much more difficult it will be when the room’s filled with equipment and people. On that note, a simple tape measure is always a good idea too.
Location scouts need to be a whole lot more.
The truth is, location scouts need to be kind of like magicians, in a way. Their job is to marry imagination with reality. They need to find the location that best fits what the project’s creator has crafted solely in their minds.
It’s no easy task, and there’s more to the process than simply having an eye for it. Planning and prioritizing are key, as are considerations for potential changes in lighting and sound conditions, possible spatial restrictions, a general resourcefulness, and the utilization of the right tools for the job.
Get these things right and, even if you don’t manage to discover your dream location for a scene, you’ll know how to adapt to your surroundings and bring those dreamlike qualities to whatever spot you end up in.
KVibe Productions is a full-service video production company. Whether it’s a product video production, a corporate video, or a commercial production, KVibe offers the total package of multimedia services from development through distribution.