Cinematography : Things a DP should look out for on a Location Scout by Hayward Crawford

Hayward Crawford

Things a DP should look out for on a Location Scout

Just some pointers and key advice about what a Cinematographer should look for, take note, and ask about while scouting out Practical Exterior & Interior locations?

Brian Nguyen

Hi Hayward, sorry if this is late, but here are some things that I look for when I'm on location scout: 1. Where to run power: Super important to know where you can run power (if you can run on house), or if you need to rent a generator and where to place it. Also getting to know where individual circuits are on a line and how much load they can handle. 2. Natural light: I take my light meter to every location scout and keep notes on what it meters at certain times of day, that way I know how much I'll need to bring it up when I'm shooting. Also knowing the direction of light is great to know. 3. Where to set up lights, and general blocking: Knowing where you can place your lights is really important obviously, so if you can scout where to place them so that they are hidden and still effective, it would save a lot of time. Those are the top 3 things I look for. There are a million other factors, but I make sure to at least have those notes before I shoot.

John P. Jack Beckett

I have learned that scouting a location at the time one intends to shoot is very important. Scouting a location in the morning when one intends to shoot in the afternoon is risking not seeing things that occur at the time of the shoot. A location scout should include a discussion of the intended blocking which will reveal issues connected to the physical setting.

Bryan Tosh

Both Brian and John offer some great advice Hayward. I would also suggest bringing along your Gaffer, if available, so there will be clear communication on the day. As mentioned before, try to go around the time of day you plan to shoot, but also take into account what the weather may be like on the shoot day. You may have clear sunny skies during the scout, but on the shoot you could have something dark and gloomy. Someone from Art Dept. should also be there, this way if you see something that may make your shots less visually appealing, you can get with Art Dept. and come up with a plan for the day.

Debbie Croysdale

Good thread. I'm learning cinematography soon.

Randolph Sellars

Good advice given above. The main thing I'm looking for in an interior are windows. If there are windows, know what direction they are facing. It's not always practical to scout at the time one will be shooting (although that is ideal). Often the scout happens before the schedule is set. Use a compass and experience or a sun tracking app to determine if sunlight will come through any windows and at what time of day. Is the location on the first floor? Can sunlight be blocked from the outside if necessary? What will the equipment load in be like? Are there stairs, an elevator? Where will equipment be staged out of the shot? The next thing I look for is practical lighting. Is it tungsten, mercury vapor, fluorescent? If you have flos and don't have a color temp meter, look at the name on the tube and then look up the nominal color temp. You can expect a certain amount of green in most flos. What is the existing light level based on desired camera ISO? Use a light meter or take a DSLR camera along. Also, take along a tape measure for measuring things like windows (for gelling) and doorway widths for dolly shots. How high is the ceiling? Is there anything like beams, etc. that lights can be hung on? Is the floor smooth enough to dolly on? Of course the first important considerations are aesthetic - like architecture, size of space, furniture, wall colors, and general appropriateness to the scene.

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