Pre-production is an oft overlooked aspect of filmmaking. It certainly doesn’t have the same flash as yelling “Action!” on set or looking through the viewfinder of a cinema camera, but it can have a serious impact on the film. One particular part of it is location scouting. When you are thinking about things like cinematography the space you are shooting in is incredibly important.
Roger Deakins is one of the best in the business and he has his own thoughts on how to approach location scouting. StudioBinder has a video compiling much of his wisdom. If you want to learn some of the best tricks around you should learn from the best out there.
Before even searching for a location, Deakins starts working with storyboarding as part of the pre-visualization process. It’s a potentially very time consuming part of the production. You’ll also be dependent on how others, say the director, work on films. Storyboards are also incredibly important if you plan on actually creating or building sets.
Once you have the storyboards you can start looking for locations that fit the needs of the ideal shot. You’ll also have to learn to work around problems to make certain shots work. You also might find there is a better way to handle certain shots. In Deakins case, he actually asked to have them build a set for cheaper than it would be to fly people to Shanghai for a scene.
Proper location scouting with actual photos can help a ton if there is an option for visual effects and motion graphics. You might be able to use actual photos as a virtual background in lieu of actual travel. Careful use of perspective and camera movement can make digital effects work well – if you have scouting take good photos.
These lessons can be applied to smaller projects. Problem solving is one of the most important aspects of filmmaking. Sometimes you are forced into less-than-ideal locations, perhaps too large or too small, and you use some tricks to make it feel smaller or larger. If you have the shots pre-planned you can actually see where the potential problems and solutions may be.
Using mood boards, shooting images, and spending time of pre-visualization steps are going to be incredibly helpful. Everyone has a phone and can snap some photos and videos of potential locations.
Have any of your own tips for location scouting?