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There is only so much you can do with your camera and lighting. Choosing the right locations for your Feature Films can make or break them. Today we're going to go through some key tips to help you on your next location scout.
First things first, and this may be obvious, but bring a camera! Having a good selection of stills to look back on is always a plus! A regular DSLR or Mirrorless will also do the trick. Do click pictures in RAW! And color grade to the look and feel you want to get for your feature film. Export the 3d Lut file. Later you can use this as the camera profile for Arri, Red or BlackMagic cameras.
If you're using your phone, I'd recommend using an app such as Cadrage. This is a fantastic Directors Viewfinder App. It's a great tool to help you frame up shots and angles on a location scout as you can dial in the exact camera and lens setup you'll be using for the shoot without actually having to have it with you. You can use it to shoot video clips as well if needed as well as being able to export a PDF with all of your shots for reference later. And as a bonus tip, you could even take a 360 camera if you have one to get a more immersive look of your scout.
Take note of where the natural ambient light is coming from. I'd recommend if you can, visiting the location you're scouting at roughly the same time of day you think you might be shooting in. It doesn't have to be exact but generally in the morning, afternoon, evening to give you a more accurate sense of what the light will be doing.
You will most likely be doing the scout long before the actual shoot, so the light will of course change over the year. This is where apps such as Sun Seeker or Helios come into play. You'll be able to see where the sun will be positioned on a specific day at your location. You can use the top-down view to get a general overview or the augmented reality to get more accurate if you need to work out when the sun will be hitting a specific window for example.
This is a great help with planning the shooting schedule.
Next up is color temperature meter which is essential to location scouting. Oftentimes, we want to measure light sources like fluorescents in the ceiling or, say, determine if the lights in the parking lot are metal halides, high-pressure sodium, or an LED source that he has never encountered before.
With a color temperature meter, We can measures the light source and record it in a book or in notes on your phone.
Some filmmakers out there may think that light meters are dead, but they would be mistaken. It’s a common occurrence where we should venture into a location and wish to replicate the natural light in the space. So, we should know if there’s enough light to be able to expose for it.
Audio is perhaps something not a lot of people consider when it comes to a location scout but it's arguably as important, if not more so than the lighting.
Some things to consider are what sounds do you have control over in the location and what sounds can you do nothing about. Ambient sounds like air conditioning, refrigerators or built-in light fixtures can be turned off if they are too noisy and will interfere. Things like traffic, planes, busy streets, you won't have as much control over.
It's things like this that are worth considering, especially if you have a lot of dialogue in a narrative scene or you are doing an interview for a documentary.
Unfortunately, lights need power.
While we can get away with using batteries for smaller light fixtures, if you need a lot of powerful lights, you are going to need a decent power source.
On your location scout take note of where all the usable power supplies are and what is the maximum safe output you can get out of the location.This will be bought up again in the tech scout if you aren't doing it at the same time but it's always worth checking out the situation on the location scout as well. It may be that your location requires an external power supply so this is a good time to work out where the generator might go.