The specific location where you film your next project is of utmost importance to the final product. Your chosen space will impact everything from the screenplay, to the audio and visual setup of your shoot. Here are the key environmental elements to be aware of, and ways to adapt to them to ensure the best possible outcome for your project.
Before you even get your camera out, make sure you can legally film in your chosen spot. Public spaces may not actually allow video productions without a permit, and if your desired spot is private property, you will definitely need to check with the owner first. Some venues have specific fees that need to be arranged prior to use, and you may also want to take the opportunity to inquire there might be any competing events, like a parade or fireworks, occurring at the time of your shoot.
You can easily find templates for location release contracts online, and obtain reasonably priced insurance when required. Most local laws concerning video equipment and shoots are readily accessible online, so taking the time to verify any specific requirements should definitely be part of your project planning. Please note this does not constitute actual legal advice, and you should always do your own due diligence.
2. Scope the Scene
If you are accustomed to filming indoors, you have a certain level of control over your environment that you may wind up taking for granted. For instance, you can turn off light sources, reduce unwanted noises, and have ready access to power outlets as well as protection from the elements.
Even so, in an unfamiliar indoor space, you will want to give each of those elements a thorough examination before you begin shooting. In the room where you will be setting up your camera, check the viewfinder to see what lies within your field of view, and make sure there are no unwanted visual distractions present. Check for any glaring lights, shiny surfaces, or bizarre shadows, and put on headphones so you can be sure your microphones are not picking up any noises you don’t want them to. Locate all available power outlets in the room, as well as any windows. Note the orientation of the room so you know where the sun might be shining during your shoot as it could change your lighting setup, or create an unfortunate backlight, silhouetting your subject.
When filming outdoors, there are far more variables beyond your control. You will potentially be faced with passerby wandering into your frame, or even disrupting your shoot, as well as unpredictable weather and fewer resources like power outlets.
The key is to be prepared. If possible, go to your location at the exact time you will be filming and do a dry run of your set up. You may find that your desired angle for your shot is in a wind tunnel, or in glaring direct sunlight, requiring you to shift directions. Then, prepare your gear accordingly. In particular, ensure your batteries and back up batteries are fully charged and ready to go; that your microphones have wind screens and boom poles or stands; and that you have any water, sunblock, or insect repellent that might be necessary to get through the shoot. Consider bringing an assistant if you need to capture audio at a distance, or might need to lug gear around to a remote location.
3. Extra Extras
Having certain extra supplies in your kit can sometimes save the day, like lens filters to adjust the unfortunate greenish tinge of fluorescent bulbs, for example, or large pieces of white posterboard, which can be used to block light or as a fill light, among many other potential uses. Other handy extras include a lens hood, duct tape and electrical tape, an extension cord, clothespins or clamps, umbrellas, thumbtacks or pins, foam padding, a lens cleaning kit, and a towel or a sheet. These objects can help you adjust on the fly, and be better able to pull off a successful shoot.
As they say, location, location, location! What’s the craziest place you ever filmed something?