Shooting Locations: 4 Ways to Find Them

Published on in Advice / Tips & Tricks

You can have the best gear, the most fantastic storyline, and the perfect talent to help you tell it. All of this means nothing, however, if you can’t find the perfect location to capture it. The environment you choose to film in will ultimately set the tone for the story that you tell, immersing viewers in the textures, colors and quality of your work.

Great locations bring out the color of a story, enhancing the feel until it truly resonates with your audience. Here are some tips on how to find the best places to shoot when you film:

Identify the Story to Tell

The first step in going through the process of determining where to shoot is to identify what you’re trying to say - then you can figure out how to say it with aesthetics. Locations support narratives, not the other way around, and you must keep this in mind when planning and scouting film sites.

Talk to your clients to discover the story behind the shots. What is the most appropriate location that will be relevant to the story and make it realistic? If you’re filming a commercial for a business or organization, you can achieve this step by having an in-depth discovery call or meeting to dive into their story. What makes them unique? Why do they do what they do? How can you use their environment to support this story?

If you’re a dentist, shooting in an exam room is going to be more relevant than shooting in a landscape environment. If you’re an attorney showing your authority and your expertise to potential clients, it will be more powerful to sent that tone in front of a courthouse rather than a deposition room. 

Furthermore, what will resonate with their audience? Find locations to emphasize the tone and feel of their narrative while keeping in mind visually and architecturally inspiring shots.

Then Discover the Environment

What is unique to your client’s environment? If you’re shooting a project for a client in Pensacola, Florida - consider what you can use to connect audiences with the firm’s specific location. If your locations boast beautiful parks, hip downtown areas and/or famous landmarks nearby - use these to your advantage.

Another key question to consider here is what aspects of the environment are within your control. Are you working against the elements (i.e. outdoors), among crowds, in noisy environments? What time of year and time of day will you be shooting? Optimally, you’ll want to be able to control every factor during shooting, but this isn’t always possible. Keep this top of mind as you plan your shooting locations.

Scout Potential Locations

When possible, scouting locations is a given. If you can’t physically scout locations, there are some digital resources that can help you in your quest.

LocationsHub is a solid resource and marketplace for scouting film spots. Dedicated entirely to film sites, LocationsHub includes detailed photos, maps, website links and more to help you in your search for the ideal location. It might just be your new best friend when you are unable to physically scout a locale. 

Other tools like Shot Hotshot (more photography based), Google Maps and Flickr Map Search can give you a good idea for the look and feel of different locations before you get there.

Plan for Problems and Technical Aspects

Sometimes the most visually appealing places are a technical and logistical nightmare. 

Some important things to consider are:

  • How difficult is it to get your gear there? Some locations limit the amount of gear that you can realistically bring, drastically altering the filming process.
  • Are you shooting in public or private locations? Depending on where you shoot you may need special permits/permissions.
  • How is security? High-security places like courthouses, certain concert venues and more may restrict the type and amount of gear you can bring.
  • How crowded is your film location? If you’re filming downtown in New York City or on the in Washington, D.C. subway - be prepared for high ambient audio levels and other complications.
  • What are the ambient levels?
  • Are there any available power sources?

Once you understand the story that you intend to portray, view the environment as an extension of that narrative and scout for locations both physically (if possible) or digitally - the stage will be set for success. 

While shoots rarely go one-hundred percent as intended, pre-selecting sites that support client narratives while simultaneously minimizing the potential for technical, environmental and other problems/concerns will provide the ideal location for shooting. 

If you view each potential location through this lens, you might end up surprising yourself with the volumes that your shots speak.

About the Writer - Michael Mogill

Michael Mogill is the President of Crisp Video Group. His company bridges the gap between video production and video marketing, and has produced video content for major international brands such as Coca-Cola, Verizon and Red Bull. He has been featured in Forbes, Under30CEO, The Huffington Post and The Wall Street Journal.  Visit them online at: http://www.crispvideo.com.

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