Tips for Scouting Locations for Your Video Shoot

Funding, hiring a crew, visualizing, scripting, storyboarding, casting talent, lighting, audio—you’ve covered all your bases, right? Well, here’s a step you may not’ve thought of: scouting your location.

If you don’t scout, you run the risk of being unprepared for challenges in the middle of a shoot. If you do scout, you’ll know what the potential roadblocks might be and you can clear those obstacles out of the way beforehand.

In his 2002 article for the ezine Videomaker.com, Bill Fisher offers some tips for location scouting.2 Here’s a summary and paraphrase of Fisher’s eleven points:

  • Know your script. Your site should match the setting of your story. If you’re intimately knowledgeable about that story, you can choose a site that fits the mood and doesn’t limit your possibilities.
  • Scout at the right time. Go to inspect the site at the same time of day and day of the week when you’re planning to shoot the scene.
  • Look at the light. Shoot a few seconds of test footage so you can check levels of available light.
  • Follow the sun. When you scout, pay attention to the amount of sunlight and shading in the area.
  • Check for power supplies. How will you power your lights and how many spare camcorder batteries do you need to bring?
  • Listen. Be aware of the ambient noise in each location you scout.
  • Examine the elements. Check out the weather forecast when you scout, and pay attention to sun, rain, wind, snow, heat, cold—any of these will affect your shoot.
  • Decide where to set up. Look for adequate setup space for all your gear; how will you stage and set up each shot?
  • Get permission. You may need permits or other legal permission to shoot in some locations. Make sure you won’t be impeding traffic or intruding on private property without permission.
  • Evaluate the area. Check for cell phone reception, food and bathroom stops, electronics stores in case you need an emergency adapter.
  • Take notes. Write a scouting report and/or shoot a few minutes of footage with a brief audio commentary.

You’ll be glad you did! Don't forget to check out my main blog at www.evideoproducer.com


YouTube Facts

When YouTube, the online video sharing phenomenon, celebrated its fifth birthday on April 22, 2010, the site shared some pretty interesting facts about its history and impact over its brief lifetime. Here are some of the highlights:

  • The domain name “YouTube” was registered in February, 2005.
  • The first video uploaded to YouTube (on April 23, 2005) featured co-founder Jawed Karim of the San Diego Zoo and was 19 seconds long. It’s been viewed 3.2 million times as of July, 2010.
  • The current most-watched video on YouTube is Lady GaGa’s “Bad Romance” music video (almost 248 million views as of July 19, 2010).
  • Google paid $1.65 billion in stock to acquire YouTube in November, 2006.
  • The first advertising formats (Participatory Video Ads and Brand Channels) were launched in August, 2006.
  • 24 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute.
  • YouTube viewing exceeds 24 billion views per day, nearly twice the prime-time audience of all three major US broadcast networks combined.
  • As of July 2010, the channel with the most subscribers is NigaHiga (Asian-themed comedy videos), with 2.47 million.
  • The channel with the second highest number of subscribers is Lucas Cruikshank’s Fred’s Channel, with 1.86 million as of July, 2010.
  • YouTube has more than 96.1 million unique viewers each month.
  • Hundreds of millions of videos are watched monthly through mobile devices.
  • Google’s automatic speech recognition technology has the capability to translate and caption YouTube into 51 languages.
  • YouTube is localized in 22 countries, across 24 different languages.
  • YouTube made its biggest venture into free sports streaming in April 2010 with 60 matches of the Indian Premier League cricket season.
  • YouTube has more than 7,000 hours of full-length movies and TV shows.
  • More than 1 billion video views per week earn money for their posters.


Starting a Video Business

When you take the leap to starting a new business, you want to learn the ins and outs from someone who’s not only “been there, done that,” but has made a success of it. If your business is videography, I recommend picking up a copy of Refocus: Cutting edge strategies to evolve your video business by husband-wife team Ron and Tasra Dawson (ISBN-10 0321635302, published by Peachpit Press in 2009). It’s available from amazon.com or alibris books for about $30, but if you shop around you may pick up a used copy for a bit less…or grab it at your local library.

Ron Dawson owns Dare Dreamer Media, a media marketing agency that boasts clients like Apple, Adobe, Intuit, and Kodak. He’s been named two years in a row (2008 and 2009) to the EventDV 25 (EventDV.net is an online resource for event videographers; they name the top 25 all-star event videographers annually). Wife Tasra Dawson is an author and founder of Dare Dreamer Press—the publishing half of the team. Tasra also hosts Real Women Scrap TV, a YouTube show that uses lessons from scrapbooking and life to help inspire people to pursue their passions.

Refocus presents an excellent overview of what it takes to make a video business lucrative. The Dawsons have the experiences to illustrate their practices and back up their advice, and their approach uses plenty of personal anecdotes and a healthy dose of humor to keep the reader’s interest and get their point across. They present fresh methods to manage time, brand and market your product, define and realize your dreams that serve to motivate while they instruct.

Whether your passion is indie film, wedding videography, or corporate promotion, you’ll find something in this book that you hadn’t thought of before. I can highly recommend.


Producing Videos - What does it take?

The Producer is the practical brains of the project, organizing the whole production from the seed of an idea through distribution. If we were talking about a construction site, he’d be the Project Manager—the point person for all the plans, funding, schedules, personnel management, budgeting, marketing, and sales.

So the first quality a good producer needs is stellar leadership and management skills. You have to be a “big-picture” person and detail-oriented at the same time. Ability to think on your feet and problem-solve on the fly is essential. The Producer will be the go-to person for major decisions. What you say goes—so you have to be comfortable with that level of responsibility.

However, a Producer needs a healthy measure of creativity, too. Imagination is particularly important, because the Producer needs to clearly imagine the finished product in order to figure out the best approaches for obtaining funds and the ideal distribution avenues.

Because the Producer has to work with everyone on the project, interpersonal skill is a must, and great communication is the key. A good producer can interact effectively with people from all walks of life and in every crew position. It helps if you have a strong background in various video production roles. Working as an Assistant Producer for a few years helps prepare you for the leadership position in the future.

Endurance and resilience are further marks of a high-quality Producer. You’ll likely be working long, hard hours and will face myriad challenges. Keeping your chin up, being on the spot, and rolling with the punches will be the order of the day.

Honesty, empathy, multitasking under pressure, and an easygoing, personable attitude—if you have these qualities, you’ve got a start toward being a good producer.