Pre-Planning
Production
Post-Production

Scouting Your Location

Location scouting is an exciting step in the production process. It’s a bridge between the story you’ve sketched out on paper and a video that you can share. You’ll start to see the physical spaces where you’ll record an important interview or interaction that will bring your stick figures to live. .Woohoo!  (Did we mention that location scouting is a lot of fun?)

Here are a few important questions to keep in mind as you and your team engage in scouting your locations. 

Does the location send the right message?

It’s easy to set up your camera, lights, and audio and record an interview in an office or a conference room, but before you do that, ask yourself: Does what is in the frame send the right message for the video you’re creating? Even though offices and conference rooms are often easier to book, they can be bland and don’t always improve the quality of your video. 

Remember that your location plays a critical role in how the video feels. Think about the person you’re filming.  What should their setting say about them?  Should it establish their professional credentials by showing them in that professional setting (for example, a scientist in a lab)?  Or is the fact that your subject is a scientist less central to the story you’re telling focusing on their parenting journey, suggesting that you should interview them sitting comfortably in their home?  

Think about the overall mood you want to create in your video.  For instance, if you’re working on a video about palliative care and you want it to feel inviting rather than intimidating, it might make sense to record your interviews in a more comfortable setting like a living room or a bedroom, rather than a more clinical  setting like a conference room. 

Warm Settings vs. Cool Settings

Warm settings (like the living room or bedroom in the example above) are locations where the viewer will feel a sense of comfort and relaxation. They are locations where the visual appears calm and inviting. These locations can also be enhanced by using tungsten/orange (warm) lights. The reason you might place someone in a warm setting is because the story is more emotional than informational, and you want to help your audience subliminally to be primed for that emotion. 

Examples of Warm Settings:

Living Rooms

Dining Rooms

Bedrooms

Aspects of Warm Settings:

Woodwork

Plants & Flowers

Framed Photographs

Full Bookshelves

 

Cool settings are spaces that imbue the individuals within them with a sense of power or knowledge. The reason to use these types of spaces is to create a feeling of authority for individuals being interviewed. Recording that scientist in their lab instead of their home is one example of how to employ a cool setting this way; another example is to record an interview with a doctor in a patient room instead of a less specific conference room. In both of these cases the setting defines the individual as an expert without the need for additional information to be provided.

Examples of Cool Settings:

Clinical Spaces

Machine Shops &
Manufacturing Plants

Executive Offices
(Corner Offices)

Aspects of Cool Settings:

Certificates of Achievement
(Degrees, awards, etc.)

Complex or Expensive
Equipment

That said, there are some times where you are not able to get people in the perfect setting. This is just a fact of production. In these situations it’s better to put the individual in a “neutral setting” than in the opposite setting from what you need (i.e. don’t record the doctor’s interview in the living room just because you don’t have access to the patient room). Neutral spaces are bland, boring, and ubiquitous. These are your conference rooms, lobby areas, cubicles, or backdrops. These spaces generally don’t illicit much of any feeling in the viewer and allow for you to get the content you need even when you didn’t find the perfect space. 

Remember that you can always (and you often will) blend aspects from either a warm or cool setting into the opposite or neutral setting. For example, when filming a pediatrician, you might put a fun toy in the frame along with books and diplomas. Successful blending does not detract from the primary feeling, but instead enhances the visual information about the individual (i.e. this person is a professional, but also kind and approachable). 

How to Assess a Location You’re Considering

Step 1

Walk around and check out the whole space

Keep in mind that the person showing you the space may initially lead you to that boring conference room, thinking it’s “perfect” for your project because it lacks the “clutter” of other spaces in the building. (Contained by your camera’s framing, the “clutter” in that person’s office may be just what you need to fill the frame and convey the mood you’re looking for.) Or they may show you a glorious light-filled room that’s awesome for generating a sunny mood for meetings, but a nightmare in terms of blocking too-bright light from your camera.  Ask them to show you all possible spaces; many times the space your subject assumes will be terrible is actually really great!

Step 2

Look and listen

While keeping your eyes peeled for what will work best visually, keep your ears open for sounds that may intrude and ruin that lovely visual.  Ask the person showing you around about noises that may not be present during your scouting visit but might rear their rowdy heads at other times of the day, making your perfect interview spot not so perfect.  Are there HVAC systems that turn on at a certain time of day?  Loud meetings or presentations that happen through that thin wall between offices on Tuesdays at 3:00 PM?  A space where you can record clean audio is just as important as one that provides good visuals. For more on this, check out “Audio Considerations”. (link)

Step 3

Take photos (lots of them)

If you’re considering more than one space, photographs that document the locations you’re scouting will help you keep track of what your options are and give you visual reminders of the pluses and minuses of various spaces to help inform your decision.  You can also use photos to get feedback on spaces from your team members.  And those photos will be super helpful once you’ve made your decision and are planning your filming set up.

Anything else???  Making sure you can get equipment in?  Parking?  I don’t know.

Some kind of conclusion.  🙂