Going on a scout…?

How often do you scout a location before a shoot?? For films and commercials it’s almost mandatory but for lots of other situations producers see this a cost, nothing more. I always ask, and often insist, on a Locations scout because I know the value of it. Sometimes it’s not possible due to travel and budget but always try. Even if your going across the globe, travel in a day early and try to hit a few locations before the rest of the crew arrives. The Time saved on shooting day knowing all you noted on the scout is invaluable. Here are some of the things I look for while scouting, in no particular order.

Basically I look for light, power, angles.

* bring a camera along. Pictures will help you remember better and show others.
* bringing a DSLR will give you great metadata such as a focal length, exposure etc to help you in your planning. Most cameras today also have video recording so you can actually shoot a short sequence.
* a great app for your phone is Artemis. It’s basically a viewfinder which allows you to switch between different sensors and lenses to judge composition. Take snapshots and save metadata along with comments.


* a Lightmeter is always nice.

* an app like “360” which stitches together multiple pictures for a great overview of your location which won’t fit into a single picture.
* if you intend to use “house power” definitely Take a picture of the fuse box and other electrical hook ups.
* In an old factory or house for example bring a “power-pen” which lights up and makes a sound if there is actually power in an outlet.


*try to get close to ground floor. Carrying/loading equipment to the third floor takes time and trying to light through a window if far trickier that if you’re on the ground floor. 🙂
* sun scout or sun seeker are 2 apps showing where the sun will be at a particular time during the day. These apps have helped me soooo many times and are remarkably accurate.
* if your not snapping pictures everywhere make a small sketch of the layout including windows etc.
* iPad for notes or sending pictures from DSLR.
* Parking. How close, unloading zones close to the door, meters etc.
* Noise. Your sound person will be pleased to know you considered their job, and in turn saved countless dropped takes. Look for potential noise like the garbage truck the has its daily visit to the hotel across the street between noon and 2pm….

Small things that may seem silly will make a huge difference once you and the rest of the crew show up to shoot.

Ahhh one more thing: look at the actual location if it suits the story, natural lighting works and the angles for your shots will make you look good…. 😉

What things do you look for when your location scouting… ?


In the series “Top iPhone apps” here is my favorite right now.  “Artemis” which act as a directors viewfinder.   I just got back from a locations scout in the north of Sweden. Later this week we travel up to Kiruna to shoot a commercial for a tire company.  A location scout was really needed to have some clear locations in mind once we all get up there.   So you may ask: why buy an app instead of just using the camera in your iPhone??

What is so great with this app is that you pick a camera and lenses and it will allow you to see what you’ll see once you bring the gear on location. What will the 85mm lens look like here?  Will the entire house fit in frame on a 25mm lens from this distance??  

And even cooler is being able to save a snapshot with added metadata (like location name), lens choice and at what angle (tilt) the shot was taken. GPS location is also added to each frame.
The one downside, not the apps fault, is the lens on the iPhone.  Any lens choice in the app wider than “23mm!!” (on a super 35mm dig sensor i.e. Sony F3) will be wider than the Iphone can picture.  The app will then add an orange marker as show what’s missing.

This is a pricy app at 30 USD but definitely worth every penny.   Thanks to Artemis I was able to deliver an email with 19 pictures with lens data to the producer in a far away land, all before leaving for the airport. Really really helpful when talking storyboard over the phone… This app is also available on Android.


Sun Scout

Here is another great app I use a lot for both filming and location scouting. It is called Sun Scout and will show the sun’s path at any point during the day. So if you need to know when the sun will sneak over that rooftop behind you and hit your location this is the app that will tell you. It is not 100% accurate but really close enough. You can also change the setting to see the path at a different date, nice feature for a scout.
This time of year in Sweden finding the sun requires a LOT more than this app though… 🙂

Great app for your iphone at $10.

location scout?

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One thing I always want to bring back from a location scout are a few pictures of what everything looks like.  The rooms, how many windows, doors, where is the light coming from etc etc.  I recently found a great app for this called 360.

It simply allows you to take a “sweep” of the room and the app stitches together everything to a nice picture to go. A well spent 99 cents!

Here are a few examples from a recent scout.