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Cinematographer's Preparation

Lesson 10 of 16

How to Prep for the Tech Scout

Jim Denault, ASC

Cinematographer's Preparation

Jim Denault, ASC

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Lesson Info

10. How to Prep for the Tech Scout


  Class Trailer
Now Playing
1 Class Introduction Duration:06:20
2 What Are the Basics to Know? Duration:28:35
3 Prepare to Get the Job Duration:39:18
4 How to Do the Meeting Duration:14:32
8 Essential Documents Duration:12:06
10 How to Prep for the Tech Scout Duration:11:25
11 How to Go on Tech Scouts Duration:32:43
12 The Basic Gear Package Duration:23:03
13 How to Set Up the Camera Duration:11:38
14 How to Camera Test Duration:03:50
15 Audience Q & A Duration:12:23
16 Parting Words Duration:02:20

Lesson Info

How to Prep for the Tech Scout

So now we're going teo prep for the tech scout what normally happens on the tech scout is you've done you hopefully have done a lot of the creative work before you get there and there's there's always like something that you think of and there's like things always change, but normally the purpose of the tech scout is that you're telling the crew about all the great stuff you've been thinking about for the past month or however long you've been doing it, so and you're making sure you've got everybody on the same page that it's basically it's a playbook it's like you're going through the place, you're telling everybody, you know what, what we're going to need to do and how everything is going to move. So the the production people will talk through like, here is the order of the day here's, how we're going to shoot and then you'll talk to your guys about, you know, where we're going to put the equipment and, you know, how are we gonna light it? What what things are they going to need to d...

o to get the space ready? You know, here the light bulbs that we have to change, you can run the cable over here, but this direction is going to be in the shot, you know, all that kind of information that you can pass on and so and at the same time that you may walk into it saying well, I know I want to get a light up there somewhere but I'm not sure how and you you know you start talking to the guys and between the bunch of you hopefully by the end of that session you figured out how you're going to do it and so when you walk away from the location of the tech scout you've you know what's gotta happen sometimes you get it you have a big location that you can't you know the text got tries to move along if you know you'll have to go through like tanner or so locations in a day there's not a lot of time to sit there and talk about it in detail so it's nice often teo go out like if you've got a big location if you've got something where it's going to be complicated where you're gonna have a lot to talk about to get out you know sometime before the tech scout with the gaffer and the key grip and the rigors so that you can really sit around for forty five minutes or an hour and scratch your heads you know especially if there's something where you yourself don't know how you're gonna handle it it's like getting out there with your guys and having somebody that you can talk talk through with it and being able to carve that time out of out of the schedule and you know what it really comes down to is does production want to pay these guys to come in and do that and so that's where you have to sort of convinced him yeah, we're going to say I'm wondering how the tech scout fits in with the first scout like do we do the first scout the first there and then back and then go first got will be like yeah, the timeline of course so let's say that you've got like three weeks of crap to do your movie when you know they're they're giving you three weeks to get ready before you start shooting so in the first couple days the the production designer will have been on you know, maybe weeks before you got there and they will with the location person I've gone around and, you know, made some decisions and narrow down their choices for what the locations they're going to be and then you show up and the first thing they do you know you'll you'll show up monday morning and they'll say okay here's the van let's go they throw you in the van and they drive you around on a whirlwind tour all day usually for a couple days and show you everything that they've got and you know that's where like and it's this will be like first thing monday morning that's where like having gone through the script before really help because you won't be coming in saying what wait what are we talking about here like you you'll have that part down and so you'll go through you'll see all of the choices with the with the director of the production designer help decide which are going to be the actual locations that you shoot that then you'll have another couple of weeks of prep where you'll be meeting with the director and that sort of thing and then usually the text got happens in the week right before you start shooting by then your your gaffer and key grip and maybe even the camera system will be on there will be you know and you'll be putting together equipment orders in that last week and you'll have like everything will be finalized you'll know what the locations are you you know it's like this is definitely the location and this is definitely what we're going to do there and so your guys that your gaffer and key grip have just started you know, in the week before your shooting and you're basically going around you're doing the same thing to them that production did to you at the beginning you're getting in the van you're going around and you're seeing all the different locations and you're talking through curious how we're going to have the each one so they're separated by several weeks um but being able to being basically being able to bring the gaffer and the key grip on a day or so in advance of that and being able to use a look we've got this big set up here that like I don't want to stop the tech scout for two hours to talk about it well, you know we're all here if you bring these guys in it means that we can keep the text got moving you know, with the thirty people that around that the text got, um that's how I pitch it to production so when I get ready I make I have my equipment list I have ah will basically make a little spreadsheet that summarizes my breakdown sheet and or I'll just give you out of every note I'll just print out those breakdown sheets that I showed you but it depends on like if there's not a lot going on if this if the shoots pretty simple and there's only a couple pieces of extra equipment, I'll just I'll make something very concise but if there's a lot going on, you know I'll give them the whole breakdown sheets um I will do lighting diagrams you can there's there's a good program for one hundred dollars called lx beams thes they're mostly all these are more typical for theater lighting designers, but I found that especially alex beams is useful it does very clean vector graphics with the with lights it's not very expensive and um and it gives you photo metric information he's got a lot of pre loaded instruments and you can you can also create your own so if you're you know, if you're designing its not that useful for, you know, like you know, drawing a diagram for lighting a house or something like that but if you're in a big a large space where you are a large exterior where you want to know like how many lights do I need you on this roof two hundred feet away to give me fifty foot candles across the street and, you know, be able to figure that out it's those kind of either alex beams or vector works are useful for that sketch up is useful for, you know, kind of helping visualize spaces if you, you know, all those first three have kind of a learning curve to so I found them interesting but it's also like it's not the tool is not the important thing that tool is is just that, like, you can do the same sort of thing with a paper and pencil goog, but for big night exteriors or, you know, things that cover a lot of space, I've also found google maps to be really useful as a as a tool for, you know, drawing on and communicating to the crew so you know and while you're on the scout, you want to talk to your guys like make sure that everybody knows what's going on but like again that use there's usually a lot to get through during the day so it's like making sure that you've got enough you've worked enough detail when you're standing there but that you also can you know, don't forget that you can keep talking about stuff once you get in event so so I you know, I'll just make sure that we talk about this stuff where we actually have to look at things count things, you know, and then you know that we do that while we're there and then if there's like how are we going to do this sort of conversation? I'll you know, I'll save that for later on do you know there's always the possibility that you can come back all right, so now we're going to go do a tech scout, so I think right before we go up to the roof I'd like to open it up for audience member of questions and you guys have any questions? Yeah, just understanding part do you have a lot of things with public place like permits and things of that sort? If something came up last minute change, you know, would you have to be involved so much with that? Yeah, well you definitely it definitely pays tio it's this is the location manager usually takes care of that kind of stuff and but what I think is important is you need to know what what they're issues are and you need to be ableto tell them like oh hey you know we're thinking about like, we want to have had the camera out in the street here but you know so that we can go get our shot back of the building from far enough away you know, closing the lane of the street is something that the location manager would deal with and if you if you haven't told them about that then you're going to show up and they're going to say, I know we can't do it we needed you know, exercise the permit we need the police you know whatever you know what everything it is so it's you need to be aware of the fact that all that stuff happens but I don't actually physically do that um yeah I had a question about do you have to handle craft services for a tech scout? Do I have to help you bring food? No there's usually like there's usually a cardboard box in the back and it will be full of like some apples that have been bumping around the production office for a few weeks and a bag of doritos or something on yeah, there will be snacks but there's I I bring my own food mostly because like I you know, I have certain things that I like to eat yeah, yeah, so I'll pack a snack, but there will be snacks on additional visit if you have to do a return visit teo scouting locations on your own time or would that be built into now? That's a good question, it's you know it all kind of like if you're going with the other crew, people like you know it all kind of happens in the course of a normal business dae so partly because there's, the main factor is the person who's who owns the location or lives in the location or whatever. So you talked to the location manager and say, hey, you know, we want to go back here or we want to go before the text got just for a couple hours to, you know, figure some stuff out, can you start that out with the with our location contact and if it's a commercial building or a public building, a lot of times you could just go in and, you know, be low key and not worry about it, but you know, it all happens kind of on the clock and it's just about its it's, about figuring out when you know they have you pretty like there is not a lot of time built into prep for just like hanging out. So you have to figure out how you're going to schedule that so that it doesn't conflict with all the other obligations. All right, if there's, nothing else, I say. We head to the roof and do a scout.

Class Description

Cinematographers need to do more than simply, “show up and shoot.” Preparing to film is a complex, considered, and artistic task and Cinematographer's Preparation with Jim Denault, ASC will teach you how to strategize and achieve the most creative, productive shoot possible.

Most filmmakers are in the dark about what cinematographic preparation truly entails. This class will give you with a step-by-step guide to preparing to shoot a whole range of narrative material – from the simplest moments to the most complex series of scenes. Jim will show how to break-down and analyze a script from an aesthetic, technical, and practical point-of-view. 

You’ll learn how to:

  • Analyze a script aesthetically and technically
  • Evaluate and provide for the practical needs of a scene
  • Achieve maximum subjective effect within your shooting "strategy"
  • You’ll learn precise, effective, artistic, and technical approaches to shooting, which can be applied across all forms of filmmaking and length of material.

Working cinematographers, camera operators, and filmmakers will develop new skills for efficiently and beautifully conveying the artistic essence of their material.  


Zuhair Lokhandwala

Great class! Highly recommend to those starting out who are unclear about the process of getting the first job, meeting the director and keeping things organized so you feel more in control and have good clarity when you're at the shoot finally Thank you Jim!


This class is perfect for anyone who does not have years of experience as cinematographer ; it teaches everything a DP should do in pre-production, and is often not taught in film schools ! I'm freshly graduated and thus I don't have that much experience of pre-prod as DP, but this gave me everything I needed to know. It's also one of the few class of the genre online, and it's a fantastic one, thank you so much !

Christopher Lamb

There is nothing more valuable than learning from people that continue to work in their field. This course is priceless. To get into the processes and thoughts of a successful working Cinematographer -- there aren't words. Everyday I'm on set I think about the necessity of mentorship and this is the closest thing to that. Thank You Jim for agreeing to share your processes and techniques and to Mentor us in this digital age. Thank you CreativeLive for hosting this class and making it available.