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Scouting Locations

Lesson 5 from: Creating a Video From Start to Finish

Victor Ha

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Lesson Info

5. Scouting Locations

Part of the planning process is scouting out different locations, an essential part of pre-production. Learn what to look for when scouting out different locations and how to spot good camera angles. Then, work with that information as you prep for shooting.

Lesson Info

Scouting Locations

Before we jump into equipment, because I think there's gonna be a good component about well here I'll teach about equipment and I'll teach about some stuff that, may frighten you if you ever see it. So, let's just talk about the general lesson again okay? So what I really want you to get from it, is we're gonna talk about production planning. Huge component here is gonna be about Selecting Equipment. We're gonna wrap up this lesson with, something called a Shooting Strategy. So a Shooting Strategy for me is when I go into a location I have to know if I'm using two cameras or one camera, you know. What sort of color profiles I'm gonna shoot. You know, get that stuff out of the way before hand so you're not getting on set with a client staring at you going, "Well like I think I want to use two cameras. "Well maybe I want to put a light over here." You know so, there's an element of theater to being, doing what we're doing. And that element of theater is having that confidence going into ...

set, because there's so many unknowns already. Right? And so, I have a lot of friends who go to Burning Man. And when you go for the first time, the scariest thing is not knowing what to expect. So in order for you to be prepared for what is coming, you prepare physically and mentally, you get all the equipment ready, you get all the stuff ready. And that level of preparation brings a level of confidence when you step into something that is unknown. In the same way, that's what this is. Pre-production is all of the prep work. All of the necessary homework that you're gonna do so that when you step on set with a client you have not only just confidence, but you're able to throw a theater show on a little bit. "Hey you know we're just gonna put a camera here, "we're gonna put a camera right here, "we're gonna get some light. "We're gonna you know, mask off this." You know what you're doing, because you've already thought about it. Okay, that's what Shooting Strategy is. Okay? So, Production Planning. Whew. Big words right? Because the minute you throw production into anything, everyone clams up, because we think Hollywood. Production is what we're doing, okay? It's just the process of creating content. That's what production means. It's not big budget, it's not Hollywood. So we talk about Production Planning. We're gonna talk about scouting location. Researching the client, researching the competition. These are fundamental things, that if you're gonna really do a client piece, you have to do every time. You can't not do it. Like, that's a bad negative. (laughs) You can't refrain from doing it. Okay? You have to do it. This is one of those things on that checklist of doing things that you can't cut a corner on. Because if you cut a corner here, it's gonna show up. Okay? So, let's talk about Scouting the Location. Right? I wasn't able to scout on my own, I had to rely on a location scout, and I needed to take notes and talk to them. So who's your Kathy Ramos? Okay, who's gonna help you bounce ideas? Who's gonna help you get what you need to be able to understand this location? So as I take a look at this location, Kathy did me a favor, she went to the space, she started taking pictures. Okay. So I'm 3,000 miles away. It's like 9:00 p.m. East coast time. You know, I've put in a full day at work already. And I'm looking at these photographs and freaking out. (audience laughs quietly) Okay? Not in a good way. (audience laughs) Okay. I am freaking out because I've got a wall full of windows and depending upon the time of day and weather, thank God I'm in Seattle, right? These windows could be an asset, or an ally. Or you know, an asset, and ally or an enemy. Right? Looks like Christmas inside. You know, in what planet would you decorate the inside of your gym red and green? (audience laughs) 'Cause you're only relevant for like three months out of the year, right? You're like festive, you're like awesomely festive from like the months of like November through to January, and then it's all of a sudden it's Christmas all the time, right? And then, overhead lights, these kinds of lights kill me. They kill me. They're not fun. They nine times, 10 times out of will give you the worst color, right? There's no way around it. You just got to get what you get, right? And the only thing that I got out of this photograph was that this looks like a good shooting angle. That's my angle. Okay. I knew right away, that was the way I was gonna shoot. Okay. So this is another view. It's like oh my, could you just like, come on you're an MMA gym. You're an MMA gym, come on, give me something less than green. You know, give me blue or yellow or something, but green? Right? And not only is the floor green, now the walls are green. Now I'm thinking, I'm thinking something really, really scary right now is that light reflects the color it hits. So light reflects the color it hits, so I am dead in the water if I don't figure out a solution for that. Okay so, can you see the importance of Scouting Locations? Because if I didn't see that, I'd show up on set without any kind of masking, without any (mumbles) team or anything. And I would have been dead in the water. Absolutely dead in the water, okay. And it's not just a row of lights, it's the entire gym. So I've got to figure it out. I need to figure out those lights. Do they flicker? What shutter speed do I need to shoot at to make them not flicker? Right? Can I shoot in the space without the lights? When do I absolutely, positively have to use the lights? All of those things. M'kay. There's a mirror. That makes that entirely unusable. So, stage my gear there. Okay? I can't use that wall, but I'm gonna use it to stage my equipment so it's accessible, right? So I can get to it. A lot of times you get on set and you think so much about what's in front of the camera and you forget what's behind. You forget where you can put gear. You forget where you're gonna store your stuff that's not in the way. Because this is a business guys. As I'm filming some stuff, people are going in and out. So I gotta worry about tripping hazards, I gotta worry about liability, I gotta worry about all that stuff. I need my equipment in a safe space where people aren't gonna touch it, where they're not gonna trip over it, where I can get to it easily, you know. And there's some challenges there. I think, for the day we picked a great spot, but for the evening it became a challenge. Okay, because that's where people sat. Okay? And then more red and green. Right? More red and green. So, you come around the corner and you see this ring. Now, I saw this and I was like, could it help? How could we use it? I had it at the back of my head, and I'll tell you up front, we didn't end up using this space. I think we had to make the executive decision of limiting what we were gonna capture and where we were gonna capture it. Because as you add more footage, and as you add more location, it adds more editing time. How much time do I have to edit? I had a day. Therefore, I needed to limit it to one location. One location, get as much content at that location as possible. Do not bite off more than you can chew. You have to slow it down. You've got to take a look at what your framework is and you have to play within that framework. Otherwise, you're gonna get to the editing room and you're gonna freak out because it's like, now it's overwhelming. M'kay? If this piece goes well, we could always go back and shoot another one, right? If you please the client, they're gonna want you to come back. So, don't try to shoot an Oscar winning you know, film right off the bat. Shoot something that you can deliver, deliver well, get their trust so that then you can expand upon that story. Because this is where we start to build that loyalty with the clients we work with. This is where we start to build that loyalty with the people who we are gonna engage with as we create content for them. Because guaranteed, right? As this film that we create ages, and as the gym changes, they're gonna want another piece. And who are they gonna go to? They're gonna go to the person they trust the most, because the last time we did something was good right? That's the logic, that's the theory, that's the kind of progression of developing loyal clientele that's gonna trust you over years, okay? So don't try to make it something huge. Don't try to fly in a jib or a crane and like fly in like a whole crew. No, do something manageable. Get something you can be proud of that you can do reasonably well in a reasonable amount of time without adding too much fluff, okay? Again, it's not about like a great shot. It's about getting that story out. Okay? And then sometimes, when you do get location shots, they don't work really well. Sorry Kathy. Yeah it's often to tease her but, you know, like they don't work really well and you have to kind of just imagine what it's gonna be like. And I just decided nope, not using that room. Just 'cause, it's just too red. And honestly, from a technical standpoint, red is the worst color to capture. Because it will clip the most. Okay, so avoid red as much as possible. Can you just explain um Victor what you mean by that? In terms of red will clip the most. Yeah sure. We all know like RGB channels, red, blue, green channels. So on a camera sensor m'kay, there's three colors that are being captured, red, blue and green. And typically, when you capture a scene like this that has a lot of red in it, red for some reason clips, significantly meaning, it's gonna overexpose, it's gonna lose a lot of detail in whatever is red. So you'll end up getting blotching, you'll end up getting a lot of pixelation. It'll look "muddy". Right? You'll lose an entire, the entire lack of detail. That's why a lot of times you see people try to pull saturation out when someone's got a lot of red skin. They try to pull a lot of saturation out to kind of keep that channel from clipping. So that they actually can control their exposure a little bit. Okay. So there's like, things that effect exposure and things that effect color. And when I talk about like the color channel clipping, that's what's gonna really, really detract from, away of like the aesthetic of your film, okay? So, we'll talk about it later, but there's ways to really see how much that red channel's clipping. And there's ways to pull it down in post to avoid having that happen to you. Okay? Thank you I just, I really appreciate as well that some of these things, 'cause I'm seeing people nod their head, as photographers when we walk into a space, we are already considering what colors are in there, how much light is in there. Exactly. And so, this really is the same concepts that we already do know how to do. So that's the thing that I really want to bridge off of, this idea of, when you Scout the Location, there's nothing different. You've scouted locations time and time again for photography. But, I think when you look at it for film making, the extra step you have to take is just, what additional things do I need to do to make this location work for me? M'kay? Because a lot of times with photography, we can kind of really futz it, really easily. M'kay, we can kind of add a light and kind of do some post in Photoshop and you know, get ourselves out of a jam in post pretty easily. But when you're capturing motion, you know where it's easy to edit one photograph in Photoshop, if I'm capturing 24 frames a second, that's 24 photographs in a second that I've got to edit and find a way to mask out and do all these things. And garbage masking and yeah, I know it's not fun. Okay? So get it right. This is where we as photographers can be very, very, very good because we're so used to seeing what can be a challenge and how to avoid it. Okay? So Location Impressions right? In my opinion okay, nine o'clock at night, talking on the phone, looking at these photographs, there's panic in my voice. I'm starting to wonder what did I just sign up for, and I'm starting to really question my ability to deliver on the promises that I'm trying to make myself. Okay. So, there's a huge degree of battling my expectations here. Remember what I said earlier in the class, about not having a preconceived notion of client? Being able to change your perception of the client as you do your research. This is a good example of that. I did not what to shoot this piece when I saw the photos. I just didn't. It did not look like a piece I could do well, you know? So I needed to get out of my own head. And that's the first thing that I realized about doing this class was just, there were so many moments where I just wanted to give up. You know? And I wanted just to say forget it, I can't do it. It's not gonna be good. I'm gonna make a, like I'm gonna look like an idiot. You know, all of these things because we all go through that. Because we're putting ourselves out there for someone to consume our content. And you don't want to look a fool. Right? So, battling expectations is a daily thing here. And I'm not making any qualms about it. Like I've dealt with that every day at the shoot. Even till like, I walked in here this morning and everyone's like, "Hey how's it going? "How's the edit?" I'm like, "It's not done!" (laughs) You know? You know, it's kinda done. But then like at 10 o'clock last night I had to regrade the whole thing. You know? So like this is real life stuff for me. You know so, this is what I followed up with. I had to battle my expectations, and I might need to change my shooting plan. I need to figure out what I'm gonna do. I've committed to doing this. I've put my name on that dotted line so now I have to deliver. I have to do whatever it takes to deliver something that I'll be proud of, that will tell the client's story and not get in my own head about it. Okay, you will face these challenges. I think you face them already as photographers. And the thing that we have to continually come back to is that no matter what challenge we rise up to it and we exceed it. Because what? We've prepared and we answered the why. Okay, you lean on preparation. So, here are the questions I asked, m'kay? I was on the phone with my Location Scout and I said, "Hey, can I get curtains for the windows?" Why? It's too bright. I need a way to cut that light. I need a way to control that light. That's just basic photography lighting 101 guys. Control the light, control the shadows, control what you want in that space. Can we do a flicker test in the rooms? If the lights flicker, I'm gonna need to bring even more light. Do you guys know what flicker is? If sometimes you'll see like, like a little flicker banding in a piece of video, that's because the lights are not flicker free. There's a way to kind of like mitigate that by changing shutter speed, m'kay. I'll point it out in the edit. Where I didn't change my shutter speed and you can see it. Okay? How many people are in the class at night? Help me plan for B-Roll. We actually got people to come into the class just so that I could get some quality B-Roll. So having these questions, getting that plan, working with the client to schedule an unscheduled class to get people in there, because the last thing you want to do is show up to shoot a piece and have no one show up. Right? Those are really, really important for us, to get people into the gym so that we had a story to tell with the people that were there. Should I have people in the ring? Why? Well this will give us an opportunity to shape the narrative. I'm still thinking about that ring, even here in pre-production. Always open to a second location, but on shoot day, I got asked multiple times, "Are you gonna shoot the ring?" I said, "No." You have to be willing to jettison an idea no matter how committed you are to it in pre-production. You've gotta get rid of ideas even up through and ending the shoot. So that you know what you have in the can is gonna be good enough to deliver on the edit. If I would have said yes to the ring, and my footage would have been mediocre in the gym and in the ring. Again, dead in the water. Do what you can do in one space the best you can before you move onto the next location. Okay? Now, is there anything visually interesting in the space? The question was no, the answer was no. But, what was there was visually interesting enough for me to get what I needed. Remember, this is a piece about the people, not only just about the owner, the gym owner and the gym. It's also about the people. So I, in reality I didn't need other things to be interesting. I needed the people to be interesting. And that was the light switch that flipped in my head as I was kind of going on and talking to Kathy and kind of really getting through that stage of panic, through the stage of acceptance, and through the stage of okay, I'm digging myself out of this ditch. What can I do? What assets or what things can I lean on to get me through this portion? M'kay? So how does that feel to you guys? Is that something that you kind of identify with a little bit? Is that something you guys can kind of see, "Oh yeah, well you know what? "I've been in that situation. "I just didn't know I could get out of it "until I actually did it." That's exactly what I'm talking about here. How do we get one of those? The Location Scout because, (Victor laughs) because I'm going through my head like, of every place, wedding venue that I shot at. Mhm. Every location that I shot at. There are a million one questions that I have, and I'd like to hear more about how you worked with the location scout-- Okay. To get that. So, there's a really great service out there called Google. (audience laughs) Google the location. Because if it's a well traveled location you will see images all over the place of that location. That's the first thing. Second thing, call the space tell them to send you photographs. Call the space, say, "You know what hey, "I'm gonna be shooting in your space. "I want to make sure that I do a great job. "You know, could you do me a favor "um I just want a handful of photographs." Or, "You know, when do you open? "Can I come if you're local? "Can I come and just kind of walk the space "and take a look at it real quickly?" You know? "It's gonna take up five minutes, I know you're busy." You know? I think, what I've learned in my whole life is that, when you inform somebody that you have a need and that they can help you with that need, they're always willing to accommodate that question and that request. Especially if you say up front, "Hey you know what?" Like, "I've never been to your location, "I'm photographing this huge job "and I'm really nervous and I know you're busy, "is there a way that I can just sneak by "and take a look at the space real quickly? "I'll take five minutes." You know? If you're remote, m'kay, if like New York to Seattle kinda thing. The most important thing you could do is definitely call the space. And then ask them if they work with anyone in the area that could provide you images of the place. Okay? And so, that's short of having someone like Kathy, those are great assets. And I think that because of just being able to search online for things like this, it's just a great way for us to kind of like create a visual mark up of what we need to do in that space. Okay? And be inspired by it too, you know? Sometimes people do great work in spaces you would never think of, right? So take that as an opportunity to be inspired. To like look at other people's work and have it be inspirational. I think that that's a lot of fun in the discovery process. I mean to be honest, I watched a video that had been made for Ivan. Just so that I could get a feel for who he was and what the gym was like, you know? And for me it helps me understand a little bit more how I would approach the space. I have a question from Studio Modern who said, "What if those difficult colors are part "of the client's feature of the location, "and are important to them? "What are some things that you could think about "when you have to use challenging "things like color?" Yeah. Well you think about Universities right? And sports teams, they have their colors. And you think about the things that people identify with that are color based. And yeah, for me I didn't have an affinity for those colors. But there are certain things in our own society where color and association to those colors is very important. So if it's important to the client, then it's gotta be important to you, right? That's, that's it. No matter what you think, again it's that preconceived notions, perception going in. You have to realize, if it's important to the client you have to find a way to make it important to you. And you have to find a way to make it important to you in a way that you can communicate. That doesn't mean like, if they like you know blue and orange to plaster it all over the set. Right? Talk to them and say, "Hey you know what? "I think that blue and orange might make you "look a little sports teamy. "And I know you really like the colors. "How about if we find, "you know, an accessory that accents "those colors for you. "Or how about we put you in a space "that's more neutral, "so that you can have a piece of wardrobe "that leans towards that color." Okay? It's a conversation. It has to be a compromise, because what the client doesn't understand a lot of the times is what you're seeing is aesthetic and deliverability. What they're seeing is their own passion. Okay? What they're seeing is their own perception of what they think their business or what they think they are. So it has to be a conversation of, "Hey you know what? "I know you like you know, "purple and yellow, "and those are great colors for sports teams "and they're great colors for like colleges "but I think what's gonna happen is "it's gonna really be dated. "And I feel like we want to have this piece "be a little bit more of a long standing piece "so that you can have an opportunity to use "this piece of content for a longer time. "So why don't we take a look at adding some "accents of color in there, "so that you can actually, "we can call out your appreciation of that "and your identity. "But I think we should do it in a different way." Offer that as a suggestion. 'Cause you're the expert. Okay? They brought you on because you are the expert. Another question? Now these uh, a lot of these professional cameras have flicker control? Mhm. It works when you're shooting pictures, does it work the same if you shoot video? Well you know, on the DSLRs right? M'kay, so we're really focusing on using DSLRs for video because we're photographers. And unfortunately some of the advanced video features that are present in some other cameras just don't exist in our cameras. And depending upon which camera model you have, and depending which brand you use, there's just a, a limitation to the cameras that we're gonna use. Okay? And the reason I'm focusing on DSLR is because most of us own them, right? I don't want you to go buy a C or rent a C100 or jump into a Red or get a Black Magic or an RE, because there's a time for that. But the time for us is to live in this space with a camera we already know. And for the cameras that we already have the best way to mitigate flicker is to make sure we're using flicker free lights or to shift from 50th of a second to 60th of a second. Because based upon the hertz of the light, you can actually mitigate it by just jumping up or down a third of exposure, okay? And just one more comment on this topic. But Karina has said, "Some locations have an actual "location manager." Mhm. "Or location scout that you could always inquire "if that person, "you know, if they "have that type of person." Yeah, for sure. "Or if there are services out there." And so that's just another suggestion. Yeah, for sure. So I'm gonna move on. And so, we just went through all of that like initial impression. And so the next video, it's actually me in the space kind of walking you guys through like, what some of the challenges I thought, and how I'm responding to it. M'kay so, just the next video. I'm in Ivan Salaverry's Gym. Now today, we're actually gonna be doing what I call client profiles. And so we've kind of reserved this entire space with a real live client to create a piece for them throughout the entirety of this class. Now, a large part of working on a client profile involves location scouting. And understanding some challenges when you step into a space. So right now, as I kind of stand in this space there's a few challenges that I'm kinda trying to work through in my head. One of which is the bank of windows. And then, the over amount of green. Like there's a ton of green here that I think can overpower the scene if I'm not careful. What I'm worried about now is this huge bank of windows. Will I need to mask out the windows? What am I gonna do to control this light? You know so, there's a couple options I have. If I've got direct sunlight coming in, I can mask that off with a, with just come black curtains and that would be really easy. But that's gonna create a different mood to the whole space, right? So remember, lighting creates mood and mood effects the overall reception of how people actually are gonna watch your film. So, I'm gonna have to take a step back and think okay, well I'm gonna use my main source as these windows. So if I'm gonna use that, then I'm gonna have to kick back in extra light or reflect in extra light so that, that I can have a chance to balance out my exposure a little bit. And just as point of reference, and as a rule of thumb, the higher the contrast ratio right? So we got two to one, four to one, eight to one. If you're at eight to one, that's a really, really moody scene. And based upon kind of like, my pre-interview with the client, and kind of like my understanding of who Ivan is, I think that's almost too drastic. That's not who they are today. So if I'm gonna go with something that's a little bit more open and a little bit more not dramatic, I'm gonna kinda need to lean on like a four to one or a two to one ratio. But because my windows are such a constant light, I've got to balance that with whatever light I add in. A cool tip though, is when you step into new space, before you start looking at windows, or colors, or framing, or any sort of thing that is image based, just stop for a second and just listen to the room. So I'm gonna stop talking for about 10 or 15 seconds. And what you're gonna hear is a really, really loud buzzing. I'm gonna be capturing sound here. Now if I'm capturing a lot of the sound, what's gonna end up happening is if I don't stop to listen to the room and don't hear the buzz. This is gonna kinda pollute the entire audio track that I've got. So I'm gonna shut up right now, and then in about 10 seconds we're gonna turn the lights off, which is what's causing that buzz and you're gonna hear a significant difference in exactly what's happening. Okay so. (buzzing) (loud click) So if you've noticed already there's so much of a quieter space. The overall buzz to the room's gone. You actually can hear kind of like my voice reverberate off and not compete against that buzz. But I think it's so important to stop and walk into a room and listen to it before you open up a camera bag, before you take out a tripod. That, that is such an important thing to do. And it involves nothing with cameras, it involves nothing with images. It involves nothing with anything except stopping and listening. So what'd you guys think about that? Did you guys kind of get a feeling for what I'm thinking about as I'm walking into a space? Listening to the room is really, really important. And we'll kind of bridge on that later in the class about, what that can do for you in the edit. Because there's great things you can do to help you mitigate some stuff. So long as you're actually listening to it. You gotta listen to it. Okay? And I think that, that's the first thing. You know, I made a lot of mistakes but that's the one mistake I didn't make. Okay? And I'm gonna show you how that saved me in the edit. Okay?

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Ratings and Reviews

Cheryl Winkles

You're awesome, I learnt a lot from you, this is like a must-have first course for anyone who wants to step into video or filmmaking world. Highly recommended and thank you a million Victor Ha.

a Creativelive Student

Fantastic course, Victor is one of the finest instructors I have encountered. Great stuff, I would highly recommend this for anyone who wants to work in video

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