If you are in video production, at some point along the line you will have to do a location recce. It’s an important part of pre production since it gives your team a chance to look around the location that you intend to shoot in, whether you’re looking at houses for filming, or any other location, whether it be indoors or outdoors. A good camera operator often knows that even if there is lighting equipment available on a shoot he will perform a location scout, to see if there is a better place in the location to set up.
The team leader should conduct the recce no more than a couple of days before the shoot date. The actual time you spend at this stage will depend on the size of your production team and how many locations you have to visit. It’s possible that all you may need to do is make one visit, but it could be more. In general, though, it shouldn’t take longer than half a day for every location you plan to use.
Why is a location recce important?
When planning your shoot it’s important to know the limitations of each location you use. This is particularly true if you’re shooting on a limited budget or have tight deadlines to meet, as happens with corporate video production.
The location recce will give you information about things that are difficult to plan for, such as weather conditions and how much time your team will need to get from one location to another.
Why should you hire a local location professional for location recce?
The location you choose for your video shoot will make a huge difference to the overall look and feel of the production. Think about it; if you were producing a romantic comedy, would you set it at an abandoned warehouse studio in London, or in front of an amazing sunset?
Your local location professional knows all the best locations for your video shoot, whether they’re indoors or out, free or with hire charges attached. They also know their history and significance to the area, which can be important when dealing with historical documentaries or events that are still fresh in people’s minds.
The 10 most important things to remember for Location Recce:
Know your script:
The script will play a vital role in your location recce. It’s the only way to tell what’s going to happen in each shot and how much space you will need for each one. If every scene has people walking through it, for example, then you know that you can’t shoot at a location where there is very limited access.
Ensure all locations are safe: You don’t want anybody getting injured while you’re shooting or during the pre-production process – especially since they’ll be moving equipment from place to place! Never underestimate safety procedures no matter how big or small your production team is.
When you are doing a recce there is no way you can be expected to get around without your own transport. Some of the places on your list may be close by, but there’s no guarantee of this, and if they’re several miles away then you don’t want to waste half your day getting from one place to another. If you have the transportation available then even better! If not then hire or borrow some vehicles or scooters for the production team- anything that will get everyone where they need to go in good time.
It’s important to check out lighting conditions at each location. You need to know where you have natural light coming in, what time the sun rises and sets, how much sunlight you have for each part of your shoot day, and so on. This information will be essential when you’re planning your production schedule.
It’s vital to check for safety issues at every location. If you’re going into a warehouse, for example, it’s important to inspect the stairs and ladders that will be used and the condition of the flooring, and any other potential hazard that could cause injury or death if your team members aren’t careful.
Is there a make-up or green room?
The location that you choose could also need different kinds of preparation such as having a green room built for the crew to use. It’s important to find out if any has been prepared for your shoot- if so, ask the production manager about it and I think you will agree with me when I say we should thank our lucky stars and take advantage of this possibility! If not, you may have to consider looking at other locations further away from where you want to be shooting. It might be more stressful on your team but it could open up a lot of doors later on in post production.
Are the spaces soundproof?
This is particularly important if you plan to use a space that has been used for other activities at some point in the past. It’s fine doing a recce but it’s always better to have someone who can give you an honest opinion on whether they think this location will be suitable for your production or not. Make sure that there are no structures behind where you want to set up.
This is another issue that could affect recording quality- so when you are searching for your perfect location make sure that someone checks behind the spot where your camera operator wants to place his equipment.
There is nothing more off-putting for a subject who’s just been brought somewhere to be interviewed than arriving and discovering that there are no public bathrooms anywhere nearby. If one person has done the recce before the main crew visits then it’s good if they put a tick or some sort of mark next to all the locations where bathroom facilities can be found, but apart from this make sure you always have a backup plan. If your interviewee needs to go at any point, offer them a ride back wherever you’re based until they’re ready again. Even if it means taking them on a two-hour round trip that will still be better than having him drop out because he had to wait 30 minutes for his own.
It is always important to check the location for any potential hazards such as tripping risks, puddles, and dry rot. You’d be surprised at how many times people do fall over in their sets, so make sure you find out if there are any wet patches or loose floorboards! It may sound like common sense but it would be terrible to have someone injure themselves before they even had a chance to line up an interview. Also, don’t visit during storms without checking on all the possible dangers first! This will also allow you to secure anything that might fly away or damage your equipment due to strong winds.
It is always best to scout out the location at different times of the day so you can check the sun’s position at each one. As well as looking at where shadows will be, you should also consider how the light interacts with your background and what might be revealed by it. If there are any buildings or structures in front of your camera then they may suffer too, I’m not saying this is never OK but try to avoid it whenever possible.
With only a few exceptions, nothing looks smaller on screen than it does in real life. To avoid your set looking cramped you should always scout the location to see how much space is available. It doesn’t matter if it will be fine when the crew arrive- there is nothing worse than having people crowded together so closely that they can barely move. If your interviewee has any movement restrictions then you may need even more space!
Why is a recce of the studio space more efficient?
During the studio shoot, your crew will usually be ready in advance of when the talent arrives. This is to ensure that when they do arrive everyone is well prepared and can get rolling without wasting time at the beginning of the day. During the planning stage, it’s a good idea to take a look at the studio yourself so you know roughly how long it takes for your lighting and camera equipment to be set up.
It’s always better to give yourself too much time than not enough. If someone is late arriving then don’t panic: you can use that extra time productively by running through some test shots and checking that everything is working as expected (just make sure you tell the director, producer, and talent). Just before they arrive say goodbye to them and check with them about 15 minutes later; if they are still nowhere in sight then don’t sit around waiting – go ahead with the recce as planned or do some further tests if you like.
Examine the elements:
If your studio or on-location shoot has an outdoor space attached to it then make sure you look at the weather forecast before finalizing any plans. You should also check if there are any obstacles that may block natural light from entering the set, and look out for anything that may distract the eye of the camera.
Initially, avoid pointing yourself in the direction of your sun while doing this recce. It’s best to try to watch what is happening by looking over one shoulder; turning around 180 degrees and noting down any problems. You can usually use simple objects like boxes or chairs to indicate where the talent will be standing during filming
A recce is an important process that cannot be overlooked if you want to have a successful shoot. It’s vital that everyone knows what to expect at the location, whether it’s the best place for the session or not. Try and remain flexible throughout but don’t be disheartened by anything that might happen- after all, no one can predict exactly how everything will run smoothly. You’ll always discover new things during the recce which you didn’t originally know!