Filming on Location: Advice and Insight

 

The most important thing I have learned and can share with others is, that filming in the field isn’t easy. In fact, it’s pretty darn difficult.

This is not for the weak and I mean that literally. You must to be able to carry heavy equipment in locations that are not always ideal or easily accessed. Which brings me to my next point; you must always be prepared.

First, figure out what you are shooting.

What’s your story, angle, and point? Then figure out the location and the obstacles that particular location may have for you. For instance, I was shooting a feature on a local musician. I wanted footage of him in his natural habitat. He just so happened to work at a local bar in downtown, Wilmington.

Bars are typically dark and a little dingy…among other things, which posed as a problem. How was I going to light him? How was I going to record audio? What angles should I use? What type of shots/frames was I going to get? These are all questions I asked myself days before the shoot. Reading the articles I listed at the bottom of the page confirmed that planning ahead of time and being prepared for anything and everything is essential.

After you have figured out the what, when and where, go scout your location.

Find out if there are windows and which direction they face. At certain times of the day, if the sun is coming straight through the windows, that could be a problem for you. Check out the lighting that is available, which will help you figure out what type of lighting kit you’ll need. Are there mirrors or decorations that will distract or interfere with your shooting?

This one is super important, check your power supply. Make sure that your location has an adequate power source for your equipment. If inside, locate where the outlets are and plan around that.

For shooting outside it is important to know the weather forecast and examine the elements. Will it be cold, hot, rainy, etc.? Following the sun and managing your time is also important. If you are wanting a sunset vibe in your video, get to your locations hours before so that you are set up and ready for that type of lighting. Checkout the articles below for more information on location scouting.

What should you bring with you while filming in the field?

This is something I struggled with and had to ask the advice of those more experienced than I. It never hurts to get the opinion of others on what equipment you might need. However, I have learned from personal experience and from reading articles online, that there are some essentials you probably always want to have on hand.

You will want to have a Camera kit, Audio kit and a Lighting kit. According to the first article listed below these are the basics for those kits.

Your core Camera kit should include:

  1. Camera + Lenses
  2. Tripod
  3. Camera Kit Bag
  4. Batteries + Charger
  5. Storage Cards
  6. Reflector
  7. A small lighting kit (perhaps two Dedos or LED LitePanels)

Your core Sound kit should include:

  1. Audio Recorder + Spare Batteries
  2. Shotgun Mic
  3. Boom Pole
  4. 2 Radio Mics / Receivers + Spare Batteries
  5. Headphones
  6. XLR Cable + Backup XLR

Kit Bag essentials include:

  1. Lens Cleaning Fluid
  2. 1-Inch Brush
  3. Multi-Tool
  4. LED Torch
  5. Camera Tape
  6. Dust Off / Compressed Air
  7. Spare Camera Batteries
  8. Spare Cards/Tapes
  9. A Camera Rain Cover
  10. A Small Umbrella

They say this is “traveling light”. From my own experience you might not always have people willing to help you. Be prepared to carry the equipment yourself and invest in a cart of some sort. If you do have someone to help you, I highly suggest bringing a colleague, intern, student, friend, family member or whoever! It’s not really smart to film by yourself. One person, alone with extremely expensive equipment is just asking to get “jumped”. As a female, I find it essential to bring someone along when I’m filming even if they are just there for moral support. My sidekick is my sister. Although she never went to school for film, she finds it interesting and always offers me a creative eye.

Filming can be exciting and rewarding.

It definitely feels good to look back at your footage and see what you have accomplished. It also can feel really crummy to spend hours and hours planning, setting up, and filming, to end up not having any usable footage. Make sure you prepare and do it right the first time. Don’t feel embarrassed about being Knit Picky. If you have a vision, make it happen.

BACKUP YOUR MEDIA!

External hard drives, extra SD cards, whatever you have to backup EVERYTHING, do it! If your computer crashes, so does all your media, time and hard work. If your external hard drive is stolen, make sure you have that info/media saved elsewhere. Prepare for the unexpected because chances are, it will happen to you at some point.

Never leave your equipment in your car. Not only for the purpose of preventing theft but also because equipment does not do well in extremely cold or hot  weather. You could come back to find your equipment not functioning properly or warped (it actually happened to me once).

Final thoughts…

I thought I knew so much more about filming on location. I have worked on numerous big name productions but I was never the sole camera operator. I was never the person in charge. It’s easy to sit here and write all of this or to tell someone what it is supposed to look like. Actually being out there is a different story. When I had to make all of the decisions, set up my equipment, and be the director and camera op, it was tough. As a bit of a perfectionist, the biggest thing for me was admitting that I don’t know something. I think of the Socratic Paradox, “ I know one thing: That I know nothing.”. This is what makes you the wisest man.

I have accepted that there is always something I can learn and the way to do that, is through research and just hands on experience. Prepare and learn from your mistakes.

https://reeldealfilmschool.wordpress.com/2014/10/18/5-top-tips-for-filming-on-location/

http://www.videomaker.com/article/c18/8946-11-tips-for-location-scouting

http://www.crutchfield.com/S-ZtYC1XTXQvI/learn/learningcenter/home/camcordertips.html