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Sunday, April 3, 2011

••◊ Location Scouting

Today's post is about a location scout I went on yesterday with solar light films for an upcoming short called Zombie Man.  I thought it might be interesting to discuss some of the logistics of working with a location.


Take a look at some the pictures below and think about what you see then read below to get my thoughts on what I see.


As a DP here are some of the things I see.  First, we're outdoors, which means shifting daylight color temperature and deep nasty shadows.  White balancing will need to happen often.  We'll need fill cards and lighting with gels.  This also means hauling out a generator and finding a place to put it where we can run power cords but not cause a brush fire.  Where are the restrooms?  We have a staff of 10-20 people out there during the day and the city probably doesn't want us using the bushes, especially with mountain bike riders coming by every few minutes.  There are homes in the distance (open up the second picture and look to the far right).  This means limiting our camera angles or compositing out that part of the picture.  There was a suggestion of using a dolly, which means hauling a dolly out to the middle of nowhere as opposed to using a steadicam solution.  There's a lot of high spacial frequency content with the grass which may pose an issue for the 5Dm2 line skipping moire problems.  We have to mount a tripod out in the grasslands on unstable land!  How are we going to haul a literal ton of gear out to this area.  Wagons?  ...because no motorized vehicles are allowed in the park.  Finally, this isn't our habitat.  You can see whose habitat it is by looking closely at the last picture in the series above.  Yes, this is a safety issue for talent and crew.


This abandoned building looks benign enough, right?  However, we have a very large staff that day, so again, where are the bathrooms?  The sign on the building gives it away, so we may want to choose angles that crop out the "Cabrillo" logo or composite it out in post.  The building doesn't have power available to us, but we want to do some night time shooting there.  None of the building lighting is on, so how do we provide enough lights to make it look like the building is still active?  That's a lot of lights without a power source.  If the sky is cloudy, then it will essentially be blown out to white.  Do we want to composite in a blue sky or let it blow to white?


Again, another seemingly innocent location until you start looking at the lighting.  Notice the fluorescent lights?  Well...they are a mixture of various color temperatures.  You can't tell this from a still photo so much because the lights are blown to white, but it will make a difference to video when people starting moving from pockets of green to magenta to blue.   Cheap fluorescents also flicker, which may not show up during the day when we have daylight fill like this, but it will show up at night when the overhead lights are the main lighting.  There's also not quite enough light for lower ISO/lower noise camera settings which can be solved a number of ways, which also means matching the color temperature of the practicals.  The menu sign at the check out counter is somewhat blown out.  This may be OK, depending on how the bokeh works out.  It may be a bright blurry mess when we selectively focus on subjects in the restaurant no matter what we do.  Notice the bright colors?  Probably a good idea to turn down the in camera saturation so we don't clip a color channel or two - check those histograms.  The restaurant is not any deeper than the camera position this photo was taken at.  Key light placement is going to be difficult.  ...but there are restrooms.

So I hope that gives a little insight into what I think about when I walk into a location.

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