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The technical objectives (the how)

From: Effective Site Surveys for Video and Photo Projects

Video: The technical objectives (the how)

I really see three major reasons to do the site survey. The first is to achieve the technical objectives of what's going to be necessary to pull off the shoot. Here are some practical things to think about when you go on location. The first thing here is I like to say, how am I going to do the shoot? When I go on a site survey or a location scout, I'm simply saying, what's necessary to pull the shoot off? This means is there any gear that I need? I start to make a gear list, and generally speaking, I go out with a standard list that I normally shoot with.

The technical objectives (the how)

I really see three major reasons to do the site survey. The first is to achieve the technical objectives of what's going to be necessary to pull off the shoot. Here are some practical things to think about when you go on location. The first thing here is I like to say, how am I going to do the shoot? When I go on a site survey or a location scout, I'm simply saying, what's necessary to pull the shoot off? This means is there any gear that I need? I start to make a gear list, and generally speaking, I go out with a standard list that I normally shoot with.

Instead of starting from scratch, I find that it's easier to remove items from the list and then pencil in the few additions that are necessary. Chances are you have a list of gear that you own; use that as a starting point. You don't need to have every doodad and whistle up there, but you do want to include the major components. Are you going to bring a slider to get moving shots? How many light stands do you think you need? Are there are any special equipment necessary for hanging the lights off the ceiling? Think about next the crew that's needed.

Now, a lot of times you're going to have budget constraints that you're going to have to follow, but sometimes it's better to decide if an extra set of hands is necessary. For example, if I'm dealing with a location where there's a pretty big distance from where we have to park our vehicles and where we have to store the equipment, I'll bring an extra set of hands. Maybe it's to run the gear back and forth or to go get things that are necessary. Maybe it's a location where parking is going to be impossible and just having a production assistant to sit with the vehicle or perhaps drive around the block a few times so you don't get a ticket is going to really help things out.

What you're looking for here is making sure you have enough bodies to pull the production off, and not being afraid to bring in extra production assistant for $200 a day might be the make or break point between a successful production and a failure. So make sure you properly analyze how many people you need. Don't bring more than you need, but don't be afraid to have some extra set of hands to pull things off. Additionally, think about special situations or considerations. Are there any permits that are going to be necessary? You're going to need to take a look around and make sure you have enough power.

Most video productions require quite a bit, so you might need to plan for things like a generator or extensive extension cords so you could run power from different parts of the building. This is also an opportunity to do some test shooting. I generally will bring a DSLR camera with me. The nice thing about it is, with a zoom lens, I can easily get different focal lengths. I could frame up the shots. Having an assistant or perhaps the producer step in with me, we could take a look and just frame up some test shots and get a good idea of how everything is going to work.

You don't have to pull all the equipment out there; the nice thing with the modern DSLR and a good zoom lens is you could easily figure out the focal lengths you need and get a good idea of how a location is going to behave. So, don't be afraid to do some test shots. You can roll video or stills. And even if you're not going to be shooting on a DSLR, the DSLR camera is still incredibly versatile, because it will allow you to go ahead and get both video and photos of that location.

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