Location scouting for a smoother production / by Glenn Dixon

National Gallery Victoria: Clarissa Belanti

Making an opportunity to scout a location before a shoot is of tremendous value to a production. Minimising the variables and clarifying uncertainties will ensure a smoother on set experience for all involved.

Scouting the National Gallery of Victoria for interview locations prior to shooting saved me. I took the camera into the museum to conduct a lighting test and discovered many of the spotlights in the galleries produced a flicker that I could not remove even when offsetting my frame rate. My Sony PMW200 does not have a clear-scan function and I could not work out how to remove the lighting flicker in camera. Luckily, I found gallery spaces without these lighting units and planned the day accordingly. This problem would have taken half a day to solve if I had not accounted for it prior to the shoot.

Particular things to consider when scouting locations:
- Ambient noise levels (note the quiet/peak times).
- Lighting (not the direction, colour temperature/s, methods of control, flicker artefacts).
- Possible camera compositions.
- Equipment functionality and operation in the environment.
- Power outlets.
- Public access.
- Access to cooking, bathroom, wardrobe and emergency facilities.

Location Sketch

The overwhelming majority of my filmmaking assignments do not afford sufficient time to scout a location prior to the shooting day. The organisation I am working for quite often nominates a location and arranges for the individuals to be present on the day of filming. Considering interstate travel logistics, it is not always financially feasible nor logistically practical to build in time for a location ‘recce'. As filmmakers we need to not only adjust to this trend but embrace it. While it could be detrimental to neglect scouting a location for a larger scale production, I have learnt to react fluidly and in the moment to make the most out of less than desirable shooting situations.

Particular thanks to the participants, The Department of Education and Training (DET), The Modern Language Teachers' Association of Victoria (MLTAV), The Immigration Museum and The National Gallery of Victoria (NGV).

Photograph above: Through the viewfinder during an interview.
Photograph middle: Location sketches in my notebook referencing power outlets, ambient noise and interview setups.
Photograph below: Behind the scenes of an interview at the National Gallery of Victoria.