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Basics of Location Planning

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 12/10/2009

Here are a few principle features to address when location planning.

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    Location Scouting, Managing & Planning

    Location scouting, and eventual location management, is often heavily overlooked during the pre-production phases of most small or independent productions. Even though it is often forgotten until the last minute you will find that it may be one of the most important aspects of pre-production and will definitely make or break your eventual shoots.

    The location scout will go out and find the appropriate locations for what is scripted, but when someone is working on location planning they will both act as a location scout and someone looking to prepare that given location. Location planning, then, is a combination of finding, estimating, and preparing locations. This can be the job of a single position or can be taken up by several, such as the original location scout, the production manager, the production designer, and the production coordinator. In the end the only thing that really defines who does these tasks is how large your production is and how you are defining each role.

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    One of the first things you have to look into when location planning at your selected location is the space you have to work at. Since you have to make the location practical for filming you have to know if there is enough space in each room that you must use for both the production equipment and the story space that must appear in front of the camera. Will you be able to get everything in and out in a reasonable period of time? Will you be able to navigate your way through easily? Are there a number of different objects or pieces of furniture you will have to move out for space? Often times you cannot add space when you are lacking it, so this can really determine the usefulness of the location.

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    From there you have to begin planning the characteristics and objects in or around the location. The style of the building that you are in, or even the landscape of the outdoor area you are working with, are all going to play a part. The art director, lead by the production designer, will often work with this more concretely. You may have to plan to alter the location to portray the story space and visual characteristics you want. This may mean preparing a period of time in which the objects are supposed to appear, or even a color scheme that fits within your vision.

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    Sound is one of the most overlooked parts of actual production, and likewise one of the most overlooked parts of location planning. You have to plan for how to actually record the sound you receive in your location. This means planning for any outside objects, devices, or environments that may encroach sound on your production. Essentially you want to plan for a schematic that will provide silence in your production location. After that you will then prepare for how to create any on set sounds that you want recorded in your location.

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    Lighting fits up with importance right up against sound, though it may even take prominence as your visuals are often what determines you location choice. You have to plan for what type of lights you are going to bring in and what type of light is coming into the location. You will have to go back to the directional location planning for space to make sure that you have enough room to fit the types of lighting kits that you are preparing for.

    If you want to use natural light you have to plan for what angle you are going to be shooting from within your location so you can see where natural light comes in and coordinate this with the position of the sun over the course of the shoot. You will also have to figure out the power situation in the location to get the lighting balance correct.

Film Production Forms for Location Filming

Here are articles outlining how to create production and legal forms for location film production.
  1. Putting Together a Location Receipt
  2. Basics of Location Planning
  3. Using a Location Agreement
  4. Constructing a Location Information Sheet
  5. Legal Considerations When Shooting in a Public Location