- Consider the lighting at the time of day you will be
filming. It will be different in the morning, afternoon, or evening. It
will also be different on a cloudy day than on a sunny day.
- If you are indoors, the time of day and type of weather
can still effect lighting based on what is coming through any windows.
- Indoors, look at the lights available in the room.
Fluorescent lights create a different look than incandescents. Where
the lights are in relation to the subject also makes a difference.
- Make sure that any windows that will be in the room can
be covered. Light, even from the side coming through a window can
change the exposure. Never plan your shot with a window behind your
subject unless you want the subject to be in silhouette. You will lose
all features and the subject may just be a dark shape.
- Windows, lights, doorways, and other light sources can
change your exposure. Be aware of where they are located and how you
can use or eliminate their effects.
- Have a tilt up shot? Make sure the light fixtures
(especially flourescents) will not be in the shot.
- You may need electrical outlets to plug in a camera,
monitor, lights, or other equipment.
- Is there electrical power nearby?
- Can you reach it with a normal extension cord?
- Will you need a power strip to connect more than one
piece of equipment?
Background & Foreground
- The background and foreground cannot be overlooked. It
will make a difference in the tone and mood of your film. Look at it
through the camera lens and on the viewfinder.
- If you want a lush looking set and the neighbors' place
looks trashy, you may need to change angles. Watch for anything in the
distant background that might change the mood of the shot. Make sure
the background and foreground both fit with the mood of the film.
- Moving branches or leaves? A tree in the background or a
small bush in the foreground might look great on a calm day and be very
distracting on a windy day. You do not want the background to overwhelm
the subject in the foreground or the foreground to displace the
audience attention from the action in the shot. Movement can cause
- Roads, highways, airplanes, power lines, hallways, and
sidewalks may be OK to have in a shot and may not. Even professional
productions sometimes make errors in this area. One battle scene in a
well-known movie has a delivery van passing through the background in
what is supposed to be 16th century Scotland. Another has jet vapor
trails in the sky in a 19th century old west scene. You may be able to
select camera angles that avoid these obstacles or even temporarily
block a sidestreet, hallway, or sidewalk while filming. NEVER block a
street or sidewalk without the permission (and maybe assistance) of the
- Say your Home Ec room is filling in as a home kitchen or
the staff room as a family living room. Think about how your choice of
camera angles can prevent these large rooms from looking so large.
Colors & Textures
Wall colors, ceiling colors, and even floor colors can
make a difference in the lighting of a scene. Dark colors tend to
absorb more light and light colors tend to reflect more. Smooth
textures reflect better than rough ones. Since film is tow dimensional
as opposed to three dimensional reality, textures may have a completely
different look on camera than they do to the naked eye. Look at it all
through the viewfinder and LCD panel. Adjust the Exposure on the camera
to see if it needs more or less light.
- Is there space available for your scene? Remember, you
need to get the camera far enough away to get everything you want in
the shot. In addition to the actors and actresses, there may be
important props or background images that you need. There could also be
the director, camera person, light person, sound person, and others
that need to be in the room.
- Reflections from any surface need to be considered to
avoid having the film crew inadvertently appear on camera because of a
shiny toaster or glass picture cover that happens to be in the shot.
- Reflections can sometimes be used to create more
interesting shots but you must set them up carefully
- You may want to film your subject's reflection in a
window, hubcap, or mirror, but be careful not to get the camera person
or any of the film crew also in the shot.
- Reflections may mean you are dealing with multiple
backgrounds and foregrounds
- When is the location available?
- A short one minute film may still require three or more
class periods to film. Is the location available all of the days you
- If you have planned an off-campus shoot at a local
business, make sure of the best time to do that to cause the least
interference with that business.
- Be aware of possible changes. I once helped a group
shoot a film in a school garden. When the secretary learned we were
filming there, she spent the weekend weeding, tearing out old plants,
replanting some others, and generally cleaning it all up. We had to
re-shoot the entire first week's shots so that they would fit with
those we needed to complete the following week. Check with anyone that
could plan a change in the location that would alter the way shots fit
- If you require sun, rain, or clouds for your shots, be
aware of weather forecasts and normal climate changes for your area.
You can't pretend it is summer if it is snowing and the trees have no
leaves. Don't count on beautiful blue sky in January. Be prepared for