Scouting Locations

Once you have your concept defined and your script written, you will want to do some scouting for a location suitable for your film. You may want to do some scouting before your storyboard is complete. Take a camera with you when you scout because everything looks a little different through the lens than it does to the eye. Also take a blank storyboard form along to make sketches and notes about any shots you might need.

  • 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 those problems.
  • 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 governing body.
  • 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 need it?
  • 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 together.


  • 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 possible changes.
  • Storyboard Form - Use this to create your storyboard. (Need Excel to open.)


Lynn Ewing