Finding Great Locations

Finding great locations is an essential element in film and video. But great locations do not find themselves. On big budget productions, there is an official location scout. But if you’re on a small budget, you’ll have to do it yourself. You’ll want to start by studying the script or outline to see what locations it suggests. If you are only shooting an interview, check out Scout The Video Interview Location Here are some tips to help you find great locations to film.

Study the Daylight and Times

Where will the sun rise and set?

It is a generalization to say simply that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. In fact, the sun only rises due east and sets due west on 2 days of the year — the spring and fall equinoxes on about 20 March and 23 September. The exact direction of sun rise and sun set will be a little north or south of due east and due west, but for most filming it is not necessary to know the precise direction. Of course, you’ll need to take a compass so you can check where the sunrise and sunset will occur.

What time will the sun rise and set?

A location you find may look terrific at 8AM, but at 4PM there may be long shadows. So check the location at the same time you plan to be shooting. Google the city or town with the word sun rise or sun set.

Get Permission
Finding great locations is just the beginning. Use a location release if this is an important video. You can download location releases here.

Before you start driving around, see what information is online.

Web Sites and Apps for Finding Great Locations

Be aware that location scouting for photography will not take into account, the noise present at a location. Right under a final approach to T.F. Green Airport there are some great photo locations, but every time a plane lands your audio track will be ruined.

Dedicated to film, not photography. I found the search results disappointing. Tried a search for ocean view, Newport, Rhode Island and got nothing! When I tried “ocean view” United States there were 75 locations. Perhaps I did not master the directions, but I was disappointed. Locations Hub is completely free. But many locations on Locations Hub will charge you to shoot, so do your due diligence.

MapAPic Location Scout for Photography and Filmmaking
MapAPic will give driving directions to any location. The street address is auto-detected for the locations that you save. Any location will have GPS position and photos. Can be helpful when you stumble on a great location. This can help you remember places you want to come back to later. iPhone and iPad only. $3.99

Flickr Map Search
lets you input any city or zip codes and search user photos for specific features. It will be limited by the number of photos for any location. Some photos may be helpful, but many will not be because they were taken of objects or sunsets, unlike photos taken specifically for location scouting.

Shot Hotspot
This is also intended for photographers. Shot Hotspot is selective about the shooting locations they accept. The photos are user-supplied so they are not necessarily the photos that would help you choose a location.

Google Earth
Google Earth has satellite views which are much more complete and informative than random shots by users. Using Google Earth, it’s easy to find natural areas because on the map they are big and green. Industrial zones are gray. You can save and organize your locations by writing in details such as exact location, and other information. Location scouting for one job is saved for the future. This will build a map of all your locations. It also helps you find a location near to where you are shooting. Don’t rely entirely on the satellite images. Some places look easy to get to on the satellite view, but when you visit, getting to the specific place may require special vehicles or equipment. It’s always smart to drive to a location and walk around the area.

In addition to these websites, there are location specific websites. Google for location scouting websites in your city or region.

Don’t let the information you find on the web be the bottom line. Go to the location before the shoot. Walk around. Take lots of pictures. Here are a few questions to ask about any location:

• Is there electricity?
• Is this location near an airports or railroad?
• Will you need someone to let you in?
• Where are the breaker boxes?
• Is the area or neighborhood safe?
• Where can the crew set up their gear?
• Are there events scheduled for the shoot day?
• Does the location cost money?
• Is there a bathroom?

Local Film Commissions

Film commissions may seem like they are primarily for big budget productions, but they have a wealth of information and usually have a helpful website.
Google your state Film Commission. These sites often have helpful maps and photos of popular locations. Check that any locations you find through a commission are free.

Do Not Forget Audio

There are so many potential audio issues that can add time and expense to a shoot. Look and listen carefully to see what audio gotchas could be lurking.