Location scouting and technology.
I love scouting locations. Not only do we get to see interesting places, which are often inaccessible to most people, but we have priceless opportunities to plan our equipment, lighting, crew, and permit needs.
I am probably the only person left in the universe who didn’t know about Sun Seeker until a few months ago. Sun Seeker (a similar version called Sun Surveyor is available for the Android OS) is a smartphone app that helps determine the sun’s movement and allows one to pick the best spots and plan out shots. From the time you arrive to set up to the time you actually start shooting, one can easily add or lose two or three stops. Now there’s an app for that.
These days we don’t need to bring a lot of gear to survey a site. Smartphone apps like Artemis, Pocket AC, mimic a “director’s viewfinder” and offer additional features such as interactive Depth of Field calculators, media management, shot logging, and even virtual slates. I am currently using one that helps me determine which lenses I might need to rent.
On a recent trip to Atlanta a friend drove me to “an amazing abandoned warehouse” where we could get fantastic shots. Instead we discovered trendy restaurants and coffee shops full of people who looked like movie stars. Big cities can change pretty quickly.
Google recently made their Google Earth Pro application completely free, adding a considerable amount of features including computing distances and areas using measurement tools and adding map addresses with a Spreadsheet Importer. With Google Earth we can access any location and determine accurate sunrise and sunset times, interesting vantage points, and even find nearby restaurants and hotels for our production. I can’t think of any other tool that has saved me so much money over the years.
Another great tool is Shot Designer. While not exactly designed for location scouting, it does a fantastic job blocking a scene as well helping determine where the camera will be placed. It saves time communicating the director’s vision with the DP’s technical interpretation of that vision to the supporting crew.
It always pays to plan ahead especially if we have a small crew and budget. Location scouting is key, and now we don’t have to break the bank flying cross-country adding a couple of days to the budget.
Are there any other essential apps you use to facilitate location scouting? Share them with our readers and followers in the comments section below, or join the conversation on Facebook.
Eduardo Angel is an independent Technology Consultant, Educator, and Visual Storyteller based in Brooklyn, NY. He currently teaches at The School of Visual Arts and the International Center of Photography, and mentors the photography program at the Savannah College of Art and Design.
He is a co-founder of the idea production company The Digital Distillery, author of popular filmmaking courses on Lynda.com, and regularly shares his thoughts on technology, photography, and cinema on his website eduardoangel.com.