Location scouting 2.0: a new remote route

Location, location, location: it can make or break a real estate deal as well as a film shoot. Covid-19 protocols have transformed film production and even upended traditional location scouting. Fortunately, technological advances make remote location scouting possible, if not more practical and efficient for budgets of all sizes. 

In the “old days” of filmmaking (pre-March 2020), a group of eight or more people, including a location manager and production designer, would pile in a couple of vans and drive around, looking for the perfect location or locations that really set the scene. While this certainly could prove for a fun afternoon, it could be quite time-consuming and particularly straining for a low-budget film or television show.

It took a pandemic to create a sea change in location scouting. Now local governments may indicate a maximum number of people who can be involved; cities such as Los Angeles and New York may have even stricter regulations. This means it’s a skeleton crew that will visit a location, using cameras or scanners to capture as much information as they can. They may talk with the location owner as well as assess the feasibility of a film crew being able to access and utilize the area. Afterward, the creative team needs to have a pre-production meeting remotely or virtually to review the images and find the best location that makes sense.

Advantages of Virtual Location Scouting

  • Allows more flexibility, as you can review the photos of the area at any time. This means more stakeholders (such as DP, producers, etc.) can be involved without having to disrupt their schedules -- a particularly valuable benefit for international teams.
  • Can cover more locations, which helps productions of any budget be more creative and explore a wider variety of options.
  • Saves time spent trekking from one location to another.
  • Saves money because much of the initial discovery and travel can be greatly reduced.
  • No cramped vans. ‘Nuff said!

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How To Scout Locations Remotely

When it comes to virtual scouting, there are several ways to do it, and some productions may end up using a combination of all of them.

Using Google Earth

First, for preliminary scouting, the location scout could use Google Earth Street View, which now covers 98% of the planet. And you can do so much more than just zoom in and out; you can completely immerse yourself in the 360-degree environment and even play God, moving time back and forth to see how sun and shadows will affect the shoot day. 

Using Evercast’s high-quality screen sharing feature, you can use screenshots of Google Earth or share the location itself in real time with the production team. Participants in the Evercast session can then not only see the images but also draw on their screen or type notes. Since Evercast has built-in video-conferencing, they can browse locations and talk to each other at the same time.

Having a Location Scout Visit and Scan

Another option is to send a location scout to visit the spot with a LiDar scanner, inputting photos of specific areas, like basecamp, parking, etc. A live camera can also be streamed directly from the location into the Evercast virtual room. Either way, the images or video feed can be shared, annotated, and discussed in real time on Evercast.

Virtual Reality (VR) Walkthroughs

For those willing to go “all in,” VR location scouting is now a reality. A number of companies offer virtual location walkthroughs for filmmakers who have headsets available, and game engines such as Unreal Engine and Unity also provide a variety of scouting tools to create your own experience. After sending out a small crew to take photos or LiDar scans, you can then import the files directly into a game engine, allowing for real-time visualization from the comfort of anywhere. With VR location scouting, you can build your world and interact with the location, adjusting lighting, taking measurements, and more. 

The Future is Here

Even after the pandemic subsides, remote location scouting is here to stay. Quite simply, technology has made it more convenient and practical, with few downsides to the new process. More locations can be covered, more stakeholders can review and give their input, and even the optimum sunlight can be calculated for the perfect shot.

The only thing that hasn’t been replaced is the creativity, knowledge, and resourcefulness of a good human scout. (So be sure to give yours some warm fuzzies!)

If you’d like to learn more about how Evercast can help you and your crew facilitate a remote location scout session, feel free to contact us any time at support@evercast.us.

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