Scouting. It's part of the job. Sometimes it's a job-saver.

I'm shooting some video for a department at the University of Texas. The project revolves around interviews with six or seven students and five or six lecturers. The interviews are quick and informal but I still wanted to see what options we might have for locations and whether or not we could shoot in multiple locations so that all the interviews don't look exactly the same. I suggested that we scout the location at least a week before the project day, just to make sure there's no lurking job destroyer that might show its ugly face just when we have a stack of people waiting and no other options. Scouting is a magic thing that not only gives us a good idea of where we'll be but also how the light looks in each location and what sort of audio challenges there might be. 

Once we've put together a list of options the gap between the scouting day and the shooting day gives the client the opportunity to reserve the spaces we've selected and to make styling adjustments and technical fixes to the locations, if necessary. For example: we'd like to shoot in one lab but there is a vent hood in one corner and it seems as loud as a diesel lawn mower. I'd like to turn it off when recording video but it might be critical for the vent hood fan to be running continuously. There is a "guy" the client must check with before we know what options we'll have at that particular location. Without the check-in with the expert turning off the fan is not an option. Multiply this by every location. 

Scouting also means that we know where we're supposed to park, how long it will take to get equipment into the building(s) and how long it will take to navigate hallways and the spaces between buildings. We have three different macro locations selected in the campus area. Within each of these master locations we have two or three "micro" options. We got answers to questions like: Is there a usable elevator to get between floors? Are there conveniently located electrical outlets? What's the air conditioner noise like? And the perennial question, "Can we turn off those florescent lights?"

We also now know that under no circumstances can we mess with the air conditioning. The discontinuation of air conditioning in Texas in August is (justifiably) a reason for instant dismissal. In a University of Texas facility it is close to a capital crime. This means that it will be comfortably cold while we make video but that we'll need to use lavaliere microphones to minimize the noise. 

I brought along my consumer camera (an iPhone XR) to take visual notes as we walked around and scouted. The images below are either germane to the scouting or are of things which caught my attention. The camera you have with you....

Un-digital archiving.

Yes. Acres and acres of magnetic tape.

flat files with secret maps.

20th Century Filing Systems.

And gear. So much gear.

This is...emphatically....not the gear we'll be packing in....

We spent a couple of hours scouting which will save us at least twice as much time on the shoot day. It also gave me and the two main clients time to get more detailed about our shooting plan and our goals for the production day. I have a much better idea of their expectation and also a better understanding of what kinds of gear I need to bring in order to do the job.

We're going to do a two camera set up for the interviews and we've been promised a treasure trove of b-roll from expeditions all over the globe. We will need a small light kit (3 units) and a couple sets of wireless lav. mics. Some stands, a couple cameras, a bag of lenses and a relaxed attitude. I'm hoping this video project will be heavy on the fun side but I want to be ready to do it right.

I wish I could scout next Tuesday's portrait assignment in Knoxville, TN. but the only chance will be on Tuesday morning, just before we ramp up and get our lighting in place. If we didn't bring something along with us then we'll just have to amp up our ingenuity levels and be creative. That's the flip side of the scouting equation. Nice to have, not always available.

Finally, we scouted the cafeteria. I think we'll certainly be able to find healthy options here. On my plate you'll find about two pounds of vegetables along with a vegetarian enchilada entree. That, and a bottle of mineral water. I might live forever.....
Golden beets and Brussel sprouts???
Belinda and Dr. Rhodes will be so proud.....