An Insider’s Guide to Residential Location Scouting for Video Production

One of the most important decisions to make when developing your creative is deciding what location you’ll have for the backdrop of your video. Whether you’re seeking a commercial space, an outdoor park, a residence, or a studio, there are a number of different aspects to take into consideration before making a final decision. Ensuring your location fits your message, brand, and overall vision for your video is imperative, and can be harder than it might look.

Scouting for your video shoot can be a time consuming and overwhelming task. Making sure your location ticks all the boxes within a certain timeframe usually requires the help of a professional location scout, but it can can be done yourself if you’re well equipped with knowledge before starting. While we have a whole article dedicated to film location scouting and professional video production, in this article we’re taking a deeper look into residential location scouting specifically.

home residential scouting for professional video production

Know Your Message

With any kind of location scouting, arguably the most important factor to take into consideration is how well it aligns with the message and story you’re creating. Residential locations are especially popular for product commercials. It makes sense why many advertisers choose to market their products in a warm and happy home environment, and the house that’s chosen must reflect that positive atmosphere. Conversely, and more rarely, an old, decrepit, and scary house might be more appropriate if the creative calls for it. The nuances of the house you choose will all depend on your message and the way you decide is best to communicate it with your targeted audience. Having a disconnect between your message and what your video conveys can cause confusion and a negative experience for your potential customers, so always keep this top of mind during your search.

Challenges of Residential Location Scouting

It’s common to think that finding the right home would be an easy process by asking friends and family if they’re willing to share their home with you, or if they know anyone who might be open to it. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case and involves more work than simply calling up some contacts. Stumbling across the right home through your personal network usually doesn’t happen for a number of reasons. Most people simply don’t own large enough homes to accommodate all the crew, equipment, and actors while still having adequate space to maneuver comfortably around the space. If you find a house that’s the right size, it might not have furniture and fixtures that match the story you’re telling. The cost to displace a family for the duration of your shoot can also be prohibitive to some residential locations, depending on your budget. All of these factors combined create difficult parameters to find the perfect location within.

Residential Location Scouting Tips and Tricks

If your video creative calls for a home as its main location, there are a few tips and tricks we want to share to help your residential location scouting go as smooth as possible. While we hope these tips will help you on your search, it’s important to note that close to nothing will beat having the expertise of an seasoned location scout at your disposal. Their knowledge of permitting, space and lighting requirements, time logistics, among the rest of their skills is hard to beat, but the following list is a good starting point for your residential location scouting.

Take Pictures While Scouting

While it’d be ideal to have the biggest players of your crew with you while you’re scouting a residential location, sometimes circumstances are such that they won’t be able to make it. Taking pictures is a great way to show the location to those who might’ve missed out on the in-person scouting and get their important feedback. A lighting director might not think a certain space is adequate enough for all of the equipment. A key grip might point out there won’t be enough room to maneuver essential rigs. Making sure members of your crew are clued in on potential locations through photos can ensure the space is adequate for everyone to perform their jobs.

residential location scouting how to tips

After a while, locations can start to blend together, so keeping a log of pictures will help also help differentiate them from each other, and can even point out some issues that might not be apparent to the naked eye. Take some pictures from different angles, even if you don’t think you’d shoot that way. Have someone stand where your lead actor or focal point might be to get a feel for what it might actually look like when you go to record. These photos can be critical in showing potential issues, or exceptional benefits, of residential locations.

Note Your Surrounding Environment

When you visit a residential location for your video shoot, the surrounding environment is arguably just as important as the environment inside the home. Is the house located in a loud neighborhood with heavy traffic? Those sounds might be picked up while recording and have to be edited out in post-production, raising the overall money and time invested in the video. If it’s next to a school or a church, you might run into the same issues depending on the time your shoot is scheduled. Weeding out the residences that might have a lot of noticeable background noise will help your overall shoot go smoothly as well as the post-production stage of video editing.

Make Formal Agreements

Whether or not the residence you decide on is a friend’s house or someone you came across through your search, it’s of critical importance to get an agreement to shoot there in writing. Spelling out the terms and conditions before you start will help avoid any potential legal issues and headaches down the line. Items like how many days you’re anticipating you’ll be there, the cost and payment terms, and liability coverage should be included. Depending on the city you’re working in, you might also have to file a permit with the authority having jurisdiction to ensure you have the proper clearance to park your production vehicles on the street. You don’t want neighbors calling in your trucks and having them towed during your shoot! By covering your bases beforehand with the homeowners and any HOAs or other legal entities, you’re protecting yourself and giving your shoot day the best chance of running without a hitch.

Whether you decide to tackle residential location scouting yourself, or decide to hire a professional to help you out, it’s critical to ensure your chosen location matches the story you’re communicating to your audience. If you need professional video production assistance, MarzMotion is experienced in everything from creative development and location scouting, to shoot day logistics and post-production editing. Contact us today to start your professional video project.

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