It’s not just real estate – the difference between a good and bad video can often come down to location, location, location. The interiors I’m looking for when determining a good shoot for one of our online courses don’t include open-concept kitchens and floor-to-ceiling windows with a sweeping view. You have to think more practically! You can shoot in the most beautiful location in the world, but if it’s noisy your video will be terrible. But I’ve also shot in places where at first glance the room is almost ugly – but with a little creativity and a few Amazon prime purchases it looks beautiful! Here are the kinds of things you should keep in mind when you’re deciding on a location to shoot:
Most of our clients want to shoot somewhere in their offices. We love that! It can showcase the company culture while eliminating location fees. But busy offices are filled with busy people making a lot of busy noise. Sound quality is crucial to producing high-quality video. Keep your ears peeled for things like a loud espresso machine, a nearby conference room where people yell into the phone, a dinging elevator, or a traffic-heavy street outside that has mail trucks backing out of the post office parking lot for over an hour each day. Can you imagine that beep, beep, beep for an over an hour when you are desperately trying to stay on schedule and capture great content? (Yes, we shot in a location like this). Stand in the room quietly for 2 minutes and see what it sounds like, preferably around the same time of day as your shoot. If you can hear something, the microphone can hear something, so aim for the quietest space you can find – especially for extended, multi-day shoots.
For now let’s think structure, not design. Are there windows? If there aren’t, you’ll need to bring in a light kit. If there are, you need to know where the sun will be for your shoot so you can ensure a consistent look. If you are shooting all day the natural light is going to change all day. Are the walls made of glass, so people walk by and peer inside the room? If so, make sure you point the camera in the other direction, or station someone outside to prevent lookie-loos from photobombing your video. Are there big columns in the middle of the room that might get in the way of the camera? If so, frame a test shot to see how you might be able to shoot around it comfortably.
Now it’s time to bring your interior designer out to play. What kind of set can you build with what’s in the room or with simple purchases? Is there an interesting texture on the wall in the background? Is there a cool chair and table? Are there plants, books, shelves, tchotchkes, etc? Move things around to create the most pleasing frame for your video but for Pete’s sake, don’t forget to take pictures of the location before you move anything so you can easily return the room to its former glory. Decor should reflect good taste as well as the feel of the content. Less is more – an overly decorated space can be distracting to the viewer. And if you plan on using on-screen text (a key e-learning tool), you need to make sure the frame isn’t cluttered in a way that distracts from that.
If you can’t find a location that suits all your needs, here are some other creative ways to tackle the problem:
Shoot on a weekend. This option eliminates virtually 95% of noise problems caused by trying to shoot in an office during the week.
Engage your network. If your office doesn’t work, ask around and see who might give you a location for free (and then be sure to send them a small gift as a thank you!).
Use a seamless. If you hate the look of your location but it’s quiet and well-lit, buy a seamless or a piece of wallpaper. It will give you a consistent look that can upgrade a bland room, and is often reusable if you need to reshoot.
Rent a studio. Most big cities have photo or video studio options to rent. You can also find them on sites like Peerspace. They’ll vary in size and availability (and cost) but often are open to negotiations. This is usually our last resort, saved for when we have very specific location needs to meet. Always ask about audio quality at the location before you sign anything or send money.
It sounds like a lot to think about, but work done up front is worth it! You’ll feel more prepared for your shoot days, and it prevents the dreaded “Fix it in Post” scenario that can make your editing and sound mixing costs skyrocket. And while it may be challenging to find a location that meets your needs, at least you aren’t also trying to figure out what school district is best!
-Elizabeth Madariaga, Co-Founder & Executive Producer, Edios Media