TECH SCOUT: What is it good for?

A tech scout can make your production days easy(er).

Somewhere in process of telling stories through video, before the camera comes out of the bag and after the shoot decision has been made, a tech scout takes place. (Or, at least it should.) There are a number of things that a tech scout should provide, but more than anything, it provides piece of mind that you’ll have the right equipment to be able to react to any unforeseen hiccups during your production. Saving money by not scouting can leave you scrambling last minute, running into over time, and having to sacrifice creative to meet financial and time restraints, so spend a little extra upfront, you’ll be glad you did.

Who to bring

There are a couple key people to bring on a scout that will help make the right decision for the job. First, there should be a producer and, if you’re reading this, that’s probably you. The producer will be there to make sure everyone knows what’s going on and where to go. These include where craft services needs to go, available bathrooms, parking and accessibility and–oh yeah, the “creative needs.” Here in Tampa Bay, we know it’s going to rain everyday in the summer, sometime between 3pm and 6pm. With that in mind, the producer must make sure the shoot schedule accounts for a sudden torrential downpour. How and where equipment, crew members, and clients stay safe can be hashed out way before the first cloud is ever formed. 

The next person that needs to be there is the director. The director is going to make the creative come to life and will need to know what tools they’ll have at their disposal. For example, if there is a window that a character sits next too, what will be on the other side of that window? The scout will tell us if there is normal street traffic or a bus stop with people standing around outside the window. Tech scouts also provide the director a chance to see if there are any previously unthought-of needs. Such as, will you need extras for that bus stop? Then, you will also know that the street needs to be controlled during the shoot.

Finally, the director of photography. The DP will listen to director’s vision and translate it into technical needs. What lights will you need to accomplish the job? How many grips will the DP want? (The difference between want and need is a whole other blog.) What are the power options in the space? Will you need a generator? These are all things that will be discussed on a scout. 

Equipment

It’s always important to bring a small camera and some lenses to the scout, taking blocking pictures will allow you to put together a shot list with photos to help explain to other as well as give you a truer sense of how the space will look on camera. 

Before we shot the “Feel at Home” TV campaign for Achieva Credit Union, we took some composition test shots while scouting the location.

tech scout for Achieva's "Feel at home" shoot

One of the images taken at the tech scout informed a composition for the final television spot.

Depending on the size of your production, there are many other crew members that would need to be on a scout to help your shoot day move smoothly.  By identifying potential issues ahead of time, you are able to properly react if and when they do arise, ultimately saving your production time and money.

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