View Full Version : What makes a location "good"?

02-24-2011, 04:49 PM
I've been watching Lighting for Film and TV over the past few months and I've learned alot about what gives that cinematic look. For a long time I really did think it was all just in the lighting, but now I've learned that its the total package and I think I've made some of those "newbie" film maker mistakes in regards to location and set design and I want to make my stuff look like the stuff they show in those DVD's by choosing the right locations and having the right set dressing. But, how does one dictate what is "right"? Are there certain colors that compliment each other for film making? There have been locations that I thought in person looked great, only to shoot there and be less than impressed with how it looked.

How do you decide what a good location is? How do you know it will look good on camera? Do the actors clothes come into play? Do they need to match the surroundings? I really want this part of it to stand out, because I can light all day long, but if what I'm lighting isn't the right hting to light.. its all in vein.

02-24-2011, 06:37 PM
Yes, there are certain colors that compliment each other for filming. Mostly you want to think about the overall tone or mood, busyness, things like that. Wardrobe can be very location dependent, but the details depend on what you need the final shot to look like. Good locations isn't something that can be easily taught, you just have to learn to see them. Set dressing is even more important in my mind, and it's just a matter of paying attention to details. Look at reality. Look at all the stuff people have to personalize an office, bedroom or whatever else. Look at how that's handled in films. Every picture on the wall, every practical light, every book on the shelf has some thought put into its being there. I realize I'm not explaining this perfectly well, it's really about experience, either doing or seeing. The most important thing is that you have to think in details.

02-24-2011, 07:37 PM
yeah, my problem is.. what I normally "see" in reality is not what would be in a film. At least not here. like if I shot my living room with thats normally in it, it wouldn't look very good.

whenever I watch a film, it looks "realistic" but not in the same way I view life in general.. there's still a sense of "we don't really do things like that, even though it looks good like that"

03-01-2011, 08:51 PM
yeah, my problem is.. what I normally "see" in reality is not what would be in a film. At least not here. like if I shot my living room with thats normally in it, it wouldn't look very good.

whenever I watch a film, it looks "realistic" but not in the same way I view life in general.. there's still a sense of "we don't really do things like that, even though it looks good like that"

I agree with you fully!
how you can set up a scene for the camera's perspective/composition and it looks wonderful, but in reality it is completely impractical

this should help with choosing colors btw:

03-02-2011, 02:11 AM
Complex question, but maybe most important thing is that when you see a place with your own eyes, you get a 360 view and it's so much different to film where you usually have only a few main directions you shoot. A place can be very interesting as a whole but what you see in film is just a few corners or one wall.. Are you really going to see the floor, for example? The floor can make a lot of the atmosphere of a place when you are there, but if it's not going to be on film, it's not there. Same goes for other things like ceiling and... well.. everything. Kind of a simple and obvious thing, but really hard to do; to just concentrate on what the camera will see.

Things like aspect ratio (cinemascope is especially tricky), framing style (FS/MS/CU/ECU), does the DP like to tilt down/up the camera, if or how you are going to make establishing shots, and main directions are some things that help to narrow down the final look of the place. When you decorate the place based on these things, it can be weird in person but creates a logical whole for the audience.

When scouting it helps to try to replicate the storyboard with a still camera and look through those pictures, preferably with the DoP. Try to get as many things "somewhat right" as possible; lights, framing, aspect, lenses, dof, most importantly shooting directions.

Lights are other thing that can totally change the feeling of the place, but I won't go into that...

04-20-2011, 09:34 AM
This isn't exactly what your asking about but you need to also consider the sound. If you have dialog and you pick some beautiful but noisy space you may well end up with a lot of footage you can't use, or brings the "professionalism" of your film way down. And it really takes a sound person or someone who understands sound to tell you whether there is a problem with a space. Humans tune out what's not important and you can easily miss some serious problem. Sound folks tend to not have that happen as much.

04-20-2011, 09:48 AM
Well, going off what Noiz2 said, let's throw those other things in there... Factors for a "good" location include all sorts of things you may not think of offhand. Such as sound -- if it's a great-looking place but it's in the flight path of the airport, it's going to be tricky, slow, and frustrating to shoot in. You're constantly going to be put on hold with "waiting for an airplane to clear..." and those minutes add up. And when you've finally gotten your actors delivering the lines the way you want, to have to stop in the middle of a perfect take because of a frickin' airplane -- well, it adds tension and frustration to the shoot.

So -- proximity to airports, freeways, trash collection facilities, trucks and industrial areas, high schools with their annoying ringing bells and announcements -- all that stuff should be factored in. And sometimes you don't even know what questions you should be asking! We had a friend who donated the use of his entire real estate office to us for a Sunday morning shoot, it was probably five thousand square feet of top-class office space, just an amazing location, and that was the only day that business was light enough that we could get something done. Only we didn't think to ask what was going on upstairs -- the tenant upstairs was subletting his Sundays to a church! So right in the middle of our takes, a big ol' blaring organ would come on and a hundred voices would be lifted in song...

Then there's a couple of other practical things like parking (can you get your crew all there?) and power and neighbors. Uncooperative neighbors can ruin an otherwise perfect location; sometimes that issue can be settled with a bribe but sometimes not...

There's a lot of really good reasons why Hollywood ditched all the "location" stuff and started shooting in sound stages! :thumbsup:

And, obviously, the look of the place (or what you can do to the place). Paint and wallpaper, furniture and decorations, it all goes into determining the suitability and desirability of the location you're considering. And, finally -- whether it looks "great" or not, does it look appropriate for the scene you're shooting? Everything in your film should be serving the purpose of telling your story, and so obviously you don't want your struggling entrepreneur living in a mansion (even if you got the mansion for free and even if it looks great on camera!) and you don't want your ruthless corporate executive's office shot in some 10x10 cubicle. The location tells the story just like the props do, just like the wardrobe does, just like the acting does, just like the dialogue does.