Tel: 905–690–4709 dk@tfwm.com - Darryl Kirkland, Publisher

Shooting On Location – Be Prepared!

Increasingly, churches are catching on to what retailers have known for years – if you have something you want to share with people it’s hard to beat a commercial.

Now if you’re in the mood to create your own, rather than buy one of those pre-produced spots which could be about any church in the world, than you’re probably going to need to go on location.

Sure you can shoot your spot in your church television studio, but if you really want to get your potential audience involved, you may fare better by taking your camera on the road. Wait- before you take off, there are a few things to take care of.

If you have already determined what your script for the spot will be and have secured your talent, (i.e. actors) the next step will be to storyboard the action. Sometimes that can be done prior to scouting the location but often these two elements should be done in connection with one another.

Storyboarding can save you tons of time and money. What the term “storyboarding” means may be different to different people. Basically, I deem it as the term that describes drawing the various frames, or scenes of the production, to give you a visual idea of what the piece will look like prior to actually committing anything to tape.

It’s also much better to have at least an idea of the final voice-over or script before you launch out into the shoot. The script follows the storyboard, and both can help determine the success of the shoot.

You will need to have a visual reference for the shoot, so you can proceed with greater confidence knowing something about the camera angles and shot composition you want to use.

Scouting your location, though, can often change the way you end up shooting the spot. That’s why it’s important to take location into consideration when storyboarding.

For example, you may have a spot planned with a family as part of a new sermon series in your church. It might make things easier all around to shoot in their home. Before you ask, though, you’ll want to check the home out, not to find out if they have dust bunnies under the bed, but to determine the suitability of the location for your physical and aesthetic needs.

Your physical requirements will include being able to set up your camera gear. Depending on what you’re shooting with, you may need space for a tripod, portable monitor, audio gear and lights. How many, and what kind of lights you’ll need can also be determined, to a certain extent, during your early scouting of the location.

Be sure to look at the ambient light at the same time of day you will be shooting in that location. Sometimes good reflectors and well-placed ambient light can improve the overall look of the spot.

In dealing with the lights you bring to the location, you’ll also need to determine the availability of power for them. The wise videographer always carries several three-prong adapters in the light kit. Some gorgeous older homes still have two prong outlets- rendering the three-prong plugs you have useless.

A couple of 750-watt lamps can tax a 20-amp circuit. Add a third and you’ll throw a breaker. I’m no electrician and math is not my strong suit, but I can figure out that something is wrong when the room goes dark. So carry a couple of high quality extension cords in your portable kit. Remember; always practice safety in everything you do but especially in the area of electricity. There is no substitute for safety and preparation.

Again, you’ll need to check out the amount of space you have at the location to find good spots to place your light stands. Of course, you can use clamp adapters in certain areas; but be careful, they can mar some surfaces.

Do you have the room to shoot from off to one side and looking up at the talent? What about that entranceway to the home? Maybe it could be used as an establishing shot. Or maybe you could use it as the close, using the blank space it provides for your graphics.

Listen and learn from this scenario. I had shown up for a shoot where the client assured me they “checked the place out”. They assured me the space was perfect. The family picked for the shoot looked great. The room chosen for the shoot, though, could barely hold them, let alone myself and my camera.

It was interesting to say the least.

Finding a place to put my much needed lights, (there was no light from virtually any other source) was almost impossible. Then I found the only available electrical outlets- and lo, they were two prong, not to mention the fact that they were on the same circuit. We were in such tight quarters I thought I was going to have to go to the macro feature on my lens.

It all worked out, although the storyboard had changed a great deal since our pre-production meeting. The lesson learned: if it’s possible, go to the scene of your shoot in advance. An hour spent assessing the site will save several hours on the day of the shoot.

From having the batteries, adapters, cords, etc. you need when you arrive, your commercial shoot can go much smoother than if you hadn’t pre-planned and paid attention to the details.