Filmmaking Blog Posts by Indie Film Factory

Filming on Location: Scouting for Sound

filming on location tips

Are you gearing up for a film or video production outside a studio? Filming on location offers unparalleled authenticity and atmosphere but presents unique challenges, especially when capturing pristine sound. Whether you’re shooting an indie film, documentary, or testimonials for a business client, location sound matters, and careful location scouting for sound is essential for ensuring your project’s success. In this post, we’ll jump into the best practices for finding the best filming locations and optimizing sound quality during scouting.

Start with a Clear Vision for your Location Filming:

Before you rush out and shoot a video, clearly understand your project’s sound requirements. Consider the ambiance, background noise, and any specific audio needs. How far is the road? Is there lots of landscaping around? Will the birds ever shut up? Does it even matter if the environment is quiet, or do bustling urban sounds add to the aesthetic? Understanding your sound goals will guide your scouting efforts.

Research Extensively before Filming:

Filming on location can suck! This is why I encourage research on the area. My biggest suggestion is to use “street view” on your maps to investigate what is around your filming location. For example, if your filming location is at a park, see where it is near the airport. Research if there are businesses around that could be problematic, like auto shops or construction zones.¬†

Visit Prospective Filming Locations:

Virtual scouting can only take you so far. Physically visiting potential filming locations allows you to assess sound firsthand. Pay close attention to ambient noise levels, echoes, and possible disturbances. Remember, what may seem quiet during one part of the day could become noisy during another. Take note of how sound changes throughout the day.

Listen Carefully:

I always suggest bringing a sound person on your set visit. However, if you can’t afford to do that, use your ears as much as your eyes. Take moments of silence to focus solely on the surrounding soundscape. Are there constant hums from nearby machinery? Do you hear frequent sirens or airplanes overhead? Identifying these auditory nuances early on will help you make informed decisions about each location’s suitability for sound recording.

Consider Acoustics:

Evaluate the acoustic properties of each location you visit. Is there excessive reverberation that could muddy dialogue? Are there natural barriers that could help block unwanted noise? Even picturesque outdoor settings may require additional soundproofing or acoustic treatment to achieve optimal results. Bring lots of mover’s blankets!

Plan for Filming Location Contingencies:

No filming on-location experience will be perfect. In fact, you won’t be able to avoid many noise issues. The big takeaway here is to be prepared. If you understand your potential challenges, you can prepare your day’s schedule accordingly. No matter how meticulously you scout, unexpected sound challenges can arise on the day of filming. Have backup plans in place and be prepared to adapt. Consider bringing portable soundproofing materials (sound blankets) or pad your schedule for more takes to mitigate unforeseen issues. In the end, you may have to deal with it. 

Remember, finding the right location doesn’t just revolve around sound. You have to balance the benefits of the visuals with the noise challenges. Consider doing ADR (Additional Dialog Recording) later on in post-production. However, those won’t be options if you’re doing a documentary or corporate video, so plan as best as you can. 

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Thanks for reading! Keep making movies!


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