Video 101: Scouting locations

Exploring the site for your video
Location scouting is a vital part of filmmaking. A movie-production company sends an advance team to review scenery, camera angles, lighting, weather, and more. We are one-person studios but we need to include location scouting, too, including scouting the rolling stock, the trains and their stories, structures, and environment; time and lighting conditions; camera locations; necessary equipment; and necessary permissions. I scouted Joyce Brahms and Bill Lavender’s railway the day before their first open house.

Story. The trains recreate Joyce’s cherished memory of those she rode to school as a child. She showed me a picture of an SP SD-9 in Black Widow livery, pulling a string of green coaches and a red caboose. In the backyard, there it was.

Environment. Computer-expert Bill, handles construction, control, and motive power, while master gardener Joyce handles the gardens and setting. Include both in the video.

Lighting. By the time we started, we were using the worst possible flat, overhead lighting. We had to pick another day and start earlier.

Locations. Mix some onboard video with flybys. The SD-9 had problems staying on the rails, so the little battery-powered Birdwater & Raspberry engine, pulling a string of tourist cars, helped us obtain onboard shots of a lap, then a handoff to the passenger train that was to be the star.

Scouting equipment required my action camera, mounted to a gimbal on a flatcar. Flyby locations, with still cameras, needed to include tableaux of a central bluegrass band and the gardens.

Permissions. Joyce wanted to include use “King of the Road,” performed by her bluegrass band. Unfortunately, Roger Miller, who wrote it in 1964, still owns the copyrights for another 80 years. This would be a no-fly zone if we used it, so we purchased bluegrass music from an online source.

So here’s a little tribute to the railroad that helped a young girl get the education that changed her life, which she and Bill brought home to their garden.


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