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Categories: Features

Want to get the most out of nature for your shoot? Avery T. Phillips breaks down the lifehacks and tips for remote outdoor shoots.

Photo credit: Pixabay

Shooting footage outdoors is an extremely difficult aspect of filmmaking. Whether you’re shooting a documentary or a horror short, chances are high that you’ll need to take your equipment outside and rough it — and venturing out into the wilderness or into abandoned areas for the right mood can take a toll on your equipment, your schedule, and your sanity.

Weather is ornery and uncooperative. Time races and good light slips through your fingertips like sand. Preparation, precision, and back-up plans are the way to ensure that an outdoor shoot goes smoothly. Plan for things to go wrong.


Transport, Equipment, and Safety

Getting to the right location for a feeling of remoteness can be tricky. Of course there are ways to create the scene without having to actually go far from the beaten path, but sometimes a mini-adventure is required. If you’re shooting a documentary about a remote location, well, it makes sense that you need to go there. And if you really want authenticity for a spooky script, you might want to get out where there isn’t light pollution. Found footage style films can be particularly effective out in the middle of nowhere with minimal equipment.

The right vehicle is a vital component to traveling for shoots. You need a lot of storage, yes, but you also need something that’s capable of going off-road if you need it to. At the very least, get a good set of tires that have good traction and can handle mud.

If you’re going to be doing an evening shoot and need lighting, you’ll need power! Generators and their fuel can be quite pricey, but you can get a power inverter to turn your car into a generator. It’s a much cheaper solution, and doesn’t involve lugging a large generator around. Just remember to bring extra gas.

If you’re tight on budget and need extra lighting, your vehicle can help with that too. While very harsh for filming, the lights on a vehicle can make great work lights, especially if you add aftermarket lights such as spotlights, which can provide a good deal of directional light. Of course, if you’re filming a vehicle, or looking to use harsh light, they can work for you there as well.

Photo credit: Pixabay


Light and Weather

Speaking of light, it’s a major consideration when you’re working outside! Most lighting experts will tell you that when you’re working with natural light, there are a few extremely short “magic” moments in the day. Golden hours, when the sun has just risen or is about to set, as well as blue hours, just after sundown or just before sunrise. Clouds are also your friend. Basically, you’re looking for any combination of time and weather that diffuses and softens the harsh light of the sun, and those moments are fleeting.

When you’re on the clock for lighting, excellent planning and by-the-minute execution is a must. When the light turns, you need to be ready to shoot and have all your technical difficulties dealt with. You also need to be prepared for weather. Clouds can herald good news in the middle of the day, but rain can prove disastrous. Decide ahead of time whether you’re going to wait out bad weather or pack up for the day. If you’re waiting, or shooting through rain, you need to be prepared with the right protective equipment to push through. Remember that the mud rain leaves behind can persist for long after the weather clears, which could make an entire site uninhabitable if the conditions are poor.


Promotion and Dissemination

One great way to promote your project is to schedule livestreams on a service that fans can connect to, and let audiences catch some behind-the-scenes footage, interviews with actors and crew, as well as sneak peaks as the filming process continues. When you’re out in the wilderness, however, livestreaming is pretty much out of the question. You need a significant amount of upload speed to be able to do it effectively.

Luckily there’s a fix for that, but how easy the fix is can depend on your location. Depending on how far out you go, wi-fi hotspots can be your best friend. You can turn devices like your phone or tablet into a hotspot, or bring a dedicated hotspot device with you. They range in price, but check your local libraries! They often lend out hotspots for a few days at a time, though the waiting list can be long. If you’re going way out there, you might need to set up a satellite internet connection, which requires lugging a dish around and fiddling with it to get a good connection.

All in all, it’s quite possible to take the conveniences of modern life out into the backcountry and run a relatively technical film set. It just requires a good deal of planning and a very efficient crew.


Posted on Jul 21, 2018

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