Home Projects / FilmsFeature FilmsAct of Valor Director/Cameraman Package for Scouting Locations + Scouting Apps

Director/Cameraman Package for Scouting Locations + Scouting Apps

written by Shane Hurlbut, ASC

Since the invention of the Canon 5D, it has taken scouting to a whole new level and preparing that package that allows you can take advantage of serendipitous moments, lightning in a bottle so to speak, is essential.

On Act of Valor, we shot on four continents, twelve states and five different countries.  Our method was to land in a foreign country, get our boots on the ground, start to scout our locations for about a week, and then shoot for a week.  Both our scouting and shooting packages were aboard the plane in our overhead bin space. I took a small compliment of Panavision Primos, Canon L Series and Zeiss ZE primes. While we were scouting in Cambodia and heading to Kampot, I looked out the window and saw a river that led to these amazing mountains that resembled Fiords. We jumped out just as a long skinny boat was heading up river. We whipped out the Panavision 35mm Primo and slapped in on the Tripod and tilted up with the boat to reveal the mountains where our terrorist would be running his training camp. Go it. Let’s continue scouting.

These spontaneous moments are jewels and capitalizing on them is paramount. On the day when we were scheduled to shoot this, the water level had dropped and it was overcast.


The Scouting Locations Package

Soup to Nuts


My package for scouting locations.

My package for scouting locations.

2-1440 Black rolling Pelican Case

1-Canon 5D

1-Canon 7D

1-35-70mm Leica R Zoom

1-21-35mm Leica R Zoom

1-80-200mm Leica R Zoom

1-Tiffen 77mm WW ND Filter Set .3-2.1

1-Zacuto Z-Finder


4-Hoodman 16GB 600x CF Cards

2-Canon Battery Charger

2-Multi International plug

1-FireWire CF Card Reader

2-500GB bus powered G Drive

1-Mono Pod




1-Lee Color Gel Swatch

1-Rosco Color Gel Swatch

1-Light Meter

1-Color Temp Meter

Scouting Apps

Gel Swatch Library

What is in your scouting package?  What moments have you been able to grab while location scouting?

Related Articles


Hany Anber February 2, 2012 at 5:38 PM

Mine is really less complicated; besides the must-have mobile apps, I pack my 5D, extra batts, (canon 16-35mm & 50mm & 70-200), cineskates, macbookPro, 500g Lacie rugged HD, and Zacuto VF.

Tommy Oceanak February 2, 2012 at 6:35 PM

Hi Shane,

Great post. I’m wondering if you wouldn’t mind expanding upon your process when your scouting. For example what do you look for and do first. Turn off the lights, see whats going with them one by one? Take color temp readings of sources native to the location? Do you try to get inspired by what the room looks like without movie lights, and then amplify that when you are actually shooting? Lastly, I’m just curious how you would use the gel swatch books while scouting, like what balancing with them to match sources? Just trying to get inside your head a bit more, if you don’t mind.

Thanks again, as always, I really appreciate you sharing all this great information, I’ve been following since the beginning, and have learned and been inspired alot.

– Tommy

Dave Derby February 2, 2012 at 9:38 PM

5D mrk2
Canon 16-35mm L
Canon 50mm F1.4
Canon 70-200mm F2.8 II L
Opteka 6.5mm Fisheye
Z Finder
Go Pro
Glidecam HD 2000
Monopod Manfrotto BHV-1
2 1440 Black rolling Pelican Cases

Cenydd Ros February 2, 2012 at 9:47 PM

Hi, Shane. Nice kit. I know what a inclinometer is for, but how do you find it useful in your scouting kit? For overall reference regarding location terrain?

Shane February 3, 2012 at 9:02 PM

Cenydd Ros, inclination on the Sun. I find that the ones on Helios and Sun Scout are bunk some times, this just double checks.

Aaron February 2, 2012 at 9:50 PM

Your scouting kit looks better than my shooting kit.

Baron February 3, 2012 at 12:45 AM

Hi Shane, I feel the pack that holds all your gear is as equally important. I would love haul a sexy backpack around but the practical Pelican waterproof hard cases are great and so are the Nanuk brands.

I have peace of mind knowing that my gear are kept protected from the rigors and elements.

Thanks for showing us what you bring along for location scouting, and thanks the apps too 🙂

Shane February 9, 2012 at 2:05 PM

Baron, thank you so much for your insight and you kind words.

Sinuhe Xavier February 3, 2012 at 1:07 AM

I bring a DP… Like you…

federico February 3, 2012 at 5:24 AM

shane the 35 70 is the 2.8 version? if not wich one is the best?

Patrick February 3, 2012 at 4:25 PM


I have the Leica-R 35-70/f4 and use it all the time (big thanks to Mike Svitak for the tip on buying that lense!).
Not sure there is a f2.8 version – rather an older f3.5 – but I’m really a Leica optics newbie.


Shane February 9, 2012 at 2:04 PM

federico, the 3.5 version is great. Don’t overlook the 80-200mm Leica F4. That lens is cinematic as hell

R. Richard Hobbs February 4, 2012 at 12:46 PM

Besides being a professional location scout, being a gearhead, I am pretty jealous 😉 I am ususally expected to go to out shooting to bring home a lot of options and working in a large urban area it is seldom wise to leave valuables in an unattended vehicle. period. (I usually work alone whereas a lot your scouts might be tech scouts with an entourage?) In any case, nice article – thanks 🙂

Shane February 9, 2012 at 2:02 PM

R. Richard Hobbs, thank you so much for your support and kind words.

Daniel Longworth February 6, 2012 at 5:29 AM

Thank you, Shane, for your continued instruction. It is a tremendous resource for beginners. Could you please do me a favor, though? I really didn’t want to hijack this latest thread, but I can’t seem to find anything more than an opening paragraph on your “Building a Perfect Keylight” thread. No matter what I click on, there is no further information aside from that first paragraph. What am I doing wrong? I’d love to learn more.

Daniel Longworth February 8, 2012 at 8:02 PM

Okay, now it works for me from my Android and from within Firefox browser, just not from within the latest Windows Explorer browser. Thank you!

Shane February 9, 2012 at 1:47 PM

Daniel Longworth, cool I am glad you were able to view it. Thanks so much for the support.

alexandre February 8, 2012 at 6:16 PM

(off topic)
does the Leica zooms fit well on the 5D?
i am planning to buy the 28-70 or 35-70 and 80-200 but there some info on the net saying that they aren´t compatible with the 5D mirror

Shane February 9, 2012 at 9:22 AM

Alexandre, all of those lenses work amazing with 5D. The 80-200 is probably my favorite of the set. That is one cinematic lens. I take it over Cinema glass like the Cookes and Primos. The only problem with the 28-70 is that you cannot filter it. The front element pushes forward.

Jack Seckman February 11, 2012 at 6:26 PM

Hello There. This is a really well written article. I’ll be sure to bookmark it and return to read more of your useful information. Thanks for the post. I’ll definitely comeback.

Brice LeCarre February 12, 2012 at 2:03 PM

Hi Shane,
First, thank you for giving your hard learned knowledge freely.
As to scouting, are you trying to validate specific shots you had in mind prior to see the location or are letting the location dictate the shots, or both?
I understand there is a lot of variables but do you have a checklist of shots in your mind from which you refer to build your shotlist or do you let the location dictate it?

thank you

Shane March 5, 2012 at 10:53 PM

Great question. It’s both. You have a shotlist, storyboard and design in mind. But once you get to the location you then have to think quick on your feet as to how the location changes your plan, and how to use the characteristics of the location to your advantage.

Chris February 20, 2012 at 11:39 PM

What do you use the gel swatches for on a scout?

Shane March 5, 2012 at 10:54 PM

I use the gel swatches when discussing different colors, or when trying to match a specific color coming from a window. I also use it when I need to color correct a fluorescent. I hold up the swatch over my color meter.

Dan Stepnik March 4, 2012 at 5:41 AM

Thanks for the insight.
I guess after hauling those Peli’s around all day, you don’t need to go to the gym.

jlevy March 4, 2012 at 11:31 AM

if you were buying your first 5D package, would you get a lieca 35-70 over the new canon 24-70?
and if so is it only because the front element comes out?
the reason i ask is it seems like every 5d job the pkg asked for is the 24-70 and the 70-200.
also, does anyone have any idea if in the new 5dmk3 if the live view cuts out when an external monitor is plugged in, seems like very easy thing to test but i can’t find any info on it.

Shane March 4, 2012 at 6:50 PM

jlevy, I would go with the Leica glass. It gives the sensor a whole new life. Not sure about the MkIII

jlevy March 5, 2012 at 12:35 PM

thank you shane for the quick response. i think i am going to cancel my order for the new 24-70mm then, I’m not sure if you had this reaction or if its normal, but the last job i had to do with that lens is that id zoom in and get focus and zoom out to frame and it would be soft. or id magnify in and get a focus, then the director would want a tighter shot, so id change the focal length only and id re-magnify in and it would be slightly out of focus and need adjusting. i don’t know how focus pullers can deal with that. maybe it was just that lens because I’ve never noticed this before, but i also hardly ever pull my own focus either. i guess the question is, if this is a universal problem with these lenses, do you have such an issue with the leica lens you suggest?
btw, we were both repped at the cheriff agency at the same time for a brief moment 🙂

Shane March 6, 2012 at 2:09 AM

jlevy, using any zoom on the 5D is a bad idea. You need a sharp piece of glass to help with all the compression that softens your image. The Leica’s I found are sharp and lower contrast. All of the Canon Zooms do that. I recommend the 21-35 Leica and the 80-200 Leica zooms. Everything else is a prime. Small world, I haven’t talked with Stacy in a while.

jlevy March 6, 2012 at 2:26 AM

ok, good, i thought i was going crazy. so the 21-35 leica zoom? i have to check that one out. i was definitely interested in that 35-70 too though to fill up that focal range. do you happen to know if one is better then the other btwn the leitz f3.5 or the leica f4? they look pretty identical. i think the guy below me has the same question. anyway thanks, I’ve been using the 5 and 7ds for awhile and following your work on them but never jumped in, this is my first camera since my old bolex pl mount pkg from back in the day, haha. I’m excited for your cinema series from letus too, very nice!
i was with stacy until the end, 13 years, she moved on to a cooperate job at a new media company, I’m now with montana artists.

jlevy March 5, 2012 at 10:45 PM

yeah, I’m confused by the choices now too, i see the 35-70 2.8 is ridiculously expensive. but the f3.5 and f4 are cheap, especially compared to the new canon 24-70 mkII.
but the f3.5 says leitz and the f4 says leica.
is there a difference or better yet a preference?
don’t want to bu the wrong one.

Adam March 4, 2012 at 7:08 PM

Shane and co. –

Thank you so much for a great Blog and resource !!

I am finishing my wonderful Leica R prime set with the zooms and I am stating out with the 35-70mm – But i can’t quite figure out witch one of them to get ?? i see there is different speed, shapes and prices … and see some of them have that push and pull zoom if you know what i mean 🙂 – I of cause want a zoom that turns and not pull !! – what do you think ??

Bud Dickman May 22, 2012 at 8:31 AM

“These spontaneous moments are jewels and capitalizing on them is paramount. On the day when we were scheduled to shoot this, the water level had dropped and it was overcast.”

So in this case, if the weather conditions on the shoot day were less than ideal, were you able to use the shot from the scout in the final film instead?

My scouting kit is fairly simple, but I think I may start carrying a monopod with me. I just finished a shoot where I think there were a few shots I could have capitalized on during the scout that we didn’t have time for on the shoot days.

My typical scouting kit:
Canon L lenses (16-35, 24-70, 70-200)
Minolta Light Meter
iPhone apps: Sun Seeker, Panascout

Shane June 11, 2012 at 7:54 PM

Bud Dickman. Thanks for the comment, and yes we did use the footage I shot from the scout.

Pavel July 25, 2012 at 4:20 PM

About apps, by all means check out Map-A-Pic Location Scout. Not only it helps you remember and organize the locations, but it also shows you the times of sunrise, sunset, and the Golden hour for your locations.

App Store link: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/map-a-pic-location-scout/id519612179?mt=8

Shane July 25, 2012 at 4:24 PM

Pavel, thank you so much. I will check that out

Edgar January 16, 2013 at 4:56 PM

Thanks for the blog, Shane, seriously. So much time spent on this, unbelievable…

Apart from the kit mentioned in your post and comments, I always have a notepad and a laser distance meter. The latter one I find very useful for the interior locations. Combined with some location photos I can plan the shots/lenses fairly precisely, if production wants me to. I use Leica D2.

Shane January 18, 2013 at 7:49 AM

Edgar. Thanks so much for the comment and support. Those are some great additions to a scouting kit.


Leave a Comment