I’m on the road, a lot. Ask Lydia, haha. I’m always packing as much gear as possible to carry with me. From my laptop to hard drives, cameras, lenses; a complete package. If I get dropped off in the wild, I’m ready to roll. I’ve got my vitamins and my long lens ready to shoot.
So, what makes the go-to day-to-day kit? I’m going to share my location scout travel kit. No matter if I am in Los Angeles or I’m overseas in Prague, I’ve got both of these bags. This is the kit that I roll out with for scouts.
Location Scout Camera Package
When I’m on a location scout, I always bring a camera and lenses with me. My go-to scout package is:
- Canon 1DC DSLR
- Canon L Series 16-35mm f2.8
- Canon L Series 24-70mm f2.8
- Canon L Series 70-200mm f2.8
- Canon Battery charger
- Canon 1DC batteries
- CF Cards
- CF Card Reader
This is my preferred package. It gives me a range of 16-200mm in 3 lenses, shooting on a Full-Frame camera that allows me to crop in on the sensor to a true Super-35mm sensor size while I shoot video. I’m always shooting both still images and videos on my scouts to playback with the Director right there on the scout.
When I get home, I break out my laptop and start color correcting the images in Adobe Photoshop to find the look I want to go for. Once I’ve dialed in what I like, I share the images with the Director to get their opinion and feedback.
That is the process. It’s a tried and true setup for me: quick, simple and effective.
The Bags I Use
To keep everything running smoothly, you need to have the right tools. The camera package is straightforward. An important area to focus on is how you transport all of your gear. I’ve tried many bags and cases over the years. Here are my favorites because of the design and quality.
I’m down to two bags while I scout that knock it out of the park for me:
The Domke F-2 Ruggedwear bag is where I keep my scout camera package. This bag lets me keep everything on my shoulder, at my disposal. I can keep the camera built with a lens on it, while having my other two lenses right next to it. There is enough room for batteries and CF cards to be slotted separately and organized. It’s simple and effective. You don’t want to over-complicate because it is easy to fall into that trap.
The Sachtler Camera Rollpack is my computer and accessories bag. Remember those vitamins? Yes, those go in here. In this bag, I’ll carry:
- Macbook Pro Laptop (with power cord)
- (4) G-Technology Portable Hard-drives
- These have backups of material like my movies, commercials, reference lists, anything I might need to access while I’m on the road
- Vitamin packs
- Sekonic Litemaster Pro L-478DR Light Meter
- Sekonic C700 Color Meter
- iPhone Charging Cables
- Xuma 2600 mAh Portable Battery (to charge my iPhone)
- Mela Mount Portable Battery (to charge larger devices)
Breakdown of the Tools
The camera is the most important tool on a Location Scout. It is the window to what we will shoot. My iPhone has become a valuable tool for many apps and for taking notes. With my iPhone I will often use:
- Helios, which is a Sun position app. I’m always looking to see where we will be located and what the position of the sun will be, and then I make notes in my script to determine how that affects everything we do.
- pCam Film + Digital Calculator. This app will allow me to determine depth of field on a lens and what focal length I can use for different shots, and understanding what might distort, or what the distance needs to be in relationship to where I’m placing the camera.
Those are a pair of my favorites, but if you want more on apps, there is an article on the Hurlblog to see others I like.
This is always with me. I talk a lot about using False Color for finding exposure values on my Flanders DM250 monitor while I’m shooting, but it all starts with my light meter on the scout. I’m not going to drag around a 24” monitor on a scout with the Director, Producer and the Assistant Director. I must rely on my Light Meter to know what the strength of the sun is giving me at various times of day, what the ambient of a room is giving me without any lights being brought in or being able to make note of how the light plays and creates pockets of light throughout a room.
The ying to the Light Meter yang. You cannot have one without the other. Imagine I’m in a bar scouting a scene with mixed sources. I’ve got a red neon sign behind that bar and I’ve got a green neon sign on the other end by some tables, then I have a blue neon sign in another spot, all mixed with practical warm light.
You can’t just walk into that bar and go “oh, they are all different colors….let’s keep going.” You must take note of whether or not the mixed color sources are going to work in your environment. You must take meter readings of what they are putting out, so you can understand if:
- These sources can be matched with artificial light, so you can use them as motivation
- You like what the different colors are doing together, once you look through the lens of your scout camera
Here is an example of lighting with mixed sources from a CNN promo I did for Lisa Ling’s show:
I keep around 4-5TB of data with me. I’m pretty much my own walking post-house at this point! With everything we are doing at Hurlbut Visuals, I have to be able to jump in at a moment’s notice to get something together for the team.
I have a copy of each of my movies in HD so that I can pull frame-grabs, short clips and send those off to a Director, my HV team, or whomever may need it. I have all of my lists of crew contacts from my movies and commercials for the last 25 years. I keep my lighting diagrams, camera lists, lighting lists, grip lists, pre-production material, you name it, it is with me at all times. That is how you stay prepared.
Rolling out with more than you need will keep you on target. Being nimble, yet organized, will get you the information you need while you’re building your look on a scout. Sometimes less is more, so try to keep it simple to what you know are your “go-tos.”
What is your location scout package and how do you stay organized?