5 Terrible Places To Shoot A Video

The perfect video concept includes a huge number of variables. Casting, shot framing, lighting, and sound are all critical. But there’s more than one star in your video. No matter who’s on camera, they have to be in the right place at the right time to make your video as effective as possible. While its a cardinal rule in the video industry to never say never, (because you may find that you occasionally say: “Well maybe just this once…”) there are a few general locations that can leave you wishing you’d never left home. Here are five places that, while they can occasionally work, are often quite problematic.

1) Parks

The gang's all here! And making enough noise to wake the dead

The gang’s all here! And making enough noise to wake the dead

Yes, the scenery can be wonderful and you might come upon a cool statue or monument that will add some panache to the scene. But this environment is wildly unpredictable. First, you may have to get permits to shoot there. In itself, that can be a good thing. You’ll have the right to set up shop in a certain place and take (reasonable) measures to keep interlopers from jogging through your shot, or deciding they need to stand conspicuously in the background while they give everyone an eyeful as they do “downward facing dog”. But even the most tightly-worded permits can’t change the weather or the ambient noise. Rain, wind, barking dogs from the other side of that cute duck pond, the not-so-cute ducks deciding to have a fight with the invading hoard of geese. If you plan on having the entire sound track done in a recording studio, then you could make up for the din. But if you need to use location sound recording, think carefully about how you want to go about it. Even the best video crew can be stumped when trying to rig sound in an au natural setting. So unless you have big bucks to pay for a lot of expensive equipment, you may be in for a noisy surprise when you see the final video.

2) The Ocean

You know those candles labelled “Ocean Breeze”? Nice and refreshing, aren’t they? But the real ocean breeze is hardly refreshing when you’re trying to shoot a video. For starters, let’s go back to the audio track. That breeze—and it can be pretty stiff and steady—can create a constant undertone throughout the video. Don’t they make windscreens for the microphones? Sure. They also make sweatshirts to keep you warm. Would you just wear a sweatshirt if you had to hike through Antarctica? The ocean breeze is relentless, and even a good windscreen won’t mute all of it.

Gone with the wind: oceanside videos look cool, but can be problematic

Gone with the wind: oceanside videos look cool, but can be problematic

There are a few other things you can’t control when shooting at the beach. The birds, for one thing. Seagulls, of course, but did you know a lot of beaches also have colonies of ravens or crows? And some of these birds are used to getting fed by humans, so if you don’t have anything to offer them they’re likely to raise a ruckus.

We’re not implying that your on-air talent will be attacked like Tippi Hedren in The Birds, but those flying freeloaders can still be quite a nuisance. Oh, let’s not forget the sand. Coupled with the breeze, it can turn into a blowing nightmare that can scratch delicate camera lenses and otherwise damage expensive equipment. That cool storm that just sprung up out of nowhere, giving you an awesome, dramatic backdrop with lightning streaking out of the sky into the deep blue sea? Just remember, electricity travels pretty well through water. The journey will get a lot uglier if it tries to travel through your talent or the video crew. Everyone not only needs to get out of the water, but off the beach entirely. Not easy when you have to lug all of that equipment to safety in a few minutes, but absolutely necessary. (A boom mike makes a lovely lightning rod. Shazam!)

3) A Hotel Room

OK, first off, you know what everyone is going to be thinking if they see you hauling cameras and lights into a hotel room. And realistically, a certain genre of movies often gets made in hotels. Not that hotel management would approve, and you’ll probably hear about it unless you’ve secured permission to shoot in the room ahead of time.

Absolutely Dan! We'll start shooting your video as soon as the vice squad leaves

“Absolutely Dan! We’ll start shooting your video as soon as the vice squad leaves”

No major hotel chain wants to be accused of running a behind-the-scenes red light district. But that’s not all. Once again, we have to bring up sound. A lot of hotels are not built with the best soundproofing. Aside from hearing everything going on next door (lucky you if it’s the honeymoon suite!) the people next door will hear everything you’re doing. If you’ve never been on a video shoot before, there’s a lot of noise involved with the setup and tearing down the equipment. So the bellman or the hotel manager herself may be banging on the door right in the middle of your shoot if other guests complain.

There’s also the sad truth that, unless you’re in a hotel that regularly entertains high-level guests, the room is probably not going to be in the best shape. You may not notice all of the chipped paint, the stains on the rug, and for that matter the stains on the bedspread with the room’s normal lighting (did you really not know why hotel rooms have notoriously dim lights?) But once those high-powered production lights are switched on, the room’s imperfections will be revealed in all of their seedy glory. Your video shoot has just taken a detour to the wrong side of the tracks.

4) Churches, Synagogues, Mosques

Wow, that's an awful lot of light... that keeps changing by the hour...

Wow, that’s an awful lot of light from the windows… light that keeps changing by the hour…

We’re already going on the assumption that your video shoot doesn’t involve blasphemy, so let’s just talk about the practical aspects of shooting in houses of worship. Lighting can be extremely tricky in these buildings. Many congregations are big on windows. You might find yourself with a lot of shifting natural light, which can be a problem if you have an extended video shoot that’s supposed to show a scene taking a place in a short amount of time.

If those lovely windows are stained glass, it could be quite a colorful experience as well (cue the theme song for Xanadu, boys!) You can use professional lighting to offset a lot of these problems, but the more cavernous the place is, the less use light is going to be unless the shots are framed very tightly. Often extra lighting will make the more distant areas look even gloomier than they really are.

5) Industrial Areas

Obviously if you are an industrial company and need a video shot for your business, it would be a good idea to shoot in your business location. But for any other shoots, industrial areas can be the absolute worst location. You must have a very specific reason

An touch the sounds of silence....as your audience tunes out because this is so #$%$& depressing

And touch the sounds of silence….as your audience tunes out because this scene is so depressing

(need a gritty locale, need a drab background, need to see a huge chemical tank behind your on-air talent, need to keep your crew on their toes so their expensive equipment and van aren’t jacked) to justify shooting in such a setting. For one thing, buildings in industrial areas are often long and wide, and can block out a lot of natural light that might otherwise make your setting look a little less grim. Plus, being long and wide, the buildings are also likely to be drab and utilitarian. There’s usually no greenery, usually a lot of concrete, often a lot of noise, and more often than not some extra bit of despondent scenery like barbed wire fences, highways in the distance, heavy trucks in the foreground and those giant metal doors that roll up or down with a loud clatter. Think very carefully before you decide you want to shoot video in a place like this.



Overall, most people have good judgment when deciding where they’d like their video shot. But occasionally what seem like a bright idea on the drawing board turns into a catastrophe in the field. At Hencar we can walk you through the pros and cons of shooting in any location, and we’ll help you pick one that’s perfect for your message.