Site Survey Checklist

Checklist 3 min
Conducting a location survey prior to shooting helps PA/VI professionals become familiar with the environment as well as the limitations of the equipment being used. Solve problems before shooting to create one less difficulty during the shoot. 

Sometimes production happens in the field, with only one chance to get the footage, and no time or opportunity for rehearsals. When that happens, the only thing you can do is adapt and adjust; but the best way to learn more about an area is to experience it through a pre-planning site survey. In order to conduct a thorough site survey, go to the location where you will be shooting. If that is not possible, find photos or maps through an online search or by asking your SME or POC for images from a continuity book.

Keep in mind that a site survey alone does not ensure success. It is crucial to always arrive at the shoot or event early to confirm your plan is still viable. You need to ensure you can still shoot from where you intended and that you are able to use the outlets you identified. Often event planners will make significant changes after you were there last, and you have to adapt your plan.

Use this checklist to help you conduct a thorough site survey covering security, safety and hazard concerns to be aware of and correct before a shoot.

  • Research location features
    • For indoor locations, windows, equipment, furniture placement, restricted space, cramped rooms, reflective walls and floors and mixed lighting can impact the shoot
    • Outdoor locations will have audio requirements, camera positions, weather, the sun and the time of the event as potential complications
    • Check overall illumination of the background
    • Look for distracting objects such as poles, plants, etc.
    • Listen for wanted and unwanted sounds from the environment
    • Consider traffic type, patterns, flow and noise
    • Contemplate crowd size and noise
    • Decide which lenses and focal lengths are required
    • Identify how many audio sources you need and which types of mics
    • Study the size, layout and physical features of the area
    • Consider available power vs. needs
    • Identify the location of electrical outlets
    • Look for secure or classified information that may be displayed on walls, whiteboards or screens in the location such as maps, passwords or other personal identification information
  • Check for limiting factors
    • Make sure you have acquired special access and permissions, an authorization letter, or to be added to an Entry Access Letter (EAL) to all restricted areas (entry control points or base entrances, flight lines, medical clinics, missile alert facilities, launch facilities, classified areas, etc.)
  • Be aware of any hazards/safety precautions for the area
    • Chemical: health (such as exposure) and physical (such as explosions, fires and chemical reactions)
    • Electrical: cables, equipment malfunctions, frayed wires and swelling battery packs
    • Physical: those caused by human error or oversight and preventable with common safety procedures
  • Review safety requirements for necessary equipment
    • Camera mounting attachments
    • Cables and wires
    • Overhead attachments
    • Booms and dollies
    • Lights
  • Make sure you know of and have access to all required personal protective equipment (PPE) for the area

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