Location Services

Location Management Know-How

Location Service as a Part of Production Service Companies' Activities

The activities of the production service companies, that work for international productions, are centered around location services. They are able to successfully take part in tenders competing for a project if next to a budget, they can attach location references that fit the project’s script and creative concept. During the decision making often the location references are more significant than the budget itself.

The activities of the production service companies, that work for international productions, are centered around location services. They are able to successfully take part in tenders competing for a project if next to a budget, they can attach location references that fit the project’s script and creative concept. During the decision making often the location references are more significant than the budget itself.

Over the last few years the location scout/manager profession has overgone an outstanding development. The constant advancement of photography, image storing and sharing technologies, as well as the online applications assisting location scouts like nothing before, have significantly defined the activities of the location scouts who wish to keep up with the modern world. Also this technological boom has also given brilliant opportunities to production service companies as well.

The production service companies’ continuous location search is also used for marketing purposes as well, in order to draw in productions from thousands of miles away. This is why it is their interest to make the most of all the possibilities modern technology has to offer, using it to assist their aspiration to become more successful. In this article I would like to give an insight into the activities of production service companies, how various location services integrate into it and what kind of technological changes have happened in the previous years, as well as the new challenges faces these companies in the future.

At our company, location scouts are part of our everyday schedule. Basically we constantly create location collections for scripts and creative concepts so that the production can be realised with our team. If we do our work well, then our clients already fall in love with certain locations during the tender stage and at the beginning of the production we only need to do a few monitoring location scouts. This is also in our interest, so that a significant amount of work gets done by the tender stage. We have already calculated the production mechanisms of many important locations that we are already familiar with, enabling our budgeting to be precise and for us to offer professional location services. This significantly lightens the time pressure on our productions, enabling all the departments to start their work in time, which rises the quality of our other services generally as well.

Location Photographs Always at Hand

At the beginning every production service company has to make the decision of what kind of photography material they want to use in the future for their clients’ location requests. Naturally, many turn to location scouts or location agencies. This can be a solution at the beginning, but it also can have many negative effects. Even the fast and reliable location scouts sadly can often be slow in the tender stage, when speed would be a very important factor. It is possible that they send us the same photographs, that another competitor might be given as well, who also proposes them for the same project. This costs money, which is only worth it if we get chosen. There are also such production service companies as well, who work via the internet in this stage, which means that they use photos they find on the internet for their location presentation, with the explanation that their local knowledge of the locations is the value they have to offer. There is also a third type of company, who take their own photographs of the locations in order to be able to react to their clients in a unique, fast and high quality manner, even in the tender stage. This is why they are constantly on scouts, aiming also to find such hidden locations that their competitors do not even know yet.

How do the images taken on such proactive scouts differ to those photographed during our traditional scouts? Possibly the most important aspect is that we do not only take a wide of range images presenting the location from as many angles as possible, but we also strive to take such shots that a DOP or a photographer would choose as well, in order to visualise the ways the same location can be used for various projects. This is how during the tender stage, when the decision is not yet in the hands of the DOP or photographer, even someone with a less experienced eye can see and decide whether this location is ideal for their script. This is why a location scout does not only need to have production knowledge, experience in location management and an insight into art history, but also have high quality photography skills as well. This is why in our production company even the producers need to have an understanding of photography as well, since often they too go on scouts.

Own Location Database?

To create an independant location database, to constantly refresh it and maintain it is a significant cost. The cost that a production service company invests into its own location database is only worthwhile if the company gets chosen for the project due to the parts of the database that are sent as a proposal. Opposed to location agencies and location managers, production service companies only very rarely (for example with a feature film) can add the use of their costly database to projects’ budget. Regardless, many companies choose to create their own independent database. This is also because the clients expect these companies to have their own database. For example, it is quite impossible to win a still photography project without one, but it is also very significant aspect for film productions too. Producers experienced in this industry know that if they are sent photos from a service company that are visibly from their own database, then it is quite obvious that they are sent on a basis of trust and are not to be forwarded to others, and can not be used as a location reference for a briefing to another production company.

A model has not been developed of what are the rules for creating a location database, but due to its nature, as any other database, they ought to be structured, searchable and accessible. The technological development of the last few years has had a huge effect on the aspect and on the future of databases in general. We too have heard countless stories of how databases constructed by years of hard work have disappeared (due to some technological fault) from computers, or how hard it was to manage them when they were simply on one office computer. The appearance of such professional cloud systems such as Google Drive and Dropbox show a new direction in the development of databases. Companies  without even a significant technological investment are able to build databases that can even be very complex and available anywhere.

How to Send Location References?

The evolution of online file sharing softwares reformed the possibilities of ways to send location collections to clients. Only a few years ago it was the standard to send small size (300-400 pixels wide) photos converted into a zip file attached to an email. By today it is obvious that technology is developing in the direction of preferring the largest resolution possible. Now compressing smaller size files is done by compressing areas that are less important for the content of the photograph, so the difference is hardly visible. The cloud systems that are ideal for dealing with images all compress the files according to a similar system. This is how on html platforms the client can view the image straight away in high resolution without having to download it.  Allowing downloading of the images can be an optional decision at every location proposal.

Location Managment After the Project's Awarded

There is a very important expectation regarding the location references and presentations sent for a project: it is to show such locations that are available and can technically enable the project to be realised there according to the script and creative concept. If a service company presents locations mainly according to images downloaded from the internet of locations that they do not have information on and of whose owners they have not spoken to, many negative situations may occur, among which the worst is unquestionably if the client falls in love with a location, but at the very beginning of the production process they have to face the fact that none of the referred locations are available. In order to avoid this the production service company always adds in their email that the sent images are only references and that the locations’ availability has not been checked, so further scouts will be needed if the project gets realised. But this often does not work and only distances the client from the given production service company.

Based on our experiences, there are three reasons for a production being shot in a foreign company: (1) financial reasons, (2) needing such locations that can not be found in their country or are hard to access, (3) there is such an event because of which the film’s actors (mainly celebrities) are temporary located in given country. In the last two cases the locations sent in the tender stage are of key importance. A production service company can only create such a high quality collection, if the location management is done in-house.

Success can be measured by whether a large scale Hollywood production does or does not send out their own location scout, since if they don’t, then based on the sent material, they feel with our services they do not need to do further independent research. Or by whether we can find such locations where noone has ever shot in before. This is how the energy invested in each film comes back to us multiplied, and we can state that if they would not have chosen us for their project, their product would look entirely different.

How does a client choose a production service company for its international shoot? If they simply decide based on objective aspects, then the answer is obviously that the location services has to be of high quality, since in the most cases these productions are taken to other countries where they can be shot in new, unique locations. At Progressive Productions, an independent branch called Progressive Locations constantly works on discovering new locations. We make a part of our location database available on our website, which means that 4000 images of locations are accessible online for free.

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