Filming in exterior locations is a fantastic way to add depth and dynamics to whatever type of video you’re creating at a relatively low cost, depending on the overall scale of the shoot and the production. However, there are a number of factors you have to take into account in order to be sufficiently prepared for any form of filming outdoors. The intention of this guide is not to scare anyone from filming exteriors, but it is important for videographers, filmmakers and anyone within the field of videography to understand the details like camera settings and limitations of lighting setups to take your work to the next level, and producing a great video whether it be for social media, a podcast, music video, or a short film. Let’s dive into some of the do’s and don'ts and pros and cons of making a creative video production outside with a beginner’s guide to filming outdoors.
Do’s and Don’ts of Filming Outside
One of the best places to start while planning an outdoor shoot is the weather app. While an overcast day will not spoil your outside video production (it may actually help, but we will touch on that later), rain, sleet and hail definitely can. Unless you have the proper housing for your camera equipment, wet weather is something to be wary of and avoid at all costs. There’s nothing worse than getting stuck outside with a bunch of camera gear and no protection!
Speaking of gear, you always want to make sure you are prepared for whatever these outside conditions may throw at you. A good way to do that is by having the right tools and equipment with you at all times. This first piece of equipment will ensure your shots are at the f-stop you desire, without risking over exposure. That’s right folks we are talking about an ND filter. ND filters, or Neutral Density filters, are essentially sunglasses for your camera lens. It is a tinted piece of glass that attaches to your lens, which allows you to adjust for how much light you want to enter or not enter your lens. You can still get that shallow depth of field despite the focal length without worrying about your shot being blown out by utilizing ND Filters, so when in direct sunlight you can maintain a consistent shutter speed, ISO and exposure level.
On the other side of the spectrum, when the amount of natural light starts to decrease, you can only open your aperture so much. Once you’re shooting video wide open in a low light scenario, you’re going to need to start bumping up your ISO to increase the amount of brightness in your image. Modern DSLRs from companies like Canon, Nikon and Sony are capable of relatively high ISO numbers before the image starts to degrade.
Not all gear directly affects the look of your shots though, as some of these must have items are just for maintenance. Not quite as glamorous to have, but every bit just as important. Some of these key items are lens cloths, compressed air in a can and lens cleaning liquid (usually a mixture with isopropyl alcohol). These items can save the day when you are filming in a remote location outdoors, and a pesky fingerprint, some dust or a smudge gets on your lens. Without the proper cleaning supplies, these inconveniences can ruin a shoot by showing up in every shot. The last things you want to happen are either wasting precious sunlight by leaving the set in search of lens cleaning supplies, or worse, viewing the footage in post and noticing that it is all ruined by a small smudge in every shot. Protect your time and money by being prepared with these simple items!
The Best Times to Film Outside
A common misconception among new filmmakers is that the sunnier it is outside, the better the footage will look. While sun is not necessarily a bad thing when filming outside, the placement of it can be detrimental. One of the worst times to film outside is when the sun is at its highest point in the sky, which is generally around noon, but that time will shift as the seasons change. The sun shining straight above your talent or the objects you are filming will cause unappealing shadows as well as create flat looking images with no depth. Checking sunrise and sunset times is always smart when filming outside, specifically for this reason. New apps exist now as well that allow you to see the sun’s path through the sky, and what time it will be at its highest point.
Many filmmakers look for overcast days to shoot outside, as they generally provide optimal light for outside shoots. On overcast days, the talent does not need to squint as much due to the sun not shining in their face, and this can help prevent talent from overheating or showing signs of sweating, which can hurt continuity. The shadows are also less drastic on cloudy days, which allows filmmakers to film for longer periods of time or try more takes, as the moving shadows are not as much of an indicator of time of day, thus keeping continuity more intact.
Let Us Decide
While everyone should experiment with different types of lighting and filming in various locations, sometimes there is just not enough time to test what works best, or the present opportunity does not allow for any of the errors that typically accompany these trial shoots. If you find yourself in a situation where you need an expert quality video, and you need it quickly, you can stop your search now. 7 Wonders is an award-winning company, and we can handle any of your video needs in house. With a growing team of professional filmmakers and producers, we pride ourselves on our high quality look and unmatched ability to tell stories. We are confident we can give you the video you desire with a creative and modern aesthetic. Don’t just take our word for it, check out some of our previous work and see for yourself!