Cheating Locations

These examples are for TV commercials where a lot of coverage was not needed, but will give you some ideas of what can be done.

The audience sees only what you show them. You can often mix two locations to look like one and suggest others with a bare minimum of props and set pieces. Same examples:

We needed people on the porch of a log cabin on a lake, but both were in different places. We shot all the action at the cabin as if the lake was in front and then duplicated part of the front porch at the lake. Lighting was easy by blocking part of the sky light to a believable balance. (People a stop or more under and lake at the correct exposure for wide shots. Close ups should be up to exposure with the outside a bit hot.)

We need two opposing condo balconies with boats and a marina background. We built only the balconies on parallels and put our actors on them. Later just the sail of a sailboat was dollied by a restaurant window with water in the distance. The metal balcony railings were used before and modified many times after.

We needed a bedroom with a spectacular ocean cliff view. We couldn't find such as real location. We cantilevered a small set over a cliff and lit it with just diffusion over the top. The view through the window was great and lighting balance easy. A bit darker for wide shots inside and a bit brighter outside for closeups. Where the window didn't show we used full exposure.

We needed a musician on a rooftop with city background. Vent pipes, TV aerials, a roof access door and parapet on a hill down town worked. We built fire escapes with small pieces of wall too.

When the right actor warned us he was acrophobic we build a fake parapet so he wasn't right next to the real edge of the roof.

We needed a New England beach house. A 10-foot corner of a clapboard house flat with window, some drift fence, grass tuffs and the right props was enough on a Malibu, California Beach.

Shooting on golf courses and cemeteries in Los Angeles is not easy. Griffith Park and the right props always sufficed.

Phone booths are rarely in the right place and some phone companies supply them free. ATM machines can be faked. Portable parking meters are in many prop houses. Unusual signs usually have to be made.

For a kid riding a bike on the side of a brick wall and another kid watching on a bench, a wall was built almost flat to the ground and the watching kid on his back.

Looking at a lot of pictures and location stills will give you ideas of just how much you need to make a believable shot.

We had our own teeter-totter and swing to put wherever needed. We built a picnic table out of old planks that aged by storing outside. A portable drinking fountain worked over and over. Many props can be rented, but often they are not naturally aged. For food shots we had piles of stone slabs, aged cutting blocks, shiny surfaces etc. A piece of an old oak log worked over and over. Many props can be stored outside and improve with time and weather.

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