What is a reccy?

(word count: 971 – 3 min read) Reccy, short for reconnoitre, has it’s origins in French and Latin, meaning ‘to know again’.
I am sure the word recognize is in there somewhere, too.
But it is the prime English meaning of reconnoitre that is important here.
‘To make a military observation’.

When sourcing locations for a film shoot, one must not only wear a military cap but a cap representing every department on your shoot; director, DoP, lighting, sound, art department, make-up, cast, production manager, unit manager etc. I added etc to cover myself, just in case I forgot someone. (click on the link for more on all film crew roles).

view of not used location taken when doing a reccy
Here’s a location reccy pic that never got used.
Nice idea, but no time in the schedule.

What to check list for when doing a reccy

Here are some questions you should be asking yourself, next time you find that perfect location for your online video production, TVC, short film, or your next function.

Upon arrival – location:

Is the location going to suit the client’s needs, based on the script/shooting board/client brief? Does it look right?

Logistics and schedule

What day are we shooting this? What time of day do we need this for in the schedule? Is it a work day? A weekend? A public holiday? Is it school holidays?
Does the space belong to the client? If not, is it public open space and will I need permission to shoot here? Do I need to close the space down for the shoot? Is there a charge? Do I need to hire traffic management? What other people use this space?

Possible interference

Is there any construction going on around the location? That can impact visually and sound wise. Will it be completed before the shoot?


Where can we park? Do I need to get permission for this? If it’s an office building, can we get underground parking and will we get access to the lifts? Is there a goods lift? Do I need a swipe card to get to the filming floor? Will the lighting trucks fit? OR if there is a small crew and limited parking, should we all come in one vehicle?
Which client person is responsible for parking?


What sort of camera is best suited to this shoot? What lenses do I think we’ll need? Is there enough room to shoot, to track the camera? Are there any bad reflections that could cause the DoP grief? Any mirrors? If so, can we cover or remove them? Are we flying a drone? If so, is the location more than 5k from an airport?

An office location before set dressing. The gaffer went round and rotated all the fluorescent lights in the ceiling. This turns them off, allowing him to bring ‘clean’ light to the scene.


Which direction is the sunlight coming from? Where does it rise and set? What kind of light is in the space at present? Do we need that light? Can we isolate the lighting, if necessary? Is it ok to manually turn off each fluorescent light? Is there power available in the space we are filming? Look for power points around the wall. Are they all on the same circuit? Do I need to split the lighting load? Is there three phase power? Who is the person in charge of this? If there is not enough power source, can I get a generator truck close by and can I get cables to the scene? (Think up the emergency stair well). If we don’t need daylight all day, can I black out the area?


Any noisy air conditioners? Can they be turned off when we are shooting?
Is that going to affect the workers in the space? In other spaces? Any generators, machines, fridges that are on timers, or construction going on next door? Are we on an airport flight path? Near a busy street? How many people are talking at once? Should I radio mic the talent or use a boom pole mic, or both? Things that will affect the sound recordist.

Art Department:

Will the existing furniture and props suffice? If not, is there another office more suitable? Can I access props from another part of the building, or bring some from home, maybe? Is it ok to remove unsightly or inappropriate props?


A good reccy also considers the people at the location. Who is working here? Are they ok with us filming and do we need their permission and get talent release forms signed? If not, where do we get extras from to fill the space? Perhaps friends and family of the client. Oh and is there somewhere where the make-up and wardrobe department can set up? And where can the 100 extras sit and wait? Where are the nearest toilets, if any? Where is the nearest coffee shop? When can we eat/break for lunch?

Other details:

Some outside the square thinking…Is this the only location we are shooting on this day? If not, where do we come from? Where are we going after this? Which order should we shoot in?
I am sure there are many other things I’ve missed, but you get the picture.

LIFE LESSON LEARNT…Treat a reccy like you’re buying a house for your client and crew.

  • Would everyone like this?
  • What do they need to be happy here?
  • What things might they not like?
  • What opportunities are there to fix those things?
  • Is it a nice neighbourhood?
  • Is it the best bang for my buck?
  • How does it compare to others I’ve found?


photo of approved location on suburb street taken when doing a reccy
A potential location for an upcoming TVC; backlit, tree-lined, a typical established suburb. It answers the brief.

It’s all about being prepared. As I say to anyone who wants to listen, always consider the Seven P’s of Production. Perfect Pre-Production Prevents Piss Poor Performance.

Hope this helps you on your next venture when doing a reccy.