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You might see the word recce and think it’s a military term, and you’d be right - it comes from reconnaissance, but the film industry has long since adopted the phrase to refer to a location visit in advance of filming. If you’ve looked into getting a video produced for your organisation you may have seen this term in proposals provided to you by people like us - so why is it even necessary, and why might you be getting charged extra for it?
I asked our Director of Photography Ben Smith to give us his thoughts on the importance of doing a recce:
Sam: Why might a video project require a recce?
Ben: Preparation is key to any video production. The greater the amount of preparation prior to a shoot, the more efficient you can be on location, the smaller the possibility things can go wrong, and the better the final outcome is likely to be. A recce is one of the most important forms of shoot preparation. Video projects often operate on very tight budgets, and a recce is a great way of assessing risk both to extra costs and personal safety.
Going for a recce does take time and so we do have to charge for them, but compared to what it would cost if something does go wrong on a shoot, it's more than worth it. Depending on your project, you may have paid for a crew, cast, interviewee, equipment and location. If you’ve arranged all that only to find out on the day that the location is unsuitable or unsafe, your project could be delayed and things could get very expensive.
Sam: What type of insights or risks might a recce uncover?
Ben: First and foremost, it's to uncover any potential issues a crew might have when shooting in that location. It might actually be impossible to film in the location you’ve identified. This can happen for many reasons, such as lack of access for vehicles and equipment, unsuitable light levels or reflections, background noise, lack of space for the crew and equipment, and safety issues such as uneven floors or poorly maintained electrics.
If issues do arise, they can be mitigated well ahead of time, or original concepts can be changed to accommodate these, rather than having to react to these problems on the shoot day, when time really is money.
As well as preparing for potential issues, visiting a location can often provide inspiration, generating ideas that could only have been formed from being there. Maximising the characteristics of a particular location can really elevate the final work.
So there you have it. Your producer will decide if a recce is required for your project at the stage of writing a quote or proposal for your project. Needless to say, we’re not trying to scare people into paying extra for a recce - they aren’t always required. They are more commonly used for projects with larger budgets where a specific location is required to go with a story, for example a period property or museum.
But what about the costs?
We charge for a recce in the same way as we do for all our work - based on an accurate estimate of the time spent according to our rates. A recce does not cost as much as filming, as we typically need just one member of our team to go to a location for a short period, normally less than 2 hours. However, we do include travel time and travel expenses.
We hope you agree that a recce is a cost worth bearing, as they can markedly improve the finished product. If you have any questions, ask your producer or client manager when you come to request your quote.