App for iOS, Android, and Windows Phones Is a Location-Scouting Assistant

For a filmmaker, having good locations is winning half the battle for capturing eye-catching visuals. Although different departments might not admit it, great locations can greatly enhance your production design and sometimes even your cinematography. Due to the proliferation of mobile devices, the world of location scouting has been transformed. Instead of lugging around a DSLR, laptop computer or paper notebooks, you now only need one tool—a tool that you almost always have with you. Mobile phones and tablets with built-in GPS and high-quality cameras have become the industry-standard tool for filmmakers conducting location scouts.

Panavision’s Panascout is an essential app that will make location scouting with your mobile device a much simpler process. The app was developed as a tool for filmmakers during pre-production to assist them in detailing potential locations and recording and sharing metadata about the location. According to Panavision Director of Marketing and Communications Judy Doherty, the app was designed for everyone, not just the location scout. “Photographers, cinematographers, and location scouts of all levels of experience use Panascout,” she explains. “Even realtors have downloaded Panascout.”

The New Panascout
Panascout is a free app (available on iOS, Android, and Windows phones), but Panavision recently released a new version of Panascout that allows you to unlock pro features a cinematographer would appreciate, including multiple aspect ratios, video capture with framing overlays, lens choices, and more. And because your smart phone contains GPS capabilities, Panascout has an advantage over stills and notes—the photos, or “Panascouts,” give you both longitude and latitude coordinates of your photo and location. For example, if your director wasn’t present during the scout, he or she can easily find the exact spot and even the direction you were pointing your camera.

I tested out Panascout on my iPhone 6 Plus and, from the minute I opened it, it was easy and intuitive to use. Panascout immediately defaults to horizontal mode in order to frame images in widescreen. In the top left-hand corner, the Panavision logo gives you access to their official website, service centers, info on the app, a technical reference guide, and social media. I found the reference guide especially valuable, since it provides an informative library of papers on such subjects as 3D, 50Hz and 60Hz flicker-free speeds, camera guides, cine calculators and much more.

Proper Viewing
Panascout lets your phone function like a director’s viewfinder for framing using different focal lengths and aspect ratios. At the bottom left-hand corner of the app through the Control section, you can set either your Lens or Capture button, depending on whether you like to fire off shots with your left or right hand. Part of the upgrade to the Pro Package ($9.99) is the lens section, where you have access to a 35mm, 40mm, 50mm, and 60mm prime lens views that are the equivalent of the 35mm film format—it even IDs your phone to convert to the right focal length. Although you won’t get a proper simulation of depth of field, due to the small image sensor and optics of your phone, it still gives you a good idea of what your scene will look like.

Control and Share
In the Control section of the app, which is also on the bottom left side of the frame, you can change the view to use the front or back camera of your phone. For location shooting, I’m not sure why you would want to take a selfie, but the feature is available. Other cool features include controlling the transparency of the masking bars around your frame and the ability to change Panascout to shoot either stills or video. Shooting video at a location is a great feature, allowing you to capture a broader view as well as ambient sound.


The Pro Upgrade package also includes the ability to capture photos or video in Panaframe, which includes several different aspect ratios, including 2.40:1, 1.85:1, 16×9, 4:3, or even your own custom frame. Yes, you could do this in Photoshop with your still photos, but this is a much faster process with all of your metadata and location coordinates locked into each Panascout.

I did note that exposure and focus tools are a little subpar compared to the features on an app like FiLMiC Pro, which lets you lock exposure and focus separately and simultaneously. 

Flower at sunset - manual metadata inputHandling Metadata
In Panascout’s Display section, you can enter metadata manually, as well as change your display functions. In changing your display, you can toggle on or off various metadata, including your compass, GPS longitude and latitude, sunrise and sunset times, date and time, focal lengths, crosshairs, frame lines, file names, and notes. Once you’ve taken a few shots, you can enter your own notes and searchable tags with your phone’s built-in keyboard, such as the name or number of your scene, or any other pertinent information. Even more valuable is Audio record, which lets you add voice notes to your photos or videos. Audio recording of notes is an extremely smart feature.

Once you’ve captured a number of Panascouts in the Manage section, you can organize them in newly created folders, which can represent scenes. Since you will be most likely working with other departments, you can easily share folders or individual Panascouts in a number of platforms, including Dropbox, YouTube, and Tumblr, as well as save them to your device’s camera roll. When Panascouts are emailed, I liked that all of your metadata is attached as separate text in the email.

Overall, Panascout is a valuable tool for any filmmaker at almost any level. Although its camera functions could be improved, in the world of location scouting, metadata is king. Panascout gives you all the tools you need to pass on key location information to different departments—all the way through the production chain.