RICHARD BIANCHI stepped onto the roof of the abandoned warehouse. He looked at the blistered tar at his feet, the decaying wood of the water tower and the rusted walls of the building next door. ''It's beautiful,'' he said. ''Just beautiful.''
With a tape measure he checked whether the cracked panes of the skylight were wide enough for a person to crash through. They were. Then he poked at the peeling paint in the stairwell, wondering if it would crumble in his hands. It did. Having found what he wanted -yet another location for the CBS-TV series ''The Equalizer'' - Mr. Bianchi and his scouting team headed back to the van that had brought them to Brooklyn. The next stop was a renovated loft in SoHo, followed by a town house in the West Village.
''The Equalizer,'' which stars Edward Woodward as Robert McCall, a retired secret agent who comes to the aid of the underdog, is videotaped at as many as half a dozen locations each week, all in New York. The sites, from opulent mansions to rundown tenements, are found by teams like this one. In their search, the scouts have been known to tape fliers to light poles and knock on apartment doors at random.
The program's executive producer, James McAdams, said the use of real locations gives the show a gritty, real-life look. ''There's an indefinable thing about real places,'' he said. ''The feel of age; the crack in the ceiling. When there's a real window in the background, you're looking out a real window onto a real street.''
Perhaps more important, however, is the cost of renting a real location compared with constructing a set. Re-creating the living room of a wealthy matron would cost about $40,000, Mr. Bianchi explained, while renting a fully decorated room for a day costs about $4,000.
Finding just such a living room was one of the goals of the recent scouting trip. The team was choosing sites for a story of a young man with a low I.Q., the son of a well-to-do mother, who seeks his independence as a stock clerk in a clothing store. While leaving work late one night, the young man, named Davey Baylor, finds a fellow employee dead in the alley. He is cradling her in his arms when the police arrive and accuse him of the crime. McCall comes to his aid.
The scenes in McCall's apartment will be taped, as such scenes always are, in a studio on West End Avenue. But that does not keep Mr. Bianchi from creating a history for these rooms. He said the apartment was situated - at least spiritually - in a brownstone on a shady street in the West Village, which is where exterior scenes are shot.
This particular morning, the scouting group consisted of Mr. Bianchi, the show's production designer; Bettiann Fishman, the locations manager; Bruce Nalepinski, the first assistant director, and Diane Foti, the unit production manager. At 9, a late start in an industry where filming often begins before dawn, they set out. There was a stop at the Mayflower Hotel to pick up Russ Mayberry, the director of the episode. During the ride, they talked sporadically among themselves and constantly on the car telephone.
One call concerned the Borough of Manhattan Community College, where an office scene was scheduled. The school, eager to make a striking television appearance, had sent the drapes out to be cleaned. They disintegrated. Mr. Bianchi took the news philosophically. ''We were going to leave them open for that scene anyway,'' he said.
The office called the van again, this time about an apartment owner who had agreed to accept $4,000 for two days' use of his home. The script had changed, and the location was needed for only one day, but the man insisted that he receive $4,000. The compromise, reached on the Brooklyn Bridge, was to pay the full fee but to reserve the right to reshoot scenes, if necessary, at no additional charge.
At their first location, the burned-out warehouse, the only part of the building of interest to the scouting team was the water tower, which they hoped to use as Davey Baylor's hideaway, a secret place that he would fill with toys. Mr. Bianchi took photographs, as he does of every location he sees. Some of the pictures included people, for perspective, while others were of the structure only.
The next stop was a loft on Prince Street in SoHo, a candidate for use as a safe house to which McCall would bring Davey Baylor. The scene required a kitchen that opened into the living room, and although this loft had walls dividing the two bedrooms from the living and dining area, the kitchen was not enclosed, the only demarcation being the terra-cotta tile of the kitchen floor.
Film makers like lofts, the scouting team explained, because they are ideal for spatial illusions. The rooms are generally big enough to accommodate equipment and crew comfortably, but Mr. Bianchi said, ''You can use the camera to make them look as small as you want.'' Lofts also tend to be well lighted and open. ''Light dynamics can influence the psychology of the scene, the look of the scene,'' he said. ''The more light the better.''
The owner of the loft, a co-op, explained that the building's board might object to the filming. ''A year ago 'The Equalizer' filmed here,'' she said. ''They broke the roof. We had to spend $20,000 to fix it. The board may go crazy. I give it a 50-50 shot.''
The search for Mrs. Baylor's apartment took the van to a town house on West 10th Street. The group stopped only briefly. The visit was longer, but equally unproductive, at another town house on West 88th Street. Although the upstairs sitting room, with its French provincial chairs covered in green and white chintz, suited the crew's needs, the halls were carpeted in marigold yellow. The right lighting would make the furniture look less worn, Mr. Bianchi told Mr. Mayberry, but lighting would not camouflage the carpet.
After a stop for lunch - where the discussion included whether the alley behind the restaurant could be used in the scene when Davey Baylor would discover his co-worker's body - the van pulled up in front of a building in the West 90's. In the apartment they visited, the paint had started to peel, and the living room furnishings consisted of a brown futon and some makeshift bookshelves. There were plastic chairs in the kitchen, and bicycles filled the entrance hall.
Though it looked to an outsider like the perfect setting for Davey Baylor's apartment, the scouts shook their heads. The walls were too white, Mr. Bianchi explained, and the lighting crew would complain about reflections. ''They would make us put more things on the walls to cut the glare, and that would ruin the sparse effect,'' he said.
But the apartment will be kept on file in the overstuffed cabinet at the company's offices. The sheer number of photographs there, Mr. Bianchi said, keeps him from worrying about running out of places to film in New York. ''I hope I'm not in this job long enough for that to happen,'' he said.
But if it does, there will always be one fallback location. Mr. Bianchi has not let the cameras into his own apartment - yet.