Pre-Production: How To Plan for Set Construction

One of the most challenging parts of filmmaking is set construction. This will require a lot of planning and preparation in order for it to work.

Step 1: Find a Specialist

Before you make any decisions about your construction, you will need an experienced production designer who knows how to build sets. This person will be able to guide you through the process using their expertise and creative intuition. Though you may have a low budget, you should not seek the strictly cheapest option for this position. A mistake in construction could be disastrous for set safety or for your shooting schedule. Find someone who you can trust to do the job right.

Step 2: Studio Space

You will now need a place to put this set that you are building. There are plenty of studios to choose from, but you only want to rent what you need. So, you will need to know the dimensions of your set. This will depend a good deal on communication between the director, production designer and cinematographer. Together they will decide how large the space needs to be for not only the movie world, but also all the equipment that will be used to film that world. Though the set itself may be a 20'x20' room, you may need an additional 20' from the edge of the set to the wall, in order to get a super wide shot of the whole thing.

You should also consider what is happening above the set. Having a rigging grid in place to hang lights from is a huge advantage. However, if the ceiling in your space is only a foot higher than that of your set, then your cinematographer will have no way to light the scene from above. Ultimately, the space should be much larger than the set you are building on it.

Step 3: Construction Plans

The best sets always plan for any situation that could possibly arise during shooting. In the instance of the super wide shot of the whole room, the fourth wall will need to be removed in order to get the shot. So as many elements as possible should be built to "fly away". The walls, ceiling and windows can all become obstacles for the camera. On location, you would just have to live with it, but since you are building the set, you can create the best situation possible. Throughout all this, keep in mind that safety always comes first.

Step 4: Scheduling

You will now need to tell your production designer when you need the set finished by. This means locking down your shooting schedule. If you merely estimate the dates, you will run into problems. Guess too late, and you will be wasting money on the space rental; guess too early, and your set will not be ready in time. Your plans are all woven together so do not neglect any part of your production.

Set construction is a challenging undertaking. Pulling it off all comes down to preparation. Keep your production organized and everything will come together.

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