Monday, August 27, 2012

Never Use 3/4" Scale. Period.

I did it once. My drawing was ripped up in front of me. Yes. I was green. Luckily I remembered the advice I was given: Never take anything personally. The Art Director was making a point, and I got it. Never ever draw sets at 3/4" scale. He taught me a valuable lesson. Here's why.

Firstly, we pull off an incredible feat by putting up these sets in record time. The speed at which our crews pull it all together are what make the mission possible. The trouble with 3/4" scale is it leaves way too much room for error. It's a trap. Too often it will get mistaken for 1/2" or 1" scale, often it get's mixed up with 3/8" scale: another no-no.

Secondly, we always want to blow the images up on the photocopier. 50% = easy and fast. So is 200%. Both 3/4 & 3/8 give difficult scales to then work from.

Thirdly, we're always adding things in our heads. Working with 3/4" and 3/8" scale makes it harder. Too hard for most. In our heads we can easily double or half things.

As a rule, I was taught to stick with scales you can double or half easily.  1/16, 1/8, 1/4, 1/2, 1,  and full size scale only. 3 is ok for details, but avoid 1-1/2.

Of course, this doesn't apply to metric. Who uses metric in film? I'm curious.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Walk About. What It's All About.

The department heads regularly do a walkabout around the progressing set construction. They are looking for flaws and potential problems. If you haven't been a set designer yet, and you want to, you will soon find out that your drawings will often be modified, for various reasons, as the sets get built. Sometimes it happens verbally during the walkabout, as they realise technical issues. Sometimes the set builders cut corners for time and budget.

As a set designer, I often found myself missing out on the group cruise. Often the revisions happened without my knowledge. I soon found it was imperative I cruised, too. Only if I cruised the set would I spot all the discrepancies and revisions. I knew every detail intimately. Things the critical eyes of the heads on a walkabout would miss. Things they weren't looking for. Technical set detail things. Small things. Some things didn't matter. Some things did.

So they chose a different moulding because the one I picked was out of stock. No one would likely notice or say anything. Things like that don't matter.

But the time they made the 'as-stone.' steps with a straight riser and a 1" nosing because it was cheaper and quicker than bullnosing canted risers, did matter.

Often, the designer or art director will miss those small modifications.  Things like that may seem petty, but it is embarassing for a designer to later have someone come up to them and point out that their stone steps looked like wood steps painted like stone.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

'Should I Go To Film School Or Design School?'

That is by far the most popular question I get asked by promising new Art Department candidates. I think it depends on each individual person and their situation. I don't have an answer. However, I can tell you I wish I had gone to Film School.

Film School for filmmakers is like Art School for artists. You get to explore the multi disciplines and mediums that fall under the profession. You don't need to have a degree to be a successful filmmaker, or artist. But a solid  background is key. You need some basic design and filmmaking experience and/or education. Next best thing to Film School is volunteering on indies. You get to do it all.

Because I fell into the factory production end of filmmaking, and arrived with a narrow view, I learned fairly late in my career that I was also equally, if not more passionate about working in other departments. I wish I had discovered my other passions earlier. Not only that, I think that by working in other departments, it made me a better designer, as I understood the creative process from different perspectives.

Subjects that really helped my Art Department career were Drafting, Graphic Design, Illustration, Architecture, Interior Design, Art History, VFX and Math.  I use those disciplines all the time, and I think most of my associates do too. The more disciplines you can master, the more indispensable you will be.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

".....With Double Hung Windows."

I don't think I was ever asked to draft a 'single hung' window in my entire career. Yet, all anyone ever wanted was a single hung window. But I knew that.

Mullions is another one that gets misused. So many times I was asked to put mullions in the window.

How quickly the traditional architectural terms get misused and lost over time. After a while, everyone knows what you're talking about, even though you're refering to something different.

Are we already calling webisodes and online films TV?