First-time filmmakers may not have given the idea of building a set much thought, but it’s not actually as difficult as amateur filmmakers might believe it to be or as expensive. The following guide explores what a standard is set actually made of, what you need to build your own and how to make it look as good as possible for your video productions:
What Is A Set Made Of?
Your typical set is made up of what the film industry call ‘flats’ these are artificial walls made from plywood. These flats are used for the floors, ceilings and walls of your set and are held together by 3 or 4 wooden beams, which are also made from affordable materials.
1. Flying Ceilings
Flying ceilings are ceilings that are suspended via supports from the studio ceiling. What this seeks to do is allow you to include a ceiling in any shots that need them and let you take it away to add extra lighting for close-ups and high angle shots where a ceiling isn’t visible.
2. Flying Walls
Much like the flying ceiling notion, flying walls seek to do the same thing, but also allow film teams to get into and access the scene far more effectively. If the set was completely closed off with 4 walls it would be a nightmare trying to film in. Flying walls allow you to film all 4 walls at different times while allowing your crew to access the scene to capture the best shots possible.
Architrave aims to hide the joins between your physical ‘flat’ wall and your flying ceilings/walls. This can be done in a variety of ways whether it’s a style of plastering you’ll tend to see in most living rooms or whether it’s a subtle dark bordering to hide the joints for flying ceilings/walls.
Struts are your ‘flats’ best friend. Struts seek to give your flats strength and give much needed support to your quite flimsy set structure. Struts can be made out of the same low budget wood you’ve used for your flats.
Your floors should be made of the same plywood you’ve used all over your set. You can dress your flooring in any way you wish, but it is probably worth painting your flooring your desired pattern or colour rather than trying to get anything fitted. Ensure your flooring is raised enough for your flying walls to fit against it and look natural.
Weights are nothing fancy, anything from metal fixtures to sandbags. These weights are placed on your struts and aim to keep your set stable and securely in place. The last thing you want is any walls wobbling during filming or anything falling over.
You may be wanting to incorporate a window or an open area into your closed set. These open areas will need a backdrop behind it. Whether it’s a matte painting or a photographic image you’ll need to make sure that the view from your windows and open spaces show a believable background. Backdrops typically are suspended like your flying ceilings/walls as you may need to interchange backdrops depending if it is day or night.
Pay Attention To Detail
If your set is supposed to be a living room make sure it looks like one. That means lighting fixtures, plug sockets, wallpaper, skirting boards, windows etc. If your set is supposed to be a jail cell make sure it has barred windows, heavy duty doors, brick-looking walls etc. Your set is basically just a blank canvas, it is up to you to paint it and make it the scene you require for your video production. The more detail you put into that canvas the more believable it will look.
By following this guide to creating your own set you’ll be able to create all the scenes necessary for your video production. Building a set can be as cheap or as expensive as you like, but it will take a lot of work. Allow time for the building and testing of your set to ensure your scenes are as perfect as possible.