Set design is one of the most integral aspects of any production. The look of a set gives people information about the play, movie, or campaign and creates an entirely different world for the actors or models to interact with. When used for shoots, the set design dictates the shot range of photographers.
Before you find out how to become a set designer, you first need to know what the job entails. A set designer is in charge of designing and creating sets for television, films, theater, shoots, and many more. This professional gets rough concepts or drawings from the director and the production team and takes these ideas to create realistic builds that include props, furniture, draperies, and even scenery. Aside from the director, set designers also work closely with costume designers, producers, and other crew members. We have gathered the important information for you if you are interested in this exciting career path.
What Does This Professional Do?
Set designers read the script multiple times so they can have a feel of the tone and style of the project. This will enable them to make a list of the scenery, props, and furnishing requirements, among many others. They also meet with the design team and the director to discuss the set details, as well as hear the director’s interpretation of the project.
The role of scripts
The main goal of the set designer is to figure out what is needed based on the script alone. When this is finished, the set needs to create an accurate atmosphere and be able to grant audiences an accurate representation of the location, season, time of the day, and historical period.
Most set designers research and consult with experts to determine the correct depiction of furnishing and architecture styles of specific locations and periods. This is a very important part of a set designer’s job. The process may include looking at photographs if available.
It is less challenging to create sets for the present, but research is still recommended. For instance, to create an accurate set for a film with a police station scene, a set designer needs to visit one or get a consultant to make sure it is depicted accurately.
Creating the plan for the set
When set designers are done reading the script, they will start to make drawings and three-dimensional models of the set. They are also in charge of making the floor plan to show the scale of each set layout, as well as the placement of props and furniture. Set designers also make other visual aids to ensure that everyone involved in the design process understands all details no matter how small it is.
A set designer needs to oversee the work, especially in the early stages of production. They must be able to coordinate and direct the erection and construction of all activities to make sure that it conforms to the schedule requirements, as well as the budget.
Mostly, professionals must create realistic props and sets with very limited resources, especially when they are not working for a big film, so creativity and resourcefulness are two very important qualities you need to exercise at all times.
Potential challenges in this line of work
A set designer who works in theater plays may face a good amount of challenges as to what they can do since they are usually limited by the stage’s size. These designers always need to remember that the performance will be in front of a live audience, and because of this, the set needs to be portable. On the other hand, set designers that work for movies are not as limited and may build larger sets.
Additionally, set designers need to prepare the overall budget of the set and stick to it. They also need to attend rehearsals or blockings and offer suggestions for the grouping or movement of the characters. This will ensure that the set is used to its full potential. Once the movie shoots or the play opens, their work is done. For plays, the role will be taken over by a stage manager and crew members to ensure that everything they made runs as intended by the designer.
A set can usually be created by arranging props on a stage or a room. However, some instances call for entire houses or rooms to be built. For instance, it would be very challenging and even impossible for a crew to film a movie in a space ship, so a space ship model needs to be created. Sets for fictional and fantasy worlds also need to be created from scratch in studios.
Workplace of a Set Designer
Once you know how to become a set designer, you can enjoy a myriad of opportunities. It is possible to build a career in video production companies, advertising agencies, music video production houses, theaters, and many more. Experienced professionals, especially those who work for films, usually work on a project basis.
The average annual income of set designers in the US is $52,043. The overall salary can range from $42,666 to $62,970, depending on aspects, such as experience, education, additional skills, and certifications.
How to Become a Set Designer
Do you love Lord of the Rings? How about Hamilton? These fan favorites would not seem realistic if not because of its set designers – Grant Major and David Korins. However, you can’t simply apply for jobs the moment you decide to pursue this career. We’ve gathered the steps on how to become a set designer below.
While you can work your way in the industry, people who want to get their foot in the door are recommended to attend formal schooling. Having a degree or certificate in fine arts or interior design could help you begin your career as a set designer. It will also teach you basic concepts needed in the set design such as focus, composition, and dimensions.
There are also tons of art schools that offer courses in set design. Having this degree will give you an edge when applying for jobs. When you are studying this field, you will also get much-needed training through internships and independent theaters.
When you’re still a newbie, you need to practice hard. Start by sketching out concepts on paper. This will act as the blueprint for all phases of your design process. When you sketch sets out, consider how it could be made in real life. Always have a sketchbook with you because you never know when ideas may come.
A set designer needs to have strong technical skills as well. When you’re done drawing sets on paper, you need to learn how to use computer-based design software. Although the set design is done traditionally with pen and paper, more set designers have switched to using sophisticated software since it can save them more time.
When you are applying for film studios, they expect you to know how to use computer software, especially on major projects, since these programs enable you to create an improved visual rendering of your scene with far more detail compared to sketches.
Work with different mediums
Aside from teaching yourself how to draw by hand and how to use the software, you also need to be skilled in other types of design such as sewing, basic carpentry and even sculpting. These skills have an integral role in set design and will be very beneficial to you sooner or later. When you know tons of skills, many opportunities will knock at your door.
You can’t expect to head the set design of a major motion picture if you just started in the field. Just like other professions, you need to gain experience to climb up the ladder. Start by volunteering in small productions. Create sets for your local theater company or your school. This will help you get a glimpse of what it’s like to work with a design crew. Volunteer in as many projects as you can so you can practice working under budget or time constraints.
On your first job, expect that you may not be able to design the set yourself. However, you will learn valuable lessons even when you are assigned to paint backdrops or create minor props.
Build a portfolio
If you want to be successful, you need to build your portfolio with the help of a designer. This portfolio can include set designs in the form of computer-made printouts or sketches, alongside photos of your finished work. Your portfolio will act as your visual resume, so make sure it’s well presented.
Aside from having a physical portfolio, it is also recommended to have an online portfolio ready. You may also include videos of your previous set design projects. This will allow more people to see your work. For those who want to take the extra mile, having ads on social media is recommended. Hiring a voice over talent will enable you to draw more attention.
You also want to have cover letters ready. If you want to stand out, hire a writer to make one for you.
Join a guild or online community
When you become part of a community of freelancers and other set designers, you can gain tons of insight and benefits. Platforms like Bunny Studio can also open more opportunities for career growth.
Now You Know How to Become a Set Designer
Being a set designer is far from glamorous. It is a tireless profession, but the fulfillment it can give you will be unparalleled. If you follow the steps on how to become a set designer, you will have a higher chance of succeeding in the industry. When you face career challenges in the future, simply remember what sparked your passion in this field. This will help you carry on. If you need any extra motivation, the professionals at Bunny Studio can help. Contact us today to find out how.