Behind the Scenes: 7 Interesting Facts About Movie Set Design

Posted By On January 10 2022
Facts to know about movie set design

Movie set design is far more exciting and creative than you might think. Every detail helps contribute to the scene, providing ambience, clues into the characters’ psyche, the era, and more. What happens in the background in some cases plays a pivotal role in the storyline, while in other cases it simply provides a backdrop.

Regardless of the set design purpose, the set designer must meet the needs and vision of the creative team and director. Here are 7 interesting facts about movie set design to demonstrate how important it is to a movie.

1. Exceptional film makers know set design matters

Even low-budget filmmakers ensure they hire a set designer who knows how to do their job well. Sets add to the production, and should create the world the writers and directors envisioned. Therefore, regardless of the budget, the set designer has to be able to work their magic using their creativity and experience to create a movie that looks high-budget even if it was the work of an independent filmmaker without funding from producers.

2. Set design brings the director’s vision to life

Good set designers know that their role is not to create their own world, but the world that exists in the director’s mind. This is a huge challenge, requiring a touch of humility in hand with the ability to dig deep to find what will work for the director’s needs. If the designer can’t remain within the parameters set by the director, they aren’t doing their job.

3. Set design is like a scavenger hunt

Often, set designers are working with odd clues and vague insights provided by the director. Although they don’t personally have to search for every single item on the set right down to the glass an actor holds to drink their morning OJ, they do need to create the ideas that their team uses to find props. They must know where to retrieve ideas from their vast experience to come up with relevant designs that help put the parts together. Their vision creates a cohesive background to suit the many nuances of the world in the movie.

Inspiration is key, and the input from the director, other creative team members, and the script all provide the little scraps of information that help the set design team track down everything needed.

4. Set design does not include props and art direction

While the set designer comes up with the ideas and sketches for the set, they don’t do all the legwork and set building. Instead, they work with a team of departments that they oversee. Their role is to come up with the vision and design, and ensure their team finds the visuals and props that align with the director’s vision. It is a collaborative role, working hand in hand with prop masters who take the lead on the scavenger hunt to find the details that will bring the set design to life. While a production designer creates the overall visual representation, an art director ensures everything is carried out to bring the designs to life.

5. Prop lights can ruin a movie set

As you probably know, there are all kinds of lighting on a movie set, including random lights used for props. A scene can fall apart and fail to meet the director’s vision if a bad decision is made for prop lights. Therefore, good set designers always consider how a light on their set might impact the lighting and ambience of a shot. For example, if an actor is shooting a scene with a chandelier in the background, it can make it look like they are wearing an odd hat, or they may have an aura that interferes with the shadows on their face.

The movie Gone with the Wind burned old movie sets for a war scene

Taking movie sets to a whole new level, in order to create the stunning scenes of Atlanta burning in this classic 1939 film, the film maker decided the best way to do it was to burn actual old movie sets. Now that’s commitment.

7. The best movie sets of all time

The following movie sets are believed to be the best production designs of all time:

  • 2001: A Space Odyssey
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Pan’s Labyrinth
  • Moulin Rouge
  • Citizen Kane
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • The Aviator
  • Gone with the Wind
  • King of Jazz
  • Lost Horizon
  • The Adventures of Robin Hood
  • The King and I
  • Ben-Hur
  • Lawrence of Arabia
  • Cleopatra
  • Doctor Zhivago
  • The Godfather: Part II
  • Star Wars
  • Batman
  • Dick Tracy
  • Titanic

It’s interesting to note that many of these films were made before the days of CGI. In fact, even the more recent films on the list tended to depend on set design, as opposed to computer-generated images.

If you would like more information about the set designs that Toronto productions need, speak to our team at Club Ink today.

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