October 22, 2015

Cost Effective Set Solutions

by: Tood Smoots
Senior Production Manager

Shooting in a studio has many benefits—climate control, power, and complete control of lighting, to name a few. Of all of the benefits, there is one significant challenge studio shoots face. The set.

It’s one thing to have the use of a studio. It’s quite another to furnish a set that completes the vision of your production. And there are many considerations to factor in when it comes to the set. What style of set does your production require…simple, elaborate, general, or specific to the topic? Can the requirement be satisfied with a set, or would a location shoot make more sense for your production? Does the studio have any set solutions, or services to coordinate construction? Does your budget account for the set?

Fortunately, simple set solutions abound, but what happens when the project calls for a more robust set solution and the budget limits your options?

Enter Preconfigured Sets

Preconfigured sets are solutions in-place, at the ready for a shoot in short order, and are ideal solutions for shoots that do not require elaborate settings and set construction. Some solutions might include: a news desk, a seated interview configuration, a setup that is perfectly suited for presentation-style productions, and even cycloramas and green screens. Some of these types of setups may even include a standard lighting configuration to further accelerate the time it takes to prepare for production.

Admittedly, there might be some negative connotation with the term “preconfigured,” but when you take into account the tremendous value of preconfigured sets, the perceived negativity evaporates. When you consider that a preconfigured set will be ready to shoot in a fraction of the time it would take to construct a custom or semi-custom set - and at a fraction of the cost – the positives can start to outweigh the negatives.

The most common negative perception of preconfigured sets is that they lack customization and differentiation between one production and the next. With the basic structure of the set changing very little, it’s better to think of a preconfigured set as a template rather than a rubber stamp. You can create a more customized look with far less legwork and labor than building a completely custom set.

For instance, some set solutions have interchangeable elements that allow for projections, such as your organization’s logo and live video feeds. Lighting effects, such as gels, highlights, and falloff, can be used to enhance or diminish certain aspects of the set. Different camera angles, or the addition of various set elements, furniture, and decorations can be used to tailor the look of an established set to the needs of your production.

The true benefit of ready-built sets can be seen in custom productions with short timelines. Oftentimes, video productions can come up on short notice, with tight turns, especially corporate shoots or training videos. In these situations, a ready-built set can save days or weeks off of production, while still allowing the production to maintain a customized, professional look and feel. In these situations, it is often helpful to have a canvas rather than a blank slate. It may also be helpful for people who need to produce videos, but do not have experience designing and building sets.

Next time you need a set, consider the cost-benefit of building your own. Decide whether your shoot needs a truly customized set to effectively communicate the message. If required, and you have the budget and time, let your imagination run wild. If, on the other hand, cost, time and professionalism are primary, consider a pre-built set to help guide – rather than limit – your creativity.