Scenic Designer Guidelines
The scenic designer is responsible for the visual appearance and function of the scenery and properties for his or her show. Numerous readings of the script and discussions with the director are necessary to come to a full understanding of the production’s focus and intent. Further discussions with the other designers in the team and the technical director will assure a cohesive concept which is functional within the available resources of time, budget and labor.
The completed design should be represented by a complete colored model (1/4” or 1/2” scale) and accompanying sketches. These are the primary means of communication with the director and the other members of the design/production team. Upon approval, the design of all scenic units and constructed properties should be represented by draftings in 1/2” scale. Unless the color model is well detailed, 1/2” scale painter’s elevations must also be presented. Early discussions with the scenic artist should result in full scale paint technique samples which are presented for approval. These paint samples should be available to the lighting designer for use in determining or refining color selections. Some discussion and adjustment should be expected. It is crucial that color be discussed in very specific terms throughout the design process with the lighting and costume designers. All sketches, models, draftings and color elevations must be presented for approval to the faculty scene design advisor, technical director, director and department chair before they are realized.
Meeting the established deadlines is absolutely essential. A glance at the organizational chart for a standard production will certainly illustrate how many people and departments will be idle if the designer has not been responsible to the needs of the production. Late night and weekend crew calls can often be attributed to delinquent designer drawings. The scenic designer should be aware that adequate time must be allotted to the technical director to develop working drawings and order materials before the shop can begin building the set. Therefore, the deadline for completed drafting will be stringently enforced. Regularly scheduled meetings with the faculty scene designer can help the student designer make more accurate drawings and meet deadlines.
Questions about mechanics, materials and costs should be directed to the show’s technical director. If the technical director is a student, it is his or her responsibility to consult with the faculty technical director as needed.
Painter’s elevations should be presented as soon after the draftings as possible. Estimates for paint orders should be developed with the faculty scene designer, who will then order the paint. While there is generally some quantity of each color on hand in the paint shop, it is for mixing and emergency use only. There is no “stock” as such–all materials must be ordered on a per show basis.
The information below details general guidelines for the student scenic designer to follow throughout the design/production process. The guidelines are for the more formal assigned meetings. Additional meetings and discussions are to be expected and are encouraged. Specific schedules and deadlines will be assigned for each show.
General Chronology of Deadlines for Productions
(see also the “Design Process” section)
- Design Meeting 1
- Discussions with the director and design team to discuss and develop a concept and approach to the play.
- Design Meeting 2
- Presentation of research and rough thumb nail drawings
- Design Meeting 3
- Presentation of rough model or color sketches (TBD by faculty scene design advisor) and fleshed out ground plan
- Design Meeting 4
- Rough model or revisions to rough model and ground plan. A thorough set of rough plans will be expected shortly after this meeting.
- Budget Review 1
- Review of rough plans and model with technical staff.
- Design Meeting 5
- Presentation of finished color model, completed ground plan and section, and prop list.
- Budget Review 2
- Continuing discussions with technical staff.
- Pre Production Meeting
- Presentation of finished plans, painter’s elevations and prop research.
- Budget Review 3
- Continuing discussions with technical staff.
Technical Rehearsal Period
One week prior to opening. Scene designers should be present at technical rehearsals. If class work is in jeopardy, designers may be excused from some technical rehearsals with approval of the faculty scene designer.
Some tangible, visual information must be presented by the designer at each design meeting in order to communicate the design ideas in concrete visual terms. Research should always be available at these meetings. The process of designing a set is a long process with a number or requirements; the better prepared and organized you are from the beginning will help you to stay on schedule. Be prepared to make changes along the way; often times your first ideas will not be the strongest. Remember that theater is a collaborative art; be understanding of other’s ideas and suggestions. A design will not enter the shop until it has been approved by the director, faculty scene designer, faculty director and department chair.
Requirements for the Scenic Design Package
- Ground-plan 1/2” scale, including seating, masking and site lines.
- Section(s) 1/2” scale.
- Elevations and details. Generally 1/2” scale.
- Painted model 1/4” or 1/2” scale.
- Painter’s elevations, covered with acetate, if deemed necessary by faculty scene designer.
- Full scale paint technique samples worked out with the scenic artist.
- Properties list, including sketches or research and orthographic drawings of all built props if deemed necessary by faculty technical director.
The scenic designer is expected to help with the painting of the scenery and the acquisition of set props and dressing.