Movie set

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Alamo film set

The film set , or set for short , describes a film motif that is currently being shot . A 90-minute television film, for example, usually has 20 to 40 film motifs, also known as motifs for short. The film team moves from subject to subject during the production phase. If the entire team, i.e. actors, director, cameraman, set production manager and all the necessary employees are working on a motif, then we no longer speak of a motif, but of a film set.

Choice of motifs

In the phase of pre-production , also called pre-production, mostly immediately after the completion of the script , looking to the Production Designer , often along with a location scout and after consultation with the Director , the motives. For larger productions where the production designer is not able to search for some or all of the motifs himself, this work is completely taken over by one or more location scouts. You photograph and document all possible motifs and pass them on to the production designer, who then, together with the director, decides on a specific location or motif.

When looking for a motif, it is particularly important that the location reflects the conditions described in the script or that it can be changed in such a way that it corresponds to them and that the motifs themselves can provide interesting images. Technical and acoustic conditions (e.g. noise ), the lighting situation , the availability of sufficient rooms and sanitary facilities and parking spaces, costs, and how to get there are important decision criteria.

Shooting for a film in a historical setting ( Madame Nobel , Vienna 2014)

A few weeks before the actual shoot, after a selection of possible motifs has been made, the production designer visits the motif together with the director and the cameraman to get a first impression and to check the feasibility of the planned settings on the motif. This motif tour is followed by the technical motif inspection , also called Tech Recce , immediately before the start of filming . Here the technical feasibility of the shoot is discussed with the director, cameraman, set designer , first film production manager and lighting technician and the processes are determined.

Before the shoot must approvals to be obtained and it must be ensured sufficient electricity and water.

In Germany there are various location offices that support the production designer in finding a good location. They have extensive picture catalogs and are also represented at trade fairs.

Shooting in the film studio

Wherever ideal conditions for acoustics , technology, space and short distances are important, the set is usually built entirely in the film studio . This also has the advantage that the entire set can be left standing for days. In any case, you can hardly avoid a film studio with trick shots. Here in particular, great emphasis must be placed on the film set , equipment and production design so that the picture looks natural in the end.

Planning the production design

In the same phase in which the locations are selected, it is up to the director to plan the equipment for the set together with the prop master , production designer and the construction stage. All details have to be determined in this phase in order to lose as little time as possible during the shoot and to achieve a good result artistically. At this point the settings have to be absolutely fixed so that only what can be seen later in the film has to be built. Some backdrops are also made so that they can be moved later if necessary.

The only important thing about the set design is what can be seen afterwards: switches and windows often have no function, floor coverings are usually only imitated and everything you see when you look out the window is also only reproduced.


What makes the film set appear natural afterwards are the tiny little things that can be seen in the picture: Signs of use in the room and on objects and various odds and ends that are distributed around the room. Making a natural looking set is an art.

The set design is very important for the moods that the film is supposed to create: Depending on the mood, the room must be light or dark, and the furnishings also reflect the character of the actor to a certain extent .

But technical things also have to be taken into account: Certain patterns, blinds and roller blinds create undesirable flickering, the so-called moiré effect, in the picture , especially during video shoots, and do not always look good in the film.

Work on the set

The most common experience of directors is that despite meticulous planning, everything is shot completely differently in the end. It is important to make the best of the random circumstances. Despite the changes, errors such as axis jumps and connection errors must not occur. The latter is the responsibility of the continuity , which notes all important facts.

Good communication is important for good work on set. For this purpose, there are a number of predefined announcements and commands, such as “Sound on!”, “Camera off!” And “And please!” It is the job of the set supervisor to give all the important instructions to enable effective work on the set .

See also