What is set designing but architecture for movies? Set design or production design is the process of fabricating a setting of a temporary desired location for a movie, theatre, or even for events. The difference between architecture and production design is that in its essence architecture is about erecting structures that last for a long period of time representing the region and a set is erected for a shorter period of time, maybe even less than a day to represent a location, real or hypothetical, for a movie or any other kind of show.
When a set is erected, it can serve various purposes other than representing a location. It can be used as a means to induce a feeling, illusion, or a state of mind too. Some movies are famous for their set designs such as inception, harry potter, etc.
Why is architecture important while designing a set? Even though the set’s purpose lasts for only a short time, the purpose it serves can only be fulfilled when the individual designing it, has the knowledge of how to make it as realistic as possible. Agreed that not all themes of sets need architectural knowledge but most of them do, be it composing elements to a historically accurate theme or to construct a set that is economically feasible. Some successful examples would be:
Synecdoche New York set
Winning the Los Angeles film critics association award in 2008 for the best production design, the movie’s emphasis is representing a synecdoche through theatrics. This implied that Mark Friedberg created the most spectacular looking New York set within a small space.
For an architecture undergraduate to become a creative designer, exposure to cinema architecture, work methodology, internships under associate directors, screenplay writers, cinematographers, and other people related to the field, are all different ways to get familiar with the field. And since architects don’t have an entire art background, associating themselves with the movie directing and theatre realm would help them land a better job in the industry. The difference between architecture and creative directing is the aging of their structures. Architects design structures and interior spaces that last for years. In the set designing industry, the designer must keep in mind that the set is only kept for a short time span, maybe even less than a day. It does not emphasize on the whole, its scope is limited to the frame and shots.
Specializing in art direction does not need to be completely independent. There are different courses and institutions that aid students interested in becoming a set designing. Being in the profession of production design requires the understanding of technicalities of set construction and design, which is a prerequisite in architecture, thus paving a way for an individual to make their mark in the field.