The last issue of School Video News had an article about the Uni-Set modular scenic product. This is a fine solution for a quick and generic set based on various portable shapes and components.
As a scenic and lighting designer by training, I happen to believe that you can have a professional looking set similar to those used in the local television stations. These professional journalism sets are located in large studios but for a reasonable investment, your school can also have a professional looking set designed to fit your budget, space and technical constraints.
The company that I design for, PhilMagic Designs & Productions creates these types of professional sets. In this edition of “Thru the Lens” I am going to take you through the process of design and construction of one of these sets that was created for a high school, probably much like yours. With photographs I will demonstrate the process.
The first thing I like to do is see the space and get a feel for the floor plan and technical resources. Next, I like to talk to the people who will use the space, both the talent and the producers/teachers for how the set will be used. The time table for the project is also important to the process. You need to let us know when you need the set and how long we have to create the project.
At this point it is critical to have a good grip for the budget. The budget will assist in determining the scope of the project. It is important to decide how much you need done. You could have a set custom designed, built and delivered, or you may want to have the entire project designed to include the equipment, lighting and the set. Often the set is the last thing that a school would consider however with the cost and quality of equipment today the set can be as important to the look of a show as the best camera equipment. So why not go for the whole package at one time?
Once the space is measured and evaluated, the scope and budget determined, the design process can be started. A designer will take all the information gathered and draft a sketch and design. PhilMagic Design & Productions will then have a graphic designer translate those designs into a rendering to give the school an idea as to what they will get. Once the design is agreed upon, and any changes that need to be made, the budget is agreed upon, and construction begins.
Sets are built in our warehouse, with the designer working closely with the production manager and carpenters. Philmagic has a staff that includes a production manager, scenic artist and a group of scenic carpenters. We start by building the walls as dictated by the design and the scenic artist will work with the colors and scenic painting to create the look.
One of the largest and most important parts of the set is the news desk. This can be built for one, two or more people. Usually school designs are for two people at a desk. The most popular design allows for two to three people at a desk. The design shown here has a central desk that is V shaped, and includes two side desks in the rear on each side. One side has a Chroma Key wall behind a removable wall. The design was a retro Art Deco style using a contrasting silver chrome look with the texture of wood behind. Special set lighting was added to create a “WOW Factor” that Philmagic Designs & Production prides itself on.
You can see the process of construction and installation of the sets. Depending on the complexity of the design it may take several days for the installation process to be completed. Usually our sets exceed the expectations of those who commission the project. The design and look project the image of a professional news environment that will help to draw students into your programs. If you want the alternative to the generic set give Philmagic Designs and Productions a call and let them design that special custom set for your school.
Philip PatnaudeThru the Lens
Phill Patnaude has been in professional television as a scenic and lighting designer for over 30 years. He is the author of Thru the Lens for School Video News and will bring many new ideas and concepts to readers. He is the president of PhilMagic, a leading design and construction house for theater and television. You can reach Phil at