Showing all posts tagged #productiondesign:


Prototyping

Posted on October 18th, 2019

I was asked recently about what prototyping looks like in my design process. It varies. It depends a lot on the timeline of the project, but I really do love to bring both my team and the client along with the idea. Even if only for myself, I like to play with the idea in tangible space. Sometimes it’s as low-fi as a sketch and some card-stock that I cut out for shapes that I play around with in a scale model of a stage. Sometimes a 3D rendering is helpful. If possible (especially when designing for a build for multiple locations) it’s great to build as near to a actual size prototype that we can play with in the lighting and context of the actual stage

We wanted to see how the arches and ramps would let us see performers through and atop of the beauty; and get a sense of what the layers of design would feel like from various angles.

The pastors of this old church wanted a way to update the look of their space that for low cost could help give their congregation more than just a fresh coat of paint but see a vision for the future

We wanted to talk about a road into the mountains where the narrater could take the audience on a journey along a dusty road; but that on a cue, the mountains could literally move to reveal a live band that could add to the experience. I began with a sketch; I then moved to playing with the model. Then, we built prototype flats to test how the rolling worked. We learned that putting them on rails was key to the success of everything being in the same exact place for lighting and blocking every move. We also had a main campus to show how the texturing with paint as well as light was so crucial to realism. A bonus that you might notice in the bottom left image is that you can see how I even added a bit of screen material to show what a scrim might be placed in the mid depth to help add to the forced perspective and picturesque scene.

Invent the new, Break paradigms, Strive for magic

Posted on August 16th, 2019

A repost originally from 5 years ago:

Invent the new - artistically, with technology, and by helping people realize a better process.
Break paradigms - dare to bend the implications of what people think they know.
Strive for magic in relationship between technology and art.

(August 28, 2014)

Story Conference

Posted on July 19th, 2019

Revisiting one of my favorite Production Design memories - Story Conference 2012
This is from my Production Design Training slide deck. I ask questions like these when I’m designing:
  • What is the desired vibe?
  • What resources do I have in storage that I can reuse?
  • What can fit in my minivan to transport from Detroit to Chicago?
  • How can it look like it has more depth than the very shallow stage actually has?
  • Who is the crew? What are their skills and talents and passions? Do they want a challenge?
The journey to get to from concept to actual design (including materials list, rigging notes, lighting plot, setup checklist, and rendering of vision) took a lot of iteration. It required lots of emails including scanned sketches and study of blueprints of venue that I was out of town and not able to do an in-person site-survey. We also utilized video conferencing for "face-to-face collaboration between Executive Producer, Production Manager, and myself, the Production Designer) including screen-sharing and digital sketching. The most interesting development was the week-of donation of an LED screen that let us gain a lot of stage space because of the throw distance not being required; which was great for the final product, but required some last minute adaptability in redesign of all the rigging and the lighting plot. One of the key layers of this design that wasn’t there when I arrived at the venue was four lekos with abstract gobos. I pushed way hard for the day of rehearsal that our PM managed to find a way to procure the morning of the conference was some theatrical gobos to throw textural light at the curtains. Sometimes it's the simple, old-school, theatrical tricks that really create the mood and set the tone for the experience. When the team saw them turn on only minutes before doors opened, they realized why I was pushing so hard for such. Magical!*this post adapted from my post in September 2012. Feel free to look it up for greater detail and explanation of choices.


Volunteer Celebration

Posted on May 29th, 2019

Event Producing
The request was to find a way to show appreciation to >900 volunteers. I was offered the support of the other directors on the staff and a budget of $10,000. At first glance that sounds like a lot of money, but I had to use that for catering for dinner and desert, decorations, entertainment, awards...as well as invitations, childcare, photography, table hosting, setup, strike, dishwashing; also what presenters and MCs would be responsible for what communication...

I took survey of all the stakeholders - directors and key leaders. I learned what worked well with similar events in the past. I assembled a team of key partners whom I could brainstorm with and develop concepts. We did research to figure out what our ideas might cost. We met again and leaned into what had good value and scrapped what didn’t. We surveyed and used statistics to determine how many we thought would actually show up; and how many might. We put it on the calendar and after figuring out a brand for the night we sent out invitations. We worked through details with the caterer and the band. We made certain sacrifices from our ideal hopes, but ended up with remarkably clever innovations to our plan. We created a signup sheet for directors to own delegated chores and presented the vision to the staff with the request for ownership… In addition to my team of co-leaders, our whole staff stepped up and helped make a really special evening. The video above shows a few of the highlights.Download PDFDownload PDF


20 Front Street

Posted on October 17th, 2018

Venue Creation and Lighting Design

A few years ago a friend came to me with a dream of creating a space for artists to present their music in an unique, distraction-free, beauty-filled, environment. He took me to a run down old building that literally had dirt floors and birds living in the rafters. It was freezing and dirty. All I could envision was the magic that would be. We began ideating out loud. We walked the space, and in the actual space we paced out where we would put the stage, and have people sit and enter, and where the green room for the artists would be. We used our hands to visualize what our design aesthetic would be.

I napkin sketched some ideation and kept the dream simmering in the back burner of my mind. Months passed before I got a call that the venue was approved and that we would get to take our dreams forward with reality. We put on some temporary concerts in the dirt and construction zone along the way. This was great for us as we got to braintrust our concepts by interviewing people who would be customers and investors. After many months, we finally got to integrate our V1.0 design. We were remarkably frugal with our choices so that we could open up; and at some point, we’ll upgrade to our dreams of 2.0, but it feels so great now, that we may just live with the budget version…

You should really take in a show there. It’s an unique experience found no other venue in the world! We’re really proud of it.


Leadership Gathering January 2018

Posted on January 26th, 2018


Design alternative to truss

Posted on May 25th, 2017

I was asked for my consult on what other options I could recommend besides truss to hang a banner for an event. This was my reply:

I’m always a fan of pipe-and-base. It certainly takes up less space in a vehicle and is quicker to set up. It’s not a design on its own (you can’t put an LED inside to make it pretty colors) but it certainly is a bang-for-the-buck way to have some banners or whatever have something to tie to…

Create something beautiful today

Posted on March 20th, 2017

Create something beautiful today. Whether a photograph, a spreadsheet, performance art, or leadership moment. Make sure to care...

Diagrams and Branding Documents

Posted on February 19th, 2017



This slide is from my Production Design Training slide deck. It illustrates the importance of a diagram and checklist in ensuring a design being accurately setup with excellence in multiple venues; as well as the benefit of a Branding Document for continuity of design with lighting design and graphics - colors, textures, typography.


Four basic elements of lighting that enhance story

Posted on January 8th, 2017

When lighting a scene, you need to consider the emotional message that you wish to convey.

1. Color - Choose a white balance. This is key to both mood and helps clue the viewer to the time of day. The opportunity to experiment with saturated light can provide seemingly countless options to get creative with steering mood.

Do you want to have a realistic scene in an office or do you want to break reality with musical theatre? What about concert lighting?

Remember that some scenes benefit from deep saturation, while others require the realism of only minimal color correction. Either way, color is extremely important.

I typed it first, here because yes it can be key to setting the scene, but more so is the foundation of subject light:

2. Intensity - Light’s intensity denotes how subdued or blown out the light is. Intensity can denote such differences as mid-morning sunshine in a field or the mood under a street lamp in the middle of night time.

The later example not only would likely use significantly lower intensity to create the scene, but would likely use two colors, the cool blueish moonlight, and the warm sodium colored lamp light.

3. Angle - This refers to the direction of light and how it strikes your subject. There are many terms, both from theatre and cinematography (ex. three-point lighting, special pool, key light, fill light, back light, side light, shin-busters, footlight, hair light, rim light, etc.)

Many of us are familiar to such terms as Rembrandt lighting or a butterfly lighting setup - those simply are two common setups that photographers use when shooting portraits.

The unique mood of each scene is steered in dramatically different ways by the angle of the light source or sources on the subject.

4. Quality - The softness or hardness of the light plays another role in the mood. Do you want defined shadows or smooth even light that seems to wrap around your subject. A large source of light is soft. A small source of light is hard. A source of light far away from your subject will produce strong shadows—an example of hard light. The closer the source of light that to your subject, the less pronounced the shadows that are produced.

Imagine difference between a 5º spot light from the corner of a theatre’s catwalk vs. the look of a model posing next to french doors with sheer drapes.

In addition to hard or soft lighting, consider the mood enhancement that can happen when a breakup pattern is between the light source and the subject.

With breakups we return to the hard or soft lighting. Is there a defined shadow of a bare tree branch or is there soft texture from an abstract theatrical breakup? So much can be done with texture. Perhaps another post should be written about texture alone!




Eric Wolfe

Creative Director and Coach. Production Designer and Consultant. Developer of Ideas. Maximizer of Resources. Strategic Thinker. Creative Innovator. Visual Artist and Leader. Husband. Father. Philosopher. Photographer. Backpacker. Athlete. Cook. Artisan. Eric shares thoughts here about all of the above. He would love to connect to partner in coaching and revealing beauty to enhance story and experience. Please do reach out!