Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Tech Tip: Build it Up, Tear it Down!

As part of my series of Tech Ten Commandments this Tuesday we're looking at the the temporary nature of the theatre. When it comes to set design and set building there are three things that have to be thought of. How am I going to Build it? How am I going to Move it? How am I going to Tear it Down? Lets look at some common mistakes and some tips.

Set Building Common Mistakes

  • Building the set like a house: One of my biggest pet peeves is when the carpenter you've hired looks at your designs and starts studding walls and pulling out the nail gun and bottle of glue like he's building a house. Or he'll start putting a ZILLION screws AND nails into everything so that they won't move. Problem is every nail and screw that you put in now is hours of time that you can't get back during your tear down time.
  • Building a piece too big to fit through a door: You've built the piece in your big old shop and now when you move it from the shop into your venue you can't get into the front door. Sometimes with bad planning you can't even fit it on the truck!
  • Making it too heavy to be moved: You built it to last, you built it to be durable, but now Hotshot you have to move it to where you need it. If you don't have the proper tools and equipment to get it out then you better have money to pay for your crew's hernia treatment.
  • Making everything custom/no stock units: Most of the time you have standard stock units that you keep in storage to use in every show so that you don't have to build so much. Sometimes you have to build custom units for the show. But if you build it all custom then that's a lot of pieces that you have to tear apart AND throw away after the show. That can leave on big bill of wasted money.
All those are serious problems now let's look at solutions.

Tips for Build, Load-In, and Tear Down Sanity

  • Use as many stock units as possible! You can find plans for many stock scenery on the Web.
  • Don't use nails or glue! Screws can be easily put in and taken out.
  • Measure your Doors! Measure in advance of the blueprints being drawn. This makes effective planning.
  • If you're building heavy then think heavy. Invest in sturdy pallets, dollies, and lifts.
  • Turn the trash into Gold! If you must tear something apart make sure that you can use some of that scrap for a later purpose. This gets rid of waste.
  • Game Plan In/Game Plan Out: All the work that you have to do to get the set into the space is exactly as much work that you have to have tearing it down. Have a good game plan and keep to it!
Does anybody have any better tips out there?  Is there anything I missed? Be sure to post a comment below!

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