The Influence Of Film Design On Architecture

At the website of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, their blog included a post by Peter Lyden which features member-architects of the institute talking about the film designs which have influenced them and their careers.

credit: Institute Of Classical Architecture & Art


The website is also a source of great information on classical architecture in both the historic sense and information on modern practitioners of these architectural traditions as well. The Institute also hosts various programs on architectural design and classes  throughout the country on topics such as traditional rendering techniques.

Click here for a list of upcoming classes and programs.



Hand Drafting Lovers Rejoice – 100 Posters Still Available

Christopher Schwarz at Lost Art Press announced that they have 100 of the Anarchist tool chest posters still for sale. I thought these had sold out months ago but apparently there was a small batch lurking in the stockroom.atc_poster1_img_2463-1

Detail of nice crisp detail of the poster by Steamwhistle Press. Photo by Chris Schwarz

Detail of nice crisp detail of the poster by Steamwhistle Press. Photo by Chris Schwarz

The drawing is of a traditional English styIe tool chest as outlined in Chris’ now-classic book, The Anarchist Tool Chest. The original artwork for the poster was drawn back in January in pencil, in a late-19th century drafting style on the last remaining bit of well-made 1000H cotton vellum I still had in the studio. The poster, of which only 1000 were made, is beautifully printed on #100 paper stock using a  hand-inked polymer plate on an old offset printing press and each is hand-signed by Chris. This may be one of the last examples of hand drafting you’ll see printed in poster form. My drawing board has fallen into such disuse in the past 6 months that a baby bat has taken up residence under my drafting machine arm.

tool chest perspective cutaway

New Bookshelf And Toolbox Pages

When I created a post several years ago on doing metric to imperial conversions, and vice – versa, I added a PDF of a set of scales I made for converting 1/4″ to metric 1:50 thinking someone might find it useful. Well, it’s now been downloaded over 9,000 times so I’m glad I included it.

Some people have had trouble finding a particular link to a book or diagram I’ve included in a past post so I’ve included two new pages in the header above with lists of the digital books I’ve mentioned and links to the various tools I’ve created to make it easier to find them.

And in case you want that set of conversion scales, here’s the link again below:


Superdome To Be Converted To World’s Largest Soundstage

Superdome-world's biggest stage_rdwilkins

With film production reaching ever larger numbers in Louisiana, adequate stage space has been a constant complaint from film companies looking to shoot in New Orleans. Now that the New Orleans Saints have moved to their new state-of-the-art sports facility in Metarie, the Superdome’s future looked dim.

The city has announced today that the facility will be remodeled as a soundstage and will by 2017 be reopened as the largest film production stage in the world.

Plans call for up to 12 films to be able to be shot simultaneously with new sliding curtain walls to divide the space as required. As a single stage, the dome will be large enough to conduct aerial dogfights inside. The film Apollo 11 is scheduled to be the first production shot here as the new floor will now retract to expose a deep tank for a 800 foot floor-to-perms height which will allow the rocket launch footage to be shot without worrying about bad weather.

Ernest Fuertmann, the projects manager, has announced that filmmakers can certainly take advantage of the bad weather when they need it as the dome’s roof will be configured to open for full sky exposure. The dome will also have the ability to become a giant water tank and will be completely filled with water for the 2018 remake of Red October.

During the news conference, Fuertmann said future plans include numerous subterranean levels which will house blocks of 3-story facades of every major city in Europe.

Feeding Your Book Addiction – Win A Design Book From Lost Art Press

My Dilemma, Your Gain

Yes, I admit it, I have a book problem. But my wife and I can’t agree on exactly what that problem is. For me it’s the continual challenge of finding places to put more of them, and for her it’s the unending flow of them through the front door.

The only time I ever had all my books where I could easily put my hands on them was when we lived at the beach. The bungalow we rented was just too small for everything so we ended up renting the one across the drive from us. Besides a 6 foot drawing table the only thing in the rooms was books. Every room was floor-to-ceiling bookcases.

My wife said recently, “You have to get rid of some of these books.” I said, ‘O.K., I’ll give some books away.” Notice I didn’t say I’d give any of my books away.

Lost Art Press

Lost Art Press

Lost Art Press was started in 2008 by Lucy May, Christopher Schwarz and John Hoffman to publish books which would help woodworkers rediscover the lost art of traditional hand tools and building techniques. Schwarz was the former editor at Popular Woodworking magazine as well as Woodworking Magazine and has been one of a small group of key individuals who have brought about a hand tool renaissance. Traditional tools and methods  which were thought to be inferior to modern methods are reshaping both the woodworking and the tool making communities.

The company has released 11 books so far and has six more scheduled for release in 2014. Their first effort was an excellent annotated version of the 17th century book The Art Of Joinery by Joseph Moxon, the first English language book on the topic. The book soon sold out and copies fetched over $100 on Ebay. They have recently rereleased a newly edited and updated version.

The Kind Of Books They Don’t Print

What Lost Art Press doesn’t publish are junk books. What’s a junk book? Here’s an example; about ten years ago a builder on the East coast “published” a series of design books which were basically just bad scans out of period design books and pasted them up into thin, jumbled perfect-bound pamphlets which were selling for over $30. Junk. That’s not what Lost Art Press puts out.

Besides the fact that their books are traditionally bound sewn-signature volumes on quality paper, the editions, some reprints of classic books and some original, are written by authors who clearly know what they are talking about. And most of these books, while written with woodworkers in mind are incredibly valuable and informative even if you never plan on picking up a saw.

Selfish Motives

So, to keep my promise I’m giving three digital versions of their books away for purely selfish reasons. I want companies like Lost Art Press to be around a long time and the more people that know about them the more likely they’re going to keep pumping out great books. Chris, John, keep them coming, please.

The Loot

If you’re a winner you get to pick one of the following books:

By Hand & Eye (digital version)


I reviewed this book in an earlier post and think it’s an important book for designers. The should be part of your main reference library along with a fifth edition of Architectural Graphic Standards and a copy of McKay’s Building Construction.

With The Grain (pdf version)


If wood is a complete mystery to you then you should get this book. It simply and clearly explains the basics of wood and its use in furniture making. There are chapters on wood movement and how to calculate it in furniture construction and the characteristics of different species of trees.

To Make As Perfectly As Possible – Roubo On Marquetry (pdf version)


This book is the result of over six years of work and is the first english language translation of the classic book by Andre Roubo, originally publish in the 18th century. Lead by Donald Williams, a former head conservator for the Smithsonian Institute, the book is far more than a reprint. Williams spent years recreating the techniques described by Roubo as well as reconstructing most of the tools he describes as typical of the Menusier in France. An absolute must-have if your interests include period furniture. A second volume on furniture construction is due out next year.

Door Making And Window Making (hardcover)


Here’s another must have for your reference library. Since most everything we draw is custom, it helps to understand door and window construction when you’re creating those full-size details. This book is a reprint of two English joiners manuals which explain the process.

How To Enter

There will be three winners. Basically all you have to do is take a guess at the number of books in my personal library, kind of like guessing the number of gum balls in the jar. As a hint, it was over fifteen years ago when they could fill a 550 square foot bungalow.

You can either post a reply with your guess (and your book choice if you’re a winner) to this post or send your guess to:

Deadline is midnight on Friday, December 6. Please, only one entry per person. Ties will be decided by picking a name from a hat by Coco the Psychic Bunny.


Winners will be notified on December 7 and sent a link where they can download their book. If you want the Windows And Doors book, it is only available in hardcover and will ship in late December.

I hope that if you win you’ll buy a hardcopy version as well and a digital copy for a friend. And if you don’t win I hope I’ve enticed you to spend your own cash on what are truly terrific books.

The Motion Picture Art Director – Yesterday And Today

Back in the 1940’s the Art Director’s Guild, known then as the Society Of Motion Picture Art Directors, created a chart outlining the exciting responsibilities of an Art Director, which is posted below.  In 1994 I created a revised version which, I thought, seemed like a more accurate representation of the job. Looking it over today I think a newer version is in order. Your suggestions are most welcome.

The responsibilities of the motion picture Art Director of the 1940’s.

The Art Director of “Today”

A Short Lesson In Perspective – Mandatory Reading

I think of myself as a pretty thoughtful, conscientious  person. Or I did until this week when I realized I had forgotten my wedding anniversary. The only thing that saved me was that my wife had forgotten it too. In our mad dash to keep our careers on track we sometimes let milestones pass us by without noticing them until they’re way back in the rearview mirror of life.

This article, A Short Lesson in Perspective, is by former advertising Art Director Linds Redding. The work conditions he describes are a near mirror image to those in the film and television industry today. The siren song of technology has allowed us to do things much faster and easier than we could have years ago. But that speed and efficiency has come at a big price, and one you sometimes don’t notice right away.

Redding was diagnosed with esophageal cancer several years ago and it took that to make him realize that he was letting his job eat him alive. When he realized what his creative advocation was costing him, he began to ask himself, ‘when is the cost for having a creative career not worth it anymore ?’

Stop what you’re doing. Read this. Is this you?

A Short Lesson In Perspective

Listen To Your Construction Coordinator!

You were always told to listen to your mother, and once you became an adult you realized that it was pretty good advice.

Now that you’re a grown-up film industry professional, the best advice I can give you is to listen to your Construction Coordinator. They’re the one person that can either make or break you and you should ignore them at your peril.

It seems today that you’re going to find few people who are willing to offer free advice that’s actually helpful and useful, but that’s not the case with Michael Mulligan, the Construction Manager at the Set Supermarket in the UK.

With experience in design, set construction, special effects and art direction, Michael has some sage advice for the new and experienced Art Director in avoiding the big pitfalls of a build as well as having some great ammunition to throw at a producer when they try to convince you that a stage build is too much trouble or expensive.

Michael points out that the CM ( the equivalent of our Construction Coordinator here in the states ) can save you big headaches and prevent you from making costly budget errors.

Here is a sample of some of his advice he offers on his company blog:

“Listen to the advice of the CM, you may think your set is unique but often, he or she will have done one similar and learned valuable lessons from it. The look may be unique but the principles involved will have been used before somewhere.

Remember that the finishes are as expensive as the build and much much less predictable as far as costing is concerned, if you want to try something new or something daring, don’t be surprised if a large sum is added, just in case it does not go well the first time. Tried and tested methods give the best value.

Make sure the space you are building in does not hamstring you. Restricted hours, restricted access, no parking, restriction on use of tools, danger of damaging the location, long distances and fundamentally inadequate space can knock the wind out of the scope of your build.

Make sure production know the fundamentals of set construction. Often producers will have been working a while without doing a proper build and are unaware of the simple rules for working hours, health and safety, overtime and so on. Its best to avoid nasty surprises and ill feeling by checking they’re level of knowledge in advance and filling in any blanks.”

You’ll find that there’s not much difference in the scope of work other than maybe a reference to “tea and biscuits” which is the equivalent to our “diet Coke and a donut” (I’ll take the tea and biscuits, thank you very much).

You can check out his blog and find other good advice at:

photo – Set Supermarket

The Quick View II – going, going, gone.

On the ENDANGERED SPECIES list – the Quick View II

If you ever wanted a Quick View, time is running out. I have 15 of the lens angle finders left and plan on selling them out by the end of the week.

I’m selling the remaining few at just $25 plus $5 postage. I’ll even pay the sales tax. That’s over 60% off the original price. I can’t guarantee you’ll get the full manual but they will come with full instructions.

Despite many fantastic claims about this tool, it will not make delicious julienned fries or improve your love-life. But, you will have over 80 combinations of digital and film formats and prime lens focal lengths that will allow you to figure out any lens angle you could imagine in either plan or elevation views in seconds, without the use of a computer or any electricity at all!!

Amaze your friends! Be an Art Department “greenie”!

To make it fair, the tools will go to the first 15 people who send me an email at: and let me know they want one, or two. Heck, it’s the perfect gift for that annoying cousin who keeps asking you, “now what exactly is it that you do??”, insinuating you sit around and hob nob with stars all day long.  Wait until you see the look on his face when he opens this up. That’ll shut him up fast.

Once I get an email I’ll send you the site where you can go to use a credit card or Paypal to make the payment.

Any Quick Views that are left will be sent to the Home For Unwanted Film Design Tools. Please don’t let this happen to these innocent and incredibly useful devices!

Digital Disasters – How Toy Story II Almost Disappeared

You’ve experienced it. That punch in the gut when you realized the file you spent days on is gone, just gone. You have copies, great. Um, they’re corrupted. You panic.

Welcome to the wonders of the digital world. The first time it happened to me I couldn’t believe it. It just seemed impossible files could disappear and backups be corrupted or unopenable. Now I back up to two different drives at work and another at home, and I’m still paranoid.

The “experts” now say you should do several things to protect your digital media:

  1. Be sure your files are backed up in multiple places, at least three.
  2. If you buy the same brand of hard drive don’t buy them all from the same retailers: manufacturing glitches can show up over all units from the same batch.
  3. Rotate your drives and upgrade to new media regularly. Those CD-R’s from 12 years ago may have data problems from information loss.
  4. Have a sense of humor. You’ve traded speed for longevity. That’s the way it is. Example: the average Daguerrotype will last about 10,000 years, meaning there will still be plenty of 1850’s portraits around thousands of years after every photo from this century, and most likely the next, are toast.

Share your horror stories here. You’re among sympathetic listeners. Thing is, I just can’t ever remember the graphite mysteriously disappearing from a vellum drawing. Just saying.

And lest you think it just us, watch this little film about how Toy Story II almost disappeared into the digital ether along with your files.