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.

Sketchup Pro Camera Tools Seminar

I recently did a post on the new Advanced Camera Tool plugin for Sketchup. I’ll be teaching a seminar on Sunday, January 15, from 10 am to 2 pm that will cover the use of the plugin.


I’ll also be covering a number of other topics such as; basic camera information you need to know, how the new camera systems are changing the business, how the new method of ‘re-framing’ in post-production effects the final product and how to allow for it, and I’ll explain why they have so many RED camera settings in the plugin pre-sets!

The seminar is half-price ( $25 ) to ADG members and will be held at 13907 Ventura Boulevard, Suite 101 ( on the second floor ) in Sherman Oaks.

The facility limit is 30 attendees so you won’t be guaranteed a seat unless you reserve one in advance. To find out more and reserve a seat, go to this webpage.


The Unfortunate Truth Of The Matter


Rooftop studio of Lubin Pictures in New York, early 1900's

“The more successful the art direction, the less likely it is to be noticed. Only when it fails, only when a set looks like a set, does the work of this much-overlooked department become apparent. Set Design, set construction and set dressing are items taken for granted by audiences. Unhappily, they are often taken for granted within the industry itself. . . Art Direction, or production design, determine the look of a picture almost as forcefully as the lighting. For it dictates the atmosphere – and atmosphere, particularly in the films of period reconstruction, is tremendously important.”

Kevin Brownlow, “The Parade’s Gone By”

Quick View II Anyone?

I still have a small number of the second model of my Quick View camera angle finders available. This is an updated model with all the common digital sensor sizes as well as the standard film formats for easy cross-reference. I’m debating as to whether or not to order another batch, so I can’t guarantee this won’t be the end of them.

I’m selling these at $50, which is $10 off the normal price.