For a lot of us at ECG, production design is one of our favorite parts of movies. Of course we all appreciate great acting, directing and cinematography, but without production design our favorite films would have nowhere to exist. Along with a film’s story, production design deals with the other primary language of film — visuals. It is the foremost aspect of production that decides how a film looks. And seamless production design is often the first thing working to pull an audience into a film and keep them there.
Production design deals mostly with a film’s setting. And, of course, settings are as diverse as films themselves. A production designer can be hired to recreate a medieval throne room, or a spaceship cabin or a teenage girl’s bedroom. The job requires making a large number of decisions, alongside the director, that dictate what the audience sees. Each carefully chosen item might only be captured in passing. But as they work together to create a single visual landscape, they perform the crucial task of making the film’s world believable. Production designers work alongside directors, producers, cinematographers, and the entire art department from the conception of a film up to shoot day to build, as far as the audience is concerned, an entire world.
So what are the things that make for truly great production design?
Attention to detail
In the world of production design, it’s attention to detail that separates the pitbulls from the yorkies, so to speak. Imagine a set as simple as a bedroom. All you really need to get the idea across is a bed, right? But when a production designer flies in and hangs art on the walls and switches out the bedding and lays a rug down, it’s not a just a bedroom anymore. It’s a bedroom that belongs to somebody.
There are lots of different things that will influence the choices made around the design on set. We have to consider color palette, wardrobe, and basic storyline. If our character is an addict spiraling into a drug-fueled depression, there might be empty pill bottles and trash lying about. And instead of a swanky new white shag rug, the production designer will choose a plain area rug and dirty up the edges a bit.
Any production designer will tell you: it’s part of the job to be very flexible. And we’re not talking toe touches! It’s not unheard of to dress an entire set just to have the director see it an hour before shooting begins and hate every inch of it. Or maybe a previous camera angle changes entirely so what wasn’t in shot an hour ago is now up front and center. A good production design team has a lot of options on deck at all times. And they’re ready to bust their butts to get things back on schedule.
Taste, taste, taste!
It seems a no brainer, but a production designer is essentially an artist. And in a field as visual as this, good taste is so important. Lots of people on set will have opinions, of course. But a production designer will be able to tell when a certain lamp doesn’t work when everyone else thinks it’ll do. They are the guiding voices on set when making decisions to make sure everything blends in seamlessly and the shot looks great.
Production design at ECG
At ECG, we never forget the importance of this aspect of video. From the conception of an idea, we break down the story to be told and envision the visual world where it will live. Anything from a commercial to a music video gets the same intense aesthetic treatment and, often, many hours of research. This is, after all, the industry of making people fall in love with and, most importantly, believe in stories. Something all of us love to do.
Our in-house production design team connects with locations, studio sets and prop houses throughout Georgia and beyond to realize a setting and bring it to life. We work on both large and small scale productions. And we’re all about taking any budget into consideration to source or create the crucial visual elements to your story.
So, what story do you have to tell? Where will it be told? Get the conversation started today.