The work of a Designer


Inside the life of a television designer at Alpha

THE job of the Television Designer, first and foremost, is to create suitable backgrounds for the type of programme being presented. A large and spectacular variety show, for example, usually requires glamorous and sometimes very elaborate studio sets, while a political talk or discussion programme calls for a very simple and plain background so that the viewers’ attention is not distracted from the words of the speaker.

Various types of programmes require different styles of presentation. A drama, for instance, is usually treated very realistically, whereas in a musical the backgrounds are often stylised and painted in an entirely different way.

Senior Designer

Another aspect of the Designer’s work, and probably the most important, is the planning of the scenes upon the studio floor in such a way that the cameras and microphone booms can move easily and speedily from scene to scene as the show progresses. In a small studio this often creates the biggest problem for the Designer, especially if the production calls for nine or ten scenes.

After reading the script for the forthcoming programme the Designer and Producer usually get together and draw out a rough plot of the sets on a Floor Plan of the studio, after which a Production Meeting is called, attended by the Heads of Camera, Lighting and Sound Departments. For the benefit of these specialists the Producer explains how he proposed to stage his programme and scene by scene, and in some cases shot by shot, the show is plotted at these meetings and problems ironed out. The shape or position of a set may have to be altered slightly in order to get a camera through or to facilitate the lighting of the characters. The Designer then comes away with the ground plan finalised and ready to be put into production. Detailed drawings must then be made for Carpenters, Painters and Scenic Artists. The props, for the dressing of the sets must be discussed with the Head of the Property Department. In the case of a drama, especially a period drama, the Designer must go with the Property Buyer to select the correct period furniture, pictures, etc., and when the settings are erected before the rehearsals, he must be present to dress those sets and give the final touches which are so essential for authenticity. He must be there also during rehearsals to make final adjustments as something which may look satisfactory to the eye may, in a particular camera shot, look peculiar.

The Designer’s work is considered completed only at the end of the final dress rehearsal.

About this author

Rex Spencer was a senior designer at Alpha

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