Set design and construction tips

The 2018 Rock Challenge® tour has just kicked off, but for many teams, the creation of your production may still be underway, but it is never to soon to start thinking about next year or adding more to your piece this year. One of our Rock Challenge® Ambassadors, and set design and construction extraordinaire, Steven shares his top tips.

Firstly, be sure to pay lots of attention at your Rock Challenge® event and see if you can spark some inspiration. If you see something you like on the day speak to the other schools, ask how it was made and take photos, that’s what the Spirit of Rock Challenge® is all about, everyone should be friendly and happy to share their tips! Many teams tend to have staff or parents who are able to build their set. If not, there are people within the Rock Challenge® family who will be happy to help by offering advice on how to build it yourself. If you’re looking for a hand, don’t hesitate to pop a message up on the Facebook official group or shoot Rock Challenge® an email and they can forward you on to a local Ambassador who is here to help!

Set design and construction can sometimes be a bit of a scary subject for a lot of schools, sometimes you don’t have the budget or the facilities to make a truck load of set but it’s important to remember that big set doesn’t necessarily win you a Rock Challenge®. A clever, well used set can take you far.

I’m often asked about how and when should set design come into the process of creating your Rock Challenge® and, in my opinion, it should really be from day one. When you’re deciding a theme and imagining costumes, dances, soundtrack you should be thinking about youset and how you can interact with it. Another thing that you need to remember when creating the scale of your set pieces is that you will need enough stage crew members to shift it onto and around the stage.The Rock Challenge® crew and volunteers will be there to help on the day but you can’t expect them to do it all.

So how should it be built? There is no right answer to this question, as everyone has their own way of doing things, the only common rule is that everything has to be safe. Personally, I like to use softwood planed timber, plywood and polycarbonate hollow structured sheets because they are lightweight and therefore easy to move around the stage. I would recommend that you avoid MDF (it’s heavy, doesn’t like getting wet, plus it’s carcinogenic when cutting), foam (it may be light but it breaks easily, and can make the stage slippy for the dancers) and castors (wheels) that are too small (they may be cheap but unfortunately most stages aren’t smooth and level so they can get caught, break and be difficult to control).

Here’s an example of a set piece from frame to fully built!

So how is it done? My advice is to make a solid frame and cover it with light material. The trick to remember is that the set piece needs to look good from a distance. It can be that “easy”, a simple wooden frame held together with screws (meaning it can be taken apart and the wood re-used next year!) Then it can be covered with whatever exterior you require to display your theme.

It’s not as scary as you might think, just be sure to take your time and plan ahead! And remember: as long as it’s safe, you’ve done a great job!


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