A Well-Designed Set is Just as Important as the Pitch
Talented and well-known spokesperson? Check. Compelling story and topic? Check. Pitch-perfect media alert? Check. Another Satellite Media Tour (SMT) has just landed on the calendar! Once Media Relations sets the project in motion, the Assignment Desk steps in to help with the remaining logistics which includes the set and set design. But what makes a set look appealing or beautiful? I wouldn’t call myself a set designer, but I know what works. I tend to be creative in everything I do, have a good sense of color (though I’m a tad color-blind), find shopping with other people’s money enjoyable and believe balancing everything out in front of the camera is very important.
Every tour is unique and comes with its own logistics, needs, and wants. For every one-camera cozy-corner set with a lamp, bookshelf, and your favorite gobo pattern, there’s a Co-Op tour with four products requiring food prep, props to purchase, and everything including the kitchen sink ... literally. The bottom line, large or small, every set comes with its own set of challenges. I mean, who doesn’t want to field the challenging Co-Op curveball of building a set around baby products and raw fish?
There really isn’t a right or wrong way to place a plant, stack books, or arrange food but the set should look clean, not cluttered. When working with a complicated theme, the trick is knowing when to pull back and let the set breathe. Too much of anything could overwhelm what you’re trying to highlight. The last thing you want to do is make the audience try to figure out what they’re looking at. The point is, everything has an overall effect on the set - positive or negative. Take the topic, really think about the options and possibilities, and then implement them. Here are eight ways to help you build a set which conveys the story you want to tell.
- Plan: Take what you’re given and really think about how you can best make the topic and theme come to life on-set in the most attractive, easy, and cost-effective way.
- Simplicity: Less is more. It’s OK to overshop, but you don’t always need to add everything you buy to the set. Having more options than you need is always a good thing.
- Color: Colors always pop on camera so it’s nice to add in colorful filler items to a set. As for lighting - a smooth, casual blend of two colors is a great option.
- Balance: It is important to have a balanced set from where the talent stands in relation to the background, to where the items on the table relate to the talent as well as how tall items on the left side of the table relate to the ones on the right side. These are all things to consider.
- Depth: If there are enough props that make sense for the story, adding more to the background can help create depth that enhances the set. If you have the extra room, use it!
- Space: There should be a well-defined space between each product or food-demo area. Blending these could cause a bit of confusion for the viewer.
- Theme: Make sure the set you’re putting together really supports the theme and story. You’re not always going to have the money and time to buy everything you need to make that absolutely perfect garage-themed, power-tool set. But the right props just might do the job.
- Patterns: If you have to use a gobo pattern, I tend to go with softer edges over sharper ones. That goes for the fake window shadow on the wall too!
Every SMT is unique, so you should treat it that way, especially when it comes to set design. Take the time and really figure out not only what you want to show, but how you’re going to show it. Once the set is propped, detailed, looking great and ready to go, you’ll have one of the main ingredients for a successful Satellite Media Tour.
ABOUT THE EXPERT: Matt Piccolo
Matt is a Live Events and Satellite Media Tour Producer which has taken him all around the United States and throughout Europe chasing the next great Live Hit. Going back to the start and after driving a prop cube truck for 4 months that furnished commercial sets, Matt started his career in Fox News Channel’s On-Air Promotions department.
He followed that a few years later with a quick stint as a self-employed field and segment producer, writer, director and stage manager that lasted 16 years, 1 Month and 24 Days. Over the years, he’s worked for dozens of companies in advertising, promotions, development, and all phases of production.
Working in commercials, short films, television shows, corporate videos and everything in between eventually led Matt to become a member of the Producers Guild of America in 2007, the Writers Guild of America in 2015, and a full-time gig at MultiVu!
MultiVu, a Cision/PR Newswire division, produces and places compelling content strategically across multiple channels globally to deliver targeted results and drive desired engagement. Created in 2002 from network news veterans and media relations professionals, MultiVu has grown into a content creation and media strategy company, leading in the broadcast communications industry. More information can be found on www.multivu.com.