Set Decoration and Props – 6 Things You Need To Know

By Evan Morris

Creating a convincing location with set decoration and props can mean the difference between a great video and ho hum. If this is your first swim, the weight of that responsibility could drag you down. Here are 6 tips from CRM Studios to keep you afloat.

#6. You Don’t Have To Prop The Whole Set

This isn’t always obvious, but once you learn it, it’s one of the most important tips. The audience can only see what the camera sees, so you only have to worry about a relatively small portion of the set. This tip alone can save you lots of time and money.

#5. Prop Costs Can Sometimes Be Way Out Of Whack

The first rule of set decoration is “keep costs down.” The second rule is “follow rule #1.” The third is “return whatever you can.”

On a recent shoot, CRM Studios converted an empty industrial building into a fully functional art studio. Most art supplies can’t be returned to the store, and every “student” in the class required multiple paints and brushes in various states of use. Not to mention background art projects and art equipment. To manage costs, we partnered with local high school fine arts department. For a reasonable fee, we borrowed an entire art room. The art department got some welcomed revenue, and we saved a ton of money for our client. Oh, and the video ended up winning an award.

Set decoration and props for an art class#4. You Have Way More Stuff Than You Realize

The best way to keep costs down is to use free stuff or stuff you already have. Unless you’re a nomad, chances are you’ve accumulated lots of stuff over time.

Your home and garage and those of fellow employees are tremendous sources for great props. But one of the best resources is your office.

Closets, desks, and breakrooms have all kinds of things hidden away. The trick is to return stuff you’ve “borrowed” before anyone knows it’s missing. So maybe don’t borrow a printer; missing printers tend to be noticed fairly quickly. “Hey, what happened to the printer?”

#3. The Thing You Think Will Be Hardest Will Be The Easiest (And Vice Versa)

Another fundamental rule of set decoration and props is to avoid branded items whenever possible. There are several reasons for this, and it can create a challenge. CRM Studios once needed a colorful pitcher with glasses and a set of dominoes for a shoot. Believe it or not, the unbranded set of dominoes was far easier to find than an unbranded, translucent beverage set. This happens more than you might think.

#2. No One Notices Your Props (Unless They Are Wrong)

Your video is about the characters and the story they tell. Unless your prop is a plot device, it probably shouldn’t be noticed in your video. Otherwise, you could undermine your intended message.

Props which are just wrong for the set, or in the wrong place stick out like a pulsing blue sore thumb. In this way, props are a lot like children, if you notice them, they’re probably doing something wrong.

#1 Let Someone Else Handle It

It could be cheaper to do it yourself, but the time, effort and money to find props, pack them, ship them and set them up can quickly spiral out of control. Experience matters in this instance.

With years of experience handling set decoration and props, rooms of usable items and trucks to transport to the location, CRM Studios is ready to help. Go ahead and lean on us; we’ll prop you up.

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