Posted on 30. Jan, 2011 by in All.

Prop vs. Set Design

It is amazing how much you can learn working in a different business field for even a short time.  I have worked for less than a total of three weeks in the Film Industry, helping out with the production of two full length feature films, but I feel as if I have absorbed years worth of knowledge.

Being a diehard lover of films, it is very exciting and interesting to me to see how some of them are made.  I struggled at first with some of the terminology, but towards the end started to get a handle on it.

One of the most interesting things that I learned was the difference between a prop, and a set item.  I will do my best to explain to you and hopefully not confuse anyone to much.

Picture a scene in a movie where a family is sitting down at the dinner table to eat.  Imagine all the items on the table from silverware and glassware to the food, table cloth and other items that are common in the kitchen.

The actor may be sitting at their place with a full set of fork, spoon and knife in front of them, but after the scene is over, they all could be categorized in different ways.  If the actor picks up the fork, but does not touch the knife and spoon, the fork becomes a “prop” where the spoon and fork become “set design.”  These are usually handled by two different departments in production and go different ways when the shot wraps.

Basically, any item that an actor touches becomes a prop.  Everything else you see in the shot, clothes hanging in a closet or things on the shelf in the background are considered set design. I found this to be very interesting.

Another cool thing is what happens to all the “stuff” once the movie is over.  I plan to try to explain that in another entry in the near future so please check back on my site to see how that is handled.

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