View Full Version : Scenic Design

11-05-2011, 09:56 AM
I am curious on how you improve your sets / design quality to really immerse your audience. So I figured I would ask the group a question for 2012……

If you were going to one conference / convention, or picking up one resource, or consulting on person on how to improve the scenic design quality of your haunted house, who / what / where would it be? Since we are talking haunted house if the response is a 100% theatrical resource I would like to know how you relate that back to a haunt. There are a great many beautiful haunted houses that are not scary.

Just to reference this, here is what we got done in 5 weeks this year. http://www.flickr.com/photos/dr0zombie/sets/72157627922238339/with/6310616608/ We now have a workshop space, and a reality that we intend to open in 2012 (versus a plan for year one =P ) . So the goal is to have these be the sets we want to never see again. I have seen a lot of you guys make some great stuff, picked up some of the DVDs from people like Larry, just trying to move the look of the event to the point that in full light it is awesome before we light the sets.

Thanks for the discussion!!

Allen H
11-05-2011, 12:12 PM
"If you were going to one conference / convention, or picking up one resource, or consulting on person on how to improve the scenic design quality of your haunted house, who / what / where would it be?"
It isint one thing, its everything. Look at every DVD with extra footage on the set work, clip pictures from magazines that have looks that you want. Its watching a bottle fall over and seeing what the puddle it makes looks like. Your pictue of the sets you tried on look good, but there were alot of pics that showed areas that were way to sparse. It really sells the sets to me when there is the same level of detail throughout the house.
All detail is achived through layers. there should be layers on every vertical and horizontal surface.
Im doing a Haunt design DVD (released by TW) that will have some detailing info on it, it will be 1/2 hour of a two hour DVD.

1. Focus on learning principals as opposed to specifics, use the principals as formulas to add detail.
2. Balance Realism, Art direction, function, and scare when detailing a room.
3. All detail is achieved through layers- layers of decay, layers of filth, layers of construction, layers of decoration (before the decay).
4. Have focal points in the sets
5. Have a goal for the space and work to .reach that goal

If you make it to TW then I would be happy to sit and talk with you one evening. Im not an expert in my opinion- Im learning all the time- but I have learned how to learn if that makes sense.
The local resources I would exploit are Alex Lohman of 13th st Morgue- Dean Jarnig of Zombie Manor- and Bart Butler of HauntHouse. I am blessed with many great haunts in my area and those three stand out as having the best sets. in our area (although they would stand up anywhere Im sure). If I wanted a national consultant on such things then I would look for David Clevenger my old boss at Terror on Church Street in Orlando. Barring that- Ben Armstrong, Mike "tattoo" (begin name butchery) Krasuert?, Jason Blazac, All the guys at House of Shock and House of Torment really have their set skills together.
Study design first , then apply it to haunting. I studied Fieng schway and will often reverse what it say to do in order to make guests feel unwelcome and nervous as opposed to calm and comforted.
I hope this helped a bit,
Allen H

Greg Chrise
11-08-2011, 10:14 PM
The next step is to layer various textures and glosses and flats over top of decor like Allen suggests. The white floor and ceiling is a serious bummer and every room needs some type of dark nasty carpet or wood or dirt. The ceilings need to be covered with some fire retardant black mesh with holes in it if there is a sprinler system or fire detection units.

When Allen went for the Fung Sway reference I thought more Mister Miagee and Wax on Wax off. Lots of practice painting things normally and then figuring out how to distress them to look old, cracked paints, mildews and such in textures rather than flat painted walls. In the early years we did weeks worth of work on some rock designs and then driving to a job thinking we were all clever in the colors and washes we applied, thinking how cool hand making the rocks to all be different and fit just right. We are driving along and saw some mobile home skirting that looked exactly what we had spent hundreds of hours creating and this was made by a machine and dipping crap.

So it is also a serious study of what is out there in the real world, what it looks like when it is neglected. In Art this is called doing a study whether you make notes, photograph or sketch what you are trying to achieve. You can't study what is at Home Depot and how to paint over it, trying to make it look haunted. Every piece ends up being mobile home decor.

It takes a lot of doing it over and over, developing your own formulas of washes and tints. Doing it and it looks like something too normal or it looks like something from a flinstones cartoon. Then how to fix it and detail it in a timely fashion. Despite the fact you are delving into the faux arts, the customers only see it for 3 seconds. They aren't picking out a patio color or something from the Martha Stewart finishes. And no one wants to spend big per square foot bucks on said projects or you don't want to cost yourself some end burden by spending too much money or time per room.

Actually attempt samples of what ever you are going to attempt in small 2 foot square form like you were going to go bid a job for someone else. Set them aside for a while and reproach them and determine what sucks and or what is missing from each element. Eventually you have programmed yourself on what can be done and how it can be done cheaply and in some cases by anyone with proper direction.

It does no good to ask others what they think, your asthetic is going to be all yours and there are limitations no matter what you try. You can impress others pretty easily and it doesn't teach you what you want to know.

The other approach is to simply go for themes and looks that are other worldly where no one can say what is wrong or right. It is also a little bit of an adjustment if you are maybe a portrait artist trying to make monster sketches. But if you can't do portrait oil paintings who is to say a monster doesn't look all unsymetrical.

Rather than trash what you have you add to it both in per panel but also physically the number of panels increase each year until you can cull things out or go over them. In some cases the judgement of this is cool but this over here is way cooler is part of the presentation. People only remember the most impressive and seem to fog the memory of the lack-luster. There is always lighting, fog and paying attention to props and actors that completely divert from what the walls look like. However clean white floors are just plain wrong and reflect the light of wrongness up onto things you have already invested lots of time in.

Greg Chrise
11-08-2011, 10:38 PM
You have to replace the word distressing as in making furniture look like an antique to serious destruction. Fo no good reason the house has gone all 25 years after people and vines have punched a hole in the wall and are growing inside. Rats have made holes in the walls only they might be 3 foot tall now, the size of large dogs. Water had come down and seriously rotted things to the point where it is no longer solid looking. Some rooms look like a rock band spent an evening in there.

You actually make a vacuum blow dust onto everything, get a cob web machine, things that your mother said should be out in the yard or only in the garage have been pounded onto the walls by monsters. Not only might there be bodies but there are collections of shoes, wallets and belts, all souveniers nailed to the walls. Pipe have been structurally forced out of the walls, not just they were there and rusted, they were pounded out by structure failure. Furniture was distressed like it has been in the middle of a demolishion derby arena then cobbled back together by some mental midget.

You have to get weird.

Jim Warfield
11-09-2011, 05:32 AM
The prisoners are landed on a forbiding , nasty planet, they see a structure in the distance (a squat, small looking building with a huge tower for it's roof pointing up much higher than the building that supports it)
"What is it?"
"Looks like "Early Maniac" to me!"
I laughed a long time about this since it resembles the tower room I built in my back yard!
(It can be seen on the website in 2 or 3 pictures ... hauntedravensgrin.com )
Yes, a roof on a 10 by 10 building do NOT have to be 40 foot high!= "Early Maniac!" (Religious fanatic?)

Unfortunately if you are trully successful in scaring people you will be distracting them from the enjoyment of a lot of your set work and ripping away their memory of ever having seen it too. ("Oh this must be NEW!?" It's been a part of every tour through this house for 23 years!)
I have some very memorable devices here that actually compeat with one another and some of them always get diminished, forgotten... but maybe, just maybe a inner semi-conscious part of their brain or body remembers and it all adds to the mystery of why they have special feelings reguarding their experiences here?

11-14-2011, 08:44 AM

We do a web series called Haunt Ventures that documents and teaches techniques about haunted houses, we have multiple videos on set design, give it a watch!


freak 'n' stein
11-14-2011, 07:26 PM