How To Build Awesome Sets On A Budget

I’ve built 3 sets in the last year, including a fully working kitchen. How? Trial and error, but mostly out of necessity. Why? I work for a company that makes and sells taps, sinks and other items for kitchens, bathrooms and laundry spaces.

Building sets has allowed me to put our products in context (insitu) for video shoots. Sets also give you control over the elements, location and the look. Here are 5 things that I’ve learned from building sets on a budget:

img_20161114_1033551. Set builders for the basics – The most basic component of any set is flats, or blank walls to stand in for real walls. These can be painted, tiled or wallpapered in whatever wall covering you need. They can be re-used and rearranged over and over again. It’s also the part where most of the money was spent. Each 4’X8′ panel (1200mm x 2400mm) has cost about $500 each. They’re typically constructed of 2″x3″ pine with an MDF skin. Sure, it would be cheaper to make them yourself, but you’ve got better things to do like write the creative.

2. Home Depot is your friend – You’ll save a ton of money by putting the rest of the set together yourself. Hardware stores are DIY heaven. Almost everything from kitchen cabinets to plumbing are engineered to be snap-together-simple these days. Hardware stores are so vested in you doing-it-yourself that they even hold in-store classes or make tutorial videos.



Kitchen set being built for Clark Sinks.

3. Strategic partnerships can net free stuff– My budget was cut in half when I had to build a kitchen set earlier this
year. I had the walls and some cabinets from previous builds, but needed appliances  and multiple benchtops for product demonstrations.  So, not cheap.

I reached out to aligned businesses and was able to get free countertops, appliances and kitchen cabinets in exchange for social media mentions, blog posts and photography. By coincidence, it was coming up to summer and I was given new launch colours which helped our set look on-trend.


img_20161118_1238474. It only has to look good on camera – Spend the money and time on the areas of the set that will be the focus of your action. Everything else can be…

5. Fake  – Not everything has to be real, or working.  I saved time on my kitchen set by nailing the cabinet doors up since they wouldn’t be opened and not installing doors that wouldn’t be seen by camera.   Who will know if that toaster or kettle in the background is broken if it wont be used.

A friend of mine claims to have faked tile grout using drafting tape and there are many tricks set builders use to fool you, from painted on shadows to forced perspective.

How To Write Great Corporate Videos

If telling isn’t selling then most corporate videos are doing it wrong. Does this sound familiar? – Long winded timeline videos, scripted features and benefits from talking heads, perfectly packaged into 4’30” of snooze.

Story writing frameworks provide an alternative, and dare I say more interesting way of framing your company’s message. Three-act structure and Hero’s journey are two frameworks that can be simplified  and used to define your video’s key messages and present them in a story format.

I’ve used the above depending on the project, however my favorite structure comes courtesy of Pixar. I’ve modified it a little but it goes like this:

Every day, ___. Until One day ___.  Because of that, ___.  Because of that, ___.  Until finally ___.

The answers to these questions make script writing less of a chore and help resolve the key themes of the video. When put into practice it looks a little something like this, with each answer being anywhere from 1 to 3 sentences in length:

Every day, we design and manufacture world class devices loved the world over.

Until One day, we took notice of the emerging wearables trend.

Because of  that, we researched and developed many prototypes and had many failures.

Because of that,  we were able to focus on one device and worked hard to make it the best product of its kind.

Until finally, we released the first smart watch that connects seamlessly with your phone.

Presenting your videos in a story based format guides the viewer on a journey that explains why your product or service exists and what problem it solves.  You’ll be able to do that in a clear and concise way, free of extraneous messaging if you use story telling frameworks.