We were given an extensive list of equipment to acquire (everything from pencils to impact drivers). I had a fair bit at home, but had to buy a lot too. It was very tricky to decide what to buy without knowing the quality/reputation of the brands. I would have appreciated having a chance to discuss through the brands with the tutors to help develop the kit rather than risking buying the wrong things. Thankfully, I was able to get some advice from a friend, and seem to have most of the right stuff. 

Before the Course:

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Week 1: 15th-19th February

Mon 15/2 
Introduction to the school and facilities, including a socially-distanced opening ceremony, and an overview of the year ahead for Set & Props. 
Tue 16/2

Our first Hui a Kura, where we talked about the value of listening, Whānau, and what we think we

can contribute. Also began learning to sing and dance to "Toi Whakaari E". Later, we began painting

our trollies with water-based paint. We were shown around the workshop, and instructed on the

proper cleaning methods for the equipment being used. 
Wed 17/2

We began by learning more dance moves - goodness me, I'm learning to dance. Never thought that

would happen - then returned to "Toi Whakaari E". I am realising just how much I have yet to learn

about Māori culture and language. I would like to find written copies of the songs and karakias so I

can learn them better. 

Thur 18/2 

We began the day with more dancing and group bonding. I swear, this place is Camp Rock. Next, we were treated with a talk with some incredible artists from the local Iwi, which I believe is Ngai Tara (though I admit I have had to google it, as I wasn't able to make out the name as it was being said at the time). 

Later, we had our Tūrangawaewae where the provocation "A place to Stand/Where do you draw your strength" was addressed by all the first years. It was incredible. I learned so much more about my fellow first years and discovered that we have a lot more in common than I had assumed. Everyone was so vulnerable and deep - I am still marveling at their strength, and the talent of those who performed with such skill and sincerity! It was such a welcoming atmosphere, and I felt incredibly accepted. 
Fri 19/2
We began the day with a RespectED Sexual Harm Prevention session! It was good to learn about the different tactics and approaches everyday people can use to call out (or in) people who are doing inappropriate things, and support those who need it. We then had a shared Kai, Canvas tutorial, and ID photos taken in the afternoon. 

 

Week 2: 22nd-28th February 

Workshop Inductions:

We teamed up with the designers this week to do our inductions on the workshop tools (everything from a ruler to the wall saw). We became aware very quickly that we are going to have to work to maintain a good relationship between our departments, as our roles are intrinsically linked. A valuable part of this lesson was learned through our writeup on tool uses, tips, and tricks, which can be viewed through Canvas. Here are the highlights of our inductions

This experience also taught me a lot about the importance of taking notes. We were given a great deal of information in a very short period, and had I not taken notes, I would have had very little to contribute to the document. I do not have much lived experience with power tools, so do not have the deeper understanding that some of the other students do. Until I've reached that level, I am largely relying on memorised facts rather than actual understanding, 
 

Health and Safety:

A risk matrix can be used to help determine the likelihood of accidents

taking place. By using PPE and other measures, you can reduce the

risks involved. 

- Respirators and masks: Different levels for different types of protection,

for use when small particles or fumes are a risk. 

- Safety Glasses: Not just regular glasses, but ideally shatter-proof and

sometimes sealed around the edges for maximum protection.

- Ventilation: Used to help remove particles from the air - the Toi Whakaari

systems are good for dust, not for fumes. 

- Gloves: Different types, grades, and materials for protecting against impact,

liquids, and/or for gripping,

- Helmets: To protect against impact, usually not required at Toi Whakaari. 

- Ear Defenders: Hearing damage is permanent. We must have 20+ decibel rated ear defenders. 

Hand Tools: Should be used like a scalpel, not a hammer. 

There are a lot of hand tools, so instead of going through all of them I'm going to stick to the fun things I learned about some of them. 

- Tape Measure: Can be used vertically by extending it up into the air (higher quality can extend further), hence the curved shape of the tape. 

- Impact Driver vs Drill: Impact drivers have more torque (higher volt = more torque). They are very useful for screwing/unscrewing screws (whereas drills are best for drilling holes)

- Screwdrivers: Pozidrives are a thing. I've never encountered this type before. Also square headed ones are used here more than I've seen in Aus. 

- Scale rules: Should not be ingested. This is an ongoing joke, as we have discovered that nothing lightens up a dull read like a bit of unexpected humor. 

Heavy Machinery:

Also like a scalpel. But a really fast moving one that can and will remove your arm. And some of them explode when you touch them. 

For the purpose of brevity, I will focus on basic use, PPE, and safe operation of these machines. For a step-by-step guide, you can check out the Workshop Induction document on Canvas. 

 

General rules for Heavy Machinery - particularly saws:

  • Do not start the blade while it is on the material.

  • Stand off the line that material could be flung (as much as possible). 

  • Measure twice, cut once

  • Make sure the blade is cutting on the correct side of your marking. 

  • Make sure the blade guard is engaged. 

  • Keep all dangly clothing and jewelry away from power tools. 

  • PPE - Safety glasses, mask, hearing protection. 

  • Use push sticks to avoid getting your fingers too close to any of the blades. 

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Band Saw:

Good for cutting curves, indents, or straight through things. 

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Wall Saw:

Used to cut panels vertically or horizontally. 

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Radial Arm Saw:

Good for cutting lengths of wood - straight, or at an angle. The way it is installed, it can't be used at its full range of angles.

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Band Saw:

Used to cut curves/shapes, indents, or through things. 

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Scroll Saw:

Used to cut thin materials (MDF under 3ml, EVA foam, cardboard etc). Good for fine details and curves. 

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Table Saw:

It explodes! But only if you touch the blade, which you really shouldn't be doing anyway. Good for shredding timber (to resize), and cutting straight or at angles. 

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Drill Press:

Used to drill holes. Crazy, right! Drill into sacrificial board to keep your holes clean. 

Introduction to Theatre Practice 

"A physical manifestation of an imaginary space." - Pamela Howard

In this session we discussed what the meaning of Scenography is, and how different elements of theatre combine to create a performance. The session focused on different types of theatre spaces (i;e. ancient Greek, Black Box, etc.), and compared Naturalism and Non-Naturalism, and the advantages of each. 

Some of the primary elements discussed include:

Set - creates a world, a landscape, a place for the audience. 

Costume - creates character

Lighting - influences time, environment, mood, and focus. 

Projection - creates movement, sense of a bigger world. 

Week 3: 1st-7th March

Hikitia 

We teamed up with the designers to take detailed photos and measurements of the Hikitia Barge for our S&P film project, and their models. I worked with a first year designer and a second year s&p to measure up the Hold for the designer's model. We learned a lot... mostly about how many more measurements we really should have taken,  especially concerning the angles of things. 

The barge itself was incredible! So many cool details. I was especially interested in the colours of decay. I'm very excited to play around with the textures and details of the set later on! 

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First Aid Training

We had a full day of first aid training through the NZ Red Cross with the second years. It was a fast-paced session with plenty of hands on activity, which kept it engaging and even - at times - entertaining. I admit, I found myself missing the parts about stinger stings (jellyfish) and snake bites, but such is life in NZ. There were certainly fewer wild stories about crocs and cassowary maimings. I suppose Kea could probably serve a similar role... with a little training.

My key takeaways are as follows:

Call 111 

This may sound simple, but I am so used to calling 000 that this is a really important thing to remember (though apparently if you ring the wrong number (i.e. 999, 911), they will redirect you automatically to the correct one. 

CPR

- 30 pumps, two breaths

- 1/3 of the person's chest depth

- Centre of the chest (in line with the person's armpit, or just below the nipple line for babies)

- One hand for kids, two fingers (and cheek puffs) for babies. 

Choking

- Different methods/degree of force for adults, children, and infants. 

- Alternate between chest and back thumps

- If choking person can cough, encourage them to do so and monitor (only partial blockage).

DR'S ABCDs

D - dangers

R - responsiveness 

S - send for help

A - airways 

B - breathing 

C - CPR 

D - Defibrillation 

Wounds

- Don't remove punctured objects, wrap a bandage around them so they don't shift. 

R - Rest and Reassure 

E - Expose (wound)

D - Direct pressure/Dressing

Sprains

R - rest

I - ice 

C - compression

E - elevate 

- If you aren't sure what's wrong, treat it as worst case scenario. 

Bandaging

- Use a happy snail! 

- Make sure the wound is padded with something before bandaging (i.e. gauze) 

- Maintain pressure - do another layer if too loose. 

- Monitor to make sure it's effective. 

Burns

S - size

C - cause

A - age of person

L - location

D - depth 

(To help determine whether to go to doctor.)

Heart Disease/Attack/Angina 

- Signs: chest pain, sweaty, short of breath, change in consciousness

- Complete DRSABCDs

- Ask if they have any medicine (esp. if angina) 

- Call 111

Stroke

Signs/symptoms:

F - face

A - arm

S - speech

T - time to call ambulance!

Diabetes

Hypoglycemic: 

- Sweaty/unsteady/change in consciousness 

- Offer them something sweet, they may have something but need help getting it. 

Seizure

- Protect the head, but do not restrain them. 

- Clear the area of hazards. 

- Maintain their privacy. 

- Stay with them, talk to them. 

- Call ambulance if you don't know them/it's their first. 

Asthma

A - assess

S - sit 

T - treat 

H - help

M - monitor 

A - all okay! 

Get them an inhaler (they may have one). Use spacer if you have one. 

Allergic Reaction

- If swelling/trouble breathing, call 111

- Give medication if available (may have a epipen on them, Blue to Sky! Don't put your thumb on top when applying! If it's upside down, you could inject yourself!) 

Sketchup Time! 

I thought I was okay with computers. Not great, but certainly not terrible.

Sketchup taught me otherwise. 

While my design partner focused on building the room itself, I worked out measurements, and created a couple of minor elements that needed to fit into the space (i.e. pipes, ladders, and more pipes). There was a very steep learning curve; thankfully, we have a great teacher and another s&p first year who knew how to work the program and help

problem solve a lot of the issues. 

I still have a lot of learning to do, but I feel like I have

enough basic skills to get by for now.

 

No doubt this statement will come back to haunt me later. 

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Hand Drafting Techniques 

We covered the basics of working with scale, especially in regards to designing sets and working with space. We focused on 1:25 and 1:50. After some practice, we used our scale rules (do not ingest) to measure up a floor plan and create a proposal of a set created with up to twelve rostra of different heights. Personally, I find this technique of drafting a lot more forgiving than sketchup. I'm aware that this is one of those situations where it is faster to hand draw when you are inexperienced with sketchup, but slower than if you were to master sketchup. Still, it makes sense to learn both techniques to the best of my abilities. 

My key takeaways:

Scaled up = creates sense of awe/makes subject feel more important

Scaled down = creates sense of wonder/often playful

Clearing Prop Storage 

I think the managers might actually be magical. I have never seen a group of people manage another - larger - group of people with such startling efficiency and civility. It took an hour and five minutes to clear out years worth of props, flats, and set pieces. We formed a giant chain to pass things down, as well as a few select people carrying larger objects through. It was amazing. I think the managers taught us all a valuable lesson about the importance of communication and teamwork. In a group this big, you need people who are willing to take charge, people who are willing to follow instructions without debate, and, ideally, people who can do both! 

I unfortunately didn't capture the "before" shot of the props storage room, but I do have one of the props being organised in their temporary home. 

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Working Question:

How do you strike a balance between productivity and resourcefulness? 

When is it best to use what you have at hand, and when should you seek out better/more materials, knowledge, or resources? 

Growing up in a small country town, I didn't have access to much in the way of materials. If I was to order something online, it would take a long time to arrive (and the postie wouldn't deliver packages to our door, so I'd have to wait until someone was available to drive me to the post office to collect parcels). As such, I developed the habit of working with what I had on hand. I am very good at it. 

But that isn't always a good thing. 

You can only get so far before quality is sacrificed to convenience. I've become aware that I need to make more of an effort to seek out better/more traditional materials to achieve tasks in order to reach a higher quality, or faster finish now that I am living somewhere where I can more easily access things.

This is also relevant to knowledge/experience levels. I have a habit of diving into things and learning on the job, as opposed to doing careful research, watching tutorials, or seeking help. As long as there are no witnesses. A part of that is that I have often felt patronised when I ask for help, or sometimes even scoffed at by people who should have known better. As such, I find it quite anxiety inducing to seek assistance when I haven't tried every other option. I can also fall into the trap of not trying something out because I'm not certain I can do it well, and do not want to face the embarrassment of struggling in front of others. This means I often seek to remain within my comfort zone, or fall into the role of assistant/observer until I am feeling bold enough to make an attempt myself. And I seem to be unfortunately very good at covering these efforts with a calm demeanor and clever remarks. 

 

Throughout this term, I am going to be closely observing the scenarios in which it is better to use what you have on hand, and when it's better to seek more, as well as endeavoring to step out of my comfort zone and learning new techniques, even if it means making a fool of myself. 

There is a bravery in being willing to make mistakes. 

Week 4: 8th-12th March

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Step 1 - Planning

"A person is smart; people are dumb." - Men in Black, I think. 

This is certainly the case when you get eight people of varying confidence and ability to try and design a set of shelves! It took a while, but eventually we managed to settle on something resembling a design. I think the biggest issue with our communication is that only some of us understood the lingo of a construction sight, or had the prior experience required to be able to visualise what was being proposed. This gap in comprehension divided us into "workers" and "assistants" - a format which worked out alright in the end, but which may have been handy to label earlier on so we all had an understanding of what we could, and should, be doing. 

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Step 2 - Measuring 

With the "Workers" in the lead, we managed to take the measurements required for the shelves. The biggest issue was that the wall itself wasn't fully square.... nor was the wall adjacent. Or the floor. Or... Well, you get the picture. 

As such, we took measurements using a spirit level to transfer a flat line from one piece of wood to the next. We decided on three shelf heights, and took the relevant measurements for those. My role through this process was largely documentation (i.e. writing down the random numbers people kept spouting, then trying to figure out their context later), then some spirit level measurements once I figured out what was going on. 

I quickly discovered that I was not in a position to be leading, but I was going to be the best assistant I could be. 

Step 3 - Cutting the Stringers

While others set about cutting pieces for the battens, a few of us gathered pieces of ply to create the stringers that would make up the skeleton of the shelves. This consisted of finding pieces that weren't too warped in either direction, and cutting them down to 1800mm (x6), 3340mm (x2), and 3349mm (x4) for the two respective shelves. The 3340mm measurement was a response to the slightly narrower gap that existed higher up the wall. 

 

We took turns using the radial arm saw. It was a good chance to watch and repeat simple measuring techniques and cuts to help develop our confidence. Even simple tasks are a bit intimidating when it's something you only just learned, and there's someone standing over you waiting to correct you! 

Step 4 - Even Stringers need a Home

A couple of us chop sawed and drilled holes in pieces of wood for the stringers to sit on to make their installation easier later on. We fixed these to the walls with screws and impact drivers. 

To allow room for the door to open, I chopped some extra long ones to be mounted sideways along the inner edge of the beams. Yes, I may have lost a bit of my sanity by this point. 

These long ones were later shifted a bit, as we discovered we'd misaligned some of the battens... but that's another story. 

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Step 5 - Gettn' into the Grooves

Got a heap of grooves to cut? No worries! Just clamp 'em all together and run the radial arm saw over 'em, right? 

I think most of us had a go at this particular step. The battens were done, and they seemed to align well with the width of the grooves, and we'd set the radial arm saw to cut to the right depth so the lap joints would be snug and lovely. We took turns running the blade through, then a few people shuffled off to chisel out the grooves. 

Aren't we super productive! Such teamwork! Such ingenuity! What could go wrong?!

Building Prop Storeroom Shelves

"Turn that Hmmm into a HA!"- Jason

Step 6 - This. This Could Go Wrong.

Ah... um... oops. 

Turns out the wood, even when clamped together, has a pretty significant bow! And so does the table under the radial arm saw! Because why not! And all that combined makes for a whole bunch of random depths in our grooves. That's right, not just the same inaccuracy, but a different one for each groove! We really go above and beyond here in Year 1 Set 'n' Props! 

Step 7 - All Part of the Adventure!

I'm honestly not even sure why these are even steps anymore.

Okay! So we have a solution. We went through and cut 3-4mm pieces to help bring the battens back to level! These were glued and nailed in place. 

What I really appreciated about this process is that no one got mad. There was frustration, absolutely, but it was the sort of "well this was a bit silly, guess we'll fix it!' type. We worked together to implement a solution, and laughed about how much we'd have to write about in our workbooks later! 

Step 7 - Back on Track!

Woohoo! Problem solved. We went through with more glue, drills, screws, and a whole lot of hammering and mallet-ing to assemble the skeletons of the shelves! There were some fun moments as we tried to get the battens to fit in snuggly... mostly around hammering down the sides so they would fit in (and theoretically expand later), and whacking the tops of them with mallets until they went in! Heaps of fun. 

This was probably the first time we really started to feel the time pressure of what we were doing. We were due to get the props back into the room and onto the shelves on Friday... it was now Wednesday. That left us about six hours to get them assembled and on the walls! 

Step 9 - Of Course They Don't Fit! 

Just kidding... mostly. 

 

They do fit in the space, it's just the bow in the wood on the big shelf means that it doesn't fit snuggly against the wall, and needed to be packed. But, that's okay! We made it work. 

... and the little one's battens align perfectly with the wall's vertical beams! So we couldn't drill into them! Because why not?! 

Thankfully, we are bright little bandicoots and managed to rig up a solution by cutting and installing some new beams beside the existing ones so we could drill into those to install the shelves. All was well once more!

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Step 10 - Crunch Time

The final morning was upon us! We frantically installed the uprights (they also had grooves chopped out of them, and were glued and nailed in place. The skins of the shelves were fitted, measured, then had grooves cut in them too so that they fit snuggly against the wall and all its beams. 

This is when the "Workers" really shone. Those of us who were still a little unsure quickly fell into assistant roles where we were largely running around with tools, helping lift things, and be helpful. It was a very valuable oportunity to watch people problem solve and prioritise, even if it wasn't as learning-focused as previously. We did a lot of drilling, measurements, and screwing. The team worked very well together considering the pressure (and the fact we had to work through lunch to get it done). 

Step 8 - You Want the Props Moved... NOW?!

PLOT TWIST! The Seeyd space was double booked! We now have to remove the props from the prop room. Like. Yesterday. So we dropped what we were doing and frantically scrambled to move it all into the old kitchen, effectively destroying the Managers' neatly organised piles. But hey, that's show biz! 

I was impressed by how calmly everyone handled it. Even the second years jumped in to help us move things. No one got mad, or even snippety. In fact, it was a welcome break!

My Key Takeaways:

We did it!! Yay!! 

We might have lost a decent chunk of our sanity, but that was to be expected. We all learned a lot about the importance of triple checking measurements (especially when working in bulk!), communication, and practical skills. I found that while I often felt uneasy about taking initiative and making decisions myself, I made an excellent assistant and was able to aid in clear communication and cohesion within the group. 

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My unease about taking on an authoritative role myself seems to largely stem from really not wanting to make a mistake. Especially an obvious one. I don't seem to care when other people make mistakes, but for me to make one would be terrible. This is... not a healthy mindset. I'm going to have to work on this. 

 

In terms of learning, I feel I developed a lot more confidence and skill in simple tasks like drilling, screwing, and simple cuts. 

My working question was particularly relevant throughout this process - mostly in terms of when to gather more skills, more than physical materials. I watched as a thousand tiny decisions were made by everyone as they assessed tasks, and either worked on it themselves, or sought second opinions/help from more experienced people. Especially Jason. Most of the time, we got by with whatever tools we had on hand, but we also had a surplus of people standing around looking for things to do so we could easily ask someone to go and get something extra. 

In the end, it came down to a quick balance of efficiency. Would it be quicker and suitably effective to do this job with the wrong tool/by myself, or is there someone who I can ask to assist to make it quicker and/or more effective? 

I can't tell if we look like we're going to drop a rock album, or just fall over. 

Health and Safety: 

This project involved a lot of working on ladders in a small room with a lot of people. We made a lot of noise, were lifting heavy objects, and generally doing a lot of things that you wouldn't want to do without safety precautions. Our safety considerations were:

- Hearing protection when in the room when anyone is making a lot of noise. 

- Have people available to support ladder-users (whether it be holding heavy shelves while they are being attached, handing them items, or stabilising the ladders). 

- Wear eye protection. 

- Do not work when overtired/work within your limits. 

- Keep the floor clear of unnecessary clutter to avoid trip hazards. 

We only had one incident of something falling - a drill was rested on a beam, and was knocked by a ladder being moved. It fell, but thankfully there was no one underneath and the drill was not damaged. 

Induction to the Blackbox Theatre

Heads!

Wow, you're still reading? I'm impressed! For the sake of brevity, let's keep this section simple:

Health and Safety (especially during pack in/out):

- Wear closed-toed shoes.

- Make sure it is clearly marked as a construction area. 

- Wear hard hats if there is activity going on in the Grid (or cordon off a Hard Hat area if just working in one section of the Grid). 

- Certain staff must know if someone is working in the grid, and be in the building. 

- Never go into the Grid alone/with no one else around. 

- Pockets must be empty/no unattached items on the Grid. 

- Never put more than 25% of your body over the edge. 

- Call out "On the grid" when entering, and "Grid clear!" if last to leave. 

- Be aware that the sodium lights may cause fatigue. 

Modelling the Hikitia Cabins for Building Flats

More Sketchup! Yay!

A quick note on the difference between theatre/Broadway flats and TV/Hollywood flats:

Theatre flats = thinner, often stretched with canvas, 

TV flats = thicker, often stretched with 5mm thick MDF or plywood

During this session we learned about the construction of flats, and worked a little on how to translate our sketchup drawings into a guide to constructing the set.The Standard S&P Flats are 3m tall... or at least, that's the plan. As such, we are going to design our flats for the Hikitia Cabin replica to have 3m high flats. 

We focused first on modelling flats on sketchup (with special emphasis on the importance of layering, labelling, and clear and accurate measurements). We didn't get time to design the Hikitia cabin flats specifically, and I suspect we will move onto this in more depth at a later date. 

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Week 5: 15th-19th March

We were treated to a talk by Dr Sean Coyle about Queerness. His PhD, entitled "Cruising Wonderland" focused on queerness, and especially the violence faced by gay men in Aotearoa and Australia using photographs of miniature recreations of the locations where the violence took place. He brought up some really powerful points about the meaning of the word "Queer" that really struck home for me. Queer was a term used to attach the "other", and yet we have reclaimed it. Queer is now a term describing identity, connectedness, a term that describes a difference that unites more than it divides. A term that breaks free of the normative, and shelters the "other". 

 

Hui a Kura 

Queer - With Dr Sean Coyle

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1. Script Analysis - Read once, then re-read + take notes. Consider the purpose and context of the script.

2. Venue Familiarisation - Visit if you can, consider the layout, speak to tech staff, and get plans.

3. Collaborative Discussion/Sharing - With other departments, make sure you are on the same page re. the direction of the project. 

4. Rehearsal Observation - Consider any practical lighting, timing, motion, and sense of mood. 

5. Design Meeting - compare notes with other departments, refine ideas, and make sure all the elements are working together. 

6. Scene (cue) Planning - Create a cue list with information on mood/lighting shift and timings. 

7. Plan Drafting - Draw up a plan of the layout and light positions, including the panel and gel colours. 

8. Rigging - Install the lights in the grid, and patch them into the dimmer pack so they can be controlled from the lighting desk. 

9. Focusing - Make sure all lights are set to the correct position, and adjust each individual light beam.

10. Plotting - Put it all together and program it so it operates smoothly! 

My Key Takeaways:

Lighting is an important element that fuses together all the other elements of a production. It helps create mood, setting, and practical effects. It is important to communicate across a variety of departments to make sure everyone is on the same page re. how the production should feel (the vibe, if you will), so as to create an effective and cohesive production. 

Lighting and Production Design

Lighting Design Process:

Building TV Flats

Here we go again!

Step 1 - Cutting List

We began by creating a cutting list based on our Sketchup sketches. We determined that we would need 1x 1222x2440x5mm and 1x 1222x540x5mm piece of MDF, and 5x 12286x18x66 and 2 x 3000x18x66 mm of pine for each flat. We are making 7 wall flats, a door flat, and an extra wall flat for the second years (I knew that lunch was a bribe!). 

To help facilitate learning, we divided into groups of people who knew what they were doing, and people who don't. The people who do went off to work on storage, while the others (including myself) stayed to work on the flats. 

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Step 2 - Cutting Wood

We cut the lengths of wood down, managing to get 2 styles and a stringer out of each piece of wood (one one piece of wood was used simply for four styles). We cut the styles on the radial arm saw, and the stringers on the chop saw for increased accuracy. 

We faced a slight conflict of information here as to what the acceptable tolerance was - we began with the belief that anything within 1mm was okay, then were later told that it was more like 0.2mm. 

Step 3 - You want this done... NOW?

Soooo turns out we were supposed to have a flat done and ready for the second years by morning break. Oooops. We launched into action mode (the remaining two of us working on the flats) and did our best to get it put together as quickly as humanly possible. 

We pre-drilled the stringers, then used squares to position the styles and drilled them. We then glued and screwed them in place. Once the frame was securely built, we put more glue on and used a nail gun to secure the MDF skin. 

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My Key Takeaways:

This project was an experiment in learning-based versus time-based production. The first flat we built had to be done quite suddenly and it became very stressful very quickly. The remaining flats, however, were done in a more relaxed and efficient way as we worked together in teams to make sure we all understood the process and did it well. I found that I was a faster, more effective worker when there was a more relaxed and learning-based environment than when we were pressured to get things out. I understand that in the industry there is often more of an emphasis on getting things done on time than there is on taking care of the people involved, but this seems to be slowly changing as organisations realise that taking care of their employees is more efficient and effective long-term than burning them out in the name of a deadline. 

Health and Safety: 

Making sure you're always wearing eye and hearing protection, and a mask when cutting MDF. 

If you're feeling burnt out and losing focus, make sure you let people know and operate within your abilities (don't use powerful machines that could lead to injuries). 

Intimacy Workshop

Strategies to Improve Workplace Culture and Prioritise Consent

What we did: 

The whole school sat down to listen to a talk by trained Intimacy Coordinator Jennifer Ward-Lealand. She detailed forms of intimacy (from holding someone else's baby, to filming a sex scene), and the importance of assessing your own boundaries, creating a culture that accepts people's differing boundaries, and encouraging people to say "no" when they need to. 


We did a couple of consent exercises that focused on distinguishing between an enthusiastic yes, a no, and a maybe (which is also a no). Later, we divided up into our department groups to discuss what strategies we can employ to better demonstrate consent-based culture and practice. Our group talked about lifecasting, and general workplace practice. Our strategies are as follows:

Lifecasting: 

- Talk the person through what will happen before the session, and make sure they are comfortable with proceeding. 

- Talk the person through the procedure/timing as it is happening, especially when they are having their face cast. 

- Limit the number of people present, and keep bustling activity and noise to a minimum. (But make sure there is a third party present!)

- Allow them to have a support person/item with them if needed. 

- Establish a word or signal that means "stop" before beginning. 

General Practice:

- Establishing people's boundaries in a meeting or one-on-one discussion. 

- Making sure you talk to people before pushing past or getting in their personal space. 

- No unnecessary touching without consent.  

 

My Key Takeaways: 

I found the compulsory nature of the consent exercises a little contradictory, as I am incredibly uncomfortable with casual physical contact of just about any form, so being forced into a situation where I had to define those boundaries just to prove a point was frustrating and draining. I feel it would have been more appropriate to practice our ability to consent by making the exercise voluntary rather than mandatory. The exercise was supposed to be about illustrating and accepting people's differing boundaries, after all. (I also acknowledge that this was not necessarily the view of most other students).

Other than that, I found it a constructive and informative session. I am very glad that this is a conversation that is being had. Bodily autonomy and empowerment are incredibly important for effective work, especially in the film industry when such basic things are so often overlooked. It is easier to be creatively vulnerable when you know you are free to say no if something makes you uncomfortable. 

I appreciated the acronym FRIES used to explain the conditions of consent:

F - freely given

R - reversible 

I - informed 

E - enthusiastic (no coerced) 

S - specific 

Translating Hikitia Ribs

Or in other words... Making a Mess!

Step 1 - Translating Measurements

We began by taking measurements off the ribs someone had mapped on sketchup. This involved marking a line 1000mm up the chosen rib, then copying that rib onto a prepared surface on sketchup which represented the wood sheet we would later be cutting up to make the ribs. Once it was there, we marked a line where we wanted the points of the rib to be, then rotated the rib so its points met that line. We then went through and took measurements:

a) from the the left vertical edge of the wood to the marked line

b) from the bottom horizontal edge of the wood to the 1000mm reference line on the rib

c) from the bottom horizontal edge of the wood to the top left corner of the rib

d) from the bottom horizontal edge of the wood to the top right corner of the rib

e) from the 1000mm reference line on the rib to marked line

f) the length and height of the triangles made by the end of the bottom of the rib

Does that make sense? Probably not. But that's okay. 

Step 2 - Transferring Measurements

Now that we had our measurements, and a slight headache, we transferred them onto the board beside the ribs drawn up by the last victims... ah, I mean students. 

This was done by transcribing the measurements taken onto the wood using a tape measure, a square, and a ruler. There was a new zero point drawn on the edge of the wood to ensure an even edge, and this had to be taken into account when transferring measurements. Once the marks from a-e were down, we drilled holes on the points c, b/e, and a. These then had nails lightly hammered into them to support a strip of metal that was clamped in place. A line was drawn along the edge. 

To match the line on the other side, a circular jig was used. Once the markings were in place, the metal strip was used again for the edge. 

Next, the triangles, for lack of a better word, were transferred onto the ends. This was done by measuring from a line

Week 6: 22nd-26th March

Hui a Kura 

Talk with Victoria Gridley

This wonderful costumer, makeup artist, and performer came in to talk with us about networking, especially within the queer community. She also emphasised the importance of Queer art and stories being accessible to non-queer audiences, as it helps to foster empathy and understanding. It is harder to be a bigot when you understand the stories of others. Not impossible. But harder. 

A set designer creates the physical performance environment/space, ties together themes, storylines, and performance. They work in a visual language to sculpt an experience that transfers the spirit of the production to the audience and deliver on their anticipation.

 

Set Design Process: 

Script Analysis - Take note of location, temporal setting, entrances and exits, stage directions, actions, furniture and props.  

Venue Familiarisation - Visit the venue if you can, and examine floor plans and technical layouts. Examine the physical limitations and assets. 

Collaborative Process - Discuss plans with other departments to make sure you are all on the same page. Mood boards can be useful. 

Drawing/Rough Models - Create a rough representation of your ideas to share with others and clarify your own thoughts. May include sketches, digital mockups, cardboard models, and/or storyboards. 

Design Meeting - Bring your resources together with other departments, discuss possible changes and expansions of the work. 

Final Model/Drafting - Finalise the design and put it together into a showable form (physical model, 3D computer model, floorplan etc.)

Design Presentation - This presentation is designed 

Observe Rehearsals - 

Oversee Construction - 

Oversee Pack in - 

Set Design

What does a set designer do?

Step 1 - Sketchup Cutting list... again!  

We were given a pile of sketchup drawings of different elements we would be making. We divided into pairs and selected our missions - we chose the bed box! I found it somewhat tricky to visualise where the bed box had been in the original sketchup, or even what orientation it was supposed to sit at in the end. But, for the sake of productivity, we powered on. 

We began by noting down the measurements on the drawings and writing up a cutting list... then discovering that there was a super handy cutting list already typed up on the paper. Thankfully, they matched. 

Hikitia Cabin Build

Part 2 - Bed Box

Step 2 - Ripping the Beams!

We selected a couple of pieces of framing timber and ran the metal detector over to make sure they were nail and staple free, lest we explode the table saw. I'm pretty sure the metal detector is haunted by a malicious spirit... or perhaps Jason is correct, and the battery might be a tad loose, as it beeps if you move it too suddenly up or down. After some fussing about, we figured out that if we ran the wood through the metal detector instead of running the metal detector over the wood, we could get a more accurate reading. 

Next, we set the table saw to half the width of the wood (keeping in mind the thickness of the blade) and used it to rip the beams lengthwise into two equally sized pieces. This was only my second or third time using the machine, so I felt a little unsure but was guided through it by my partner. I feel like I will be much more confident with it from now on. 

Step 3 - Chop Saw Mania

Next, we went through and cut the half pieces into 8 lengths of 96mm, 4 lengths of 490mm, and 4 lengths of 2130mm. My partner measured and marked the lines, and I used the chop saw to cut them. When doing the 8 lengths of 96mm, we used a piece of tape on the chop saw to mark out where the wood needed to sit so we could cut faster instead of measuring and marking each time. Now that we had all our pieces for the frame of the box, it was time for assembly! 

I didn't get a photo of the chop sawing or the ripping, but these are the pieces we cut!

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Step 4 - Assembling the Sides

We marked, drilled, glued, and screwed all the pieces together. Sounds simple, right? Perhaps it will be in time. In this case, we learned a variety of valuable lessons. 

Lesson 1 - make sure you drill straight, or you bust through the sides. 

Lesson 2 - make sure your piece of wood is lined up correctly. 

Lesson 3 - try to select a length of wood that isn't super bowed. If it is, clamp before you glue/screw, and add extra crosspieces to hold it in place. 

Lesson 4 - sharpen your plane. If you don't have one, you can use a chisel and mallet to create a flat surface (shhh don't let Jason see!)

Lesson 5 - make sure you scribe the correct center. Not the center of the other piece of wood. 

Lesson 6 - make sure you drill into the correct center line, not the one you accidentally drew because you didn't pay attention to lesson 5. 

Lesson 7 - *sigh* remember lesson 2? No? Okay, well if your wood is bent, you can remove one screw, use another screw and a claw hammer to pull it into the right spot, hold it, then drill a new hole and screw it in the correct alignment.  

Lesson 8  - remember to take photos of every step so you don't have a weirdly layout on your workbook. 

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Step 5 - Skinning

We used the wall saw and chop saw to cut the 5mm MDF skin of the bed box. We managed to get it pretty spot on, which was a nice change of pace! 

Once the pieces were cut, we measured and pre-drilled holes for screws, then screwed them in place. We had lost a lot of energy and motivation by this time, but we managed to keep each other going with supportive thumbs up and the occasional bit of banter. 

My Key Takeaways:

This week taught me a lot about the importance communication, problem solving, and teamwork. I found this particular partner a pleasure to work with, as he was always quick to check in to make sure that we were making equitable contributions to the project, and that I had ample learning opportunities. This gave me room to learn and grow. 

Health and Safety: 

We were always careful to call each other out if we noticed someone was missing eye or hearing protection, or a mask while cutting MDF. When we were getting tired in the afternoon, we made an effort to keep communicating and took a tea break to help reenergise. 

Hikitia Ribs (cont.)

Skinning and Hammering

The ribs were cut out by someone else, and the skinning had begun. Unfortunately there was a mismeasurement in the skins, so a second layer was being added. As such, we were tasked with bopping down the nails so the second skin would sit flush with the first. There were a LOT of nails to be bopped.

Health and Safety: 

Pretty simple, just make sure you control the hammer and don't accidentally (or intentionally??) hit your own or anyone else's fingers. Ear protection and safety glasses are always a good idea too, just to be on the safe side. 

Health and Safety 

Do not shoot people with nail guns. 

We learned a fun little lesson about making sure that you are using a nail gun correctly! When nailing thin pieces of wood, you must be very careful or the nail could actually shoot through the wood and fly out the other side. This happened while the nail gun was being used at an angle, so the nail shot out across the room and hit someone on the shoulder. Thankfully, it caught on her jacket and not her skin. We were all a lot more careful after that! 

This was considered a near miss. The situation was handled calmly and steps were taken to improve safety (nail gun was used more carefully, and we all put on safety glasses just in case. I believe one of the people wrote up a health and safety incident report, and we informed the tutors. 

Week 7: 29th March-1st April

 

                       30 minutes at 120 degrees:                                        3 hours at 30 degrees:                            Sat overnight, then 10 minutes at 30 degrees:         

The result that yielded the fewest bubbles was the third option, so we attempted that with the rivet mold. The silicone cured as planned for the most part, however there appear to have been some contaminants or something which inhibited the cure on the surface we were trying to capture, so the mold is imperfect. Still, given we intended to make the rivets look worn anyway, we decided to roll with it. 

I also brought in some of my Monster Clay to work with to test if the silicone has a grudge against all plasticine. It appears not to, however the plasticine melts very quickly in the oven, so it is not an ideal solution. 

Health and Safety with Silicone: 

- Wear vinyl* gloves when handling uncured silicone (this is as much for tidiness and preventing contamination as anything). 

- Do not ingest, or rub it in your eyes. 

- When spraying release, make sure you are in a well ventilated area and wear a suitable mask (with filters designed for the products being used).

* Vinyl, not latex (latex inhibits the cure of silicone!!) 

My Key Takeaways: 

I have enjoyed working on this project, despite my frustration. I love a good puzzle. I have some experience with silicone and mold making, though that is mostly through my work with prosthetics and face casting. It is by no means my area of expertise, but it is nice to be more useful to the group. I hope that I will be able to help work out a solution to this problem. 

One tactic that we used involved testing smaller quantities for contamination/curability. This was to avoid wasting lots of material on something that wasn't going to work, and enabled us to do more tests in quick succession. This was a valuable lesson to have learned, as it seems to be a process that could be replicated in a variety of scenarios. Fight smarter, not harder. Do lots of little experiments to find out what works, then narrow it down from there rather than throwing all your eggs into one basket and hoping for the best. 

Ah Silicone, my old frenemy, we meet again. Today I was tasked with figuring out the best - or any - way to convince the silicone we have available to cure. I prepared a couple of test pieces of plasticine with different releases - and just plain plasticine/plastic variations - to test whether there was something in particular that was impacting the silicone, or if it was the silicone itself that wishes to bring about our downfall. The estimated cure time of the silicone was 2-3 hours. This was a lie. I was informed that the cure temperature suggested by the people who gave it to us was 30 degrees, which is far from room temperature in the workshop. As such, I decided to do a test at room temperature with an increased cure time to see if it would work... it did not. 

 

There are a number of things which could be causing this issue; 

- Silicone is very prone to contaminants, and there could be something in the room/mixing materials that it is reacting to. 

- I could have mixed up the measurements by a gram or two, or not mixed the parts together well enough. 

- The silicone may not be able to cure at room temperature at all. 

- The silicone might be a dodgy batch. 

We continued our test the next morning upon discovering that the silicone had not cured overnight. The plasticine was indeed inhibiting the cure of the silicone, which is a major problem when taking casts of sculpts.

 

We decided to try using heat to assist the curing of the silicone by pouring a small amount into an alfoil bowl and trying it at different temperatures for different durations. If we could at least get the silicone to cure, we could figure out the plasticine issue later. 

Testing Silicone 

Searching for the cure

Wiata Practice

Floodlight! Spotlight! Floodlight! Pan left! Annnnd travelling!

To help shake off the Monday morning blues, we ended up playing a light identification game where we all responded to the names of light positions/styles (spot, flood, pan left/right/up/down etc. with our bodies! It was a refreshing, and educational, experience. 

We also worked more on our Wiatas. It's challenging learning the lyrics to a song when you don't know what all the words mean (at least individually, out of the context of the song), but I think I am beginning to get the hang of it. I am an incredibly shy and awkward person when it comes to singing and dancing, so wiatas and hui a kura in general has been a real step out of my comfort zone. I'm very glad to be doing it - I think it is good to feel challenged - but I still feel very awkward at times. 

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Making Glue

Another Sticky Situation...

To keep costs down, I was tasked with figuring out how to use a microwave, cornflour, and water to make paper mache/wallpaper glue. No times or quantities were listed online for this process, so I had a great time experimenting with mixing different quantities together. I found an excellent way to make fake brains very early on, but glue took a little longer. 

After several hours of glaring at a microwave, I figured out that mixing 1:4 cornflour:water makes a low viscosity paste for wallpaper, and 1:3 cornfour:water makes a gooier glue perfect for paper mache. Simply mix the ingredients together, and put it in the microwave (check and stir after 30 seconds, then every 15-20 seconds after that to make sure it doesn't overcook and become brains like my first few tests did). The secret to making the best glue seems to be the intensity at which you stare at the microwave (from a reasonable distance), thus intimidating it into gelling. 

Once the process was perfected, I made up a bulk batch for the walls of the cabin and masks, and taught it to other people in the set and props and design course so that we can all make it up if and when we need to! 

My Key Takeaways: 

I really enjoy experimenting with processes like this. I enjoy problem solving and being helpful, and it made me feel useful to be able to come up with a budget solution that could benefit the team. This is also such a cheap technique for making glue, I'm really excited to have it up my sleeves for future projects!

Health and Safety: 

- The glue is hot when it first comes out of the microwave, and must be handled with care. 

Cabin Wall Textures

Did Someone Say MORE EXPERIMENTING?!

                   Plaster, water, and glue:                              Plaster, water, glue, and sawdust (unpainted):                         Cornflour glue and sawdust: 

 

 

 

 

We then went through and painted them with a mix of cream paint and varnish, then stained them.

 

                                

Decision Criteria:

All options are viable, so we are left with the decision of which to choose. Francis reminded us of the diagram which describes the balance of effectiveness required for a good product. Ideally we would like something that is good, fast, and cheap. Most of the time, however, you can only realistically pick two. 

Personally, I am a fan of the cornflour and sawdust method (though I am aware I am heavily biased as it was the technique I suggested, and I am interested in seeing how far it can be pushed). It is certainly the cheapest option, creates an effective finish, and is (theoretically) more durable; however, it is going to take longer to dry than the other methods, which could be a deal breaker.    

Good

Fast

Cheap

Diving Helmets

Paper Mache is AMAZING!

Step 1: Cutting the Pattern

A couple of people teamed up to mastermind the pattern that would be used to shape the cardboard into a helmet. I wasn't involved in this process, but I was able to witness some of their ingenuity as they adjusted sizes and assembled some really cool bases out of what is essentially scraps! It was super cool. 

Step 2 - Delaminating Cardboard

Apparently wet cardboard smells... I guess my nose is a bit dodgy, as I was quite happy when I got to sit for a while and bond with my fellow classmates while pulling apart pieces of soggy cardboard. I'm not being sarcastic, it's actually super satisfying. The purpose of this was to create pieces thin enough to be used to make tough and sturdy paper mache later! 

Step 3 - Let the Macheing Begin!

Instructed by some of my teammates, I learned out to paper mache the helmets. We worked in layers, allowing them to dry before moving on to the next one. Once they all had three layers and were dry, we were able to claim our own helmets and design, and begin work adding individual features. 

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Step 4 - Collars

Some of the helmet designs require collars. One of my teammates went ahead and masterminded the collar patterns for us to use, making our lives a lot easier when it came time to attach them. We began by using tape to secure the collar during fitting, then hot glue to tack it down. Finally, we went through with paper mache to secure it all properly. This photo shows all three steps in motion as I worked my way around with the paper mache. 

Alright! Now to find the cheapest, fastest, and most effective way of creating that good ol' ancient boat texture. You know the one - layers of rust, paint, and grime covered in a fresh coat of somewhat stained white paint? Sort of like this fella off to the side here. 

There are a variety of ways to get this effect; however, we are looking to find something that is cost effective and primarily uses things we have around the workshop. 

Below are some of the techniques we tried:

Week 8: 6th-9th April

Adventures in Silicone

There and Back Again

To help speed along the production of rivets, we poured another mold of the first rivet tray and set to work constructing another. I tried to stand back and assist in this process so that the others could be the ones making decisions and learning from the process. They did a good job of mixing the silicone evenly and pouring it in a thin continuous stream from a height to help minimise bubbles.

We also made up a new tray of rivets by sculpting new ones from plasticine and adding them to the original tray. We then mixed up some dental alginate (which I do not recommend for a mold as it sets incredibly quickly and can easily go awry). We used two packets of alginate, so had to use some fun maths to figure out how much water we would need to add (the ratio was 19g powdered alginate to 40ml water). 

It was rather fun mixing up the alginate in the end, as we were all working very well as a team and it became a frantic sort of game as we mixed and poured it as quickly as possible. Against all odds, we managed to get it in and set without too many bubbles. We then disassembled the box to free the alginate, flipped it over, and created a new plaster positive. This was then sealed with shellac. 

The box was reconstructed for the silicone pour... but not well enough. It was not completely sealed around the edges, so the silicone dripped out before it was setting. There was a bit of a kerfuffle as we tried to reseal it. This was a very valuable learning experience; make sure your box is sealed before you mix your silicone!  

If it had been normal silicone, it would have cured in the pot while everyone was running around trying to fix the box. Thankfully, it's very weird silicone that requires heat to cure, so we were able to spend the time repairing the box before calmly placing it in the heat cupboard to cure. 

 

Well... I say calmly. 

My Key Takeaways: 

- Make sure you are prepared before you pour (the same principle as "Measure twice, cut once").

- If you're feeling panicky or overwhelmed by something, step back and breathe; this will help you come up with a solution rather than jumping in and making things worse*

Working Question:

I feel there were some valuable connections to my working question in this particular adventure. We found ourselves making do with an unideal material - dental alginate - to create the mold. Because we were able to spend the time planning and working as a team to get it right, we were able to make it work. 

Later, when the box was being assembled, the time was not taken to make sure everything was ready before the silicone was mixed, so the process went awry. There were also fewer people involved in the situation - I did not come in until after the silicone was mixed, and then again when it had been poured and was still leaking. There were a lot of voices in the room proposing solutions, and that seemed to only make the situation more tense. In the end it was a matter of setting egos and tensions aside, and quietly stepping in and taking control of what we could. It didn't matter who was involved in the mistake, or who fixed it. It only mattered that it got fixed. 

By comparing these situations, it becomes clear that the most important elements when deciding whether to be resourceful with what you have or seeking further guidance/materials is forethought. We needed to stand back and discuss the plan before taking action. Once everything was set up and ready, then we could proceed. When we did not plan correctly, the endeavor developed complications. 

It is therefore less about what materials you have at hand, or what level of expertise, than it is about making sure you have a solid plan before setting out.  

We decided to go ahead with the cheapest of the methods - cornflour, water, and sawdust. We worked in teams to lather it onto the surface of the "metal" walls and each took turns adding texture so that it looked uniform. 

To create spots where it looked like chunks had worn away, we lay down a sheet of fabric and pressed the cornflour mix on top, then pulled it away so that a jagged edge was created. 

We used a similar process for the seam in the metal using a piece of string to create a straight line. 

Once enough rivets were ready, we went around and glued them in place with PVA glue. When they dried, we added extra cornflour glue to help make the texture more uniform across the surface. 

It was all going so well. 

Until it wasn't. 

Okay, perhaps that was a little dramatic. There was only one real issue with this process - one that was pointed out by a member of our team earlier in the process, but which was considered insignificant and largely ignored. MDF warps when it gets wet. We are using water-based texturing techniques. The MDF warped as the mix dried, leaving a riverbed-like effect, and even causing some sections to crack and fall away. 

Texturing Walls

Cracks and Crumbles...

This hadn't occurred on the test board, as it wasn't large enough to warp and had been sitting on a flat surface the whole time. Other fun issues included sections where the wallpaper lifted, and cracks that developed where two flats met. 

 

Thankfully, we had a solution. Everyone remained calm and went to work fixing them, and I silently prayed that the technique I suggested wouldn't end up being a total disaster. 

Problem 1: Cracking and Flaking

Solution: Well, it is meant to be pretty worn out anyway, right? So as long as we patch up anything that looks too strange and make sure nothing is going to actually fall off, we can just paint over it to lock it in place. 

Problem 2: Wallpaper Lifting up

Solution: Rip the straight edge into jagged shapes to relieve tension and disguise the edge, then glue it down and add further texture

Problem 3: Seams showing

Solution: Once the walls are standing upright, go through and patch any obvious seams before painting. 

 

To my great relief, the texture didn't all come crumbling off the moment we stood up the walls! Not going to lie, I was somewhat panicky at this point. Once they were secure, we did a test sand and paint of a section to make sure it was going to work out.  We also textured the beams. 

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We used a mixture of plaster, PVA glue and water to create a simple woodgrain in the wood by dragging our brushes down the length of the planks. We then went through with thin tools to scrape out any paint that went into the gaps. It was important that we kept our brushes going straight, or the "woodgrain" just looked like brushstrokes. 

My Key Takeaways:

A little miscommunication goes a long way. We first thought that we were simply trying to create a door that looked like it had been repainted a few times, and therefore had obvious brush strokes. Thankfully, we were corrected before the paint dried and were able to correct the texture. It's important to clarify instructions. 

Painting the Door

Painting wood texture with plaster, glue, and a splash of paint 

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My Key Takeaways:

Adjust if you must, but stick to the plan, Stan. We had a solid approach, but there are always unforeseen complications that must be adapted to. As long as you have a solid idea and the capacity/willingness to adapt, you can do just about anything. 

Week 9: 12th-16th April

Painting the Cabin

Shoot... it's yellow. 

Okay so we thought that the cabins were lit with warm bulbs, so we thought that the walls were white, and simply appeared yellowish in the photos... We were wrong. 

But that's okay! We have some incredibly talented painters in our group who banded together to make up some paint of the right colour, then we all went through and repainted the walls. Easy peasy! 

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We then went over with a wash and some varnish to add extra texture, character, and age. We will be doing more of this next term. In the meantime, we have reassembled the cabin. 

My Key Takeaways: 

It's not how you frick it, it's how you fix it! There's no point getting frustrated and moody about something that's gone wrong. It's more important to work towards a solution. 

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Texturing Masks

Cornflour really can be used for anything...

I never would have thought that paper mache, cornflour, water, and sawdust could be so versatile! I began by evening out the textures with a final layer of cardboard, then stippled on some of the sawdust/cornflour mix to create the rusted metal effect (similar to the method we used on the walls of the cabin). I created some tearaway points by tearing up and laying down pieces of cardboard, stippling over the texture, then pulling out the cardboard. I used a foam anti-slip mat that another student brought in for the chainmail at the front of the helmet, and lentils for the rivets as suggested by the tutors. 

Next, I used the brown and black paint that one of the design team picked out for the base coat. They picked out some amazing colours! I played around with some test pieces to try out how the colours interacted, then went through with a chip brush and coloured the helmet. I kept google images open on the side so I could look at a variety of rusted surfaces rather than drawing from a single source. One important thing I noted was that the rust forms where there are imperfections or interruptions in the metal (this is also something we looked at in chemistry, though I cannot remember the exact chemical reaction). Therefore, I made a point of focusing the rust colour around the bands of metal, under any naturally flaking sections, and on the chainmail. I dry brushed some silver over the surface, then went through with a fine brush to refine the rusted sections. 

I then went through and coloured in the coral sections. I would love to follow it up with some fine algae and barnacles, but that might be pushing my luck... and goodness knows I've done a lot of that already. 

Finally, I went through with some real rust using a mix of metal powder, peroxide, salt, vinegar, and water to help make the rust more realistic in certain areas. 

I am quite happy with how this came together. I've never tried any of these techniques before, so I wasn't sure how it would go, but I enjoyed learning!

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Here are some of my favourite details of the mask:

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Reflection

Insert Witty Subtitle

Working Question:

"How do you strike a balance between productivity and resourcefulness?"

Somehow I get the sense that this is something I will be grappling with my entire career. There is no simple answer - but then, isn't that the whole point? 

This term we often didn't get to pick many of the materials we were using. Mostly these decisions where based on the budget available, and so we often compromised on quality and/or speed for budget. This is common practice in the industry, as most productions don't have very large budgets, and those that do often seek to spread it over as much as they can. 

Some examples of resourcefulness we used this term are:

- Basically every time we used cornflour (instead of wallpaper glue, store-bought paper mache glue, or typical texturing techniques). 

- Instead of creating a level floor for the proproom shelves, we used the laser level and spirit levels to make sure the shelves would be level, then adapted the lengths of the beams to fit. 

- Reusing old MDF skins which had been painted etc. instead of cutting up new sheets. 

- Using dental alginate to take a cast of rivets instead of casting silicone or regular alginate. 

- Using weird-ass silicone that we had been gifted instead of buying fresh stuff. 

In all of these occasions a mental calculation was done to assess whether taking the resourceful/budget conscious option was going to compromise the integrity of the build. If it didn't, then we rolled with it. 

 

At the end of the day it comes down to picking something that will achieve the outcome you need as cheaply and quickly as possible. It only really needs to last for the duration of the production and look convincing. If you can achieve that, then you've done your job. 

 

Teamwork:

There were some hiccups at the beginning, but I think overall we grew into a well-functioning and cheerful team by the end of the term. We are fortunate to have a lot of very talented people with expertise in a variety of areas; we also have a lot of very big personalities and differing levels of experience working in groups. As such, some members of the group occasionally clashed a little. Thankfully, these moments were quickly resolved and soon forgotten. 

I think we could all benefit from learning to listen more to those around us, and seeking to understand where they are coming from. Chances are, they know something we don't! The fact is, we often don't know what we don't know!

 

Health and Safety: 

There were very few health and safety issues throughout the term. We were all generally well prepared with PPE and the level of sass/genuine friendship in the room meant that people were quite happy to call each other out on things. One thing I think we could improve on is making sure we inform people when we are going to make noise  for a while in an area where there are other people, even if it is just an impact drive. That way we all have the chance to grab ear defenders. 

What I think I did well:

I worked very hard this term to develop new skills and refine existing ones. I made a point of working with as many people as I could in a variety of roles to gain more experience of team work, and I stepped out of my comfort zone very frequently. Heck, I even danced. 

I had the opportunity to experiment with some new materials and figure out techniques that later became very useful. I never would have expected that cornflour and sawdust would be so versatile! 

What I could Improve on: 

Because I was doing so much work on the side during this term, I often found myself at capacity in terms of energy and time management, and this impacted on my ability to try new things if I assessed them to be beyond the capacity I had at that time (for instance, using power tools while on ladders, volunteering for work that involved a lot of skills I wasn't confident in. I was also a little sassy at times, but we all were. 

I also wrote way too much. I mean look at me now, still writing. Mostly because I was unclear on the exact parameters of the work required, and rather than risk falling short, I kept writing... and writing... and writing. 

I acknowledge that I could be very pushy and tenacious. I tried to balance it with hard work and enthusiasm, but I am pretty sure I came across as annoying at times. I appreciate the tutors' willingness to be flexible with some things and allow room for my cheekiness. I can't make any firm promises, but I will try to control it a little more next term. 

Well done! You've made it to the end. Pretty sure you should get a prize...

How 'bout this picture of my dogs?

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