Category Archives: Features

In-depth articles written specifically for this blog.

How to research

Research is a vital skill for a props person. We may be given a vague description of an object or item and be expected to build something that is either historically accurate, or something that looks “correct”. For example, we all know what a dog looks like, but when we sit down to sculpt one, our minds become incredibly blank; details like the shape of the head, the proportion of the features, and how parts transition between each other are what will sell the prop. Even when a director or designer provides us with full drawings or draftings, we may still need to do research of our own to fill in the blanks or flesh out the specifics.

Continue reading How to research

Making a props portfolio part 2

In my previous post, I discussed what to include in your props portfolio. In this part, I will discuss how to layout, organize, and present your portfolio. I’m going to use my own portfolio as a guide; there are certainly many other ways you can make your portfolio.

Layout

There are a number of ways to layout your pages. You can of course do it by hand, where you make copies of all your photographs and drawings and glue them to paper or a heavier board. Or, if you want a less time-consuming and cheaper method, you can do it on your computer. For simple layouts, you can use any number of software programs, depending on what you are already comfortable using or what you have access to. I use Scribus, an open-source desktop publishing program. I know people who use Powerpoint. You can even use a word processor if that’s what you like working with. You basically need to fit images and text on a page, so your options are limitless.

A sample page with a single prop on it
A sample page with a single prop on it

Continue reading Making a props portfolio part 2

Making a props portfolio part 1

Having a portfolio of your work is a must for finding new jobs as a props artisan. I’ve broken the process of putting a portfolio together into two parts. Today’s part will focus on what to put in your portfolio, while the second part will show how to present your portfolio.  I’m not going to say this is the best or even the correct way to make a portfolio; it’s my way. But I’ve shown my portfolio to many professionals who have reviewed it, and I’ve gotten all my jobs with it, so this guide is coming from some experience.

What goes in your portfolio? Continue reading Making a props portfolio part 1

Using Flickr for Visual Research

Flickr, if you don’t already know, allows people to share photographs. It’s a massive website, and you can easily get lost. I’ve broken it down to help you navigate around.

  • The Commons. The Commons is a place where organizations can post their massive image libraries. Some organizations include The Library of Congress, The Smithsonian, and the New York Public Library. Most of the images are documentary, so it is a good source for primary research into historical time periods. The organizations do a fair job of organizing their images, making specific pictures easy to find. Another great thing about the Commons is that many of the photographs are in the Public Domain (check each one to make sure), allowing you to use the image itself in a show without a license.
  • Places and Map. If you need photographs of a certain place, you can use these to find (usually contemporary) pictures taken there.
  • Groups. Users on Flickr can create their own groups, where they post pictures related to whatever the theme of the group is. Some groups are devoted to specific subjects; for example, you can find a group for vintage kitchen items, medieval combat, or battlefields. It’s not just for photographs; you can find vintage illustration, vintage cigarette ads, or maps and charts.
  • Tags. Flickr users can add keywords, or “tags” to their pictures to make searching for them easier. For instance, you can see all photographs tagged with “furniture“. This gives a lot of results, but you can further revise your search by looking at “clusters“, which are common groupings of related tags. For instance, furniture is clustered with “vintage, antique, old“.
  • Search. When all else fails, there’s good old-fashioned search. You can search through tags or descriptions. This is also where you can search for multiple tags, or search for a photos where one word appears and another doesn’t.