From CAD to Realisation and back

Here’s a little teaser of some things we’ve been working on lately.

We’ve been experimenting with 3D scanning and photogammetry.  This technology re-instates the materials based practical skills of craftspeeple back into the CAD, VR and CGI pipeline.

Big things are happening with us and this tech and I’ll be putting more stuff up in the coming months but for now, here’s a little example of a basic room scan of some scenery…

Step inside the set for our recent opera ‘The Consul’.  This section of the set is the kitchen, the furniture which was created by students in Props, the walls and tiles were made grotty by the Scenic painters.  A great example the broken down look.

Click on the model and go for a look around inside the set!

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Consul-idating our work…

This is a bit of a late up date, but that just shows how busy its been over the last few weeks! The Cherry Orchard has just started it’s run, The Consul is nearly ready to go, and Crimp 1,2,3 & 4 are a mere spiral staircase filled memory.


Stairway to… probably the skip by now.

The set for the famous Chekov play featured a number of interesting things made by the students, such as some telegraph poles made of steel and wood, then textured with idenden to look like a slightly different type of wood (Aah, the magic of theatre). However the Cherry on top was definitely the floor, which really gave the scenic art students a chance to show off their skills.


As you’d expect, these poles were pretty tall, so needed to be reinforced with a steel frame. Forms were then cut out of Plywood on the C&C machine, and clad using timber and more plywood. The scenic artists then added a 3D wood grain before painting using Idenden, just give it that extra bit of texture.


Hours of careful tracing and mapping out the repeating patterns went into the floor, and it really paid off!

Meanwhile, over in Props, the students were getting a slight sinking feeling… Their job was to create all the appliances needed in a small kitchen- everything from the basin, the cupboards to the small oven and hob. This gave them an opportunity to do a bit of 3D printing for the various buttons and logos each piece needed, and also a chance to try some new techniques using dirty down spray.


The Jesmonite needed a bit of a clean up after coming out of the mould, but nothing some sanding and a chisel couldn’t fix.


The sink was originally made of MDF, then a mould was made out of Plaster. Layers of Jesmonite and Quadaxial Stitched (Quad) Glass were then used to cast out the original shape, with a metal frame inside for added reinforcement.


Um… is Anna Ok?


Going through props at the moment feels like a trip to Ikea…

The painters also got a chance to do lots of dirtying down- suffice to say, the set looks wonderfully disgusting. Meanwhile, Construction were busy making a rotating stage for the set to sit on- the rooms for the kitchen, office and hallway all sit on the same base, which can be turned for smooth transitions between scenes.


A ‘H’ frame of Steel deck was bolted together and given casters so it could roll around the stage. The holes were then filled with wooden frames to keep it as light as possible and then the whole thing had to be flipped and attached to a rotation point. (We wanted it to move, but not too freely!)


I takes a lot of work to make wallpaper look this bad (a good 3 or 4 washes in fact!)


.I just hope they didn’t get too much inspiration for the mould from their student kitchens…



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New Term, Many New things (and People…)

Summer’s over, and we’ve really hit the ground running down here in DR. Why ease yourself back out of holiday mode with one show, when you can work on three?

In Construction, the students have really stepped up their game and started work on a spiral staircase for the upcoming ‘The Crimps Plays’. Each piece was cut out on the C&C machine and assembled in sections so it can be transferred across the road- I can’t wait to see it finished!


I don’t think things have spiralled out of control just yet.

Next door in the paint shop, the crew have been juggling making testers for the upcoming Opera and painting the floor panels for ‘The Cherry Orchard’. The students have been experimenting with different crackle glazes and Rabbit skin glue (guess what its made of!) to make various cracked tile effects for an old, rundown house that will be the setting for ‘The Consul’- there are rolls of Linoleum and wallpaper everywhere, waiting to be made lovely and grotty.


Meanwhile, the floor for the Cherry Orchard is coming together nicely, now that they’ve got the pattern down. After painting the base to look like wooden floor boards, they used a projector to create large sections of the repeating pattern which they could then trace onto the floor using charcoal, ready to be painted. The main problem at the moment is trying to not accidentally add footprints to the artwork!


For some reason, these tiles smell a bit Bunny


Who said floors should be simple?

And finally, what else to you get with a new term? New students! This week they’ve been working their way around the different departments, learning the basics and making some rather lovely stone effect bricks.

All in all, a pretty exciting start to the year!

(Oh,and we also got a new floor, but as you can see from the pictures, it didn’t stay nice and pristine for long…)

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Puppet Floyd

Hey you!

If you thought everyone would be comfortably numb at the end of term and not want to do another production, you were certainly wrong! Our first years have been putting yet another brick in the wall of work they’ve made over the year, with a puppet project based on the song ‘Matilda Mother’. They’ve been working like Crazy Diamonds, designing, building, filming and editing everything from scratch over the last two weeks, and are almost ready for their great puppet show in the sky!

So, if you like puppets, or Pink Floyd (or both!), come along to LG5, here at Silk street at 4pm today (Monday 10th July), where they’ll be exhibiting their models and screening their film on the dark side of the room!

(And don’t worry about Money- it’s completely free!)VERSION 2 POSTER


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Graduate Exhibition

Usually, those working behind the scenes don’t get much of a chance to really show off which part of a production was theirs, and get the recognition they really deserve. Luckily, we have a nice remedy for that with the Technical Theatre Graduate Exhibition! Every year, the third year students from across the board get to display the things they’ve made and worked on over their time at Guildhall, which makes a show all of itself! The event also works as a way for those in the industry to snap up the students once they graduate, and meet all the new talent that is about to enter their workshops. All in all, it was a roaring success; wine was flowing, people were mingling, and I’m sure many job offers were made.


Tom thought he’d branch out into something a little different when curating this show…


Some amazing models were on display- more like Grand Buda-Best hotel!


This brilliant work is rubbish!


Everyone from lighting, to sound to costume got involved!

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Crazy For You!



What better way to finish the term and start the summer than with the Classic western Musical “Crazy or You!”? Over the last few weeks, our students have been hard at work making the equivalent of a small village for the show- Saloon, Post office, Bar, General store, a Theatre, all we need now is Clint Eastwood! The Good, The Bad and The Ugly? More like The Good, The Cladded and the The Dirty (wash)…


This door looks particularly happy about being part of the Gaiety Theatre set


Painting up the stars of the show (literally…)

Meanwhile in the paint shop, the students were evidently inspired the June heat and created a wonderful desert back cloth, complete with mountains, shrubs and the odd distant mirage. All in all, probably the best view in all of London.


Almost like having a window in the workshop!

Things were equally busy over in props, where the students decided to try their hands at being mechanics, and made a classic car for a horde of dancers to emerge from.

First a timber frame was made and clad in MDF to create the right shape. Then, after lots of filling, sanding and routing later, the car was ready for it’s glossy finish! A basecoat of emulsion was painted on, then covered in a crystal clear resin to make the car look shiny and new- almost like the real thing!


Nice and roomy on the inside.


Also doubles up as a caravan, just in time for the holidays!


Maddie and Becca take health and safety very seriously…


No time to door-dle, the car’s almost finished!

After a hectic final week, with lots of late nights and the odd early start (as appears to be tradition with Musicals!), everything was finished and ready to go. I think everyone is now ready for a bit of a break before the start of the next school year…once we take it all down again, anyway!


Looking good after driving us crazy!


For some reason, the props departmet has no washers left… I wonder where they went?



I think the sets looked pretty amazing in general!


Can you really have a western without swinging saloon doors?

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Its been a while since the last post, but as you can imagine, its been pretty busy! Over the last couple of months the students have been busy working on an Opera, a Musical and an exhibition, as well as many other smaller events; surely just one is enough! So, expect a few more updates over then next couple of days now we actually have time to sit down and have a much needed cup of tea.

First off, Handel’s Baroque Opera “Radamisto”. As it was set in a museum, our prop students made lots of replicas of artefacts to go on display, whilst our scenic painters got something more concrete to work on…

Meanwhile, in construction, the CNC router came in very handy for carving patterns out onto MDF so the students could make decorative benches that rolled off and on the stage. (hopefully pictures coming soon!).

However, the centrepiece of the set was a large relief carving of a Babylonian army, (thankfully made of polystyrene rather than stone), which a group of students worked on alongside visiting freelancers to get the perfect finish. Once it was all put together on the stage, I’m sure it created quite an atmosphere- I can’t wait to see the final photos!


Anna and Rebecca, poly-carving out an army


Anna, hard at work on ‘Humphrey’, our new addition to the DR team.


Humphrey appears to be getting settled into being our new supervisor… hope he doesn’t get too big headed!


By the end of the opera, the scenic painters will be experts in all things concrete!


Marcus, Bethan and Spike being ‘model’ students while making a castle for the Museum, using a mix of polystyrene, MDF and a good coating of Idenden for texture.


Gold Leaf or Gold Leaves? Why not both!


Moving benches in action in front of the finished frieze.

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The Tale of Januarie…In February

Work is well under way for the set of Tale of January. The workshop has been taken over by the makings of a tree, Our scenic artists have been busy painting the leaf cloth and props have a selection of interesting pieces being made.

In the props department, Oscar has made an array of interesting props over the start of the term. He began with the two medieval carts which will be used as market stalls laden with produce.

Oscar has also had some opportunities to brush up on his poly-carving skills.

The produce which would cover the cart has been created using a variety of methods. The fish were cast in 2 hollow halves in latex which were then fixed together. This gave them a pliable and moveable form. The pears have been cast in plastic from a plaster mould using the vacuum former.

Paintshop is busy with a few large scale items for this production. One of the jobs has been to create the stonework effect on the castle wall flat. This was created by painting the cut flats with a red-brown base, masked off when dry and rolled over with a cream and lighter brown mix to give texture and depth to the effect.



Our scenic artists have also successfully tackled the task of painting the leaf cloth. This will be flown in front of the tree. It should create an amazing effect. Can’t wait to see it up.



In construction, Lana and Constance have been working on creating the branches of the tree. A steel frame was made and welded together onto which the airex was cut and fixed using T-nails.

A thousand Lana-deer antlers were gathered and attached to the main branches using two part epoxy to create the smaller branches of the tree.

No Lana-deer were harmed in the making of this tree!

Fortunately, we have a brand spanking new CNC router with which our branches were cut out of airex material.

The tree has been textured with artex and then painted to complete the bark effect. This was done by applying a creamy orange base to the tree and then once dry, adding two paint washes to the top. One for the main bark colour and the second for the shadowing. The effect is amazing!


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Our first years laying the floor! Yes, fit up is well under way and the ply flooring has been laid. This will be painted by scenic art to resemble the brown colour of the model. The edges will be sprayed with black paint which will then be faded into the brown to create a soft gradient.


There are a few pieces in progress around the workshops so I may have some more pics to add and update you on, but for now, due to everyone’s hard work and late nights, it is all looking great!

In addition to our show work, Sam Palmer (3rd year TT student) has been busy in our workshop creating his graduation project. His objective was to create an immersive environment depicting the Sword in the Stone. Sam spent a few weeks making prototypes and working out the best methods to use to create the shape and texture he was looking for. He used chicken wire fixed to a wooden frame to create the shape of the rock. This was then covered with a plaster scrim before being textured and painted. It was a pleasure to have Sam working with us and he did a great job c his final creating his final piece. Personally, I enjoyed the atmosphere he had managed to create. The music and the water running out of the rock elevated the whole thing to another level. Very well done!

Sam used a small pump to push the water out of the top of the rock he then created a moat around the outside of the rock to guide the water back down to the pump.

It was a pleasure to have Sam working with us and he did a great job creating his final piece. Personally, I enjoyed the atmosphere he had managed to create. The music and the water running out of the rock elevated the whole thing to another level. Very well done!



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Vincent and the Yellow House

This years DR project for our first year students has been design by our props lecturer Pat Shammon and was based around Vincent van Gogh and the time he spent in a house in Arles, France which, for a short time, he shared with fellow artist Paul Gaugin.


Model box


Pat had designed the project as a 2 part installation, the first section was designed as a curved wall exhibiting a collection of literature and images about Van Gogh’s life and works in and around the time that he lived in the yellow house with the backdrop blending into a painting of the ‘Café Terrace at Night.’


The curved wall was made in three sections by our first years Spike and Lucy. Canvass was then glued over the plywood cladding ready for painting.


The flats were painted a deep blue which would then be blended into the painting of Van Gogh’s ‘Café terrace at Night.’


Once the painting was completed fairy lights were inserted into the canvass in the centre of the painted stars.

img_1442The display tables were made and mounted to the curved wall and Marcus painted the introduction text onto the flat by hand…(patience of a saint!)img_1439


The second section depicted an immersive, abstract imagining of what one of the rooms inside the house may have looked like. Here Pat took inspiration from Van Gogh’s paintings to inform the appearance and decoration of the props and the dressing of the room.


In the set we can see influences from ‘The bedroom,’ and  ‘Paul Gauguin’s Chair,’ amongst others. These paintings were used as references for the creation of the distorted furniture pieces and the colours and textures used to paint them and their surroundings.

The walls of the room were made as TV flats which were then clad and textured with artex. Once dried, a mix of two washes were applied to give the appearance of old plastered walls. Once installed they received a thin, black spray across the tops and down the corner to give the appearance of soot.

The window itself was made by our very own workshop elf (otherwise known as construction lecturer Edd Smith) Which was a beautiful piece and really helped to pull the two sections of the installation together! Shhh don’t tell anyone!

The floor of the room was made up of 9″x 1″ rough sawn timber which we nailed to a steel deck platform.


Most excitingly we produced our first piece of work from our new CNC router. Andy was able to use it to cut out the exhibition title.

The Furniture

Spike had the challenge of creating a chair to represent Van Gogh’s painting of Gauguin’s chair and successfully imitated the distorted nature of the chair in the painting. The seat itself was made from caved polystyrene and the paint work replicated that of the original painting.


Jess made Van Gogh’s own chair, again taking inspiration from the painting. You can see how the paint and distortion of the prop imitate the style and shapes within the artwork.

Beth created the side table from ‘The Bedroom’ Painting which again had a great distorted element to it and the paint effect perfectly replicated that of the original painting.


Still Life

Alongside their prop making our first years also created some amazing still life drawings that would represent the sketches of Van Gogh and Gauguin on the floor of the studio. We set up a still life display in our props workshops from which the students worked from. Pat tried to incorporate items similar to those that Gauguin and Van Gogh were drawing from.

After a workshop with Vanessa (scenic art lecturer and head of DR), on painting with a palette knife, our first years created some artist copies of Van Gogh works which would be hung on the walls and placed around the set.

These artworks were very effective in displaying the range of work Van Gogh completed in this period as well as creating the look and feel of a working art studio.

To enhance the immersive feel of the installation, artificial candles were placed in the set and soup was set in the pan on top of the stove to make it feel as if the room had been very recently occupied and that we (the viewer) had stumbled into the world of the artist.

It has been a great project and the result was impressive and very well received. Our first year work hard to pull this project together and it paid off. Well done to all the first year students and a BIG THANK YOU to Elliot Smith (our 2nd year TT student for his brilliant lighting of the set)!



Time for a Christmas party methinks!!!!!


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Great Expectations

Its been a few weeks since we were in the midst of the Autumn term opera and we have now just completed fitting up our end of term drama, Great Expectations.

The set consisted of three platforms of accumulating heights leading up to a pier structure at the back of the stage.


The platforms were constructed from steel deck which then had timber sections added to them to give them their angular shapes.


Once the platforms were on stage, the floor boards were then laid and nailed to them. The edges were trimmed off using a skill saw.



Finally treads were installed around the perimeters of the platforms which were then clad with floor boards to match the platforms.


Meanwhile the props workshop was busy carving lumps of polystyrene into an edible looking feast.

Alix worked on creating a roast chicken by firstly covering her poly-carving with a cream coloured base coat and then sponging on the darker orange/brown tones. She finished it off with a gloss glaze to imitate the oily skin of a roasted chicken.

Brussel sprouts and a cabbage was made buy pouring coloured liquid latex into moulds and pealing them out once dried.

The finished plate looked good enough to eat!


Georgia  completed the same process for her leg of ham which had great results!


The plate itself was cast in plaster from a purpose made mould.

Moulds were also made for fennel and fish which would also be part of the feast!

The wedding cake was made by Lana, our 3rd year props manager. She began by cutting three cylinders out of polystyrene which would form the three tiers of the cake. These were stuck together and then carved into in places to give the impression that sections of the cake had crumbled / rotted away.


Lana coated the polystyrene with foam coat and plaster which she sanded down to give a smooth finish. Vacuum formed piping shapes were stuck around the edges of each tier and the cake was painted.

Finally the whole thing was covered in ‘Kobweb’ spray!


Our scenic artist have been busy with the 15′ back cloth which was painted to look like  a stormy sky. The effect was created by applying a number of washes in shades of blue and grey and blending in patches of white for the clouds.


It was important that the paint remained very loose as the cloth was to be used for back projection therefore the transparency of the cloth was critical to achieve the final effect.

…so Great Expectations is now up (looking great) and in rehearsal stage. Our first year students are now working on their Design Realisation Project which is based around Vincent Van Gogh and his time in the yellow house. We have parts of the set coming together quickly so I will have lots to show and tell…until next time!

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