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How much to build my set?

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Right, so we have a university project to plan an installation piece or live performance which is to be inspired by an area of London. This is a completely hypothetical event but we have to plan everything as if we were actually going to do it.


We need a 20ft x 16ft x 8ft mirrored box building. It will have a chalk board floor, windows built into it and a flat roof. Inside it will be split with walls so that there are 4 equal sections in a + shape. It also needs to be transported and set up on site. Reflective perspex can be used instead of actual mirror.


Without the cost of materials what kind of price are we looking at for this to be built? I've tried emailing a few set builders but they require all the detailed specs before stating a price and I don't have those... It just has to be a rough number to put in the initial budget.


Apologies for the poor quality of my set building knowledge and explanatory terms! http://www.blue-room.org.uk/public/style_emoticons/default/unsure.gif


Hope someone can help,



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First you need to figure out what it is made from in order to figure out how long it takes.

More expensive materials may make construction cheaper. Rosco Mylar mirror will be light but time consuming.

Sheets of wood screwed together on site as a disposable exhibition type set cheaper if you can source a cheap foil type finishIf so allow for a skip at the end

At a guess £30 an hour? Could be 45

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This kind of post really makes me wonder about the value of a university education. The people who set a similar task 30 years ago, would expect the students to do proper research, actually finding out the information they needed to produce the end result. Now, the attitude is to simply ask others. No professional in our industry, or in the construction industry can pick a price - in the same way a student can't. They need data - without knowing what the material are, how can you know how complex the task is? I expect your teaching staff are assuming you will decide on some substance, and pick materials that then make some kind of sense when you work out construction. In real life, we do these projects for real, and we start off clueless too - but then we research, produce some detail, then do more research. You just seem to want a price list and your contribution is a bit of maths? I assume you want to be able to do it for real? If we told you £2349.50 it's meaningless without your detailed research. What will you write in the report - it will be £X based on guesses made by unknown people on a forum? The people who are supervising this will probably do a matching exercise - taking the scale, quality, materials and techniques required and matching this to your guesstimate. The actual total just needs to be ball park correct.


If you pick specialist materials - like maybe aluminium, then you need to pay a competent welder, rather than a DIY enthusiast who may be happy with MDF?


I suspect your lecturers are interested in how well you can manage projects you have little experience in - asking us to do the actual work undermines the learning process.


Sorry for being grumpy - but I frequently have to budget for things I know little about, and I have to get out their and learn how - not come on here and ask others to cost it for me. It's simply you not being sufficiently interested or bothered to actually learn the processes required - wanting a fast result!

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You really need to think about this first. Have you made some sketches of what you have in mind? Is it wood, cardboard, paper, glass or what? Is there a budget you have to meet (very unusual for there not to be one in real life)? I assume you meant an installation piece FOR live performance, but this could still mean anything hence why a simple sketch is so important to communicate what you are talking about.


Have you discussed your ideas with your school's resident stage manager and/or master carpenter? The latter especially I would expect to have some idea what will cost to resource and build if made professionally - but they will need a good solid outline of what you want to make any meaningful comment.


Is your design intended to be built once from scratch then thrown in a skip (in which case this needs to be added), or does it makes use of existing resources - such as flats - which will go back and be used again? Where are you going to build the set, so do workshop hire and transportation costs also have to be taken into consideration?


So have a think and make a drawing(s) - or use Google SketchUp like our set designers do - then mark it up so you can talk to people with a drawing which summarises your ideas. If you have done this, you should already be able to make a list of parts yourself and look them up in appropriate online catalogues to get an idea of price, including delivery. Then you have a list of parts + a drawing roughly how it should look = now you can ask how much will it cost to build THIS (or something like it). Now you can get advice - "...to hold the roof will need irons under the flats" or whatever, to help you finalise the design so that it will be as close to real life as possible. Then you will already have many of the pieces you need for your write-up. Simples.

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This kind of post really makes me wonder about the value of a university education.



The BRIT School is a one of a kind FREE Performing Arts and Technology School. It is an independent state funded City College for the Technology of the Arts, dedicated to education and vocational training for the performing arts, media, art and design and the technologies that make performance possible.


...but otherwise - yes - it makes me wonder too!



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It's spelt labour for a start.


Without a detailed design what you are asking is nigh on impossible and even if you did have a design you really can't expect anybody to price it up for you with no expectation of getting the work. (When I was a student - admittedly 40 years ago - the only prices we would have needed were for the materials because we'd have been expected to build it oursleves!)


It's not your fault though - it's the fault of whoever set the assignment. Far better to have got you to actually do the job - with a budget of say £50.

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