I was on holiday, and got to hear about what happens “behind the scenes” of producing a television show. I found it is a totally different world compared to working in IT.
Before I retired, I attended work meetings with objectives like:
- What tests do we need to run?
- How do we interpret this performance data?
- What is the root cause of this customer reported problem.?
- Should we use upper case, mixed case, lower case, or camel Case for our external constants?
In discussions with a costume designer for television I heard about areas I had never considered.
How big a codpiece does someone need?
The size, colour and material of the codpiece depends on the character, and the relationship of the wearer with other people. The more important you are, the bigger the codpiece. Rich people could have finer material. The meeting to discuss this took more than an hour!
Most people would not take much notice of the piece of clothing, let along its size and material.
As part of the costume designers role they have to consider many factors. For example in a modern police drama, where someone stumbles across a body. The designer has to ask, how long since the person died? Blood changes colour as it ages, and the blood needs to be the correct colour!
You vary rarely see anyone “killed” on set. You see a character wearing a white shirt, the character is shot, and in the next scene you see the character with a bloody shirt. Everyone “sees” the person has just been shot. In reality the character has two shirts. One is clean, the other is bloody. At the start of the scene in which they are shot they are already wearing the bloody shirt. If you saw the “live killing” they will need many shirts which adds to the cost. If the shot needs to be redone, the character needs a clean shirt every time.
Of course mostly there is a “backup” costume for when the actor spills coffee down it – but not for the expensive costumes.
Eye for detail
For period dramas you need experts in the period. The costume designer said she saw a play and the jabot the character was wearing didn’t come in for another 20 years and it spoilt the play for her. (A jabot is a piece of lace over the throat attached to a collar around the neck).
When the characters are made up, and dressed, they have to look the same in every shot, so you have to be very careful how you physically dress them, or put make up on. You do not want a beauty spot moving from one side of the face to another.
The light affects the colour of the costumes, so going from outside to inside, the costume may change colour. Modern LED lights produce a different hue to the previous generation lights. The camera’s colour sensitivity may change in different light levels. For example you do not see much orange coloured clothes. All this makes it hard to chose the colour for the costumes.
Vestis virum facit” (“clothes make the man.”)
Sherlock Holmes deduced that someone was a typist from the lines in the material under the wrist, where the hands rested while typing.
The costume designer has to do the the opposite to Sherlock Holmes; to design clothes that people can make deductions about. For example ensure the clothes reflect the character of the person. A military person is not likely to be wearing flamboyant clothes in pink or yellow. Or if they do, they are making a point. A poor downtrodden person is less likely to be wearing smart neatly pressed clothes of the latest fashions. Many people (including me), have little interest in fashions, and cannot tell if a handbag is currently in fashion, or “so last year”. Some people will immediately recognise that a person’s hand bag costs over £10,000 and so the person is likely to have money.
My experience of costume design
In my experience of amateur acting, there was a “design” concept where the required period and over all effect was discussed, but many times it was “here is a costume which fits – wear it”.
As I said above, it is a totally different world outside of IT.