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The film industry employ architects and structural engineers to ensure their safety. Here's all you need to know.

Pedram Zohrevand: How structural engineers and architects became involved in the film industry

Many people are unaware that creative fields, like the film industry, employ architects and structural engineers to ensure their safety. Often the two work together to design and construct large-scale, structurally sound sets for both the movie and television industries.

Pedram Zohrevand, a professional engineer and scientific researcher, explains the importance of these professions in the film industry.

Temporary structures

Many structures used in films and television productions are temporary in nature. This may mean that they are not constructed to the same stringent standards as permanent structures. However, neglecting safe building principles could cause injury or death to the actors and crew.

Structural engineers work with architects and set designers to ensure that their creations are safe during filming and even safe in the event of a natural disaster, like an earthquake.

Many movies and television shows are filmed near Hollywood and other parts of California. Since California is highly susceptible to earthquakes, it is imperative that the set, though temporary, be built to withstand a seismic event. The temporary nature of structures and a large number of unfastened set pieces could lead to a disaster on a film set.

When a structural engineer approves the construction of a set or building, the cast and crew can be confident that the set is safe.

Work with art directors

Architects and structural engineers also work with art directors for the production. An art director is in charge of how the film or television show looks and how its visual language relates to the story. 

Art directors may want to consult with architects to find out how they can achieve a specific look or style for the buildings on set. This is especially important for a time-travel films or a period piece where the set designs must match historical standards. Structural engineers are indeed needed for designing such buildings.

When architecture is the star

Many blockbuster movies include architecture that starts out as temporary structures but later become permanent fixtures. For example, in the Lord of the Rings series, architects designed a complete “Hobbit” village which can still be visited today. The film used many other intricate sets which were partially built full-sized and partially built as miniatures. In this case, the architecture was truly a shining point in the film.

In recent years, many films have been able to build structures that last and add value to many communities in which the sets have been constructed. This has been accomplished thanks to engineers and architects working together to ensure overall safety.

Architects and technology

The crossover of technical skills means that architects also have a skillset in animation and visual effects. Maya, 3DS Max, and Cinema 4D are all platforms that are used in architecture and when creating visual effects. 

An architect’s ability to project a concrete idea from simple sketches and drawings is an asset in the field. Structural engineers also possess these skills, with the added capability to create functional drawings and concepts for all of the component parts.

The creative aspect for a structural engineer

Structural engineers are imperative to film sets. Their extensive knowledge of structures lends a significant hand in building sets. Pedram explains that structural engineers are able to see where building flaws lie and are quick to provide solutions. The most important part is knowing what will work and what will not, individually on each set.

Employment prospects

Architecture and engineering graduates often have a difficult time finding employment in their field due to a highly competitive marketplace. However, they may find work in the film industry rewarding both creatively and financially.

Architects and structural engineers have a unique level of importance in the film industry. While their contributions may be unknown to the general public, their work can be seen in all productions.

Summary

Pedram Zohrevand believes that structural engineers should be included on all sets that involve temporary or even permanent construction. Without proper design, sets may be unsafe, especially in case of an earthquake in the area.

The unique creativity of the architect and the structural engineer allows filmmakers to tell stories whether they be grounded in reality or delightfully imaginary. These professionals can make a significant contribution on virtually all types of film sets.

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