Prop Design vs. Set Design: What’s the Difference?

There are a lot of important elements of the filmmaking process — from writing to casting to actually filming, many different roles need to be filled in order to make a movie happen. And two of the most important roles in the film industry are prop design and set design. While these two tasks are similar, especially with set designers and prop designers both making around $54,890 annually in 2011, they are actually quite different. So let’s take a look at a few key differences between set design and prop design.

Set Design

The set of a film essentially consists of anything on screen that the actors don’t directly interact with. So if there is a couch or a phone but they aren’t actually used by the actors, they are just part of the set. But just because they aren’t used doesn’t mean these items aren’t important. Set designers are responsible for creating the physical surroundings in a scene that help give viewers an idea of where and when the scene is taking place. These surroundings play an integral role in creating the desired atmosphere, which tells viewers the emotion and tone of the specific scene. Sets can change drastically throughout a film to let people know when the scenes change and how time and places differ throughout the production.

Prop Design

Props for movies are the items that actors directly use throughout the film. Fake movie props can be almost anything, like weapons, phones, and even food. Prop designers are responsible for working with the other staff on set to create props — props play an essential role in showing character development and stimulating certain emotions in viewers. Prop designers may have to get a little creative when choosing movie props if they’re given a tight budget and have many props to come up with. This is why so many props that look expensive and high-tech can actually be very simple objects designed to look a certain way. Choosing movie props is an important task because without props, both actors and viewers would have a difficult time knowing what exactly is going on in the scene.

Set and prop design are very similar and those tasked with these responsibilities often work very closely together. Both of these roles come together to make a production truly great.

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