Planning the Set

Billy Whiskers is a unique project in many ways, but one key concept that I wanted to achieve with the film was a murder mystery set entirely inside a garden shed. This did make one part of the project a lot easier than it could be, we only needed one set! Its a good job we did only need one set, because at the scale Billy is, only one set would fit in our studio, and only just.

The set design started with sketches along side the storyboard to try and get a picture of how the layout might work with the script. There were a few key considerations I had in mind when i started sketching the shed, firstly where the light would be coming from and secondly how I was going to avoid having the dead gardeners head in shot.

Below is a selection of initial ideas and sketches for the shed ranging from very rough to a bit more fleshed out. Some of these pages of my notebook also include scribbles about the story, so if you can read them, they may contain spoilers!

From here I started laying out the shed in CAD, using billy for scale I decided to pretty much make it full scale. This did make finding props a lot easier but meant the set was big!

It was actually too big for the studio by about 10cm after the initial design so I had to make some amendments to the wall heights and angle of the windows. You may actually notice that the big windows were initially going to be on the shelf side of the shed. I changed this so I could bring the overall height down but still have a high up shelf. It also made a lot more sense for the lighting to have a big soft light cast over the desk and shelf.

You can see the cad below, it’s very basic, just so that I could get an idea of layout. I printed a few designs of different aspects of the shed and drew on top of them to get an idea of the layout of props and the scale they would need to be. I wasn’t going to draw them all in cad and knew that the scale of a lot of bits would be dependant on what props I could find.


I built a scale model of the set using paper and foam board. I did this so I could make sure it all looked proportional, as well as making sure it looked okay on camera. I wanted to be confident that everything would work and fit together before i started hammering wood together.

The model also really helped to show other people working on the project, translating what was in my head to something physical I could show people.



Happy with everything, we laid out a floor plan of the set in the studio then i went back to CAD to make a more accurate set plan. This meant looking at materials, sizes, ricing and availability and making a model that would make calculating the amount of materials needed as accurate as possible.

I don’t know what actual set builders use to model this sort of thing, maybe sketchup? But I used fusion360 because I knew how to use it. It wasn’t ideal for this sort of thing, but did help a lot, especially having the ability to print off detailed plans for each part of the set so that it could be built quickly and efficiently.



James is the writer/director of Billy Whiskers, scribbling haphazardly on this website to document and share the experiences of making a stop motion animation.


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