Computer Scenographics

Computer Scenographics

Computer Scenographics

Computer Scenographics


Darwin Reid Payne's approach to theatrical design is that of a computer advocate and pioneer. With Computer Scenographics, he ushers in a new generation of scenery design by applying state-of-the-art technology to the traditional methods of scenography. Though not a how-to book, Computer Scenographics is a general introduction to, and an affirmation of, the value of computer graphics for both student and working scenographers.

Payne acknowledges that many scenographers would not want to use computers exclusively in the preparation of their designs. Today's scenographers continue to value the manual skills of drawing and painting, learned and perfected over time, and would not consider abandoning these skills entirely. And it is unlikely that the most powerful computer or most sophisticated software could ever supplant that intimate interaction of hand and mind provided by traditional tools and materials. Nevertheless, Payne's utilization of the Virtus Walk-Through computer program to facilitate set design expands the tools of the artist to new dimensions.

Aided by 129 illustrations, Payne addresses four major topics: (1) how computer studios are set up; (2) how computers serve as storage for visual ideas and as conceptual tools; (3) how technical information needed for producing a scenographer's ideas onstage is created with computers; (4) and how modelmaking has been changed by computer-generated three-dimensional possibilities, especially by the introduction of "virtual reality" onto the computer platform.


The title of this book is Computer Scenographics. While the first word of the title-- computer--is ubiquitous in the present-day world, the second--scenographics--is not found in any dictionary to date. While scenography, scenographic, and scenographer do exist, scenographics has yet to find a place. (Perhaps when this orphan word finds its niche in future lexicons--as it is likely to do--I will claim the credit.)

And yet, I can think of no better word--coined or not--to describe the subject of the book that follows. Scenographics seems to me to be an apt description of the kinds of drawings scenographers make, and computer scenographics the best designation for the drawings computer users create. This brings us to the underlying question the present text addresses: Do scenographers trained in traditionally grounded crafts, skills, and production philosophies need computers and computer technology? This book is a highly personal answer to that question from one who thinks they do.

As a graphic artist with a traditional art school education, I do not envision the day I throw out my pencils and pastels, pens and ink, paints and brushes, or clear from my studio the countless items of equipment, files of images, or the physical records of past projects. Nor will I relegate to the dumpster those many boxes of impedimenta accumulated during the past forty years of scenographic practice. I have lived too long with these possessions to do without them now; they form too great a part of my life to casually give them over. These material things are integral parts of daily work. They are trusted for what they have done before, for what they still do today. More importantly, these tangible materials and tools link me to artists of the past and to their accomplishments.

Too often, however, the pace of traditional scenographic craft runs counter to the demands of modern theater production. Present-day scenography requires not only artistic skill but also an ability to communicate quickly and accurately abstract ideas to others in visual form. By adopting computer technology into my studio, I have found ways to communicate my ideas to others not only as accomplished facts but as changeable options. More important, the computer provides me with methods to better incorporate the opinions and desires of others into the evolution of my own concepts and decisions. These inter-

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