Set design onstage and offstage with the AutoCAD mobile app


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AutoCAD mobile app eases set design and troubleshooting

For Andrew Mestern, technical director for Stratford Festival in Ontario, Canada, the AutoCAD mobile app isn’t just a “nice-to-have.” It’s an absolute must. Whether he’s collaborating with producers hundreds of miles away or with the stage crew on set at the theater, the AutoCAD mobile app makes communication and collaboration that much easier.

Going mobile—even with Shakespeare

When you attend a theatrical performance, everything is settled: the time, location, and actors. But, when it comes to designing, constructing, and installing the set for a production, it’s anything but “set.” There are always meetings with the director and producers, design revisions, and repairs to be done, both before and after opening night. For Andrew Mestern, technical director for Stratford Festival in Ontario, Canada, mobility is key—especially with the AutoCAD mobile app.

For the recent production of the Shakespeare tragedy Coriolanus, the AutoCAD mobile app played a crucial role, especially since the co-producers were located in Quebec. With his numerous visits there, he could easily pull out his phone to discuss the design and installation for the Stratford theater hundreds of miles away.

“I was in Quebec a lot, and it was great to just quickly find the information on my phone, rather than hauling around my laptop and waiting for it to fire up,” Mestern says. “The producers and I could have a collaboration right there with my phone.”

AutoCAD rendering of set mechanics for Coriolanus. Courtesy of Andrew Mestern.

Mestern created a large 3D drawing in AutoCAD of the machinery for the main set structure, measuring 50-feet wide by 28-feet tall with four moving projection screens mounted on it.

“It was a very complex machine, so I was constantly over there with my mobile app looking at it,” Mestern says. “It was designed and assembled in Quebec for the original workshops there. When I visited, I took lots of pictures, drawings, and notations. When I was back, we had to change and alter much of it for our repertory version of the show. The mobile app got me out of a lot of trouble because I could look at the drawing and see how they did it and where I should—or shouldn’t—make our changes.”

“Even with the large 3D file, I could zero in, orbit around, and zoom in on a piece of scenery or automation that was causing trouble,” Mestern continues. “At one point, we thought the projection screen track was assembled on the wrong side of the bolt plates. I was able to look the 3D drawing really quickly with the AutoCAD mobile app and see where it was supposed to be.”

3D view of assembly for Coriolanus set design. Courtesy of Andrew Mestern.

Location, location, location

At Stratford Festival, Mestern’s phone and the AutoCAD mobile app are with him for whatever may pop up during the day.

“Usually, I’m working with someone is having a problem with the set, and I can quickly share the information,” Mestern says. “We can just look at the screen together to see what may be wrong. Our scene shop is about a mile from our three theaters. Of course, things don’t always go together properly during installation. When I get the ‘can you come down’ call, it’s great because I can sometimes confirm right there with the mobile app what they may be doing wrong, and I don’t have to even go over there.”

Troubleshooting set problems is one of his most frequent uses for the AutoCAD mobile app. Recently, it was trouble with casters for the Little Shop of Horrors set.

AutoCAD mobile app and the Little Shop of Horrors set. Courtesy of Andrew Mestern.

“We had a large 20-foot round house for the Mushnick Flower Shop, and it kept coming off the track,” Mestern says. “It's a massive piece of scenery. Buried underneath it are casters, but I couldn't remember where those casters were. While standing on that piece of scenery on stage, I was able to pull up the drawing in the AutoCAD mobile app and see there was a caster right under the wall.”

A member of the crew noted that there was a lot of noise coming from it during the show, so they took it off upstage and moved it over a trap in the floor.

“Working together with the mobile app, we could pinpoint the problem and the fact that a soft-wheeled caster had collapsed a bit,” Mestern says. “We determined very quickly where the softer casters were, and then understood that the unanticipated weight of some scenery up above the deck that was causing issues. And we knew we had to replace more than just the one caster because three more were likely to give us trouble.”

For Mestern, using the AutoCAD mobile app is a no-brainer.

“Usually when I am called to the stage something has gone wrong, and time is critical. For me the best solution is the AutoCAD mobile app on my phone and now a tablet. Because my laptop lives on my desk packing it up to go is tedious,” he says. “With the AutoCAD mobile app, I can answer questions or spot problems within minutes, and we can move forward with solutions which brings some piece of mind to the stage crew. The mobile app makes a huge difference.”

Casters on set and AutoCAD rendering. Courtesy of Andrew Mestern.