Thursday, April 16, 2009

Stress is the mother of invention

In Los Angeles, it's not uncommon to see movie or TV companies setting up on locations around town. The beach is a popular location. This catering tent and truck are set up for Crafts Services for a shoot at Will Rogers State Beach on Pacific Coast Highway. I passed them on my morning commute.

Everywhere in L.A. you see the telephone and street-lamp poles covered with directional signs to guide crew, cast, and drivers to the location. Typically, an 8" x 10" placard with the name of the film printed in bold letters is followed by an arrow.

I don't know whose job it is to post them, but would imagine its a pretty thankless job, and fraught with peril. What if the sign gets torn down or covered up, or can't be distinguished from all the other signs advertising brush clearing, father's rights, political campaigns and AYSO Soccer camps? A multi-million dollar budget might go in the hole for one misplaced placard.

About 5-8 years, I started noticing that location signs were appearing printed on day-glo card stock, neon pink, green and orange. That made them stand out better.

In the last 4-5 years, I've noticed a new refinement, and I think it's brilliant.

Almost all the location directional signs these days are formatted like this one above, for a production titled "Factory."

Because the title is printed both upside down and right side up, with the arrow in the center, the signs are directionally universal. This sign says "turn right" but if you flip it over, it indicates "turn left." Flip it a quarter turn and it says "straight ahead."

I don't know who thought this one up, but whoever did had a touch of genius.

I am picturing a young and harried production assistant, with a box full of signs, on an early morning street, with cold fingers and a dwindling roll of tape, trying to get them set before call-time. Some signs have left-turn arrows, some right turn arrows, some with straight ahead arrows. He fumbles through the box to find he's out of the one he needs - no time to go back to the trailer to get more! So, stressed out, he flips a sign so the arrow goes the right way, and he crosses out the upsidedown text and re-letters it.....and Eureka!

A brilliant idea. Now you only have to print multiple copies of the SAME SIGN!

Correct me if I'm wrong, L.A folks - isn't this a signage innovation that just started appearing in the last 4 - 5 years?

9 comments:

Joanie said...

We have those down here, too. Well, we used to have more when Veronica Mars was filming in town. You'd see a sign simply saying "Mars" with the arrow. Ours had the rightside up and upside down writing, too.

I say the PA who came up with that deserves a big raise. Although SHE has probably already moved on to a better job. (And you KNOW it's a woman who came up with this)

Da Goddess
dagoddess.com

mo.stoneskin said...

Let me know the exact address for that one so I can go mess with it, turn it round or something.

Gilly said...

What fun you all have over there!! Lets hope those putting the signs up know their left from their right!!

Could do with a bit of your sun over here right now. (Though it is forecast to get better :) )

KBeau said...

Sometimes the simplest ideas can be overlooked for years until suddenly the light bulb turns on.

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Queenly Things said...

I have to say that one of the best things about living in that area was coming across film sites by surprise. In Pasadena, where I lived, there seemed to be an endless parade. Starstruck? Why yes, I can be.

cactus petunia said...

Sometimes those little strokes of genius make the biggest impact, don't they?

DaveyWaveyGoodAsGravy said...

Indeed, a brilliant solution, so long as the sign poster uses two points of contact with the pole or fence to ensure that the sign does stay in the proper orientation!

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