Getting Started

This is a great place to get started with your Tabletop Moviemaking Studio. The resources on this page are designed to get your studio set-up, a setting staged and the camera framing the action. 

Tabletop Studio Accessories

  1. Smart phone holder: this is a two part piece that assembles to hold smart phones for filming.
  2. Tablet computer holder:  this is a folding stand that holds a tablet computer for filming.
  3. Clothes Pins (aka Cinema Klipz*):  these are used to hold up settings, scenery, characters or generally anything that needs to be clipped (klipped*).
  4. Wooden dowels: these are used to create the frame for the studio.
  5. Proscenium:  the rectangular frame at the front of the stage.  This clips into the front of the box on the bottom and two dowels on top to form the studio.
  6. Hangers:  these pieces fold and clip onto the dowels.  Clothes pins are used to secure settings, scenery and characters.
  7. Props and scenery stands:  these are two part pieces that rest on the stage floor.  The are used to hold various props and scenery elements.

*Thankfully this is not really the name; they are just clothes pins.

Assembling the Studio

  1. Insert wooden dowels into holes located on the top of the studio box.

  2. Insert the base of the proscenium into the slot on the studio box.  There is a tab that inserts and holds the frame in place.

  3. Ensure the tab is pushed all the way in at the base. Flip it over to check.

  4. Insert wooden dowels into the holes at the top of the proscenium.  

  5. This piece is designed to crease.  The dowel should pass through both holes on each side. 

  6. Place the Tabletop Studio on a flat surface with the dowels on top.

Building a Character

  1. Cut out the front and back of the character.
  2. Apply glue to the white side of both the front and back of the character.
  3. Place the clear plastic strip about 1/2 inch into the top of the character (where the black line is).
  4. Press both sides of the character together.  You will have some time to slide the front and back into place before the glue dries.

  5. Take a tiny piece of sticky tack and roll it into a ball. Flip the face of the character over and place the sticky tack on the back of it.

  6. Place the new face directly on top of the character.  She may be upset due to the poor cutting job of the author.

Staging a Scene

This is a quick guide on how to stage a scene. You will need the following pieces:

-2 hangers

-3 clothes pins

-1 Main St. background

-2 wings

-1 road texture foreground piece

-1 scenery stand


  1. Place two hangers above the stage. They snap onto the wooden dowels.
  2. Place the background inside the hanger and pinch it closed.
  3. While pinching the hanger, secure the background with a clothes pin.
  4. Place a wing inside the hanger. Pinch and clip in place.
  5. Place the other wing inside the hanger. Pinch and clip in place.
  6. Take a prop stand base and fold the sides along the perforated edge.
  7. Fold the prop stand holder along the scored edge to form a “V”. Insert this into the prop stand base.
  8. Take the road texture and place it inside the prop stand.

  • A - foreground - The area of the stage closest to the camera. The items closest to the camera will be more out of focus.

  • B - middleground - The area of the stage that is in between the foreground and the background. 
  • C - background - The area of the stage that is furthest from the camera. This is where the backgrounds are clipped in.

Moviemaking Vocabulary

  • “quiet on set” - This is an important phrase to call out loud enough for anyone in the room to hear. This lets everyone know that recording is about to start.

  • “action” - The word the director uses to let everyone know that recording has begun.

  • “cut” - The word the director uses to let everyone know that recording has stopped; this is often used to stop actors from performing the rest of the script once an error has occurred.

  • take(s) -  Take refers to a specific video clip that was recorded between the words “Action” and “Cut.”  A director may shoot several takes so there are more options during editing.

  • coverage - Shooting a number of takes for a scene that use different framing and movement.  Coverage gives the director much more flexibility during the editing process.

  • cut away - Filming a part of the setting, piece of scenery, or particular prop that a character may be referring to; helpful for editing.
  • handles - Refer to the parts of the video clip that are before and after the take.  It is important to record about two seconds before and after a video clip.  This ensures takes are not cut off.

  • on camera - This refers to any element that can be seen in the frame when looking through the viewfinder of the camera.

  • camera left -This term refers to the area on camera that is on the left side of the viewfinder.  It is commonly used to guide staging.

  • camera right - This term refers to the area on camera that is on the right side of the viewfinder.  It is commonly used to guide staging.

Camera Framing Vocabulary

An establishing shot is used to tell the viewer where the action is taking place. The viewer can clearly see the setting.  It is a good shot to use to introduce characters on screen so the viewer can see them.

A medium shot is the most common shot used for Tabletop characters during a dialogue scene.  Characters are framed from the waist up generally.

A close up is where the character’s facial expression is clearly visible and takes up most of the frame.  A close up is framed from the shoulders up.

Over the shoulder is a technique for dialogue between two characters, it is basically a medium shot of the character speaking that is framed off center, either to the left or to the right.  Then the character that is listening to the dialogue has their shoulder framed in the foreground.

Story Structure Vocabulary

These are the common elements that make up a story:  exposition, inciting incident, rising action, climax, falling action resolution (dénouement) and conclusion.  These elements have been arranged in the the Story Flow below.


  • exposition - The part of the story where the reader learns about characters and different settings.  It is an opportunity to provide some history for each character, to make them distinct from each other.  The author begins to create a picture where the action is taking place.   
  • inciting incident - Reveals the central tension in the story to the reader.   A conflict is introduced during the inciting incident that sets the story in motion.  It is some sort of obstacle that is placed in the way of the main character and the rest of the story is a series of different attempts to solve the problem.
  • rising action - The series of events that occurs after the inciting incident.  Characters and settings that were introduced during the exposition may reappear to create further obstacles and tensions for the main character.  A series of smaller events continue to build on the central tension or problem.   
  • climax - Represents the scene or scenes where the original tension reaches its highest moment.  Hidden information can be revealed in these scenes to release the tension.  When the main character learns something new, he or she may be forced to make a decision or take action in this scene.
  • falling action  - Reveals how the characters were changed by the events or circumstances after the big event.  Think of the inciting incident as the moment when strings get tangled together.  The rising action is how interactions between characters and settings cause more tangles.  The falling action is the opportunity for characters to untangle the mess.
  • dénouement - French word that means‚“to unravel.” The   dénouement is the further untangling of the character’s problems that occurred earlier on in the story.  The author may share how the main character is changed or how his or her life is different in any way. 
  • resolution - The last thing the author leaves with the reader.   The characters’ lives might not be the same as when the story started.  The initial problem or conflict introduced in the beginning is addressed.