For my first dio, I built a frame using lumber to support my walls which got a bit expensive and in the long run proved to be a hassle... so from what I've learned building sets from my last dio I am trying to improve upon for my next.
The following is a brief step by step on creating effective fully emcompased sets/scenes for your dios.
I'd like to start off by saying I love everyone's dio work, from the guys who have been making them for years to the guys just starting... but one of my biggest complaints is very few diographers show ceilings! You kind of have to if you want to show scale and make the world believable. When you have 4 walls and a ceiling, it may limit you somewhat, but it can also expand your shots as well.
The trick is to build a set that surrounds your characters, and have hidden access points for your camera. Then you won't be limited to the open side shot or above the head shots.
I start by drawing out a basic blueprint. This helps me determine how much material I need and where I can start placing access areas. This set will be a morgue.
Then I begin trimming regular foamcore board for the walls, floor and ceiling.
Scrapbook paper comes in every color and texture you can imagine, and it saves money from having to try to recreate these textures using paint. For most of my wall coverings I use a combination of paper and mat board which is thick and helps to block any light leaks in mywall joints.
To connect my walls, I lay a strip of glue down where the walls meet, then I pin the walls together using finishing nails, and finally I tape them together either with packing tape or thick duct tape. It looks cheap and lazy from the outside, but the point is we only want the part being photographed to look good. The pins help the walls from sliding while the glue sets. The tape also acts as a blocker from light seeping through the cracks.
Now, I'm a huge fan of recreating natural lighting effects. I hate flash photography. To recreate some real world lights, you can use doll house lighting kits, small cabinet lighting kits or build your own. I want to have some make believe overhead lamps and some floerescent lights in my room.
I cut out a rectangle and cover this with slightly opaque paper and some trim to simulate a light cover. When a lamp is placed over this precut area, it will act like a miniature version of what it should be and the paper helps diffuse the light evenly.
The overhead lamps are made from lego disks and straws. I will use x-mas lights inside the top of the straws and it gives a dim but visual accent light.
Using mat board or more paper, you can start to add alot of cool detailing. This image shows one of the final mock-ups before the finishing work was done. I added black trim to the baseboards, cabinet doors, and a couple lockers (not shown).
So, from my lay out, I have two doors and a hidden, removable wall section for my camera access points. I just attach the ceiling as I would the walls, and I have a miniature room ready for filming.
You can make sets any size and still have removable areas to get whatever angle you need. It can be tricky but I feel the results give you a more real world feeling. With each new room I build I get new ideas and figure out easier ways to do things... so dont be afraid to experiment and keep shooting them dios!