Live Design Blog Archive

Acclaimed Concert Designer Tom McPhillips Launches New Studio

LITITZ, Pa. – Live from Studio 10A! It's renowned production designer Tom McPhillips doing what he does best – design, design, design. Almost 20 years after founding and running one of the world's leading scenic production shops, Atomic Design Inc., Tom is returning to his roots and to the core of his stellar career. He has opened an independent office in Lititz, Pa., named it Studio 10A, and is already hard at work on new projects and exploring new design directions.

Joining Tom in his passionate pursuit of the ultimate design solutions for stage, television, and corporate use is another Atomic alumnus, Mike Rhoads. Completing the team is animation specialist Charlie Cook. Shedding the day-to-day rigors of running a company with multiple business units, Tom is focusing on expanding his design services to encompass 3-D renderings, animation, new rental product prototypes, and environments for the architectural and interior design markets.

“It's a remarkable irony of sorts,” says the pioneer of concert design. “The one-stop design and construction business I started in 1993 has grown so fast and become so successful that it ultimately started to inhibit me from doing what I love to do most. The very reason I started Atomic was to ensure that I had hands-on control over the entire design process from idea to fabrication. Nowadays we're so big, that process has all the corporate overload I was resisting in the first place, and being as “hands-on” as I want to be is much more of a challenge. Studio 10A enables me to get back in touch with what I perceive as my best and primary talents – creativity and design.”

Tom adds, “I'm gratified by the phenomenal success of Atomic. But, now I want to get back to doing what I love most – designing stuff!”

“Tom's designs are amazing – have been for many years – and his product concepts which were born on the stage are growing more refined,” says Soren West, president of Atomic. “We're excited for Tom and Mike. This is a great move for them. Hopefully, they will continue to be great clients for Atomic.”

With this move, Tom plans to re-energize his activity in the area of concert and television production and is eager to establish his new studio within the industry. But as Tom puts it “The creation of Studio 10A isn't just about getting back to our roots, it's an opportunity to take what we do and take it in some new and exciting directions, to take our ideas into a wider marketplace.” That wider marketplace includes design for interiors and architecture and opportunities to act as a creative powerhouse for corporate events and campaigns.

The Studio 10A team is anxious to work with any and all production houses as well as architectural and interior design firms. A pioneer of 3-D renderings for concert and TV stages, Tom now sees 3-D animation as the new norm for creative development and presentation. Studio 10A is setting 3-D animation as its presentation standard so that clients will be able to achieve a perfect understanding of what they're getting, way in advance of any construction.

“Available technology enables our clients to virtually visit the set, the meeting room or any other venue,” explains Tom. “It gives them the chance to explore the possibilities, refine and make adjustments long before any material is cut or metal is welded.

“Add to that our capability to develop animated video for projection and that's the next level of production design” he continues. “When I think back to where I started, painting backdrops, the aim was to fool the eye into to believing that what was painted was real. Next, I took flat backdrops and found ways of making them dimensional but still portable. Well, now we're doing the same thing all over again – we're going beyond the flat video screen.

“With advances in LED technology we can build dimensional video. But what's really cool is that we have the capability to add truly dimensional content, and that takes that whole “eye- fooling” thing to a completely new level!” he says. “This is a really exciting moment right now. That's where the industry's going. It's the next frontier and Studio 10A is ready!”

Consider for a moment the magic of the set for Martina McBride's current tour – a vision enhanced by Tom's design. Not only does the audience enjoy the video ambience of a full moon rising over a cityscape, they also experience the thrill of the singer herself soaring over their heads on a crescent moon. “In the pre-planning stages for the show, we were able to build a 3-D animation of the concepts and look at how they would work in the room,” explains Tom. “That way not only does the client get a great appreciation of what it's going to look like, it also gives the constructors and technicians who have to build and run the show a greater understanding of the needs and logistics of a design.”

While concert stages and television sets historically have been Tom's domain, he's ready to scale his creativity for the architectural and interior design markets. Building upon its success in developing rental products for entertainment and events, Studio 10A will offer innovative solutions to architects and interior designers providing new exciting ways to enhance corporate and public venues. Unleashing their theatrical creativity with a different scale, Studio 10A is developing new products for permanent interior installations.

And, what about the company that he founded and nurtured for so long? “Atomic Design continues to go from strength to strength,” he says. “They will concentrate even more on the construction side of things. They've just added a new metal shop and undergone a major facility makeover to add more space and improve efficiency.”

Studio 10A is an independent design studio located in Lititz, Pa., a small town that's surprisingly become a major production hub for the entertainment industry. In addition to designing shows and developing new products, Tom and his team also create modular solutions for architects, scenic and interior designers. They deploy 3-D animation for show proposals and program content, present renderings in CAD, produce fly-throughs and animations, and provide on-site art direction. To learn more about what the Studio 10A team is up to, visit their new website at or contact Tom at [email protected]


Sidebar To Accompany Announcement News Release


Tom McPhillips, a pioneer in concert design, is founder of the new Studio 10A. Originally from the United Kingdom, where he graduated from London's prestigious University of the Arts, he has worked in theatre, television, music video, and commercials. But it is in the concert touring world where his name has reached legendary status for his work with performers such as Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, The Who, Michael Buble', and Martina McBride – to name a few. After migrating across the pond to Lititz, Pa., he founded Atomic Design where he conceptualized and built sets for groundbreaking television shows like “Unplugged” and “Live By Request” and where he designed corporate events for the likes of Turner Entertainment Networks, CBS, and Sony. From his atelier in Pennsylvania's bucolic countryside, he's created many purchase and rental product “hits” such as the wafer and the pillow walls. Currently Tom is at work developing new products both for shows and the architectural market while he refreshes the concert stage scene with animated 3-D proposals and video content.

Mike Rhoads is a gifted designer in his own right. For many years at Atomic Design, he served as Tom McPhillips' charge scenic artist and as art director for projects spanning the globe from MTV Japan's VMA Awards to Hayley Westenra's PBS special in New Zealand. Already he's receiving accolades for his work at Studio 10A, most recently for his set design showcasing Turner Entertainment Networks' programming during Upfront Week 2010 in New York.

Charlie Cook brings a strong background in exhibit and point of sale design to the Studio 10A team. His natural talent for building 3-D computer renderings and animation is a perfect complement to the creative engine of McPhillips and Rhoads.

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