Alright, it's pretty much come together, pending any feedback I receive next week. This work 'sitting' focused chiefly on these points from the prac document:
Starting at the start, I began adding Lights. Wanting some form of logical origin for my light sources, I set about modelling some stage lights to stick up on the central tent mast, with each one corresponding to a Spot Light object covering a section of the tent floor:
Deciding this wasn't direct enough, I modeled a spotlight by duplicating one of my stage lights, enlarging it a bit, stretching one end and rotating the flaps inward. I then knocked up a basic low-poly 'man' model to serve as the 'operator' of the spotlight (see picture below). In truth the operator is actually the one being operated; his hands are bound to IK handles which are parented on the spotlight. I stuck the spotlight in a U-shaped frame, giving it a horizontal bar on which to pitch, and a vertical bar around which to yaw, just like a typical spotlight setup in real life. I then attached a camera to the spotlight so I could use it to keyframe these two bars in order to track the boy character as he moved around in his circle.
It was at this point I'd become rather enamored with Cameras and decided to stick a few more in, having one that whizzed around the tent, one that stayed fixed in location from the bleachers and stayed pointed toward the boy, one that flew around the boy but stayed pointed at him, as well as the spotlight and pedal cameras I had already. After doing a few test renders I realized that I actually rather liked the look of an almost-empty circus tent, as it gave a "spooky carnival" vibe, and decided to play on this further by doing something with the outside. It was at this point that I split the scene in two; one file for outside rendering, and one file for inside rendering. Since the stock renderers don't allow you to have many lights (8 is the maximum using the Software Renderer; 16 if you're using the very buggy Hardware 2.0), this turned out to be a good decision.
I started the outside scene by making a basic spooky-looking tree out of a sub-divided cylinder with extruded and rotated sides:
I imported this into my main scene and created about 60-odd instance duplicates, randomly rotating and scaling them and placing them around the scene, enveloping them in some Volume Fog objects, added a Directional Light for moonlight and modeled & rigged a cute little crow to sit in the trees watching so as to give a convincing 'spooky forest' feel:
After that, I added a bezier curve Path through the forest leading to the tent's entrance, and attached a camera to it to simulate someone running through the forest. Feeling it needed something extra, I animated a couple duplicates of the crow, making them fly across the camera and sit waiting at the entrance of the tent. Finally, for a finishing touch, I made a couple of curtains to the entrance door, and after quite a bit (hours!) of googling and experimentation, managed to work out how to convert them to nCloth objects and attach them to a nDynamics Volume Field to simulate wind:
Combined with a funky, almost-sinister carnival-style track from incompetech.com, and 8 or so computer hours rendering all the different cameras (using two computers... I'm not so crazy as to do it with only one), and it's done!