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Need help with shooting on a back drop

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Mike Francisco
Need help with shooting on a back drop
on Dec 10, 2008 at 9:28:10 pm

Hello,
I am shooting a video on a white muslin backdrop but I'm running into a problem with the backdrop. I'm getting a 'sagging' effect in the middle of it and its creating some pretty harsh shadows. I am going to provide a picture to illustrate what it looks like. Ideally I would like it as smooth and straight as possible.



Any help or suggestions would be great.

Thanks,
Mike


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Todd Terry
Re: Need help with shooting on a back drop
on Dec 10, 2008 at 10:16:35 pm

Hi Mike...

I can only assume you have a good rigid pole across the top. If not, get one. Is the crossmember itself sagging at all? If not, the sag is probably just due to the weight of the drop itself and the fabric stretching a bit in some places just thanks to gravity.

Suggestion #1 would be to attach some ties to the sides, and stretch it side-to-side as well... much like you would stretch a scrim or a grif in a hollywood frame... except leaving the bottom free.

Suggestion #2 is personally what I would do, and that's ditch the muslin. Perfectly tight fabric backgrounds are just hard to do unless they are stretched within a four-sided frame, or at minimum have a pipe-pocket across the base so you can stretch them top-to-bottom... but of course you can't really do that with the backdrop extending out on the floor to create the invisible horizon that I assume you are going for. I would instead use paper. You can get a roll of white seamless background paper at any good pro photo store... It will be about 10' wide and about 75' long, about $75-$85 depending on where you buy it. Put the roll on your crossmember, and roll off as much as you need. We have a couple (in different flavors) rolled up in the grid on the ceiling in our studio... we just roll it down when we need a white BG, or all the way onto the floor when we need an infitite BG.

Here's a pic of the stage from our website and you can see the paper drop hanging down at the rear...



When needed, after a shoot we just cut a few feet off the bottom if it has become too dirty to re-use, and roll it back up. We use it a lot, and probably only have to buy a new one once a year or so. Ours right now will have to be cut before we use it again, as the bottom few feet is covered with motorcycle tire tracks from a previous shoot... but there's still plenty left on the roll for next time.


T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com






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Mark Suszko
Re: Need help with shooting on a back drop
on Dec 11, 2008 at 3:03:18 pm

My version of what Todd does is to use the back side of vinyl sheet flooring instead of the paper. prime it with a flat latex white first, then the actual color. It still rolls up (though heavier) but you can walk or dance on it and not hurt it. Paint is easily touched-up if you can't wash off a smudge.

Assuming you want to just work with the muslin you have, you could try tightening it up with careful application of hot air from a hair dryer, if the room is humid. Todd was right that you need even tension in more areas. You need better attachment all along the top, and pull to the sides, using the equivalent of short elastic suspenders. Use large metal spring binder clips from the office supply store or tarp clips from the camping section of a big store or a supply place like harbor Freight, and some bungee cords.

And light it more front-on than from the sides, using soft boxes, so the wrinkles can't throw as well-defined a shadow in the first place.



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Mark Suszko
Re: Need help with shooting on a back drop
on Dec 11, 2008 at 3:14:32 pm

You can also sew a tube pipe pocket along the back, right near where it has to break to curve to the floor, by just hemming the existing fabric, and add a batten (sailing term) there. In fact, you could put battens anywhere along the back. You might try using some flat wood strips like paint stirrer sticks (only longer) across the back with gaffer tape. If you make small pockets at the edges on the back, the strips can help push outwards and stretch the fabric.


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Mike Francisco
Re: Need help with shooting on a back drop
on Dec 11, 2008 at 5:19:25 pm

Thanks for the suggestions, I decided to just go with a roll of paper, much less work on my end. I'm on a pretty tight schedule to begin with.



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Mark Suszko
Re: Need help with shooting on a back drop
on Dec 13, 2008 at 3:06:25 am

P.S. You know what muslin is good for? Wrinkling up. Deliberately ball up the whole thing and then unfold it to create a crinkled surface and light that from almost edge-on, and it can look great, this was a long-time popular thing you don't see used as often anymore. If you gel the light, you get a nice two-tone effect. If you hit it from opposite edges with two different gel colors, the interactions are very interesting sometimes.


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Mike Cohen
Re: Need help with shooting on a back drop
on Dec 17, 2008 at 3:34:36 am

Mark, we do this a lot, or the feathered droopyness as depicted in the original diagram, combined with some gelled slashes of light works nicely. Make sure you have enough space between the talent and the background to soften the backdorp, whatever you are using.

Mike Cohen


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