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Backdrop types

There are three main types of backing available for purchase or rental which are differentiated by the way it is to be used for production.
Hand painted backdrops are produced on large pieces of canvas by scenic artists using a combination of brush and spray techniques.  They are not intended to be a perfect reproduction of an image, but rather to look good on camera.  Hand-paints tend to be extremely economical and effective for scenes such as skies or vegetation, but less so when large detailed architectural scenes, such as cityscapes when they are required.  Hand painted drops are usually front lit, but are often back painted to allow for back lighting to create a night scene. Older hand painted rental drops have been known to become brittle and suffer from flaking paint!

Photographic backdrops, often referred to as “ translights” are printed by means of optical enlargers onto nine mil polyester coated with photographic emulsion.  This produces an image, which is extremely crisp and photo-realistic.   They feature a white backing / diffusion layer, are usually designed to be backlit, and can generally only show one lighting condition, either day or night.   Photo backings tend to be delicate and thus difficult to handle. These are rarely used these days.

Digital backdrops combine features from both photographic and hand painted backings.  They can be made in frontlit, backlit or the extremely popular day/night format, and are usually printed on polyester-reinforced vinyl.  Digital backdrops can be produced in a variety of resolutions, the majority falling in the range of 30 to 300dpi.  Care must be taken in selecting the right company to print digital day/night backings, as many less technically proficient manufacturers suffer from problems of front to back registration and back paint density.   This is sometimes remedied by combining a computer-painted front image with hand-painted back image, but the resultant night images generally lack the subtlety of a true day/night.



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