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Topic: Back Drops
Message: Posted by: Scott O. (Dec 7, 2001 07:46AM)
I'm sure some of you out there use back drops for your shows. My questions are, what conditions seem to warrant a back drop, what type of material works well, and what are the pros and cons of carrying and setting up a backdrop.

Obviously, it takes more effort, room and time. But is this offset in any way by the positives?

Scott O. ;)
Message: Posted by: Bengi (Dec 7, 2001 09:20AM)

I used a backdrop for my stage shows for awhile, but stopped because of the hassle.

From place to place, I found most of the time it was not really needed. Either the stage was too small, or too large for the backdrop I had. It looks rather strange to have a 14' wide backdrop on a 40' stage!

So I just stopped using it altogether!

Bengi :rolleyes:
Message: Posted by: Magical Dimensions (Dec 26, 2001 06:21AM)
When I do a show I take along my backdrop.

I believe a backdrop helps to frame your show... You can store your boxes, hand truck and other stuff behind the backdrop.

You can’t use it all the time, but when you can, it enhances your program.

While on the subject of backdrops.... don’t forget to have your name placed somwhere on the stage or platform.

You can do one heck of a show, but later that night or the next day when people start to tell others about the really cool magician they've seen, they will be unable to recall the magicians name.

With your name off to the right, left or even sewn to the backdrop you will ensure that people will remember your name.

Message: Posted by: Alex Reeve (Feb 15, 2002 04:41AM)
you can't use any material for your backdrop. it has to be fireproof or at least fire retardant (dépanding on the régulation of the place where you are working)
Message: Posted by: the levitator (Mar 1, 2002 04:16AM)
I made a pretty cool backdrop setup of my own design that seems to work pretty well. I used PVC pipe for the support frame for my backdrops. We used heavy black velveteen (kinda pricey!) with an equal amount of black felt sewed to the end. The pvc stage we use can go up to 28' wide and I have 2 wings that can go up to 12' each. Once the pvc is up, which only takes about 10 minutes, we just throw the black felt part over the pvc bar and voila!, a full stage in 15 minutes.

I believe that backdrops make the show much more professional, and it increases the value of your show considerably. Presentation is very probably the most overlooked aspect of our art by many magicians. It's the little touches like backdrops, fog machines, multiple costumes, etc., that make you stand out as a performer. if you are interested in how I built my backdrops, please feel free to contact me and I'll be happy to send you some diagrams and directions. The versatility of my backdrop system even allows me to use backdrops for private shows like family reunions and birthday parties in a living room. The difference in my earnings is well worth the hassle of backdrops. Give it a shot!

Hey, BTW Scott, I just read your post and realized you are from Wisconsin! Well, so am I! Maybe you could even see my setup in person sometime! I live in Janesville, about 30 min. South of Madison. Let me know!
Message: Posted by: Scott O. (Mar 6, 2002 09:44AM)
I agree that a backdrop offers a more professional look to your show. Since I posted this, I did see a nice way of doing a backdrop. The children's pastor at my church uses two photographer's stands (actually I'm not certain on the name, but the base is a triped that folds up. The top telescopes to 6'.) Yes, I know this sounds like a Jet set. I believe that the cost is much cheapers though. He hangs a simple light-weight cloth curtain on the bar, and the result is pleasant.
The set-up time is quick, too.

And, Levitator, I would be interested in your setup as well. I've seen something similar, I believe (once again used by our Children's pastor) This seemed somewhat cumbersome for most smaller shows though.

If you have any public performances coming up where you might be using this setup, let me know. I'm only 30-40 minutes north of you, and I would come out to see.

Scott ;)
Message: Posted by: Saydean (Mar 7, 2002 10:21PM)
I agree that a backdropmakes a statement. Consider using Unbleached muslin and then Painting it with lights. Gel frames can add color and depth and effect lights such as spinners and oil lights can add wonderful patterns to your show.you may also backlight the muslin and use static cut outs to provide shape and shadows to the look. I would say to avoid the shiny mylar type it is dated and creates alot of suspicion because its been so overused. :stout:
Message: Posted by: Alan Munro (Mar 30, 2002 05:20AM)
I use a Jim Sommers Backdrop frame, the wooden one, with dark green polyester drapes. The curtains don't wrinkle, badly, and look great. The whole thing can be moved from in front of your props, to behind the props, by one person.

I tend to use it when the backgound is distracting or just looks bad. I also use it to give a little production value to the show.
Message: Posted by: Dennis Michael (Mar 30, 2002 07:36AM)
I have been doing a little research in this area.

The base plate is 18-inch square steel plate (Screwed into 18-incch square wood if you want to save money) with a 1-1/4" black screw thread flange welded/screwed in the center. Screwed into the flange is a 12-inch 1-1/4" black threaded pipe to hold 1" PVC Piping uprights. The flange cost $2.00 each, and the pipe was $3.00 each at Home Depot.

A minimum of 8 base plates are needed four in the back and two side panels in the front. ($40 Plus wood or steel base plate.) Eleven 1-inch by 10-feet PVC Piping is needed cut to 8-Foot sections, 2-PVC Tees, and six PVC elbows are needed. (About $20.00)

Double this if you want a full stage backdrop for performing in open areas such as gyms. ($80 Plus wood or steel base plate)
30 sections of 1-inch 10 foot(cut to 8 Feet)PVC Piping, 12 Tees, and 8 Elbows. Total for Flanges, Screw Threaded Piping, and all PVC piping, tees and elbows was $140. Not bad for a complete stage frame. (8 Floor Plates, 8 Uprights and 5 Crossbars)

The 1" PVC piping should be 8 feet high and each frame has 8 foot cross bars.

The cloth should be triple velvet (most expensive but the best). This allows for any Black Art Illusions. Get 30 yards for the stage backdrop. (Each section takes two panels of 8 feet of triple velvet, sewed at the top and bottom for pipe and weighted chain at bottom.) Extra Velvet will not go to waste. It can be used for Black Art Magic

Below are two types of layouts for the stage. One for existing stages and the other if you need to create a stage with backdrops.


Now the full stage takes twenty-eight 8 foot panels or about 80 yards. (Allowing for sewing tops and bottoms.) 16 Floor Plates, 16 Uprights and 14 Crossbars

[url=http://members.aol.com/dondrake/home.html][b]Don Drake[/b][/url] presently sells Triple Velvet by the 30 Yard bolt for $270.00. This is enough for the stage backdrop. A full stage will cost $810 plus shipping.

In summary, for under $400 you can have beautify Black Art backdrops for stage use or for under $1,000 you can have a contained full stage backdrop. You might be able to save if you can find the Triple Velvet locally. (Do not try to save money and get different kinds of velvet. Stick with Triple Velvet.)
Message: Posted by: Joe M. Turner (Apr 12, 2002 08:29AM)
I'm really considering the various SpiderFlex products from Germany -- they seem to look good, go up and down quickly, etc. Very convenient.

Message: Posted by: Scott O. (Apr 15, 2002 10:09AM)
Yes, Joe, the SpiderFlex products are the way I would like to go as well. I saw them about a dozen years ago at a trade show for use as a backrop in an exhibitor booth. However, the price was very high as I recall. Have the prices become more reasonable?

Scott ;)
Message: Posted by: Gawin (Apr 25, 2002 02:41PM)
Unfortunatly no!!

up to 2000€ I heard....
Message: Posted by: Scott F. Guinn (Apr 27, 2002 12:07AM)
The backdrop frame I used to market is no longer available. However, Abbott's Jet Sets at $70 each postpaid are a great deal--very sturdy, adjustable, break down to a very compact bundle. Better quality than you'll likely be able to make yourself for around the same price.
Message: Posted by: Fredrick (Oct 27, 2002 03:08PM)

This is the frame that Don Drake ships with his black art package,too!

Take care ~ Fredrick
Message: Posted by: DanTheMagicMan (Nov 8, 2002 09:28AM)
Duane Laflin uses a Spider Flex backdrop in his shows and also sells them on his web site at http://www.laflinmagic.com .
Message: Posted by: Magicrma (Nov 8, 2002 08:28PM)
If your doing one show at a location the effort needed to setup and strike a backdrop maybe not be worth your while. Unless, you need to position your audience(for effects that can not be performed in the round). Or you have to setup in advance when it can help draw a crowd and give you a place to set at showtime.

If you are doing a number of performances at a location a backdrop can be used to promote your show, your sponsor, as well as give your audience a time and place to gather. Also remember that if your not on a stage, a backdrop will give your audience the impression that you are a professionally staged act.

Your show props and materials need to meet all fire/safety codes required for public shows.
Hope this helps
Message: Posted by: Marshall Thornside (Nov 9, 2002 11:19AM)
If you plan to have a theme to your act then a backdrop is a nice idea along with the costumes, but it's not always convienient for every situation.

We used to use the silk Chinese opera scenery that Jack Gwyenne gave dad. It's beautiful. It's made very well BUT it's heavy and will only work in situations that allow it [like actual theatres]. You could make allowances for it but it doesn't necessarily always look great.

Sometimes a black curtain is good and it goes with all situations and themes. This is where your costume comes into play in a very big way.

You can see a little bit of the scenery in this photo. We were able to use it in the mall for a show. http://www.home.earthlink.net/~ling40/files/l-29.jpg
Message: Posted by: joespuppets (Jan 3, 2003 12:50AM)
I've looked at displays like those used in the spider system, but they seem to be a lot of weight for the system. That kind of framing is really optimized for attaching flat things like pictures to. For just hanging curtains, I think tripod type bases are much more efficient.

I've seen 12' tall tripods at http://www.cheaplights.com for around $50 each. For cross members, try telescoping poolskimmer poles (because they are stronger than a painting pole for the same lenght).

However, the cheapest and easiest to set up; Try a boom Mike stand, with the boom all the way up. You end up with a stand about 6' tall for $35. Then make a cross member from a 4' lenght of pipe or 1x2 wood and attach your drapery fabric to it. This needs a hole or pipe in the middle to attach to the boom mike stand end. An added decorative touch is to cut a profile from 1/4 ply, paint with your name or logo and attach it to the wood crossmember. For transport the curtain is wrapped around this wood profile.

Definitely not a full backdrop, but a fairly simple way to add professionalism and hid a little clutter.

One more thing I will mention, is a custom rig I saw a ventriloquist use. Her husband had made a rolling crate about 2'x2'x3'high, which contained her sound system and puppets. Also there was a place to atach some aluminum framing that resulted in a 4'wide by 7' tall bakdrop. The entire set-up looked very nice and was very pratical for the lady who would do several gigs a day with the device.
Message: Posted by: Bill Fienning (Jan 5, 2003 05:57PM)
Think about how you and your equipment are going to look against the backdrop. A black costume against a black backdrop may be hard for the audience to see. Some backdrop patterns are distracting.

When I saw Finn Jon around 1985, he did his floating ball against a pure white background. Good, because it subtly said "no threads" to the lay audience.
Message: Posted by: Steve Hoffman (Jan 6, 2003 12:31AM)
After looking around at various tripod/stand/support systems, I ended up taking the advice of a professional photographer friend of mine, and got a PHOTEK support system.

It's two tripods, and a cross-bar that adjusts to either 6, 9, or 12 feet. Very easy to set up and break-down and comes with a nice carrying bag. The tripods extend quite high (up to 10 feet), but are only 3 feet when "collapsed" for packing. And the whole thing weighs 13 lbs. -- yet it's sturdy.

Here's a link to an on-line professional photo shop that sells 'em. They're $149 for the system. NOTE: this is just for the support system, the backdrop is NOT included.

The kinds of tripods and stands sold by professional lighting places like cheaplights.com are NOT generally what you want to support a backdrop. Get something that's designed for backdrops (like professional photographers use).

The link to an place where you can purchase the Photek tripod/crossbar support system for backdrops is:

Steve Hoffman
Takoma Park MD
Message: Posted by: biff_g (Jan 6, 2003 12:36AM)
Obviously you need material that you can't see through, but it usually is very expensive. Here is something that I have done to get around that problem. You can get whatever kind of material you like, and don't worry that you can see through it. All you need is to use tinfoil behind it. Tinfoil is cheap and you can't see through it at all.
Message: Posted by: Dabek (Jan 7, 2003 05:34AM)
I like the spiderflex drop but if anything happens to the structure it is very hard to fix and can be very hard to set up as well as the fact that the stablity suffers.

Magical regards
Message: Posted by: cfrye (Jan 7, 2003 07:51AM)
Hi Steve,

On 2003-01-06 01:31, Steve Hoffman wrote:
After looking around at various tripod/stand/support systems, I ended up taking the advice of a professional photographer friend of mine, and got a PHOTEK support system. [/quote]
Do you think the PHOTEK system is strong enough to handle a full twelve foot long by eight foot high run of black velvet?
Message: Posted by: David Todd (Mar 23, 2003 06:18PM)
Check this out :

An 8' x 14' backdrop for 275.00 (includes the drapes)

Message: Posted by: Alan Munro (Mar 24, 2003 09:53AM)
I've seen packages like this at trade shows. It's not exactly portable, considering the 8' long uprights. You'd have to carry it in a panel van. The curtains, from what I've seen, are only opague if you have total control over the lighting. They're transluscent. This seems to be something that the facility would own, not one of the exhibitors.
Message: Posted by: David Todd (Mar 24, 2003 02:38PM)
That's a good point, Alan .

The upright supports ( 8' high) would be a problem. I think it might not be too hard to have them cut in half and a joint connecter attached at the mid-way point , so they could be broken down to 4' sections.
It appears that the 14' long section to hang the curtain on is telescopic, so that would not be a problem. I'm going to write to the company to find out if they might be able to supply the upright poles in 4' ft. sections for easier packing.
The curtains might have to be backed with a heavier, less expensive material to make them more opaque, I'm not sure.

Still looks like a very reasonable price for a unit 8' x 14' . Not as portable as the Spyder frames, but a lot less expensive.
Message: Posted by: MagicAL47 (Mar 30, 2003 09:27AM)
Hi. I have heard of a Mylar backdrop that seems nice, but I can't find it! Can someone give me a little help? :pout: :hmm:
Message: Posted by: magic 12376 (Apr 2, 2003 06:12PM)
The Merchant display is what an illusionist friend of mine (Jeff Olear) recommended to me years ago. He swore by them, as they were much sturdier than most backdrop systems marketed for magicians.
Ronald R. Romiski :subtrunk:
Message: Posted by: Backroomboy (Apr 4, 2003 04:24PM)
If you don't have access to a fly tower in the venue you perform in, consider a roll-drop. Unbleached muslin is definitely the cheapest starting point for a drop, but then you need access to a scene painter to make the most of it.

I've seen miracles performed with surplus parachutes and special lighting...as Saydean mentioned, lights can make all the difference on an unpainted (or painted) surface.

Also, Go to Rosco for your mylar drops.