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Topic: Backdrop question...
Message: Posted by: BIlly James (Mar 11, 2004 12:42AM)
Hi folks,

This is a question to those of you who carry around and use your own backdrop.
For years I have struggled with all different kinds of frames to hold my backdrops up and I have never been completely happy with any of them and the one I'm using at the moment is causing me some major problems.
So do you know of any good frame (apart from Spiderplex) that is sturdy and can hold a backdrop?
I would prefer one that can be adjusted to different sizes in order to accommodate different size backdrops.

Thanks sooooooooo much for any advice you can give.

Message: Posted by: Majiloon (Mar 11, 2004 02:13AM)
Are you using the Spiderplex right now? Is that one giving you problems?
Message: Posted by: Lars (Mar 11, 2004 07:13AM)

Try the following link http://www.amvona.com they do backdrop systems and they are relatively cheap, lightweight and very good quality. Also look on eBay under backdrop system.


Message: Posted by: BIlly James (Mar 12, 2004 05:56PM)
Thanks folks,

As to Majiloon's question - no I don't use the Spider. It looks great but it's just so expensive that I don't think I can quite justify the price.

Message: Posted by: glodmagic (Mar 12, 2004 06:24PM)
What kind ARE you using?
Message: Posted by: BIlly James (Mar 13, 2004 03:20AM)
The one I'm currently using was made up by someone who is handy with those things (I'm not).
It's 4 pieces of steel(?) or aluminium tubing that telescope for variable length and height, together they form an upright square or rectangle. The whole thing is supported by 2 short pieces (about 2ft each in length) that attach to the bottom 2 corners and sit adjacent to the uprights.
Its not too bad if I'm using a fairly small backdrop but for larger ones it just doesn't cut the mustard.
There must be something simple, sturdy and easy to erect and pull down out there somewhere...for crying out loud we've put a man on the Moon so surely we must be able to suspend a painted sheet!

Message: Posted by: Kent Messmer (Mar 18, 2004 01:40PM)
I use an I-beam truss system. The brand is Proel and they run about $89.00 on line.

Do a search for Proel and check out who has the best price.

Here is one link to see what it looks like...


They pack small and are light weight and will hold the weight you need them to.

Here are some photos of my setup...

Good luck
Message: Posted by: Majiloon (Mar 18, 2004 02:07PM)
Thanks Kent,

That is pretty cool-- They are in Italy it looks like- do they have dealers in the US?

How strong is it?
Message: Posted by: Tim Ellis (Mar 19, 2004 03:13AM)
I prefer just using Aluminium poles (they are square and clip together with plastic joiners). I form them into any shape, a cube for a dressing room, or a... backless cube (?) for a backdrop, and I hang curtains from the top bar.

It's hard to explain in text, but REALLY easy to set up and transport. VERY cheap. VERY stable. And EXTREMELY flexible.

Message: Posted by: Andrew (Mar 22, 2004 12:52PM)

I use a backdrop made from a Walmart camping bed frame. This may sound strange, but the frame uses basically the same principle as the Spiderplex, but is MUCH less expensive. (Approx. $50.00 for the frame and mattress.) You just need to provide your own cloth to cover the frame and a bolt to secure it in the up-ended position. This is an idea that orginated with Berry Mitchell and I am very pleased with it's portability, Stability, and speed in setup.
PM me if you'd like more details.

Message: Posted by: bry1513 (Mar 22, 2004 04:56PM)
Kent- I have been looking at the same type of I-beam truss system and wanted you to know how awesome your set up looks....

Take care, Bry
Message: Posted by: constantine (Mar 29, 2004 08:31PM)
Take a look at the curtain system used in trade shows. A foot square quarter-inch steel base, an eight foot screw-in upright/ and a telescoping cross piece called a scope. Very easy up and down, rugged, unobtrusive, modular, and promoters and stage hands instantly recognize them. This system's only a little heavier and more expensive than the flimsy tripod systems like jet-set.
Message: Posted by: Clayton Cavaness (May 8, 2004 04:04PM)
I used a PVC pipe system based on the trade show exhibit booth systems you see. It has worked great for years.
Message: Posted by: James Fortune (May 11, 2004 03:10PM)
You don't say where you're based Billy.

Anyway, check this UK site out ...

I use the FCSS5. It is incredibly light and breaks down beautifully. And for only £100 - it's a bargain!

All you then need is some nice cloth and you're away.
Message: Posted by: CamelotFX (Jun 28, 2004 04:03PM)
We built our own from PVC pipe and fittings (for disassembly into easily-transportable pieces) with threaded disc bases from the dock supply store for the feet. Very sturdy and reconfigurable for different venues.
Message: Posted by: MagicbyCarlo (Jun 29, 2004 12:50PM)
When you look at justifying the cost of a backdrop system, you have to look at several things. How often will you use it (cost per show)? Is it easy to carry, set up and break down? Is it practical for your type of shows and venues? For my money I choose the Spider Flex System. While the price might be high initially, I have been using mine for 2 years, it gives my show a professional look and feel and with the exception of breezy out door venues (which I don't do anymore) it goes almost everywhere.
Message: Posted by: HarbinJr. (Jul 7, 2004 12:35AM)
I have loved looking at everone's systems. The best one that I have ever designed was built for me by a theater friend of mine. It consisted of six poles that were telescopic, reaching anywhere from 6-10 feet. There were bases, not tripods, for the poles. These were made out of tractor blades and having a pipe welded in the center to hold the poles. Then we would have the cross bars which could be pulled apart and quickly put back together. These would hold a ten by ten curtain. I would have two of these for the sides and then depending on the angles I would sometimes hook on my entrance and exit curtains. In the middle I wold use a roll up curtain that way I wouldnt have to mess with a curtain rod and it would just go up or down. All the poles, bases, L brackets( that fit in the poles to place the cross bars on) and curtains would fit into my closet in a small corner. I used this for my illusion show for years. I still use it today. I am always looking for better ideas but its hard to beat this system. I don't have to worry bout tripods to trip over. I then use mylar stip curtains to put over the side curtains. It may sound confusing but very practical. All in all I can have my curtains go from a basic 30 feet across to almost 50 feet across as a "front curtain spread" I have other curtains as a back drop that I use. I use a trade show aluminum set up that a friend of mine sold me bout a year ago. If you have questions holler at me.


Robert Long
Message: Posted by: hugmagic (Aug 1, 2004 09:11PM)
Look on Ebay for trade show exhibit frameworks. Much like a spider framework but often they can be picked up quite cheap as companies are doing less and less with trade shows.
Message: Posted by: magictim (Aug 11, 2004 04:05PM)
I am looking into getting a DJ lighting truss system to use for my backdrop frame. It is 2 tripoods and a truss that runs in between. It extends to 9' x 10'. The whole thing will support 200 lbs. so it's enough to put 2 PA speakers and hang a backdrop.
Message: Posted by: Paul Arthur (Aug 11, 2004 04:31PM)
On 2004-08-11 17:05, magictim wrote:
I am looking into getting a DJ lighting truss system to use for my backdrop frame. It is 2 tripoods and a truss that runs in between. It extends to 9' x 10'. The whole thing will support 200 lbs. so it's enough to put 2 PA speakers and hang a backdrop.


Will you be standing downstage of your speakers?
Message: Posted by: Kevin Ridgeway (Aug 11, 2004 10:36PM)
Paul asks a good question Tim...if you hang the speakers on the same truss as your backdrop, you are either in front of your speakers or behind your backdrop...neither of which is good for your show.

Message: Posted by: magictim (Aug 12, 2004 11:47AM)
Yes, I see what you mean. I didn't realize that when I found the truss system online....I will still have to keep my PA speakers on their own stands. ~Thanks
Message: Posted by: Decomposed (Aug 22, 2004 07:16AM)
Something like PVC that sets up fast, easy breakdown and light to carry. And of course inexpensive.

Okay, This is the answer (I think)...I sent the company a question

Here is nice inexpensive material for your support:

Message: Posted by: Dennis Michael (Aug 30, 2004 03:17PM)
Just got back from KIDabra and Barry Mitchell stated he was very apprecitive of my comments related to the Wal-Mart Queen size-bed as a homemade backdrop. He even stated he hopes many would buy his book to see how to put it together and build the many other props written in his Creativity book. Barry stated that it is articles like this that do help sell his book!
Message: Posted by: Eddy Lester (Sep 2, 2004 06:47PM)
The portable curtain system that I have used for over the past 30 years for special events shows in colleges and for corporate events,is photographers background rolled paper holders. The poles and stands set use to cost $90. I'm sure they are more now. For curtains I used double thick (light weight to travel with) 1/4 mylar teardrop curtains. The sets adjusted to 10' high 10' long and about 5 1/2' feet for packing. At times I used 3-4 across for 30-40 feet on open platforms. Had fiber case made and it has held-up for many years. I have flown this on commercial flights. Once had trouble with connecting flight space for the that case. After that close call, I checked the type of planes for the complete trip.

Eddy Lester
Lester Productions
Special Events &
Personal Representative
John Calvert, Darwin Ortiz & Jon Keith
Message: Posted by: Decomposed (Sep 6, 2004 06:11AM)
I finally purchased an Amvona system off of Ebay. Aluminum cast and can extend to 10 by 10 if needed. Just at $100 with shipping. It has a nice carrying case too.

Got some like new curtains from thrift store. They are children's curtains with little sailboats on them ($10) and a nylon shower curtain that uses rings at top (burgundy) for $10 also.

PS: Welcome to Café Eddy::)
Message: Posted by: Chuck Lyons (Sep 6, 2004 05:12PM)
I use a very old item that I found in an unusal place. It is called a Jack-in-the-box. It was used in a funeral home when directors did home funerals. The whole set up folds down into a box. The curtians are 8 foot wide and are adjustable up to 8 feet high. Check with old established funeral homes and they may have one they want to unload at a reasonable price or you can check ebay and search under funeral. I have seen several on there. Hope this helps.
Message: Posted by: freakshowjim (Oct 6, 2004 03:16AM)
Talking about spider backdrops I have a source that is selling them for SGD$1000(exchange rate to usd is about 1.7)... can anyone tell me if I can find any cheaper source
Message: Posted by: Decomposed (Oct 11, 2004 05:19AM)
The http://www.amvona.com site is good and they sell for cheap on EBAY. Mine is working out wonderfully. Very light weight.
Message: Posted by: Amazing Magic Co (Dec 30, 2004 05:10AM)
I purchased a lighting support tripod on eBay which is completely adjustable to 10'. This comfortably holds a fair bit of weight from a 4' T-bar that on top of the tripod. I cut a PVC pipe into 3' sections that I'll slide that onto each side of the T-bar so my width is comfortably adjustable to about 8'. I use fireproof trade show curtains which I also picked up on the internet. The whole system costs under $100 and sets up in about 1 minute. I could add a second tripod if I needed my system to extend further. I hold this helps.

Message: Posted by: Antony Gerard (Jan 15, 2005 07:08PM)
One of the names of the lighting support tripod (tree) that Dan discribed above is the LTS.6 which is manufactured by American DJ. The retail cost is $79.95 including the T-Bar. You can go to the American DJ web site for dealers or contact me and I can give you a source in your area.

The extension bars that I use are telescoping closet curtain bars that I buy for about $10.00 at department stores. Chains like Menards and Lowe's should carry them.

The set up time is about one minute. They are VERY light weight and sturdy. If you add a second tripod you can put a bar between the two and have a curtain that you can do a center walk through with. I have used these tripods a few times at the World Magic Seminar in Las Vegas and many times at the FFFF convention in New York.

Take care and take cards
Antony Gerard
Message: Posted by: Christopher Moro (Mar 1, 2005 09:04PM)

Thank you & Barry Mitchell for sharing the Wal Mart frame idea with the rest of us. Could you tell me how tall and wide it stands? The Wal-mart website gives dimensions for the bed, not the frame. Thank you very much!
Message: Posted by: magician304 (Mar 6, 2005 04:41PM)
I also have a question about the Wal-Mart bed frame backdrop. I was able to buy one of them but when it is stood up on end, it begins to collapse down into its compacted. Does anyone know how to fix this problem? Any ideas would be great. Thank you!
Message: Posted by: GuySavoie (Mar 6, 2005 09:11PM)
This is my solution. It will only make sense if you've got the frame in front of you. :)

I took the spread fabric off the frame. On my frames, the plastic connectors where the fabric attached have holes about 0.5" in diameter once the fabric is removed. On the plastic connectors directly below them there is a matching hole.

I installed short cords, tied to the bottom connectors, and running through the matching connectors. The cords must be long enough to stay threaded when the frame is folded for travel. I then put "cord locks" on them. These are those little spring activated devices that go on the cords that run through coats, etc. If you press the button in, it slides down the cord. If you release the button, it locks in position. You get the idea. ;)

Put one of these on every cord.

To hold the frame solid, expand it out on the floor just like its use as a bed. Pull the cords tightly, and slip the stops into place to hold the cords. It only takes about 30 seconds if you put the cords around all of the outer connectors.

Stand the frame upright, and it won't collapse.

To fold it for travel, lay the frame back down, slide all of the cord stops to their loose positions, and the bed frame folds right up.

Plenty of other solutions, of course...

--- Guy
Message: Posted by: MagicalPirate (Jun 1, 2005 08:00PM)
You can find that Walmart bed frame here:


Martin :pirate:
Message: Posted by: g0thike (Jun 1, 2005 10:57PM)

The following is my opinion and info I would like to share about my backdrop.

The Spider System is great indoors but at $1,000.00 bucks ouch, Barry Mitchell's idea is a great alternative. Here is my take on backdrops.

95% of my shows are outdoors and I use a backdrop in medium wind conditions when necessary. Here is the secret:

Photo Tripods pretty much SUCK for outdoor show, the tripods are small and thin as well as the cross bar, they are used to HOLD ROLLS OF PAPER INDOORS for photographers. Sorry if you bought them.

You need a Lighting Truss System, thye cost about the same as Photo ones, here is the one I use:


They are used so 200 lbs of lighting equipment can be hung from them, which means the tri-pods are bigger and thicker.

Now in moderate up to 40 mph wind conditions. You can only raise the tripods to about 6-7 feet high, less is better, you have to heavy duty CLAMP the cloth-backdrop to the tripod, HOMEDEPOT sells clamps (swamp meet type clamps).

The tripod legs have to be open pretty wide. You also have to figure out how to place the tripods legs according to wind direction. What ever direction the wind is blowing is how you direct the legs. You have to see this for yourself by rotating the tripods.

Finally place something heavy, on the backdrop behind it. My backdrop is 10 feet high and in high winds I only raise it 6-7 feet max high, which gives me slack at the bottom to place a heavy object.

I would set the backdrop first and then the rest of your show. You got to make sure it will not tip over with the wind. Also work in front of it a few feet away and have your audience further back. Just incase a freak wind builds up, it only falls on you and it does not injure a audience memember. Use common sense.

Finally I do not work at American DJ or do I sell Light Truss systems, other brand names exist besides American DJ.


Message: Posted by: Michael Taggert (Jun 15, 2005 09:40PM)
Ok so it works for me. I have a background in set construction so I made four corners out of flats. Then I made a head piece the goes completely around to form a box at the top. the front looks similar to a small proscenium. I sprang big money to have some nice theatrical drapes sewn in NYC. These are made with a pipe pocket at the top and a chain at the bottom. The corners are hinged and the top pieces go together with bolts and wing nuts. The top piece has a mounting bracket to hold the pipe in place after the cutains are slipped over the pipes.
The whole thing weighs about 150# in four pieces. It travels in two canvas bags and a plastic tote. I also added two uprights in case I needed to have the drapes be freestanding. This gives me an instant back stage and because I use lighting trees I don't have to fuss with raising a truss. The first drapes I used where from my living room and because they where "tab" style curtains they fit the pipe just fine. I found that the pvc pipes where just too flimsy to look professional so I switched to steel pipe. I use the pipe that they use for fire sprinkler systems as it is lighter weight than plumbing pipe.
Just an Idea.
Michael Taggert
Message: Posted by: PaxMentis (Jun 18, 2005 12:19PM)
We purchased a Spider Flex System a few years ago for a client and have not regretted it. It always looks professional and besides setting up and breaking down easily, it's very convenient to carry. However, they aren't the only ballgame in town. The one feature that interested us was the fact that you could expand it for larger presentations. Looking back, that one feature sold us.
Message: Posted by: socalmagic (Jun 25, 2005 02:17AM)
I use pipe and drape as you would see at a hotel or trade show. You can get them to telescope to many different sizes. They are easy to use, and most experienced stage crew will know exactly how it works. I use it for outdoor shows, and with a shot bag (a sand bag with metal balls intead of sand), they will withstand high winds at 8-10 feet high. Also, the bases are flat and relatively low profile, so crew won't trip over them or run your props into the legs as they would with tripod stands. I also like it because because people can walk through the slits in the curtains and deliver or strike props. For $1,000, I was able to get 100 feet worth of pipe and base. I then had my wife sew 100 feet of curtains for about $100. This is enough drapery to set-up in a large open space and create a fully enclosed performance area with wings and a back-stage area.
Message: Posted by: michaelwriting (Jan 18, 2006 11:30PM)
To make the backdrop sturdy, make sure to weigh it down with some sandbags or other weights. Otherwise, there is a high center of gravity and it might seem a little unstable.
Message: Posted by: Amazing Magic Co (Jan 19, 2006 03:47AM)
Don't forget that Columbus used a backdrop when he first discovered America. If for outdoor performances, you don't weigh you base down sufficiently and use a material that breathes, you'll see exactly what I mean. I'd love to say that this wisdom was intuitive, but unfortunately as with most things that involve common sense, I learned the hard way.