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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » F/X » » How to build a 9' high backdrop that is easy to set up for under $150 (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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Profile of biff_g
I've noticed a lot of backdrop threads lately and a lot of people have asked me about my backdrop, so I thought I'd share the system that I've been using. I can set it up all by myself in under 5 minutes, it's pretty easy to pack around, and in my highly biased opinion, it looks fantastic.

Ok, first you need two speaker stands. No one will see these, so you can go and get used ones for about $20 if you don't already have a couple laying around. Then you need some 3/4" EMT conduit (costs less than $1 per foot) and straight couplers from any hardware store. The conduit is going to go across the top of your backdrop, so depending on how long you want your backdrop, the more conduit you need. The couplers are so that you can cut the conduit for transport. I have three 4' pieces of conduit, and thus 2 couplers. If you wanted to make your backdrop much longer than that, you will probably need more speaker stands.

Ok, next you will need two 1" PVC "T" joints. These will sit on top of the speaker stands and will hold the conduit. Ok, now here's the part that sucks. The "T" joints are a little bit too small to fit over the speaker stands, so you have to hollow the inside out a little bit with a rotary tool. This is messy and uncomfortable, because the plastic bits stick all over the place. If you've ever tried to cut styrofoam, you know what this is like, but the plastic is even harder. Wear goggles and work in a place that's easy to clean. I'd also maybe suggest you do some extra joints now, if you're the type that tends to lose things. Once you've made those, you have to cut the tops of the joints off to make a U shaped saddle that the conduit will sit on.

So now you have your frame, which has only cost you about $60. Now you need to make your actual backdrop. This is where your costs can differ greatly. First, you need a piece of opaque material the size of your backdrop plus an extra 2' of height. You can look through Wal-Mart discount bins and find something really cheap, since no one will actually see this piece. Next you need something nice that is going to be your actual backdrop. This is where you would want to place your money, since this is what will actually be seen. This piece needs to be the size of your backdrop, plus 2' of height, plus some extra width. The amount of extra width depends on the width of your backdrop, because you need the extra width to make pleats in the backdrop. I hope that made sense.

Next you're going to need some curtain rings. You're going to need to find some with some pretty strong clips, because they'll be holding up quite a bit of weight. You'll also need some plastic shower curtain rings. Ideally, you want to find ones that are just an oval with a cut in them. In other words, you don't want ones that snap together, or anything like that. Get a few extra shower curtain rings.

Ok, now to put everthing together. First you need to cut off the extra height from your opaque piece of material and from your nice piece of material. Lay out the opaque full sized piece of backdrop material. On top of that goes the nice full sized piece of material, lining up the top. At this point, you can take the curtain rings and clip the two pieces of material together. You kind of have to adjust the two pieces, since they are different widths, so that the pleats are even. Next you add the extra piece of nice backdrop material, and then the opaque piece, lining everything up at the top. You clip everything together with the clips, and you're done!

To set everything up, here's what you do. First, you put your speaker stands up with the tops of them at about eye level. You then put your "T" joints on the speaker stands, and then the conduit on top of those. Now, you use the plastic shower curtain rings to hook your material onto the conduit. Next you fold half of your "extra height" pieces back over the conduit, hiding all of the rings and the conduit. At this point you can pin this piece back on itself from the backside, to make sure that it doesn't slip. Finally, you raise the speaker stands to the height that you desire, and voila!
Christopher Starr
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Profile of Christopher Starr
Thanks for sharing this Biff. Have you got a photo of your backdrop that you could also share with us?

Paulo Cabrita
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Profile of Paulo Cabrita
I woul like to look some photo...

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Profile of biff_g
Sorry, I don't frequent this forum much... I could certainly take some pictures if someone could, err, tell me how to put them in a post Smile
John C
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you can also buy two stands and the cross bar from a photography store and hang a cloth on it.

Pretty cheap.

The ULTIMATE Routine Series: rebirth soon!
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Profile of mrunge
Great ideas. Thanks guys!

Mark. Smile
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Profile of Stevethomas
There's a decent-looking backdrop frame on ebay right now for a "buy it now" under $70, but the shipping is like $29. Not bad if it's as sturdy as it appears. You also need to make your own curtains (which I would do anyway) for it, too.

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Profile of jlevey
Thanks to the urgings and detailed advice of several generous Café members some many months ago (actually about 6 months ago, I believe), I did exactly what you are suggesting Steve. I bought my stands on Ebay for about $70 + 30 shipping from Avmona (or Amvona, or something like that!).

Then I went to a Fabricville store (here in Montreal) and chose a nice red velvet panne fabric. Then I had the store send it out to one of their seamstresses and the job came back perfect, as I requested, in two separate panels (for easy roll up storage) --approx. 5 ft. by 12 ft high for each panel (they event put a string of weights along the entire length of the bottom edge of the curtain).

Takes me ten minutes to set up (capacity to go 12 ft. high by 10 feet wide) and takes another (in all honesty) 15-20 minutes to take down and roll up and pack away (--what can I say, after my show is over I need to decompress, and I pack up slowly... very slowly --but I pack up well, for the next show!).

I have been very happy with this curtain/backdrop solution and my clients love the theatrical look (I use to rent dull black velvet curtains at $100-$150 for the evening.

I encourage anyone who has wanted to have their own set of curtains to move forward and just "do it".

I also bring my own lights and just bought two Manfroto light stands that are lightweight and quick and easy to set up and take down.

For the really big shows (with bigger budgets) I still prefer to rent my curtains and lights and sound sytem, and have tech support set it up and take it all down.

But for most of my corporate shows, the set up I now (finally) have pack small and plays big... and looks really (really ) nice.

Thanks agian to all those fellow Café members (--you know who you are!) that gave me their initial detailed input and advice and the encouragement to take action, on something that was long over due and desired --and worthwhile.

With best regards.

Max & Maxine Entertainment
Magicians with a touch of comedy!
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