Stop Motion Animation Forum Archive











Posted by Jackieboyblue, on 2006-06-14 11:29:46

Dome Backdrop Good Idea/Bad Idea?

To all you brilliant problem solvers I have a series of questions concerning an idea for my backdrop and set, Imagine that the walls of the backdrop were pulled around and curved at the top in the form of a dome, perhaps one of those Imax theatres that larger cities sometimes have-where the film screen literally curves up to the the ceiling by a bit. So imagine this dome consider these questions. 1.) Is this a feasible idea for something that is supposed to appear to be an outside area, or would there be difficulty with getting that interior space to look like an exterior space when considering lighting and shadows? 2.)Furthermore, Supposing that the dome would not work as an opaque surface do you think that a plausible solution could be something along the lines of using a translucent paper mache where light could pass through the dome and not be obstructed? Is this, overall, in your opinion(s), a good idea or a bad one for a stopmotion backdrop, have you ever seen it done before? Ideas, Comments, Suggestions, Criticism are all welcome.

Posted by Boy Oyng, on 2006-06-14 19:10:07

It could work, but it sounds to me much more trouble than it would be worth unless you were planning lots of low angle shots, looking upward into the sky. Here's where I see difficulty: Unless the dome is really large, I think it would be difficult to light. For example, if you wanted a sort of "kicker" light behind a subject, where would the light go? It would be harder to hang one back inside a dome. I think it would be harder to get a uniformly smooth surface on a dome. Any surface variation would show up more readily unless you bathed the whole thing with lights from lots of different angles. I think it would be very difficult to construct, and then to move around and adjust while shooting. You'd always have to be worrying about the edges at the sides. I think it could limit your access to the puppets. As for a translucent version lit from behind, it would have to be utterly seamless and uniform in order not to have odd variations in the "sky." Having said all this, though, it might be cool to see and give interesting results! Particularly the translucent version! If you used a large skylight dome... Good luck!

Posted by Yuji, on 2006-06-14 23:44:16

I thought about doing a back lit backdrop too. Perhaps not a dome shape but in the lines to what you are thinging. After seeing John Lewis's film "The Boy Who Wanted To Touch The Moon", I thought the background was just beautiful. Of course everything in the foreground is silhouette but I think if lit carefully, it could be done with well lit foreground characters. Check out John's film at

Posted by Nick H, on 2006-06-14 22:15:20

I often set up the sky backdrop in cgi on a dome, but not in the real world. Some studios go halfway, with a cyclorama (white or black curtain) hanging on rails that are curved at the corners. So you can point the camera to the left and right and still get a backdrop behind the set. (It's not usually painted though, just a plain cloth hit with coloured light.) I thought about it, but I staple my painted canvas onto a flat plywood covered frame. If the corners were curved, I couldn't staple it, the canvas would try and go straight between staples, so I'd have to paint directly on the curved panels. I'd have to re-paint them each time I changed skies, intead of storing the canvas for later. Panels curved in one direction are easy to make, but a big dome is another story. A flat surface is easier to light evenly, too. I get around the problem of shooting at different angles by putting my sets on castors. I can rotate the set so I am looking at it from a different angle, but I am still looking at the backdrop front-on. I might also move the set along to see a different part of the set if a particular cloud is looking too familiar. I don't often do a looking-up shot, but when I do I just lean the puppet way back, so I can tilt the camera up only a little bit. You can't see the ground when looking up, mainly you see sky, so usually just the puppet and maybe a tree or tall building need to be tilted to make it seem like the camera is pointed way up. So I figure, a dome is too hard and has drawbacks, so not worth the trouble.

Posted by Jackieboyblue, on 2006-06-15 17:20:42

Ah yes, this was and is along the lines of what I am thinking, dome shape asside which I think you all have convinced me is more trouble than its worth with the advantage of camera angle techniques in mind. I think forelighting could be done well in any other film alongside backlighting its just a matter of balancing their levels. The silouette in this one is superb though. I appreciate the aid.

Posted by Nick H, on 2006-06-15 19:56:43

The backlit look is nice. But if you have enough room to put at least 1 metre between the backcloth and the back of the set, it's not hard to light the backcloth from the front and make it as bright as you want. It's probably easier to paint something to be front-lit. You add a bit of white, and it looks brighter - if it's backlit, the extra density of paint makes it go darker even if its white paint. You need to backlight your translucent material while you paint it to see how it will look. You also need room behind it for the lights. The idea is to have separate lighting for the sky that doesn't hit the set, even if its coming from the front. (Although, you can let a little bluish light hit the back parts of a set to add some atmospheric perspective.) I have my main lights for the backcloth hanging up above. The best ones are Iris lights with an assymetrical reflector so they send more light down low than up at the top to make up for the angle and different distance to the canvas. But I've done it with a couple of domestic 500 watt halogen floodlights from the hardware store as well. I make up a frame from coathanger wire or something so I can clip lighting gel to it. I sometimes put a couple of flourescent tubes on a timber batten, attached the back of the set and facing the cloth, to add an extra glow to the horizon. I cut long strips of lighting gel to hang over the tubes if I want sunset colours. Then you can leave your foreground set and puppets in silhouette, or light them any way you like, keeping the light from hitting the backcloth and making shadows or hotspots. Because the lights are separate, you can control the balance between sky and set.