Roll Wrangling - The Handyman's Guide To Taming The Backdrop

on June 03, 2015

Recently it came to my notice that sometimes people have difficulty with roll backdrops for studio use. Here's a few tips garnered from years of having difficulties. Don't worry - all the bad language has long been said, so this post is safe for work.

The 2750 mm by 11,000 mm rolls of backdrop paper made by the Superior company are sort of he standard of the industry. Curious measurement...if you calculate it back to imperial standards it turns out to be 9 feet wide by 36 feet. Enough to make 2 complete smooth-transition infinity drapes in an 8-foot ceiling.

Newbies have sometimes been confronted with the problem of how to suspend the roll high enough for this - we sell portable backdrop stand sets that will do it - Manfrotto and their oriental copycats sell lots of vertical stands and crossbars that will do the same. They also make a set of hooks and drive mechanisms called "Expan" that allow an operator to roll the paper up and down easily.

There is also the option of sourcing brackets and crossbars from Mr. Bunnings - but then you have to drill into the walls and figure out how to get the roll up and down on the brackets. You will eventually acquire a folding ladder and an vocabulary to match.

However you suspend it, when you use the paper at the start of the roll it will be easy to manage. Of course - easier if you are using the Expan drive - but reasonably so even if it is just you on the ladder. The trick you'll need to remember is the weight of the paper when it is out can sometimes compel it to unroll further than you want. If it does this - clamp it off with a plastic or metal welding clamp ( Mr. Bunnings ) and all is well.

Later in the roll, this tendency to unroll will become more marked - clamp as needed, but be aware that the paper isn't actually taped or stapled onto the central cardboard core. Go too far and it all falls in a heap on you. Trick: before you get to this stage, gaffer tape the last edge of the paper to the roll. Then no surprises.

Superior make their paper rolls in two widths - 2750 mm and 1350 mm. Sometimes people need rolls of paper somewhere in between these sizes. The best way to cut down a 2750 roll is to use a sharp Stanley knife and have the paper on the floor. Do your cutting before you actually deploy the roll for he first time, so that you can make use of he factory sealing on the part you want to keep.

Run a circle of masking tape accurately around the roll and use it a guide to your first Stanley cut. Then gradually unpeel the off0cut as you go further into the roll - turning the roll on the floor. With a bit of care you can trim it evenly and get a custom size.

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