Building a small cyclorama, step by step

November 1, 2011 · 9 comments

01_cyclorama-photo-studio

We recently hired some carpenters and painters to help us build a small cyclorama in our photo studio. I took a few photos of the project so I could show you how it was done, and how it turned out.

First, English is not my first language even if I might be able to fool some with photography terms, but when it comes to all the words needed to explain how this cyc was built, I feel that I really don’t have the right vocabulary. If there is anything I miss or use the wrong terms for, please let me know.

02_photo-studio-before-cyclorama

Our studio is quite small, but big enough for portraits and some product photography, I think the wall you see is a little over 3 meters wide, maybe 3,5 meters (10 feet).

We planned to leave around 30 centimeters (1 foot) on either side for placing Autopoles, mostly to be sure they had really firm floor to stand on.

03_first-steps-cyclorama

The guys helping us build the cyclorama used our sketch on a napkin which said just “floor here, wall here, and a round corner between them (together with this link to a NSFW-ish video with a girl in bikini showing hot to build one).

They started by making a frame on the floor with beams spaced out evenly, I think this could be called a truss? And they put something similar on the wall.

04-building-a-cyclorama-the-frame

They framework on the floor was not attached to the in any way, we guessed that the weight alone would keep it in place. Together with the beams screwed to the wall, it feels very solid and it is impossible to move.

05-cyclorama-sound-dampening

The people I share this studio with use it sometimes for filming, and they wanted no noise coming from it. The carpenters added strips of some kind of dampening material under the frame to keep it in place, and to dampen any noise.

I think it might have been even better to fill the empty spaces between the studs (I think it might be called, the 2x4s?) with something that insulates and absorbs sound, but it might be overkill?

06-cyclorama-frame-wall-roundness

The next step was to decide the curvature of the round corner, after a little research on the net, we used around one meter (approx. 3 feet) from the wall and from the bottom up. We used plywood, and sawed away a quarter of a circle to make a smoot transition from floor to wall.

08-cyc-photo-studio-noise

The material for the floor was also plywood, with strips of noise dampening material everywhere (for my filming friends).

09-cyc-finishing-touches-before-paint

Almost done. Fitting the last pieces together before it was time to work on all the screw holes and cracks between the panels.

12-cyclorama-painting-plaster

Making the spaces and cracks between the panels to go away completely required a lot more work than we (and the painters) had planned. They had to add something called Microlit (which I think is a brand), a thin mesh you can sand and paint over, to be sure to get the surface even.

13-cyclorama-last-coat-of-paint

After that, more sanding, and more painting before the cyclorama was all white and very even. We used a dull paint which feels like it attracts dirt very easily, so I guess we will have to paint to floor part every now and then.

14-finished-cyclorama-small-studio

Even if the room we use as a photo studio is in no way big, building a cyclorama inside it makes it feel bigger. I am used to paper background for most of my portrait work and shoots like that, and sometimes it does not feel wide enough, the background.

Adding one meter in width makes a lot of difference, as long as you can keep the lights on Autopoles on the sides. What we need to do now is just to attach the background paper holders above the cyclorama for times when we need something other than white or grey background.

15-first-shot-of-model-on-new-cyclorama

This is a test shot from my latest clothing photography session I did for a Swedish designer, they didn’t need full lenght body shots this time, but I thought I should try the new background out.

To keep the white floor white a little bit longer, I went to a store and bought a roll of covering paper (?) that painters use. It is glossy and white, and will hopefully protect the floor from getting too dirty fast.

The whole project took about a week for the carpenters and painters to do, and most of that time was spent getting the surface smooth. If we would have tried to do this by ourselves, it would have taken a lot longer.

For more and better information on building a cyclorama, you can find great posts here (video and photos) and here and here (NSFW-ish again).

If you think I have missed something, or gotten words or terms wrong, please let me know. Carpenter-, or Painter-English is not my strong side.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

1 ben March 20, 2012 at 16:05

really great ,but i would really like to know more about measurements , type of paint and cost over materials . thank you

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2 Stefan Tell March 23, 2012 at 00:24

Ok, I will try to remember, but as I mentioned, I did not build this myself. We hired professionals even if we might have done something like this, but it would have taken a lot more time (and time is money in some way).

The total cost in material and hours landed somewhere between 20.000 and 25.000 SEK (3-3.500 dollar approx.) I think. It took three days to finish, with most of the time spent on painting, sanding and generally getting the curved surface smooth.

There are a lot of cyclorama builders on the Internet with more detailed descriptions of how they measured it and what materials they used, I think you will find your answers there. I checked some of them before we hired help, and just gave them a rough sketch of what we needed. The rest they figured out.

Regarding the paint, we used ordinary wall paint, the whitest you can find with no colour pigment, not glossy, but it gets scratched and dirty now and then, so we just paint a new layer when we need to.

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3 Wahyu April 4, 2012 at 13:07

Nice one! I have a few questions. How much is the distance between the camera and the object? and How huge is the room, how much square meter? I”m building a studio by myself, but I’m worried that my distance between the object and camera will be too short. How long is the cyclorama?its 3,5 wide right? but how long?..thanks for your attention and answers

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4 Stefan Tell April 4, 2012 at 14:10

It is 3,86 meters wide (not 3,5 I thought before) and 3,55 meters long, the maximum shooting distance if I place myself against the wall on the other side is approx. 7 meters.

If someone is standing near the edge, they have a little over 3 meters between them and the start of the curve, a bit short but useful anyway. If you can add another meter, I think it will make lighting the background separately much easier. We were restricted by a door and the room in general, but having a small cyclorama is often better than having to cut of background paper and fixing wrinkles in Photoshop, even if it gets dirty wuick (we used wall paint).

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5 Gabriel May 22, 2013 at 19:03

Try to by some transparent plastic to use on the floor permanently. No scratches ,easy to clean

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6 P August 3, 2014 at 15:55

Nice. BTW– your english is SUPERB! I intend to recommend your blog to many of my design students who are interested in photography. Very educational indeed.

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7 Greg January 21, 2016 at 19:27

Well done. I’ve found putting painters tape on the bottom of shoes helps eliminate dirt and scuff marks as well. Easy to pull off after shoots and with a wide variety of colors you can match the bottoms very easily and no one will know.

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8 Martin Palm October 11, 2016 at 09:08

Hey! Found this when researching about this topic πŸ™‚

I wonder what the total cost is? I’m in time to make this to my own business πŸ™‚

Thanks!

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9 Stefan Tell October 26, 2016 at 12:25

Hi,
I have a blog post in Swedish with every detail listed:
http://www.stefantell.se/blogg/2011/10/bygga-rundfond-i-fotostudio-steg-for-steg/

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