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Thread: DIY backdrops?

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    Default DIY backdrops?

    Hi everyone,

    I know there's a wealth of beautiful commercial backdrops out there...but what has our community come up with on their own? I'm good with graphics, photoshop and have access to a color laser printer, so ...

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    Seems to me that I ought to be able to find a fairly high res panoramic picture, flip it in photoshop, print out the flipped and unflipped versions, meet them at the ends and affix them to a backboard, and use a flat Modge Podge coating over the top of them. Has anyone tried that?

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    This ^^^^ is exactly what I'm going to attempt to do. I found a suitable backdrop image after scouring Google Images. After working with it in Photoshop to increase the resolution and make other modifications so that it would print to be 10 inches tall, I made a horizontally flipped copy, then made two Word documents, spanning the image across multiple pages at a 10" print height. Called one "Left" and one "Right". I can then print them out on a color laser printer -- as many as I need - and match the ends up.

    Tonight I'll experiment with Modge - Podge and see if I can affix one to a piece of 1/4" plywood scrap that I have. If it turns out well, I'll pick up some both-sides-finished 1/4" plywood and do two of the four sides, and stain the backside to match the layout. At least that's the plan on paper.

    If this works out well, I may try my hand at taking panorama shots with an iPhone, then I can use actual scenes local to the area that the layout is set in!

    Modge - Podge apparently doesn't come in flat, but they do have a Matte finish which should do the job. If that's too shiny, I guess acrylic flat clear paint could go over the top... The test piece will be in gloss, because that's what I already have.

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    I tried this before, back when I had access to a wide-format inkjet at work that could print on rolled paper. The problem, frankly, is the source image.

    Let's say I'm trying to do just one N-Trak module. That's 4' wide, say 10' tall. Wanting a 300dpi image to look good (600dpi would be better), means that the image needs to be 14,400 pixels by 3,000 pixels. Double that for 600dpi.

    Not that any of us can afford such a thing, but a Cannon 50MP camera (https://www.usa.canon.com/internet/p...gapixel-sensor) produces a 8712 x 5813 image.

    But it gets worse, even if you stand on a mountain with such a camera and take a far off shot with a wide angle (e.g. 24mm) lens, the resulting image appears to be compressed in the middle and doesn't look right when printed in that format. So you have to take multiple images and stitch.

    If you want a how to, these folks provide it: http://backdropwarehouse.com/HowWeDoIt.htm

    It can totally be done for smaller backdrops, so depending on your need I'm not saying don't try. But if you want a backdrop that spans any distance with a single image, I highly recommend just buying one. I've used BackDropWarehouse multiple times and they have always made me very, very happy. http://backdropwarehouse.com/help.htm
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    Leo Bicknell

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    I think Bachmann makes some.
    Daniel Dawson

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mobile One View Post
    I think Bachmann makes some.
    I guess I had that coming.

    So Bicknell, you're saying that the distortion of the iPhone panorama was the problem? I can understand that. I'd buy a backdrop, but frankly, I'm trying to do this hobby on a pauper's budget. 9.5 years away from retirement...and I don't want to work til I'm dead. After major setbacks in the last economic disaster, I basically had to start over. I don't make a ton of money, my wife makes very little but I'm so very proud of the work that she does (she's a Special Ed Teacher's Aide and a damned good one), I'd never want her to do anything else. But that's more than you needed to know... the thing is, with the skills that I have with graphics, for me to shell out a couple hundred bucks on a backdrop when we have so many other pressing things of higher fiscal priority in our household and marriage... well, I just can't justify it.

    All that being said, the image I found is just about perfect for my needs and doesn't have that curved perspective that an iPhone shot has. The question is mostly will the Mod Podge work and will it look good on the layout?

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    One of the backdrop 'halves'.
    Rbackdrop.jpg

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    Here's another one I've been playing with.

    backdropnew.jpg

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    Quote Originally Posted by P-LineSoo View Post
    So Bicknell, you're saying that the distortion of the iPhone panorama was the problem?
    To be fair, when I did this was before there was a panorama built into most cell phones!

    That said, the panorama still suffers from both problems...although depending on your subject less so. It basically is doing to stitching for you, which is nice. If you say, stood on top of a mountain top and shot some far away mountains for a background it would probably be fine (distortion wise), the closer you are to the subject the worse it will be. Pure sky would probably also be ok.

    You can kind of tell the distortion on the screen, shoot a panorama in a small room and then view it on the screen, you and see it sort of elongates the horizontal axis in a weird way.

    It's resolution that still could be an issue, although I just looked at one I shot and it ended up being 13632x3042, which at 300dpi would be 45.5"x10.14". That would probably be a usable scene.

    Here's a smaller version of the image, shot at Spruce West Virginia:



    It's probably about a 180 degree panorama, and so the left and right sides are much "further" from the camera than the middle. I'm actually standing inside the curve, but the tracks look straight, and the hill shape isn't right.

    Now, if you cut this off just above the hopper cars, and used just the mountains and sky, it would probably be quite alright.

    Anyway, not telling you not to do it, and I understand the budget thing. It can be done. You will have to get good locations for your panoramas more than anything else, the further everything is from you the better it will look.

    As for mounting, if you print to the heavier sort of paper (with some wax in it, "glossy" sort of paper) you can mod-podge it up. I've done that, it works. 3M spray adhesive is easier, spray it on then press on your paper, roll out any air bubbles. In both cases just go light on the glue, you don't want the paper to end up soaked.
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    Leo Bicknell

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