A fairly cheap but effective black backdrop I bought from AliExpress

I'm not sure many people would be interested in this but I'm trying to make some poxy instructional videos for YouTube (they take so long to make) and I wanted a black backdrop. At first I thought any old black fabric would do but I noticed black fabrics often aren't all that black. 

Ideally, you'd maintain a lot of distance between the backdrop and the subject in which case you can even make a white backdrop look black but that's not possible in the confines of my living room. The best black fabric is supposedly black velvet sold specifically for use in photography/theatres but that stuff is hideously expensive.

I took a chance on this stuff for £12 per 3mx1.5m piece. I'm not sure exactly how long it took to arrive. It's normal to take between two and four weeks but I wasn't desperate for it so I didn't notice.

The main drawback is that its only available in pieces 1.5m wide. It's easy enough to put two pieces side-by-side with the edges folded back to hide the back and selvedge which is shiny. It will also let light through from behind so you can't use it in front of a window without additional fabric (curtains?) to block the light.

I've prepared some photos of side-by-side. They were taken with my Samsung Galaxy S5 in some automatic mode. Having a white pieces of paper in frame adjusted the exposure as you're probably already familiar with. Apart from my phone I have a Panasonic HDC-SD60 which has automatic and manual settings so I could take these again if I did it badly this time. I have no conflict of interest here: I get nothing out of sales of this fabric; I just thought others would appreciate cheap black backdrops and I spent a lot of time perusing forums and listings to come to this choice.

http://imgur.com/rRn7MBQ.png

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Comments

  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator

    Looks pretty dark. ;) 

  • @THX1139  Well, there certainly is a visible difference there.  If you were needing black, I would say the backdrop might be worth the extra there.  I have a 9x11 green backdrop that I use mostly and, like you mentioned, two pieces of black crushed velvet I caught on clearance at the end of bolt that I have "stitched" together with safety pins but I've only had limited success with that.  I think if I ever rally need black for anything I'll run it through a machine and make that seam permanent.  I wonder if an indirect light on would make that contrast there any better in your fourth example?

  • edited July 19

    tddavis  I'm not really sure what you mean; you think I should bounce the light off the ceiling or something?

     

    Incidentally, if anyone wants to paint a solid backdrop (e.g. a wall) black then this is the best paint I've found but I haven't tried it (at £12 for 150 ml, it would be expensive to cover a wall). It's an acrylic paint and not really suitable for fabrics. It claims to be the next best thing to Vantablack which is a fancy nanotube coating that's fragile and super expensive and the blackest black there ever was.

  • @THX1139  That's sort of what I was wondering about.  My typing dropped a few words there my apologies. Either bounce off the ceiling or maybe white poster board set up like bounce cards to cut down on the harshness of the light on the black backdrop. but still light your subjects in front.  But that's just an uneducated thought. You have done the experiments so far so you are ahead of me there. 

  • I think as long as there are subjects in the front to be lit, the camera set to auto will adjust and make the background black. I think it's only really a problem if there's no subject or maybe if the subject doesn't reflect enough light. I should probably try with more realistic subjects than a piece of white paper though. With white paper in the foreground even the black felt is almost adequate (but felt is no cheaper than this special backdrop fabric).

  • @THX1139  I had not thought about that.  That is very possible.  The auto f stop may compensate for a larger bright spot and tamp down on the iris and make the background much darker.  Video cameras certainly do the opposite when filming school stage productions the daughter's and the grandkids were/are in.

  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator

    Um. Manual exposure to dial down the background, and LOCK it in! 

  • @Triem23   Ah, in a perfect world I'd have more experience with a camera that had manual exposure and/or focus settings.  I'm so used to my low-end video cameras I never even think about manual setting anymore. Good call.  

  • Aladdin4dAladdin4d Moderator
    edited July 22

     Just a few thoughts/comments in no particular order........

    If you're looking for backdrops be sure to search for "pipe and drape" too. You might be able to find a good deal on some used kit or if you only need it for a day or two you can rent it.

    The size of the panels you found is pretty typical. Normally you would use 3-5 of them per 3 meter (10 foot) span depending on the gathering you want.

    "Real" panels are almost always treated with a flame retardant or made from inherently flame retardant materials. Either way the panels need to be routinely tested by the manufacturer to ensure they pass applicable local codes. (In the US you're looking at NFPA 701 compliance) More than anything else, needing to meet the code is what jacks up the price. If you're just shooting at home you don't really need to worry about this too much but if you're shooting anywhere else you really want to CYA and use "real" panels.

    Panels come in different common types including banjo, poly premier, velour, poly satin, sheer voile and commando (duvetyne in some places). Banjo is an open weave so no good for blocking out light but lightweight and looks good on both sides. Poly premier is more upscale than banjo and blocks more light, 60- 70% opaque. Usually looks good on both sides. Poly satin has a glossy finish and is about 80% opaque. Sometimes it's good on both sides but sometimes not and you have to go with a double wall drape if you need both sides to be good. Sheer voile is transparent and it's hard to describe the look it gives. You really have to see it in person to get the full effect but it's great for pulling off certain lighting looks. Velour is only good on one side and comes in different weights affecting the opacity. You can get to 99% opaque and it's good for sound dampening too. Commando panels only come in black AFAIK and are 99% opaque. Only one good side kind of like velour or suede. It's the go to choice for light blocking, light absorption, impromptu dressing rooms and sound absorption so when in doubt, go commando if you need a black backdrop ;)

    Heavy weight velour and commando panels are just that, heavy! Plan accordingly. 

    Lighting and exposure have already been covered but judicious use of Crush Blacks and Whites can make a world of difference in post.

    If you're setting up drape on location and someone claiming to be a carpenter asks what the heck you're doing it means you're on a union site and have encountered a representative from an IATSE local.

    Meet your new best friend - The ubiquitous, indispensable C-47!

     

    Yep it's a clothespin. By 'em by the gross.

  • After reading the whole post, I have caught several useful tips to follow you guide. Thanks for you sharing. 

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