Ask Fritz

Doesn't using a corner mean that on one cove I'm going to have a shadow?

With a normal cyc or cove, yes. However with our System 4 and System 5, you can minimize the shadow so that it is imperceptible. We do that two ways: first the System 4 has a 42" vertical radius, but the horizontal radius is 60". Furthermore, the corner pieces are 45 degrees, thus you can put one or more straight coves in between the two 45° corners and effectively have a 98" radius. And, you do this while only losing 2" of floor in the diagonal of the corner (which isn't a big deal because you don't stand in the corner anyway). The System 5 can also be ordered with 45° corners.

Do I need to use a corner for my cyc?

Great question - I get this one alot. It really depends on what you are going to be using your cyc for. If you are always shooting your subject straight on, you probably do not need a corner - one straight wall should be sufficient. But if you are going to shoot from several angles, or if your subject moves (such as in fashion photography or videos), then you should consider either a longer wall with lots of lights, or more likely a corner. The biggest advantage of a corner and incorporating two walls is that you and your subject have more flexibility to move around and still stay within your infinity backround. REMEMBER, the field of vision of your lens must always be considered; if you are shooting in a corner one or both walls are projecting towards you. Because of that it covers the cameras field of view sooner.

What's the best way to eliminate cracking at the joints?

There are several things you can do to minimize or completely eliminate cracking in Pro Cyc joints. If you follow each of the following suggestions, your joints will be extrememly tight, smooth, and durable. Believe me, a lot of trial and error has gone into this, so be wise and follow these instructions:

  • Grind the edges before bolting modules together
  • Bolt the joints together as close to the face of the cyc module(s) as possible
  • Create a very rough grind to the surface where joint mud goes
  • Use bonding agent in joint area: This helps mud bond to the cyc module
  • Use Hamilton 90-minute or Durabond 90-minute sheetrock joint compound for the first two coats of mud. DO NOT USE EASY SAND” OR ”LIGHT” VARIETIES
  • Let dry 24 hours between each coat
  • On the top coat (third coat), use topping mud or regular wallboard compound
  • At the floor, use spray foam insulation being very careful not to use too much as it will cause the cyc to buckle OR, we prefer sweeping dry mortar mix several inches behind the floor modules and then misting the backside for hardening.

Is maintaining a cyc difficult?

Actually, a properly installed cyc requires almost no maintenance! It can be painted as often as you need. The floor area of the cyc requires by far the most upkeep. For this reason, I highly recommend taping or wrapping anything that rests or rolls around on the floor to avoid unwanted marks. I also suggest that plastic be on the floor when moving autos, furniture, or other large equipment around prior to shooting. For people traffic around the cyc, I also recommend that every person on the set wear a set of disposable surgical booties over their shoes. It may seem a bit strange at first, but it will significantly improve the wear on your floor!

How do I determine whether or not I should get a Freestanding System?

Ahhh...this is an important aspect to consider when choosing the right system for you. Let's start off by saying that if you already have existing walls that you can use, built-in systems are generally less expensive. If your walls are straight, then it is very simple and cost effective to add Pro Cyc to the walls and create a professional cyclorama.

However, as you consider how you will be using your cyc on a regular basis, you may have some special needs that would be best served by a free standing cyc. You will want to consider a free standing cyc when:

  • you need new walls, or your current walls are not straight
  • you need to use space behind the cyc for storage, grip work, or hallway access
  • you will need to move the cyc at some point in the future, or if lease restrictions will not allow you to build into the existing walls
  • you want to move the cyc periodically, or even daily
  • you are doing motion picture work [for motion picture work, we have just engineered a free standing system for System 5 (max. height - 29 feet). Please contact us for more details)
  • in some areas it will be less expensive to use one of our free standing systems than to hire contractors to install one of our built-in systems (this is more common than you might suspect). Please call us for a comparison quote.

I have a small space, so shouldn't I use one of your smaller radius systems?

Actually, that is a common misconception. The size of the cove radius you should use is best determined by what you will be shooting against the Pro Cyc background, not by the size of your room. Our System 1.5 has an 18" radius, but it was not originally designed for small studio spaces. Rather, it was designed specifically for the Orad Cyberset system that uses Pattern Recognition Technology, which requires a small cove radius. In normal shooting, unless you are blazing the subject with full technical lighting or are shooting very small objects, you will see a shadow line where the wall meets the floor or in the corner when using such a small radius.

Consider this: if you are shooting talent or a product, against any background, you will almost always have it 3-5 feet from the wall, because you don't want your lighting to cast a shadow on the wall. If you use Pro Cyc System 3 EZ, Super 3EZ or any of our System 4 modules, you can put the product at the beginning of the curve and still be 42" form the wall. If you use System 5, your subject can stand at the very beginning of the cove and your subject will be 5 feet from the wall! One more thing: smaller does not necessarily mean cheaper. The price is the same per linear foot for System 1.5 EZ as it is for System 3 EZ. One has a radius of 18" and the other has a radius of 42".

Always keep in mind this simple rule: the larger the radius, the easier it is to light!

Why are the seams on my cyc starting to crack?

While this is not a common occurence, there are several factors that could contribute to cracking at the seams where you have joined to cyc pieces together. The following list of helpful tips should help you fix and avoid this problem in the future:

  • Do not cap off the ends of the cyc unless you install vents on the end caps. This is because it is important to keep the temperature in front of and behind the cyc the same. If your cyc is installed against an exterior wall, the temperature of the cyc can become quite a bit warmer or cooler depending upon the outside temperature relative to the inside temperature. Our systems do not come with end caps because without them there is a built-in natural air flow allowing the cooler air in at the base while the warmer air is allowed to escape through the top of the corner.
  • Make sure the joint area has been made very rough before taping and mudding. This allows for better adhesion. In addition, make sure to clean the rouged area thoroughly before applying tape and mud.
  • Use only fiberglass mesh adhesive tape. Paper tape is more prone to air bubbles, whereas fiber tape allows the mud to completely fill the void.
  • Use only 90-minute or 40 minute mud. Do not use the “easy sand” variety. “Easy sand" varieties have very low tacking qualities.
  • Allow each coat of mud to dry thoroughly before applying the next coat. Because Pro Cyc is made of high-impact ABS plastic which is non-porous, all moisture has to come out from the front surface and will not dry from the back. All coats of paint must also be thoroughly dry before applying subsequent coats for precisely the same reason. if the cyc has not dried thoroughly, cracking may occur after a month or so because the moisture has finally evaporated out the front. If you feel that may be the case, I recommend that you sand the cracks down a little bit and apply regular sheet rock mud into the cracked areas. After the mud has dried simply, then simply prime and paint. (Note: if you look under our 'helpful hints' area on our web page, you will find that this is an occasional maintenance issue that is entirely normal. This is especially true on new buildings that may be settling or in areas where small earthquakes occur).

You mention Pro Cyc conquers inconsistencies in painting and corners - how does the Pro Cyc material stand out as a surface for receiving the paint and maintaining color integrity?

Chromakey or matting is a process that enables the camera and computer to remove the background whenever the camera "sees" the encoded color that is being used for the matte. For example, if you have selected chromakey green as the background color, whenever the camera sees that green it mattes it out and selects that area to be blank. The computer then adds the desired background into that "blank" area. To achieve the best results, the painted green background must be even and consistent in color, or the matted area will have streaks and inconsistencies. In other words the background must be smooth and even. The lighting also must be even and not have light or dark areas.

Even worse than lighting or painting inconsistencies are corners. Walls meeting other walls or floors make it impossible to provide a smooth, even background. This is where Pro Cyc comes in. Our products provide a smooth seamless studio which, when properly lit and painted give a smooth and completely seamless background. It becomes impossible to tell where the wall ends and the floor begins, and where one wall intersects another. Some studios even cove the ceilings.

Almost any evening you are watching TV, you are at some point watching Pro Cyc. In addition to being heavily favored for chromakey applications, our systems also get painted white to provide an "infinity" background. These are often used in automobile as well as clothing commercials. Please refer to our product user portfolio for a list of many companies that use Pro Cyc; I'm sure you will recognize some names of companies whose ads you have probably seen using Pro Cyc painted white or grey.

Do you guys have recommendations for paint, for either White or Chromakey Green?

I was a still photographer for many many years. White sounds simple enough but it is in fact one of the more difficult colors to select. Since I was a film photographer, (I used real film as opposed to digits) the main problem I faced was fluorescence, which is a chemical added to paint to make it look whiter. To the eye it is fine, but it plays havoc with film. Fluorescence is also added to dyes used on fabrics, which is a real problem with fabric companies.

After a lot of testing, I found that the white that had the least fluorescence in it was Pratt Lambert's "One-Coat White" - just use the base color, not color additives. (If you would like to test various whites, I would suggest that you buy samples or small quantities, then paint a board or pieces of cardboard with those paints. Once they are dry, put them in a dark area and turn on a "black light." Those that glow the most have the most fluorescence in them and should be avoided).

Now, the chromakey green is much easier... Pro Cyc’s Virtual Green™ Paint and Grey Bonding Primer create a flat (non-glossy), fluorescent, chroma key green painted surface. This system was formulated specifically for use on cycloramas in virtual reality production studios – and it is the best possible color match for Pro Cyc’s Virtual Green™ Pro Matte™ Flooring. 

Can your freestanding systems support a cove piece at the top?

Yes, the freestanding systems will all support a cove at the top of the cyc.  NIKE has a 12' tall freestanding Pro Cyc system with a cove at the top and they love it!  Great question.

We are installing a cyc as part of a sound stage. What can we do to make it as quiet as possible?

You asked the right question.  If you are using this as a sound stage, you SHOULD use two layers of sheetrock. When you install the first layer, integrate the wood screwing strips into the wall. Then, for the second layer of sheetrock, put it on top of the first layer from the floor up to the height of the wall.  Now you will have a perfect wall with no seams. You will also have a wall that meets or exceeds all fire codes.  Most importantly for you, you will have a wall that will not “drum” or echo. You now have a sound dead wall.

When we did the studio for Fidelity Investment in Boston, one wall had two layers of sheetrock and the other wall had three layers of sheetrock. That was the quietest studio I have ever been in.

Can foot prints be cleaned off of the painted surface? If so what do you use?

Unfortunately when you wash off or otherwise remove footprints etc. from painted surfaces, a mark is left where the area was cleaned. It is not too big a problem on coves and walls because they do not get marked up as much the floor. The only proven method known is to repaint the entire surface that was marked. Unfortunately that means the entire cyc and wall would need to be repainted.  If your floor is painted, then you need to repaint the entire floor, walls and cyc to have a good undetectable surface. Sometimes, if you have the same batch of paint, you can get away with just repainting the floor if that is the area that was marked.

That is why we developed Pro Matte™ Virtual Green™ Flooring .  Pro Matte™     is  is an impact-modified plastic flooring that complements Pro Cyc's Virtual Green™ Paint and Primer System . When our flooring gets dirty, you simply wash it clean with soap and water or a cleaner such as “Fantastik® ”. The flooring can be cleaned daily or even after each use.

I have an existing wall made of drywall and a concrete floor. I would like to attach the cove only running 16' with no corner.

What you have described is exactly what our System 3EZ is designed for.

First things first: make sure that the wall you are attaching the system to is not an outside wall. If it is, make sure that the wall is well insulated. This is to prevent cracking due to the temperature difference between the room and the back on the cove. If there is a problem, you might want to put a small fan at one end of the cove that will move the air through to the other end. You should not block either end of the cyc from the free movement of air. Failure to do this may cause small cracks to appear at the seams.

Having said that, I would venture to say that you should be able to completely install your system, (4 pieces of 4' System 3EZ  cove sections within the first day).  You simply install the wood strip as per the instructions, sand and attach all the parts together, tip it up to the wall and attach them with sheet rock screws along your chalk line. Then, drill through the holes into the floor and secure with concrete screws. Finish by placing a dry mortar mix to the area where the cove meets the floor.

To finish the cove, tape and mud the joints as well as the area the cove meets the wall and where it meets the floor. Use the proper mud. After two or three coats of mud, paint and enjoy your new cove. The area where the parts meet both the wall and the floor is approximately 3/16 of an inch thick. The taper of the mud should extend into the flat plane about 4-6".