FAQ

How do I know if I need to use a corner?

Again, 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, which means it covers the camera's field of view sooner. 

What if I just need a corner module - can I just buy that?

No. We used to sell corners individually, but almost every person who bought one had problems properly matching the corner up with the other coves on a home-made cyc. Even though they are expensive relative to straight coves, they are very expensive to manufacture, and we actually make very little money on corners. They are basically a loss leader. It may sound terribly capitalistic, but Pro Cyc is actually in business to make a living.

What is a 'radius'?

A radius is technically half the diameter of a circle. In cyc terms, it is the straight-line horizontal or vertical distance from one connection point of the cyc module to the wall or floor to the other connection point. Because the desired effect of a cyc background is to obscure the floor to wall, wall to wall, or wall to ceiling intersection, you need to have a quarter of a circle or radius connecting them. It NEEDS to be as perfect as possible so that shadows don't show up when you are lighting the object(s). For example if you use paper or cloth, you cannot hold a true radius and imperfections in that radius will show unless you blast it with light. The larger the radius the farther back you can go and the more area you can have in your field of vision without the curve or radius showing up. In addition, the larger the radius, the less the amount of light required to obscure the curve of the cyc.

For a quick visual aid, imagine a 1 or 2 inch radius ( you can demonstrate this with a curved piece of paper). How far back can you view the area before you see the curvature? Now use the full sheet of paper to form the curve. As you can see, you can be further back before you see the shadow line caused by the radius.

Will we need a lot of special tools to install our cyc?

No. Pro Cyc was specifically designed to be ultra easy to install and require as few tools as possible. In fact, our System 4QS requires only two different size wrenches, a drift pin or phillips screwdriver, and a mud knife and sandpaper. Our built-in systems will require basic carpentry tools as well. The most specialized tool needed for our built-in systems is what is called a "roto-hammer, " which is basically a vibrating drill. In fact, many standard drills have that feature built into them. They are used to drill through Pro Cyc into concrete. If your floor is wood, you won't need one.

How important are the steps in the instruction manual? Do I have to follow them exactly?

No, it isn't absolutely critical to follow the instructions to the letter, but if you don't your cyc won't turn out as good as it could be. The manuals were written and re-written after many, many installations and refined whenever possible. They were not written by some pencil pusher in a back room, but by on-the-job contractors. Therefore, each step is critical.

When you decide to order a particular system, go to our web-site and download and print the schematics and installation instructions, which are both in PDF format on each product page. Show them to your installers, and make sure they understand what you want and what we want. DON'T LET THEM TAKE SHORTCUTS! No, they don't know best. WE DO! And please don't hesitate to contact us at any time. We WANT you to phone us all through the installation process if you have questions. We are here to help and to help insure that your studio is as perfect as possible. Feel free to make as many copies as you want, for you, your contractor, your boss, your mother, your dog, or whoever might help you in building your cyc.

How do you ship your Pro Cyc systems?

VERY CAREFULLY.  With the exception of the MyStudio line of products which are shipped via UPS Ground in a specially designed box, for all of our larger systems a special shipping crate is custom built for each order. It is just big enough to hold exactly what you ordered. We do this to save you money on shipping. Too large a crate results in a higher shipping cost. Many shipments costs are determined by DIMS. DIMS are the dimensions: (length x width x height = cubic inches = cost to ship.) Also, sometimes it is actually cheaper to ship by air. When you order your system, we will work out the most cost effective shipping method for you.

You may also choose the option to arrange your own shipping, or if you are feeling adventurous, you may also pick up your order at the factory to avoid all shipping costs. A vacation to the Northwest is not a bad idea during the summer months, and if you combine your vacation with picking up your order, you just might be able to deduct many of your travel expenses! 

Where is Pro Cyc located?

Pro Cyc is located in West Linn, Oregon, about 15 miles south of Portland. We used to be in downtown Portland, but we prefer the country and moved our office to West Linn in mid 2003. There are only three signal lights within 4 miles. We are about 5 miles from the end of the Oregon Trail. We have three plants that manufacture our products, all within 25 miles of our office. All of our products are proudly made in the USA.  

Can Pro Cyc systems be built outdoors or on location?

Yes! One of the beauties of Pro Cyc is that water, normal temperatures and sunlight do not hurt it (please note the word "normal" - extreme amounts of any of the above will harm anything). As long as you have a relatively flat area, you can put up Pro Cyc just about anywhere. We recently set up a system in a rock quarry for a heavy equipment photo shoot! With proper treatment, you can even have it underwater. If you have special needs that you are unsure about, please talk to us. Remember, it is also re-useable! Whether freestanding or built-in, you can use your Pro Cyc studio over, and over, and over. The original Pro Cyc studio (a System 5 in downtown Portland) is still frequently used as a rental studio. It has over 400 coats of paint on it's surface, and still looks as smooth and even as the day it was installed!

Why are there no prices for Pro Cyc parts on your website? How much are the parts, and why can't I just order them from your website?

We used to post prices on our website, but we found that most people didn't really understand what they needed and therefore usually either thought they needed more than they did, or they ordered the wrong system. That's why the best way to get prices is to use our Get a FREE Quote form and we will give you a no-obligation quote on the best system for your needs. This will ensure that the studio is as low-priced as possible in your situation. In that quote the individual prices of all the parts will be listed.

One common assumption is that a smaller radius means a lower price - this is not necessarily true. Additionally, a corner isn't always the cheapest way to go, and a built-in system is not necessarily less costly than a freestanding system. There are a lot of factors to consider and we want your studio to be as perfect as possible. We also want you to be happy enough to recommend us to other professionals in your field. When you do that, we know we're doing it right. 

How big a cyc (or cove) do I need?

It really depends on what you are shooting against the cyc background. If you are shooting small products, you only need to cover the area that is included in the camera's field of view. If you are taking photos or shooting video of small objects like toys or books, you may only need one of our MyStudio systems or our Tabletop Minicyc and can do what you need to with a very small radius. At the other extreme, you may be shooting very large products like furniture, cars or even trucks. For this type of work, you will want as large a radius as is practical with the space you have available. The best cyc for shooting large products like that would be our 5' radius system System 5.

In the way of further explanation, the farther the lens is from the product in relation to the backround, and the more area that is included in the backround, the larger the radius you need. You need the larger radius because you do not want to see a shadow line that will tell the viewer where the floor ends and the wall begins, or where the corner is. Another factor in deciding how big a radius you need for your cyc is the type of lighting you plan to use. Smaller radius cycs are fine if you generally shoot with full technical lighting. If, however, you will be using mood or graded light, you may need to consider going with a larger radius.

Wouldn't it be cheaper to make our cyc out of wood and plaster?

LOL - we love this question! Basically, that would be like using a homemade camera: it might be cheaper on the front end, but the results will more than likely be sub-par (and that is an understatement). When weighing total cost, don't forget to consider what your time is worth (consider that closely before answering). It takes far longer to construct a cyc out of typical construction materials than to assemble a made-to-order Pro Cyc system. Believe us - we've been there! (see About Pro Cyc to read more about our early days).

Seriously, in most cases, buying and installing Pro Cyc is less expensive than hiring a skilled carpenter to make one by hand. Frequently we are told this exact thing by those who have thought they could get it done cheaper by hiring out "skilled" carpenters. Moreover, the end result will be far superior by using Pro Cyc, since all Pro Cyc parts are made on precision molds; every part is shaped to exact measurements and matches every other part. What's more, Pro Cyc studios can be used, moved, and re-installed as often as you move or change your mind, and the parts are virtually indestructible. Another bonus for you environmentally minded folks: it is recycleable.

If you think we are biased (of course we are) or you just don't trust us, just ask around in your trade. It is rife with war stories about the 'cyc from hell' that was warped, fell apart, was stepped through, melted when it got damp or wet, or far exceeded the original cost estimate. Usually it is a combination of those. And that doesn't even take into consideration maintainence, which is basically zero with a Pro Cyc system.

Another 'higher-minded' factor to consider is that the cost to build your studio can be either a capital expense (Pro Cyc), or a materials cost (standard construction). A capital expense can be depreciated over time on your taxes. 

My boss says we need a cyc and wants me to research them. I'm too embarrassed to ask him what he means - what is a cyc?

Great question! You can find a detailed explanation of exactly what a cyc is on our What is a Cyc? page. Click here to check it out. 

I want to paint our cyc white and use Brightlines flourescent cyc lights to change the background color with light, rather than painting it green or blue. I read somewhere that it should be painted with a low reflectance white paint. Suggestions?

I recommend Pratt Lambert High Hiding White because of the quality and low reflectance, however you can use any high quality interior flat latex paint.

You can use lights to "paint" the background or cyc any color you want, but remember that when a person is in the shot, they have to be far enough in front of the background so that the gel lighting doesn't "spill" on them. Also, the lighting ration should be 1 to 1 (subject to background). You should also remember that you will be limited to head and torso shots because you won't be able to adequately light the flooring around your talent with the gel lights. You can include the floor if you either paint the foreground floor with the proper paint to match your lighting, or use our new Pro Matte flooring

What's the best way to light a digital green cyc? We have a full lighting grid, but we heard that fluorescent lighting was the way to go. What are your thoughts?

Does your lighting grid work well for what you are doing now? I suspect it does or you wouldn't be using it. Do you have a wall now that will be replaced by a cyc? I ask this because if you do have a wall you use, you know all about the shadows your subject will create on the wall and have already dealt with that issue. If you don't have a wall, you will have shadows with a cyc.

Cycs need adequate lumens on them to create the proper green color to give the proper rendering to the compositer or keyer (the Ultimatte unit). With your existing lighting, can you get a good separation between your subject(s) and your background? You will have to light the cyc seperately from your subject. The cyc needs to be evenly lit from top to bottom and you need separate lights for your subject. Your subject needs to be far enough in front of the cyc as to not cast a shadow on it unless you WANT a shadow.

If you can do all of this with your current lighting grid then you are fine. Fluorescent lighting is good because it is a relatively diffused source and will give an even light if it's placed properly. The distance the light should be from the wall is half the height of the cyc (so if the cyc is 12' tall then the light should be 6' away from the wall) and aimed down at a 45 degrees. This is assuming you are using at least a four bulb bank of lights. Next light your subject seperately.

In other words, one light source is just as good as the next. You can even mix light sources as long as they are approximately the same color and temperature.