Using Projection as a Theatrical or Digital Backdrop

There’s a new trend on the horizon, and that’s using projection as a theatrical or digital backdrop. In this article, we’ll talk about various ways you can use projection as a theatrical or digital backdrop and how projection is changing the theatrical set designs.

It’s a lot like those old traditional painted fabric a theatrical production would use, however we are saying to do it with projection instead. Here are a few pictures of theatrical productions that are using projection as a background. We’ve tried to find a wide variety of them, hope this helps give some sort of an idea on what we’re talking about:

 

Radio City Music Hall Projection as theatrical or digital backdrop
Radio City Christmas Spectacular uses projection for New York City.

 

projection as a theatrical or digital backdrop - University of Kentucky
The University of Kentucky uses projection for a major theatrical production.

 

long hollow as a theatrical or digital backdrop
Long Hollow Baptist Church uses a digital backdrop to create a set and tell story during easter.

 

highschool projection
A high school in Santa Barbra used projection as their set backgrounds for recent play.

 

Phantom of Opera Projection as a theatrical or digital backdrop
Phantom of Opera leveraged projection as a theatrical or digital backdrop to fake an audience for one shot.

As you can tell, the ideas are endless. From painting a digital cityscape in the background to using a screen for story narrative, you can do a lot when you put a projector behind an actor, person, musician, etc in an event.

The tools for projection are the same, but the application is different. The content you are using isn’t the focus, it’s just there to support whatever else is going on during your production. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you’re going to do this:

1. Go Wide With Projection.
If you think about it, a backdrop needs to take up our “peripheral” vision, or at least the entire frame of a video camera if you’re more concerned about the background being used for a story being captured on tape. The wider the projection, the more realistic your scene will be. Of course TripleWide Media is the best solution for finding content with that wide of a resolution.

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2. Use Rear Projection.
If you really want to create a digital background that seems to be right behind an actor or musician, you may want to attempt rear projection. This will give you better contrast ratio, but it will also provide you with the ability to have projection directly behind someone without projecting onto the actor or subject. Thus, creating a true backdrop to your scene.

You can front project, but I would be careful about how close your projection surface is to your subject. If it’s too close you will see projection on top of someone, and that will ruin your effect. You may also have to do a lot of masking, which limits your software choice.

3. Use a Brighter Projector.
When you’re creating a digital background, you’re going to want it to feel as bright as the rest of your stage elements. The brighter the projector the more realistic it will appear. Think about it, if you have a screen right behind an actor that you’re lighting with 4 or 5 lights, it’s going to wash out your surface of the projection screen.

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An alternative would be to lower your overall stage light so that you aren’t having to compete with a projector.

4. Keep it Simple.
The best use of a digital set will be to keep it simple when it comes to content. You don’t have to have motion backgrounds that have lots of movement. Still images will be great. Think about it, it you were to walk outside and look up, would you be able to see “motion” in the clouds? or would they look like they are somewhat stationary?

They would move, but they’re not going to be in time-lapse like a lot of cloud motions. Even a rock texture would be good to keep in mind.

 

Here are a few ideas for content that is on our site currently:

1. Manger scenes.
2. Stars/Galaxy & Star of David.
3. Snow falling.
4. Cathedrals/Churches & Stained Glass.
5. City Backgrounds.
6. Fields, Nature & Winter Landscapes.

 

 

Author Luke McElroy

Luke McElroy is the founder of Orange Thread Media, the parent company to TripleWide Media, SALT Conferences and Orange Thread LIVE. He is the author of The Wide Guide: Blueprint for the Multiscreen Movement. Hailed as one of the “top innovators for worship” by Worship Leader Magazine in 2013, Luke’s leadership has helped create powerful worship environments for thousands of Church communities throughout the entire world. He currently lives in Nashville, TN and regularly writes about creativity, leadership and faith at LukeMcElroy.com 

More posts by Luke McElroy

Join the discussion 14 Comments

  • judy says:

    hello my church is having aplay i am looking for projection back drops. a hospital scene,bedroom,church living room .can u tell me where to find these

  • Summer Bork says:

    I am working on a projection of the tempest as the costume designer and prospero has a robe or cape that is the embodiment of his magical ablities. I was wondering if there might be a way to create a garment and some how project a storm clouds on it .

  • Dana Reed says:

    We want to start using projection for backgrounds. Our theatre is an old small church, stage is 30×30 and height from floor to teaser is 10′. Suggestions please on equipment and color of background flats for the projection.

  • Donna Farris says:

    Hello, My church is in production of a drama presentation. I need to find projection back drop images for a residential country kitchen, a living room, business office, and a church sanctuary. Any ideas on where I might find these? Thank you for your assistance.

  • Ali Mondloch says:

    Hi. I am doing s production for a non profit community theatre and we want to use this type of equipment. We have a budget of around 700.00 to spend on a projector. The dimensions of what we would like to project on is 16 ft wide by 8 ft high. The market following you guidelines is difficult to narrow down to a projector that would work to fit the requirements. Do you know of any projectors that might do the trick for this?

  • Oksana Karle says:

    I’m a portrait photographer, and would love to incorporate my own digital backgrounds into my portraits. What color backdrop works best and the best projector?

  • Kevin says:

    Our church wants to do a projection stage backdrop. We don’t have room for rear projection. The screen area would be about 12 feet tall 24 feet wide. We need to do front projection but still be able to have people stand in front of it not directly but so many feet in front. Please advise the best way we could do something like this. Thank you!!!!

    • Kevin, thanks for the question. A great way to do this is using ultra short throw projectors, such as the Hitachi series. You can get a 9*12 image with 1 projector from about 3′ away. Additionally, depending on the projectors you have, some of the projector companies are coming up with ultra short throw lensing options. Hope that helps!

  • DNA Research: Theatrical projections – Tanya Park says:

    […] Transforming Tip #3: Visual Backdrops […]

  • […] this website, http://articles.triplewidemedia.com/transforming-tip-3-visual-backdrops/ it said instead of using traditional painted fabrics they now prefer the easier to use […]

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