Black Backcloths

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Black Backcloths

Postby Richard Coombs » 01 Sep 2014, 21:34

Just touching on a topic others have mentioned in the past :

A bit of discussion has happened regarding the fact that we often paint scenery for our own benefit ( as we like to show off our painting skills if we have them )
But that from an audiences point of view , the puppets show up better against a plain black back drop - especially at a distance . Overly bright backgrounds just get 'confused' with the tones of the puppets and it all looks a bit 'samey'.

But the only 'downside' of switching from painted scenery to a black backcloth is that some of your existing figures might contain a lot of black costuming , and therefore 'disappear' into the background themselves.

This is particularly true of Policeman puppets dressed in a very dark navy blue uniforms, Miraiker has redressed quite a few folks Policeman puppets in light blue fabric for exactly this reason .
The same problem can be true of Devils with black cloaks , or hangmen with black masks etc etc.

Or as I discovered looking at some footage someone had taken of my show - my Monkey was doing a bit of a vanishing act .
The very dark brown fur I had made him from in 2006 had looked striking against my then painted scenery.
But my switching to plain black had made him an endangered species .

I will post a pic of him side by side with my new lighter coloured chimp.

I had begun carving the head a few years back in between other projects while waiting for some glue to dry.
However I had not intended to finish him for a few years yet , as my old monkey is is good nick and has a few years use left in him. But the black backcloth changed all that .

Still I am rather glad , as new monkey is a splendid little puppet with a fair bit of charm.
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Re: Black Backcloths

Postby Chris » 02 Sep 2014, 17:23

An interesting point this, but perhaps less of a problem than you imagine Richard. Remember that you are doing a live show - therefore don't judge visibility by looking at photographs and videos. The human eye is much cleverer than any camera lense. In fact unless the lighting is very deliberately arranged black does usually show up against black.
On a video or photograph everything is reduced to a single plane, and the surface to a single texture, thus any dark colours do tend to merge. But the human eye sees in 3D (except to one-eyed persons) and can distinguish depth and texture.
Magicians who depend upon black against black camouflage will tell how tricky it is to achieve. Also I use black strings on my marionettes. Which do you think is the worst background for emphasising them - a brightly lit clyclorama, a painted cloth or a black velvet backcloth? Yes, contrary to expectations its the black velvet. The reason is that the colour of the strings is largely irrelevant, it is the reflectivity. We see by reflected light thus the strings catch the light whereas the black backcloth absorbs it (assuming the velvet is hung with pile in the correct direction). They show up less against the cyclorama because the string appears as a highlight, and they are best concealed by a painted cloth because this tends to break up straight lines.
You can get away with black costumes, more so if they are draped, and the material has some sheen. This is not to say that you can't do better than black if black is not essential.
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Re: Black Backcloths

Postby Harvey » 09 Oct 2014, 15:38

I use a Black Backdrop Now but as you may remember from the 2013 Mayfayre I used a white Background.
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Re: Black Backcloths

Postby johnstoate » 14 Oct 2014, 00:46

Good point, Harvey. _ As I have never tried a white backdrop, but appreciate the possibilities, given the properties of light, How do you find it works? - presumably- (Since you have switched to black) Not very well. I trust that you have not been swayed in your opinion by (That word again!) Tradition.Because after all, Tradition is only that which has always been, and therefore may never be altered, (So why we all use sound sytems baffles me!!) :lol: - The only 'Sound system; 'Back in the day' -Was a Swazzle!!!
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Re: Black Backcloths

Postby Richard Coombs » 24 Dec 2014, 15:28

Another quick word in favour of Black backdrops

Something I first noticed when watching Rod Burnets show many years ago ... with black it can be quite difficult to tell from the front exactly where the cloth is hanging : that is to say how close to the proscenium it is ( or how far back in the booth it hangs )

This creates a false perception of depth behind the puppets ...particularly nice if you are working "hands In front" . Because as we all know on this board , working that way means your own nose is actually right behind , and sometimes actually pressed into the scenery or black curtain right in front of you - you are in fact stood right behind the puppets.

But to an audience , an extra sense of depth is created with Blacks, effectively making it seem as though you are not there ( you are actually occupying the space they perceive to be "empty" right behind the figures)
Their eye focus is sharp on the puppets , but tends to put what is behind them into soft focus , imagining a void of darkness extending out behind them.

With painted scenery , sometimes the whole affair can look "cramped" to the viewer ( which it is of course )
They can focus on the painting and can depth-perceive exactly where it is in relation to the puppets , and therefore ( if they have a mind for such things ) also tell exactly where you must be stood .

But with Black , space between the proscenium and your own nose is still actually cramped - but appears not to be so.

Its Christmas Eve as I type this, just having a short break at the computer between sewing braid on a new Punch costume.
So this has just been a bit of "Stating -the-Bloomin'-Obvious" as Monty Python would have said.
But just a little observation i thought might be worth saying on the subject.

Merry Christmas to All
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