What is a Cyclorama?

Here’s Everything you need to Know

Cycloramas are used in virtually every form of theater, television, media, broadcast media, and photography productions. If you want to create an illusion of a sky, open space, distance, or simply add special effects to your set, creating a cyclorama is key to achieving the illusion. Whether you are a veteran set designer or just starting in the industry knowing how cycloramas work can be extremely beneficial to your set design productions. Follow along on our blog post as we breakdown the basics of cycloramas.

Understanding Cycloramas

So you’ve heard the term, but what does it actually mean? According to webster a cyclorama is defined as, “a curved curtain or wall used as a background of a stage set to suggest unlimited space” Commonly referred to as a cyc, cycloramas date all the way back to the 19th century where they were widely used in German theaters. A cyc can be created from a variety of materials including unbleached canvas, muslim, and scrim and can also be created using drywall and paint. They are traditionally hung at 0% flatness with no seams. To achieve a seamless look, extra wide material is stretched on the sides and weighted on the bottom to create a wide even surface.

What are Cycloramas used for?

Cycloramas can be used for a variety of purposes and varies depending on industries. They are most commonly seen in the following industries:

  • Theater: Cycloramas are often used by set designers to create the illusion of sky, open space, and distance. Lighting designers also play an important part while creating a cyc, and will vary the shape, intensity, and pattern of light reflecting on the cyclorama to help achieve the desired special effect. Cycloramas can be backlit or front lit depending on the purpose, and can also be used in conjunction with other materials to achieve whatever illusion is desired.
White Sharkstooth Scrim provides bleed-through effect at Moody Church holiday concert.
  • Photography: Photographers often use cyclorama walls when the primary focus needs to be on the subject or product. They are widely used for e-commerce photo shoots, catalog, and fashion. Since the cyclorama provides a smooth background, it allows the photographer to manipulate the light in order to achieve an infinity effect.
  • Video Production: Cyclorama walls are also widely used in video production to allow the primary focus to be on the subject. This technique is widely seen in Apple product commercials. A cyclorama allows the producer to create the illusion of infinite space which is extremely desirable when showcasing a product. This technique is also widely used in car commercials, broadcast television and more.

What is a White Cyc?

A white cyc, often referred to as an infinity studio, is simply a pure white background that has multiple lights on it. White Cycs are used to create the illusion of infinate space. They can be created by using fabrics such as canvas, muslin, and scrim or by constructing an entire room with round walls. White cycs create a very polished look and are extremely common for product photo shoots, video production, staging effects, and more.

Choosing the right cyclorama fabric

When it comes to creating a cyclorama there are a few ideal fabric choices to choose from depending on the type of illusion and special effect you are trying to achieve. We recommend the following fabric choices:

Extra wide canvas is ideal when creating a cyclorama on a large scale. Because this fabric is so wide it can be easily stretched to create a flat even surface. CCS’s extra wide canvas is constructed of 100% cotton and is extremely durable. Be sure to choose the flame retardant option for this fabric if using in a public venue.

2.  Muslin

Muslin is another great fabric option for cycloramas. Typically white muslin fabric is chosen due to it’s effectiveness in reflecting light. Muslin fabric also offers a smooth texture making it seamless when stretched across a wide surface. At CCS, we offer a variety of widths to accommodate your specific needs.

3.  Scrim

Scrim is also a great choice when creating a cyclorama.  It is extremely popular among scenarists and lighting designers.  It has a soft textured surface that works beautifully to diffuse and soften reflected light. This fabric is extremely versatile in creating a variety of special effects.  

Looking for the Perfect Fabric to Create your Cyclorama?

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