White cycloramas are easily mimicked by painting a wall or room white or even as simply as hanging a white sheet. This seems like a cheap and easy way to get away with shooting that white void type scene i.e. Mac vs. PC Commercials without having to go through a white cyc rental, but the look you’re going for won’t be achieved that easily. White cys require a lot of time and planning if you want to properly create well lit a “white void” environment without seams or shot restrictions.
The first and most important part of the white cyc is the design and construction. You need to view your cyc rental before arriving to shoot, because there are a few important details you may want to consider. The curve between the wall and floor is imperative. This curve avoids the shadows that would be caused by the wall and the floor meeting at 90 degrees. Not only that but it helps to bounce back the light, which can help eliminate the shadows of actors, props, etc. The ceiling is the next factor. If a ceiling is too low you are going to have problems shooting off stage. This will defiantly take away from the look you were going for and can end up being a nightmare when it comes to getting the right camera angle. Lastly, is the shape of the white cyclorama rental. If your white cyc rental is only one single wall you will be very limited to the shots you can pull off. Everything has to be done straight or head on. Two walls with a horizontal and vertically arced corner can be far better and allows for a wider array of camera angels. By far, the most ideal white cyc rental would be known as a 3 wall white cyc. It should ideally appear that you are shooting in a big white ball. This is optimal; it allows the most camera angles and movement as well as utilizing the white walls to bounce light back. This will create the seamless white void you’re going for. However, if poorly lit, these design details are going to do you very little good.
When lighting a white cyc you need to take into consideration the bounce and shadows that are going to occur. One of the best ways to light the white cyclorama is with an overhead soft light. It will allow a large amount of light to fill the room without a shadow and will be soft enough to do so with a controllable spill. A good example of this type of light is a 6k space light. Another option is series of Image 80 Kino flo’s. A 5k through a size large Chimera bank will work perfectly as your key light source. The ultimate goal when lighting a white cyc is to make it as even as possible. You want the white cyc to be perfectly balanced and just touching clip. A common problem is when the cyc appears to be an off-white color. Many times this is easily remedied by either reducing how warm your camera is set. As I said the background needs to be lit just before it clips and if it isn’t the background may appear off white or dingy. The next step is lighting the talent. They need to be lit to a compatible level with the background, but you do still have some options to tweak the talents lighting to depict the mood or tone you’re going for.
Another thing to make sure of is that no matter where you’re white cyc rental is, the cyc needs to appear to be damage free. This means any scrapes or smudges of dirt on your white cyc rental needs to be erased or painted over prior to shooting. Otherwise, you will not achieve your desired results.
No matter the shape or size of the white cyclorama you are shooting on, you need to make sure the studio you shoot in will not be pressuring you to move faster or pay overtime. You will need plenty of time to light. White cyc rentals can be very problematic and it will take time to figure out a perfect combination of lights and camera setting. Even the most experienced gaffers and cinematographers run into lighting issues when working with a white background. Atomic Studios white cyc rentals are always for 24 hours and we are often on hand to help out and answer any questions you may have about our large 3 wall white cyclorama.