Wow, just when you think things can’t get any better…… They do. I’ve been modeling for a number of years now, and have tried to incorporate the very best of everything into my layout that my limited budget can afford. I’ve found a high quality backdrop is the very foundation of a great layout. Think about the photos you’ve seen in the magazines. Have you ever noticed a nice shot, but the background is…. Well, something to be desired.
Over the past few years I’ve tried different backdrops, and have found the very best quality/value comes from a company called BackDrop Warehouse. (www.backdropwarehouse.com) They have a wide backdrop assortment of different backing materials, areas, scales, and sizes. If you can’t find what you need from them, then it probably isn’t made. Where do you want to model? How long and high do you want your backdrop to be? Whatever you want, they have the actual photomural to bring your layout to life.
Anyway, I have a number of their products incorporated into my rambling layout. I’ve been extremely pleased with the overall look of what I’ve finished, in part due to the backdrops. And then the BackDrop Warehouse folks come out with a brand new type of backdrop backing material that, for some applications, is even BETTER! I just had to try this new product. Let me show you what I found.
This new backdrop is a high quality photo printing that is laid onto a heavy plastic semi-transparent backing. This material is much stiffer than their regular nylon reinforced tear resistant paper banner media. And the important aspect is this new material allows light through. Think of the possibilities! Right away I started thinking of a really big “shadow box” with backlighting. What good fun!
I sent away for one of these new backdrops printed with a nice fall scene. I’ve always liked the colors of that time of year, and I thought for backlighting it would prove to be a vibrant scene. And I wasn’t disappointed one bit.
My new backdrop came in a timely manner, and was even better than I had expected. The printing is crisp and clear, and the colors are just wonderful. If anything, the printing is at least as good as on the other backdrops I already have. Now it’s time to get down to business and see what I can do with this thing.
In photo #1, you can see the new backdrop laid out on my workroom floor, along with some wood I’ve cut for the shadow box. You can use most anything for the box, but I went with cedar (one by four) material so it would look a bit better. Just to make it simple, I made the box to fit the backdrop, but the material is easy to cut and you could make the shadow box any size you like.
In photo #2 you can see what happens when you shine a light from behind the new backdrop material. The light causes the backdrop to almost glow with color. I could tell right away that I’ll need to be careful to not have any shadows in the box, or it would really show up. That would not be good…….
I then painted the inside of the box sides a dark non-reflective color to cut down on any possible shadows. I was careful not to slop any paint onto the areas that will be seen when the unit is finished. Take your time here, and the finished product will look a lot better.
PHOTO #4 & 5
Just to be safe, I predrilled holes, glued, and used screws to hold the box together. I figured that I might be able to use this unit for a “traveling display”, and I wanted it to be strong.
Attaching the backdrop to the shadow box was easy. I simply stapled the backdrop directly onto the wood. You need to take your time and make sure all the wrinkles are out of the material.
Next, I attached the outer wood strips to cover the edges of the backdrop. I used a wider strip of wood along the top to cover where the light fixture will be installed inside.
Now is the time to install the internal light. To start, I thought it would be nice to be able to adjust the intensity of the light behind the backdrop. To accomplish this, I bought some “rope lights” and a rheostat light switch. I attached all of this stuff, and found out (much to my chagrin) that those darn little lights didn’t put out enough intensity. Back to the drawing board! (And back to town)
I then settled on a florescent fixture for two reasons. First, these fixtures put out a great deal of light, and secondly (and more importantly) they don’t get hot like incandescent lights do.
Since I already had a switch box attached, I went ahead and put a wall switch in for the new florescent light unit. And boy did the new light ever work! Now we need to close up the box.
I thought about a number of different ways to close up the back of the box, and settled on cardboard. It’s much lighter than the other materials I had considered, but is still quite rigid. To attach the cardboard, I simply stapled it onto the box. Now comes the big test……. Will it work as I had hoped?
PHOTOS # 10 & 11
INSIDE LIGHT OFF / INSIDE LIGHT ON
And what do you know; it works GREAT! In fact, it woks so well that for a fleeting moment I considered ripping out my entire existing backdrop and replacing it with this wonderful new product. (But then I came to my senses)
I think on the next shadow box I build, I’ll make the shadow box deeper and install even more light inside. I think that if you have more light intensity, it would even bring more colors out than it does now. You might want to play with the amount of light you need in your installation.
So what am I going to do with my nice new shadow box backdrop? It was fun to build, but…….. After thinking for a total of about two seconds, I realized this new backdrop would be perfect for my modular layout sections. It’s just amazing what a difference a backdrop makes when showing modules.
All things considered, this new backdrop material is just great. It’s easy to work with and produces a wonderful backdrop scene in no time. If you’re planning a new layout, an expansion to your existing layout, or enjoy building layout modules you should look into this product. It’s strong, light, and produces a vibrant crisp picture. The potentials are endless. What good fun!