Budget Cinema – Using Gray Paper as a Backdrop

Ammon and the Blueforest crew show how they use gray paper as a backdrop for their video production set ups.

Versatility is everything

In this installment of Budget Cinema, Ammon is discussing the benefits of using a gray paper as a backdrop when filming. There are a couple of reasons why we use it we would like to share these tips with you. We will be going through the type and color of gray backdrop paper along with a few tips when setting it up. We will discuss why we enjoy using this for our backdrops as well. We will give our reasons why this gray backdrop is versatile. We will also touch on a lighting tip that looks great with the backdrop as well. It is a pretty simple setup and can really boost your production value.

Let’s get right into this!



The gray seamless backdrop paper we use is from the company Savage. We went with the ultra wide which is 107 inches in length. You can pick up this roll at any local photography store or order online at B&H Photo. The price is around $60 and if you do order online you might spend up to $20 more because of shipping. We recommend picking up at your local photography store if you can to make the total cost cheaper in the end. (If you are in Raleigh, North Carolina like us, you could try out Southeastern Camera).

Why gray?

The color of gray we have at the studio is labeled ‘Fashion gray’. The shade of gray is a mid-gray more on the brighter side of the tones of gray. The reason why we use a mid-gray is that we have the ability to control how dark or light the gray appears based on lights. Lights can make all the difference with this gray backdrop or any backdrop. If you have less light pointed at the gray backdrop you can make the mid-gray look darker. If you have more light pointed at the gray backdrop you can turn the light gray into an almost white. This is why Blueforest Studios uses the mid-gray for our backdrops. In the end, you don’t just have one color backdrop which is why we love the versatility with this setup. You have a wide range with only one backdrop which can save you time and money.


Laying out the backdrop

When we use the gray backdrop we do not mount it horizontally (top to bottom) because that does not allow us to use a full head-to-toe shot. This way we can also have more than one person in the frame and allows for more room when filming. What we did was set up a truss system which is something you could pick up at a DJ store. Then we will roll the backdrop vertically left to right instead of top to the floor. We made sure to unroll the backdrop slowly to prevent major wrinkles in the paper. When setting up the gray backdrop we tapped the backdrop to the wall and to the truss with gaffers tape so that it did not leave a sticky residue to the wall, truss, or backdrop.


Here’s where the fun begins

We used sandbags at the bottom to hold the backdrop down and we positioned lights to act as a hair light for our subject. The hair light gives more separation between the subject and the backdrop. The excess light spills onto the backdrop making the gray brighter. The finishing touch on this gray backdrop is the little fresnel style light we have directly behind the subject. We went from two hair lights that had some spill onto the backdrop to one direct hair light with no spill. The little light behind the subject is an Apurture Light Storm Mini. This little guy is extremely versatile and doesn’t take up much space and paired with the gray backdrop you can do a lot with it.


Light the Subject

The hero light is a circular light framing the subject with a hero look to it. With having less light spill onto the backdrop, the gray is now darker than before. We added a little hero light to accent the subject. The great thing about the hero light with the Light Storm Mini is that the light can be brightened and dimmed along with the circle being more direct/spot or more wide/flooded. The more flooded the light makes the effect of the hero light softer and less noticeable. This light is very small and versatile and was easy to hide for filming.



Be a hero

Use these tips to make your next interview stand out. Be a hero and show your versatility and knowledge of lighting a gray backdrop. I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Let us know what you learned and how you used these tips to improve your skills. If you want to learn other ways to be a hero, check out our blog about brand storytelling.

Blueforest Studios is a Raleigh, North Carolina Video Production company.

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