When is a Wall a Floor, too? Cyc Walls / 2015 NAB Show

A cyclorama is not to be confused with a cyclotron (which is a device used in particle physics), OR a cyclorama (yep, spelled exactly the same way as what we are talking about) which is another name for a panorama. Nope.

Our cyclorama as a concept first popped up in the 19th century in German theaters. It was (and still is, in stage productions, at least) a large flat or concave curved area, often of a uniform light color (white being most common) behind a scene or stage. This flat surface is a wall or large curtain typically set at 0% fullness (flat). Some cycloramas are temporary (as with a traveling theater or stage act); permanent cycloramas often include a wall for extra durability. Thus, the main surface of the Cyclorama can be a painted wall, an unbleached canvas (for large (probably temporary arrangements), muslin (a light, and delicate yarn), or scrim (which is a lightweight woven cotton; viewed straight-on (0%) and front-lighted, it appears solid, but at an angle it diffuses light passing thru; it is often used to make theatrical gauze of a number of varieties).

Because a cyclorama is ideally seamless, extra wide materials are often used in its construction. Any non-solid cyclorama used as a backdrop is often stretched at the sides and weighted at the bottom to make the surface as flat as possible. In keeping with our need to Americanize everything, the name morphed into cyc or cyc wall.

As time passed, this concept evolved, especially as it relates to the modern studio, so it’s not quite the same as it was way3 back in the 1800’s. Now, the permanent studio version goes by a variety of names: Cyc, Cyc Wall, Infinity Wall, Infinity Curve, or (still) Cyclorama. The effect, when used in the modern studio, will encompass one, two, or three walls and part of the floor. The modern incarnation of the infinity wall has a wide curve (the wider the curve the better the illusion; there is, however, a practical limit on how wide the curve can be, so it’s typically less than 3 feet at each junction of wall-to-wall or wall-to-floor (with the wall-wall-and floor corners being a bit more tricky in construction). After the boards are up, everything is sanded to perfect smoothness; this is then followed by a complete removal of all the dust on the developing cyclorama. After that, the whole area is painted a uniform flat white, or painted in a green or blue chroma key.

And not just any blue or green can be used willy-nilly for this process either; for best results, you’ll want to skip the house paint and jump right to something specifically designed for this application – like Rosco Chroma Key Blue, or Rosco Chroma Key Green. High-gloss (or any gloss for that matter) is generally a no-no, due to lighting concerns. For the best infinite effect, no seams of any kind should be visible after the paint has dried. With proper lighting and camera angles, the infinity wall can provide a uniform background where the talent/subjects seem to almost be floating in blank space. It can also provide a perfect green (or blue) screen background for adding effects, or the floor can be made to look as if it goes on forever with the subjects occupying the foreground.

Proper lighting combined with the color of the wall painting in your cyc wall completes the picture the infinity wall is trying to convey. A blue chroma key is favored for weather forecasts, and some special effects, and the fact that it favors 4the average human skin tones. Thus, a cyclorama made solely for weather forecasts is likely to be a blue chroma key; its proper utilization requires the additional stipulation that the weather forecaster never wears blue clothes while forecasting the news. Today’s digital explosion in media has fueled the increase of green chroma key, however, because digital cameras are better at recording fine detail in green color channels rather than blue (about twice as well). Thus, many digital effects work better in combination with a green screen rather than blue. Additional green or blue screen fun can be had with the purchase of chroma key body suits for real behind the scene interactions, or perhaps some chroma key painted objects like chairs or stands and platforms – let your imagination be your guide here.

The endless sky-look is usually accomplished by careful lighting and the addition of strategically cut and arranged pieces of shark tooth scrim to the ceiling. The implements for proper lighting are hung from the ceiling as well as being arrayed just outside the cyclorama. It’s time for your electrical lighting technician to go nuts here, as several different effects can be achieved just with the lighting even while using the same paint job.

The color choice of the infinity wall combined with your choice of lighting techniques is what completes the effect. The cyclotron can be repainted to alter its color and thus its purpose, of course, but doing so too often increases the weight of the walls which then can affect the maintenance of the cyclorama (i.e., repaint wisely). Bear in mind that an even seamless5 curve isn’t the easiest thing for a beginning drywaller to produce. Another point to consider is maintenance; maintaining a perfect surface can get tricky if your building is still settling, or hollow; this can also occur if, possibly, brittle materials that are sadly inclined to stress breaks were employed during construction. This requires repair, and eventually, the sheer weight of all those coats of paint that had to be applied after other repairs can then exacerbate the rate at which those repairs are required, especially at the curve where the added weight is most intense. Achieving just the right effect using the traditional method can sometimes be costly and time consuming.

Or you could hire a cost-effective specialist to help you deal with your cyclorama situation. Affordable Cyc Wall Systems is a company run by Todd A. Dean (a 25-year veteran production designer, intimately involved in several film productions as well as thousands of commercials) who has the experience to take care of your organization’s infinity wall needs. Unlike your average cyclorama, whose curves are typically a simple amalgamation of wood, drywall, plaster and fasteners that only have the strength one might expect from such an arrangement, the curved sections used in the Affordable Cyc Wall Systems prefabricated polystyrene inserts have many times the strength of the traditional curves associated with an infinity wall, the structure can bear weight that would crush a lesser system.

Because of this dramatically increased strength, maintenance cost is reduced. Mild foundation and temperature shifts can thus be resisted, as well as the cumulative weight increase from those multiple coats of paint. Because cycloramas are their thing, they are chock full of suggestions if you want to install an Affordable Cyc Wall System.

Tougher and more flexible, the Affordable Cyc Wall System is also much quicker to install than a cyclorama that requires an intricate framework be built to hold it. The inserts are attached to existing walls and floors, and polymer cement material is used to fill the gaps. Affordable Cyc Wall Systems is a solid company with a solid product – in terms of quality.

About Affordable Cyc Wall Systems

Affordable Cyc Wall Systems was founded in 2007 by Production Designer Todd A. Dean, based on his 25+ years in the studio business and his experience of thousands of television commercials and film productions in the Ohio area. Today, Affordable Cyc Wall Systems can be found all over the United States and Canada.  When considering a cyc wall, it’s important to consider details, such as the installation environment. Affordable Cyc Wall Systems’ polystyrene foam structure improves the acoustics in the room along with being able to withstand most foundational-structure movement. It is lightweight but high-density and very strong, with the ability to hold a lot of weight and pressure – it also never really rots and has a huge self-life! While there is no claim that the ACWS is earthquake proof, a 2011 cyc install for a studio in the Washington DC area did, in fact, survive one; the ACWS never even cracked a seam after the quake! Other clients appreciate that the product is Green, while one college in Sarasota, Florida purchased ACWS because Polystyrene is recyclable. For more information, see their website at:

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Editor-In-Chief, Publisher at Broadcast Beat Magazine, LLC.
Ryan started working in the broadcast and post production industry at the young age of twelve! He has produced television programs, built large post production facilities, written for some of the industry's leading publications and was an audio engineer for about ten years. Ryan previously wrote for Broadcast Engineering Magazine, Creative COW and his projects have been featured in dozens of publications.
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