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  1. #1
    Senior Member
    Horoscope Fish's Avatar

    My $35 DIY, Backdrop Frame: A Tutorial (of Sorts)

    So today I assembled my own portable backdrop frame. I've been wanting something light, portable and inexpensive for a long time and I've just not been satisfied with what I've seen on the market. After watching several videos of people constructing backdrops out of PVC pipe, I came up with my own plan for a "hybrid" frame, combining what I thought were the best aspects of several different designs. After a little careful tinkering I came up with a design that uses exactly 40' of 3/4" PVC pipe, meaning there is no wasted pipe when you're done. When complete the frame stands 7 feet tall and 6 feet wide but breaks down into pieces that are no longer than 42 inches. When assembled the frame has both a vertical and a horizontal cross-support (niiiiiiice!). With two sand bags on the feet it's surprisingly stable. It does wobble if it's pushed but it never even came close to tipping over, even on carpet, when we tested it. Cost of materials was about $30 at Home Depot, but a PVC pipe-cutter will set you back another $15 or so, if you need one. Someone at Home Depot might make the cuts for you, if you ask, but around here the typical Home Depot employee knows less than I do about whatever it is I'm doing (which is typically next to nothing) so today I simply took home my four, ten-foot lengths and did the cutting myself.
    .....
    Here's an example of your typical PVC backdrop frame, just to give you an idea of what's being built:
    .....
    My  DIY, Backdrop Frame: A Tutorial (of Sorts)-pvc-backdrop.jpg
    .....
    My design starts with this basic frame but adds a third vertical support that runs up the center, a third foot on that center support and better-designed, more stable feet overall.
    .....
    For backdrop material I don't use paper or vinyl any more. The rolls those backgrounds come on are unwieldy and heavy, and the keyword for me on this project is portable. So... I've been using faux suede from Amazon. It comes 60 inches wide (five feet) and sells for about $7 a yard. Another material that works well is Velour; it's a little more expensive at about $8 a yard but very nice to work with. I typically get lengths of four or five yards. I use these fabrics in particular because they look fantastic, can be had in black, white and grey as well as nice colors. Both materials are machine washable, durable, and don't wrinkle easily, even when left folded for days at a time... That last point is hugely important for me because screw fabric-steamers. Seriously. I'm DONE with trying to steam out wrinkles on-set.
    .....
    You'll also need clamps. They're available everywhere... Home Depot, Lowes, B&H, Amazon, etc. Link goes to the ones I use, I think. They're nothing special.
    .....
    Putting everything together is stupid simple; I mean it's a rectangle with a central, "+" shaped, cross-support for Pete's sake. What I do is this: First I assemble the feet, then I assemble the rectangular frame flat on the floor. I then attach the feet to the bottom and clamp the fabric to the top of the frame before lifting the completed frame upright and onto its feet. I then sandbag the two, outermost feet. This process takes about three minutes from start to finish. The only dodgy point might be how to assemble the feet themselves, so I've included photos of all three. The three vertical supports fit into the corresponding empty Tee-connectors (duh).
    .....
    If anyone needs help with specifics, I'm more than happy to help; just post or PM. Can't take photos of the assembled frame right this second but I can add those later if needed.
    .....
    Shopping List:
    • 10 - Tee shaped connectors
    • 10 - 3/4" End caps (optional, but they do look nice)
    • 4 - Ten-foot sections of 3/4" PVC Pipe (Schedule 40 (see Final Note, below))
    • 2 - Elbow shaped connectors
    • 1 - Four-way connector (+ shaped)

    Cut List:
    • 14 - Six-inch sections (these will assemble into the "feet" (see photos))
    • 6 - 3 1/2 foot sections (these form the three vertical supports, spaced equidistant)
    • 4 - 3 foot sections (these form the two horizontal supports, middle and top)

    Final Note: Most of the videos I watched before assembling my backdrop frame suggested using 1" PVC pipe instead of the 3/4" that I bought. I find the smaller diameter pipe is a lot less bulky and the resulting frame seems entirely up to the task. Still, feel free to use one-inch PVC pipe should you so choose. One video even suggested using one-and-a-half inch PVC pipe. I'm going for light and portable here.
    .....
    Here are the fourteen, six-inch sections that assemble into the feet of the backdrop frame using seven tee-shaped connectors:
    .....
    My  DIY, Backdrop Frame: A Tutorial (of Sorts)-foot-sections.jpg
    .....
    .....
    When assembled, there will be two "end-feet" and one center-foot. There are three vertical supports and those supports fit into the top end of the tee-connectors on each foot:
    .....
    My  DIY, Backdrop Frame: A Tutorial (of Sorts)-feet-assembled.jpg


    › See More: My $35 DIY, Backdrop Frame: A Tutorial (of Sorts)
    Last edited by Horoscope Fish; 02-12-2018 at 05:40 PM. Reason: General Clean-up...
    Thanks/Like AndyW, hark, canuck257, carguy Thanks/liked this post
     
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  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Roy1961's Avatar

    Re: My $35 DIY, Backdrop Frame: A Tutorial (of Sorts)

    nice, i have always thought of making a hide similar to this, light and easy to assemble then throw a camo net over it.
    Thanks/Like Horoscope Fish Thanks/liked this post
     
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  3. #3
    Senior Member
    Dawg Pics's Avatar

    Re: My $35 DIY, Backdrop Frame: A Tutorial (of Sorts)

    Love pvc and my pvc cutter.
    I used scraps to make a frame for a projection screen. The cutter is worth the expense if you have several projects to do and don't want to wait around to get the pvc cut.

    Thanks for posting your DIY project.
    Thanks/Like Horoscope Fish Thanks/liked this post
     
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  4. #4
    Senior Member
    Moab Man's Avatar

    Re: My $35 DIY, Backdrop Frame: A Tutorial (of Sorts)

    How well does it support the weight without bowing? I too would have thought use 1 inch or bigger to prevent bowing.
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  5. #5
    Senior Member
    Horoscope Fish's Avatar

    Re: My $35 DIY, Backdrop Frame: A Tutorial (of Sorts)

    Quote Originally Posted by Moab Man View Post
    How well does it support the weight without bowing? I too would have thought use 1 inch or bigger to prevent bowing.
    Bowing of at the top of the frame is a huge pet-peeve of mine as well, and explains the vertical support in my design. Since there is only three feet on either side of the center support there is sufficient stiffness to prevent bowing when using typical material backdrops. I used Schedule 40 pipe, which I believe is the standard wall thickness, but remember seeing cheaper three-quarter inch PVC pipe that had *really* thin walls and was very flimsy; no good for this project.

    So yeah... Most of the videos I watched *did* use 1 inch diameter pipe and I thought long and hard before deviating from that. My design allows for narrower pipe because I've increased support where it counts. Using 1 inch diameter pipe would increase the sturdiness of the frame overall, but would also increase the overall bulk and weight of the final product. I guess like most everything in photography it's a juggling act.
    Thanks/Like Moab Man Thanks/liked this post
     
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  6. #6
    Senior Member

    Re: My $35 DIY, Backdrop Frame: A Tutorial (of Sorts)

    Thanks for sharing this!
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  7. #7
    Senior Member
    hark's Avatar

    Re: My $35 DIY, Backdrop Frame: A Tutorial (of Sorts)

    Interesting with the stand. I can't even remember how much I spent many years ago when I bought mine (might have been from Backdrop Outlet).

    So with the backdrop material, is it thick enough to not be opaque? What I mean is does any light that might be behind the material show through at all? Some material is very, very thin. I wouldn't have even guessed that material-by-the-yard could be purchased through Amazon--even though it is a 3rd party seller. Nice find!
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  8. #8
    Senior Member
    Horoscope Fish's Avatar

    Re: My $35 DIY, Backdrop Frame: A Tutorial (of Sorts)

    Quote Originally Posted by hark View Post
    Interesting with the stand. I can't even remember how much I spent many years ago when I bought mine (might have been from Backdrop Outlet).

    So with the backdrop material, is it thick enough to not be opaque? What I mean is does any light that might be behind the material show through at all? Some material is very, very thin. I wouldn't have even guessed that material-by-the-yard could be purchased through Amazon--even though it is a 3rd party seller. Nice find!
    The suedes and velours I've been using are rated as "medium weight" (by people who rate such things) and so far both materials have worked really well for me. That being said, I've never been in a situation where a bright light-source was directly behind the backdrop causing problems. The weight/opacity of the fabric could be preventing that from happening or it could be dumb luck, I really don't know.
    Thanks/Like hark Thanks/liked this post
     
    ~ Paul
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    Primary Kit :: D750 (OLPF Removed), MB-D10; Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2, Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD, Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art,
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  9. #9
    Senior Member
    Kevin H's Avatar

    Re: My $35 DIY, Backdrop Frame: A Tutorial (of Sorts)

    My  DIY, Backdrop Frame: A Tutorial (of Sorts)
    Quote Originally Posted by Horoscope Fish View Post
    So today I assembled my own portable backdrop frame. I've been wanting something light, portable and inexpensive for a long time and I've just not been satisfied with what I've seen on the market. After watching several videos of people constructing backdrops out of PVC pipe, I came up with my own plan for a "hybrid" frame, combining what I thought were the best aspects of several different designs. After a little careful tinkering I came up with a design that uses exactly 40' of 3/4" PVC pipe, meaning there is no wasted pipe when you're done. When complete the frame stands 7 feet tall and 6 feet wide but breaks down into pieces that are no longer than 42 inches. When assembled the frame has both a vertical and a horizontal cross-support (niiiiiiice!). With two sand bags on the feet it's surprisingly stable. It does wobble if it's pushed but it never even came close to tipping over, even on carpet, when we tested it. Cost of materials was about $30 at Home Depot, but a PVC pipe-cutter will set you back another $15 or so, if you need one. Someone at Home Depot might make the cuts for you, if you ask, but around here the typical Home Depot employee knows less than I do about whatever it is I'm doing (which is typically next to nothing) so today I simply took home my four, ten-foot lengths and did the cutting myself.
    .....
    Here's an example of your typical PVC backdrop frame, just to give you an idea of what's being built:
    .....
    My  DIY, Backdrop Frame: A Tutorial (of Sorts)-pvc-backdrop.jpg
    .....
    My design starts with this basic frame but adds a third vertical support that runs up the center, a third foot on that center support and better-designed, more stable feet overall.
    .....
    For backdrop material I don't use paper or vinyl any more. The rolls those backgrounds come on are unwieldy and heavy, and the keyword for me on this project is portable. So... I've been using faux suede from Amazon. It comes 60 inches wide (five feet) and sells for about $7 a yard. Another material that works well is Velour; it's a little more expensive at about $8 a yard but very nice to work with. I typically get lengths of four or five yards. I use these fabrics in particular because they look fantastic, can be had in black, white and grey as well as nice colors. Both materials are machine washable, durable, and don't wrinkle easily, even when left folded for days at a time... That last point is hugely important for me because screw fabric-steamers. Seriously. I'm DONE with trying to steam out wrinkles on-set.
    .....
    You'll also need clamps. They're available everywhere... Home Depot, Lowes, B&H, Amazon, etc. Link goes to the ones I use, I think. They're nothing special.
    .....
    Putting everything together is stupid simple; I mean it's a rectangle with a central, "+" shaped, cross-support for Pete's sake. What I do is this: First I assemble the feet, then I assemble the rectangular frame flat on the floor. I then attach the feet to the bottom and clamp the fabric to the top of the frame before lifting the completed frame upright and onto its feet. I then sandbag the two, outermost feet. This process takes about three minutes from start to finish. The only dodgy point might be how to assemble the feet themselves, so I've included photos of all three. The three vertical supports fit into the corresponding empty Tee-connectors (duh).
    .....
    If anyone needs help with specifics, I'm more than happy to help; just post or PM. Can't take photos of the assembled frame right this second but I can add those later if needed.
    .....
    Shopping List:
    • 10 - Tee shaped connectors
    • 10 - 3/4" End caps (optional, but they do look nice)
    • 4 - Ten-foot sections of 3/4" PVC Pipe (Schedule 40 (see Final Note, below))
    • 2 - Elbow shaped connectors
    • 1 - Four-way connector (+ shaped)

    Cut List:
    • 14 - Six-inch sections (these will assemble into the "feet" (see photos))
    • 6 - 3 1/2 foot sections (these form the three vertical supports, spaced equidistant)
    • 4 - 3 foot sections (these form the two horizontal supports, middle and top)

    Final Note: Most of the videos I watched before assembling my backdrop frame suggested using 1" PVC pipe instead of the 3/4" that I bought. I find the smaller diameter pipe is a lot less bulky and the resulting frame seems entirely up to the task. Still, feel free to use one-inch PVC pipe should you so choose. One video even suggested using one-and-a-half inch PVC pipe. I'm going for light and portable here.
    .....
    Here are the fourteen, six-inch sections that assemble into the feet of the backdrop frame using seven tee-shaped connectors:
    .....
    My  DIY, Backdrop Frame: A Tutorial (of Sorts)-foot-sections.jpg
    .....
    .....
    When assembled, there will be two "end-feet" and one center-foot. There are three vertical supports and those supports fit into the top end of the tee-connectors on each foot:
    .....
    My  DIY, Backdrop Frame: A Tutorial (of Sorts)-feet-assembled.jpg
    LOL google ladder golf I've made a bunch makes a good drinking game
    Last edited by Kevin H; 02-12-2018 at 11:48 PM.
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  10. #10
    Senior Member
    Horoscope Fish's Avatar

    Re: My $35 DIY, Backdrop Frame: A Tutorial (of Sorts)

    Okay so here are a couple pics of my DIY backdrop frame on-location in the art studio where I do most of my portrait shooting. Please excuse the mess, I didn't feel like tidying up for these shots. For fuller-body shots, I'd clamp the top of the frame but that's not needed today.


    .....
    My  DIY, Backdrop Frame: A Tutorial (of Sorts)-backdrop-1.jpg

    Assembled, But Naked

    .....
    My  DIY, Backdrop Frame: A Tutorial (of Sorts)-backdrop-2.jpg

    Assembled, Draped in Black
    Thanks/Like Dawg Pics Thanks/liked this post
     
    ~ Paul
    ....
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    Primary Kit :: D750 (OLPF Removed), MB-D10; Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2, Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD, Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art,
    Yongnuo Flashes & Triggers, Manfrotto X055PROB, 3-Legged Thing Airhed II... All Stuffed into a Manfrotto Pro Backpack 50
    ....
    ....
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