Table of Contents

How to Properly Care for a Theatrical Backdrop?

Table of Contents

Proper care and maintenance are essential when you use Grosh backdrops or drapes. Correct handling procedures ensure that the drops stay in top condition, and chances of damage become minimal. We have prepared this section so you can receive the most enjoyment out of your backdrop, and to help you avoid costly damage charges.

Receiving Your Backdrop 

Please note that your backdrop comes folded and wrapped in a protective plastic bag. It protects our property against moisture while in transit. You will REUSE THIS BAG when you return the drop, so put in it a safe place (but a place you can find later!). 

Before you remove the backdrop from the packaging, prepare the area that you will work in. Make sure the floor is swept, mopped, or covered, so the backdrop will stay clean.

Unrolling and Unfolding the Backdrop 

When you receive the backdrop: 

  1. Take it out of the sealed plastic bag and untie the lines that hold the backdrop in a rolled position. Hang on to these items – they will be required for the return trip. 
  2. Take a good look at the backdrop. Notice the exact way it is folded and rolled. You will want to remember this so you can duplicate it after the drop is used and you are ready to pack it up. (Ever notice that things do not go back together the same way that they came apart?? Well, our backdrops do – just pay attention when you’re unpacking it, and you will not have a problem!) 
  3. On a clean, dry surface free of protruding objects, unroll the backdrop with one person positioned on either side. 
  4. Unfold the first flap, then each person should grab a corner of the next flap. 
  5. With a flap in hand, start walking across the floor. 

Things to Watch Out For

Most problems come from an unclean or obstructed area. If debris, sharp objects, dirt, oil, or liquids are in the area, you run the risk of damaging the drop. Take time in your preparatory steps to make sure the area is ready before you unroll the drop. The backdrop will unfold like an accordion.

Unrolling and Unfolding the Backdrop

Hanging and Using the Backdrop 

How A Backdrop Hangs

Appearing every 12″ at the top edge of the backdrop, there are a pair of lines each 12″ long. These are known as tie lines, and they are the components that give support to the backdrop. Many backdrops are constructed with 2″ or 4″ webbing, or grommet webbing on the top. Some drops come with pipe or chain pockets.

How To Hang A Backdrop From A Curtain Track

  1. Slip one of the tie lines through an eyelet or a chain link on the track carrier. 
  2. Then tie the two lines into a bow, allowing one set of tie lines to a carrier.

Systems For Hanging

The type of stage in a facility will determine how the equipment such as lights, speakers, drapes, and backdrops are rigged. They will either be rigged to a counterweight system or they will be “dead hung.” A counterweight system is where they can be lowered to the floor using counterweights. The “dead hung” method means they hang near the ceiling and do not move.

Pipe Batten

A pipe batten is a pipe that spans the width of the stage. Its purpose is to hang lights, speakers, drapes, and backdrops.

Pipe Pocket

The pipe pocket in a backdrop is a 3-1/2″ pocket with an opening on either end. It is located at the very bottom and spans the width of the backdrop. It is designed to support a pipe that runs the width of the backdrop. 

Once inserted, the pipe will add weight to the backdrop which will help eliminate wrinkles.

The suggested pipe to be used is 1/2″ emt (electrical metallic tubing) with emt connectors. These items can be purchased in the electrical department at your local hardware store. The 1/2″ emt comes in 8 to 10-foot lengths and is connected with emt connectors. Insert the 1/2″ emt into the pipe pocket. Depending on the size of the drop, it may take two or more people to accomplish this. 

  1. First, on the leading edge of the pipe, apply duct tape. This will soften the sharp edges on the tubing, and prevent the tubing from hanging up and ultimately tearing the drop. If the tubing does hang up, STOP! Don’t force it. Have your helpers investigate the problem before you proceed.
  2. After you have inserted your first length of tubing, connect your second length using the EMT connector. Once both pieces of the tubing are in the connector and the screws have been tightened, apply duct tape around the connector. This will soften any sharp edges and eliminate hang-ups. Repeat this process until the tubing spans the width of the backdrop.
  3. To further eliminate wrinkles, while the backdrop is in a hanging position, use two people on the ends of the backdrop, and one person in the middle. Have the person in the middle lift the tubing, while the end people firmly pull on either end of the pocket. 
  4. Then have the person in the middle lower the tubing until they are no longer supporting it. Remember, if the drop has a chance to “hang” for a while some of the wrinkles will disappear naturally, so allow time before opening night.

 

If the backdrop wants to spring back on either end, use a grip clamp and clamp the pocket to the tubing. (Note: this application does not work if the drop is to be drawn on and off stage using a curtain track.)

How To Hang A Backdrop From Dead Hung System

  1. Using an “A” frame ladder, tie the tie lines around the pipe from one end of the pipe batten to the other. 
  2. Fasten the lines as you would tie a shoestring, lifting and tying as you go. If you feel resistance as you lift the backdrop to tie it, do not force, jerk, or tug on the backdrop.

 

Investigate the problem before you continue. If the resistance is caused by the sheer weight of the backdrop, have a second or third person on the floor lift the drop. This will relieve stress on the backdrop. Make sure you follow these steps when taking it down.

How To Hang A Backdrop From A Counterweight System

  1. Lower your pipe batten to the floor. 
  2. Choose where you will work from either one end of the pipe batten or from the middle. 
  3. Starting at one end or in the middle, begin working your way out, and tie all of the tie lines in a bow (as you would a shoestring). 
  4. Slowly raise the pipe up off the floor, using the counterweight system. Make sure you add weight to the arbor to counterbalance the weight of the backdrop.

 

Systems For Hanging a Backdrop

Altering the Backdrops for Your Use 

Altering the Size from the Top

  1. Fold the top portion of the backdrop over until the desired height is acquired. 
  2. Then with rubber-tipped “grip clamps,” clamp the folded part of the backdrop to the pipe batten. 

 

If you should lose the rubber tip to the clamp, a tightly folded paper towel used as padding works well. The number of grip clamps required depends on the size and weight of the backdrop. For example, for a 22-high by 50-wide backdrop, we recommend one grip clamp every 2 feet. If the pipe pocket is utilized, more grip clamps may be required. This application does not work if the backdrop is to be hung from a traveler track.

Altering the Size from the Sides 

In the event the backdrop is too wide, simply fold back the side or sides of the backdrop that you do not want to be seen and tie the lines at the top.

Altering the Size from the Bottom 

Clean the surface under the backdrop, and then fold under the bottom portion of the backdrop. A pipe can be laid on the back side of the backdrop to give it weight. Paper or plastic should be laid on the floor where the face of the backdrop will make contact with the floor.

Lighting a Backdrop

Lighting instruments, should distribute a general, even light over the surface of the backdrop and eliminate shadows from any wrinkles or unevenness on the surface. The best position is well downstage from the surface to be lighted.

Outdoor Use

Grosh does not recommend or allow the use of any of our theatrical backdrops for outdoor use. We have found that a backdrop hung outside catches the wind like a sail, which can cause devastating damage to objects around the drop, bodily injury, and/or damage to the backdrop itself.

Altering the Backdrops for Your Use and Outside Usage

Returning the Backdrop 

If your production had a long run it probably seems like a long time ago that you received your Grosh package. You were excited to receive it, open it up and get on with your production! 

Unless your production is not burdened with budgetary constraints, you will want to get the backdrop or drapery back to our facility on time to avoid any late fees. 

  1. When removing the drop remember to have your working surface prepared before you lower the drop. (Have your surface clean and dry with no signs of foreign matter in the area.) Carefully unhook or remove the drop from its attachment and lay it out for folding.
  2. Once you have the drop laid out on a clean surface, two individuals can carefully refold the drop back into the small rectangular form, and roll it for insertion into the plastic bag (see diagram below). Hopefully, you probably put the plastic bag that the drop arrived in someplace safe, where you can now locate it. After you locate it, place the drop inside, seal the bag and get the box ready for shipment.

 

To view a complete video of how to properly fold your backdrop for return, please click on the video below:

  1. With the painted side up, lay the drop on the clean floor.
  2. Skip the first two feet and begin folding in a fan-like manner. Repeat the process until the drop is fan-folded about two feet wide.
  3. Fold the two-foot flap over to contain the drop.
  4. From the bottom, roll the drop with the tag exposed. Place into the provided plastic bag.
  5. Box and Ship it back to Grosh Scenic Rentals located at:

Grosh Scenic Rentals, 8050 San Fernando Rd, Sun Valley, CA 91352, or Grosh Scenic Rentals, 2422 N. Burkhardt Road, Evansville, IN 47715.

The most important tip that we can give you (which you already probably know) is that you must allow ample time to perform these functions. This way, no damage will occur to the backdrop or drapery, and everyone will be happy.

Possible Problems You Can Avoid

In the unlikely event you have a problem, some of the information listed below may help you. We would like to stress that taking a moment to make sure that you and your crew are aware of these potential problems may help you avoid repair costs (which can be expensive). Above all, a company that adheres to the principles below will get the maximum enjoyment out of our backdrops.

It’s really just common sense pointers. If you are familiar with using backdrops and draperies, you have undoubtedly had experiences in the field with some or all of these things listed.

  1. OIL & GREASE STAINS: Keep the backdrop away from machinery, forklifts, and automobiles. Always make sure your working surface is free of oil and grease stains.
  2. FOOD STAINS: Do not eat or drink near, or on, the backdrop (sounds so simple, doesn’t it?). Make sure the floor is clear of food products before you lower the backdrop to the floor. This is especially true with beverages that have been spilled on a carpeted surface.
  3. FOOTPRINTS: Don’t walk on the backdrop. (They’re supposed to hang, remember?)
  4. TIRE MARKS: Don’t place any vehicle on the backdrop. Do not roll scaffolding onto the backdrop.
  5. PAINT STAINS: Make sure the surface you are working on is free of wet paint. Use extreme caution if you paint near a backdrop. Don’t let the backdrop brush against wet paint surfaces.
  6. DIRT STAINS: If you have to fold a backdrop outside, lay a ground cloth or plastic on the ground to protect the backdrop. Do not drag the backdrop on its painted surface. Never fold or roll the backdrop with the painted surface out. Follow the fold and roll instructions as provided.
  7. WATER STAINS: When it is raining, do not transport the backdrop in an open vehicle. Do not store the backdrop contained in a plastic bag in direct sunlight. The plastic bag gathers moisture. Do not hang the backdrop where there is a lot of moisture (such as an indoor pool). The fabric will absorb the moisture out of the air. Do not wet or steam the backdrop.
  8. URINE STAINS: Keep pets and/or livestock away from the backdrop. (Make sure there’s a stagehand to walk that donkey during the Christmas play . . .)
  9. GRASS STAINS: Do not fold the backdrop on a lawn.
  10. SMOKE STAINS: Smoke (especially black smoke) will leave a residue on the backdrop. If smoke is present, vent it away from the backdrop.
  11. TAPE STAINS: Do not apply tape to the face of the backdrop as the tape can leave a sticky residue behind, and it will remove paint from the backdrop.
  12. GLUE STAINS: Do not apply any glue or spray adhesives to the front or back side of the backdrop.
  13. MAKEUP STAINS: Avoid “makeup” contact with the backdrop.
  14. BURN MARKS: Do not iron or apply heat of any kind to the backdrop. Do not drape the backdrop over light fixtures. Do not hang lights close to the backdrop. If fire is present, keep it at a safe distance from the backdrop.
  15. STAPLES OR NAILS: Staples or nails are never to be used to hang a backdrop.
  16. ALL STAINS IN GENERAL: When you fold and roll the backdrop for return, make sure it is free of foreign objects such as grass, hay, food, bottles, kitchen utensils, etc..
  17. MODIFICATIONS: Do not sew, or iron on any additions to the backdrop. Do not paint or draw on the backdrop (this applies to any medium, whether it is with chalk, pencil, charcoal, markers, pastels, etc.).
  18. HEMMING: Hemming to alter the size of a backdrop (whether it is from the top, sides, or bottom) shortens the life of a backdrop. Although hemming is a practice found in the industry, it is not recommended. Grosh’s policy prohibits lessees from altering any items. Refer to the section above titled ALTERING THE BACKDROP FOR YOUR USE.
  19. RIPS AND TEARS: Avoid dragging the backdrop as much as possible. Make sure your working surface is free of protruding objects, such as nails, screws, and tacks. If you are hanging the backdrop from a pipe that can be lowered to the floor, have people watching for hang-ups as the operator is SLOWLY raising the drop. If you are using a ladder to hang the backdrop, confirm that a leg of your ladder is not on the backdrop.

 

Possible Problems You Can Avoid

I’ve Torn Your Backdrop! Now What?!? 

The most common damage to a backdrop that we encounter is unintentional tears. Although the fabric is quite durable, a backdrop should be handled with the utmost care. If you tear a backdrop, stop! Notify Grosh Scenic Rentals for further instructions.

In the event the damage occurs during off-hours, lower the drop-down. Lay the portion of the backdrop “that is torn” painted side down on a clean, hard surface. If you are working on carpet, place a piece of plywood or cardboard under the torn area.

In the before-mentioned AVOID POSSIBLE PROBLEMS section we mentioned the use of tape: Never apply tape to the face of the backdrop – it will remove paint from the backdrop. Duct tape can leave a sticky residue behind, so, in the event that you must try to patch a tear, use gaffer tape.

Move either side of the tear together to form a tight seam on the unpainted side of the backdrop. Apply gaffers tape the length of the seam for tears 18″ or longer. You may also have to apply 4″ strips of gaffer tape perpendicular to the tape that is holding the seam together. This is especially true with horizontal tears, as this will keep the tears from separating. Do not attempt to glue, sew, or staple the tear together. We have found that gaffer tape works best. Remember to notify Grosh Scenic Rentals as soon as possible.

Ive Torn Your Backdrop Now What

One Final Note 

We at Grosh enjoy bringing Hollywood to you through the rental of our backdrops and draperies, and we are entrusting their care to your capable hands. They provide your event with inexpensive stock scenery that can be reused for a long time to come.

We would like to thank you for allowing us to be a part of your event. We make every effort to help you with questions or problems and look forward to many years of supplying your company or school with the highest quality drops and drapes in the industry.

ON WITH THE SHOW!!

If you should have questions or comments about your rental, please contact us as soon as possible.