How to Build a Cyclorama Part 1

We spent good deal of time researching the many different options before deciding what worked best for the studio. Prefab style cyc walls can be a good option, but we decided it was a bit out of the studio’s price range. After cruising the internet and talking to some contractors we took bits of information from each source and came up with our own way of building it. The finished product was a custom 30′x30′x16′ L-shaped cyclorama, with a 3′ radius curve and a concrete floor so that it would be easy to bring automobiles in and out (which we are very happy with).

Now begins the fun part, we started out with a empty warehouse bay that had a few issues that needed to be fixed in order to be able to have a nice cyc. Our space had an epoxy coated floor, one sheetrock wall and one concrete wall. The first issue was the floor, not only did it have cracks, humps and holes that needed to be patched, but it was also painted with an epoxy coating. This was an interesting and time consuming dilemma because neither concrete patch or paint would adhere to the epoxy coating. To fix this we rented a diamond floor grinder that worked great for removing most of the epoxy and flattening out any of the humps in the floor. We then employed Jasco paint and epoxy remover (warning follow the directions and use proper safety equipment, this stuff is nasty) to root out the rest of the epoxy. Then we used a concrete patch (we recommend Henry’s when used with a bonding adhesive) to fill all of the holes and cracks. We did not spend much time on the edges against the walls because I knew that it would be covered up by cyc’s curvature. In the end we had a pretty flat surface with most of the epoxy removed.

After we finished the floor it was time to start working on the walls. First we removed the lower 3′ of the sheet rock of the one wall so that we could cover it with plywood and give ourselves something to attach the curved ribbing to later.

Becuase the other wall was concrete we built a wood stud frame, using concrete anchors to secure it to the wall and floor.

Once the framing was complete and the wall secure, it was time to hang the sheet rock. We started by snapping a level line 3′ up from the floor so that we could place plywood on the bottom (again the plywood is there to give you something to attach the ribbing to). Then taking a couple of straight boards we screwed them off at the level line to give ourselves something to start the first row of sheet rock. Make sure that you are staggering the seams of the sheet rock.

We used a sheet rock jack to lift the sheets up (highly recommend).

After the sheet rock was hung we decided to mud the walls before we put in the radius so that it would be easier to get to. We also had to mud the preexisting sheet rock wall because it had holes and texture sprayed on it. Take your time with the mud; it will take a few coats to get it looking nice (flat wall finishing is hard to do, you may want to call in a professional finisher).

After we were satisfied with the mud we installed the plywood on the bottom of the wall.

The next step was cutting all of the ribbing pieces (arches). It might help to watch this demo video (or a half naked version with Ashley). We started off by cutting our 4×8 sheets of plywood in half making 2-4×4 sheets, this allowed us to get 4 arches out of each sheet. We used a small board with a nail in one end and a hole drilled at the proper length (3ft) on the other end to hold a pencil as a compass. Measuring in from the corner 3 ft down the edge and 3 ft in from the edge we placed the nail where the lines intersected and drew our radius.

Once the first one was drawn out and cut with a jigsaw, we used it as a template to make the rest of the ribbing sections. We used a few bar clamps to clamp all of the ribs together and sanded them to ensure that they were all exactly the same (the tip broke off a couple of the ribs but it really doesn’t matter that much). Then we spent some time cutting all of the blocking and runners (Important!! make sure that your blocking is cut to a size that the rib will cover but also long enough to give the rib support.) Precutting our pieces was helpful before we got started on the radius.

The next major step was to create the vertical radius. To do this we started by installing blocking at 3′ intervals up the wall so that the horizontal ribs would come up to the bottom of the first vertical curve. Once the blocking was level and screwed to the wall, we screwed the rib to the blocking. Next we measured up the distance of our runners and installing the next set of blocking (we made out runners out of 1 x 2 x 8 Furring Strip and cut them to 2′ lengths. You can go heavier if you would like, which will allow you to make you runners longer). After we had the next rib in place we attached the runners using 1 1/2″ crown staples.

This went on until we reached the top of the wall.

Stay tuned for the next installment of how to build a Cyclorama Wall. We will be discussing how we finished our radius and have some links that might help you decide what will work best for you.