What exactly is the difference between a backdrop, scrim, and cyclorama? These terms are used at times as if they are interchangeable. That would be incorrect….and confusing to those who do understand the difference.
Scrim: A scrim will look like a solid curtain until you bring up the lighting behind it. At that point, you will be able to see through it. Scrims can also change appearance with different lighting techniques. You can use it for front lighting and projections as well. Scrims are typically made from what is called a sharkstooth weave, which is considered very durable for a scrim. (We only carry sharkstooth scrims in black or white for rent). Some of the other types of scrim are made from gauze and linen, which are much more delicate, but can be used in the same manner. Scrims can also have painted scenes on them. For example, a scrim with a forest painted on it can make it appear as people running through the woods. It’s a simple, dramatic effect.
Cyclorama: A cyclorama–or “cyc” (pronounced “sike”)–is a plain curtain usually used to give the appearance of a “sky”. Standard cycloramas are light blue in color although they are also made with white or natural muslin. They are typically front lit with colored lighting to change the appearance of the stage. There’s no real difference between the functionality of the blue or white cyclorama other than the blue will mute colored lighting a little. Seamless cycloramas are somewhat difficult to find as rentals and expensive to purchase. A seamless cyclorama is useful for doing shadow effects with back lighting. The seams will show when back lit, which is why seamless cycloramas are preferred. Even with front lighting, a seamless cyclorama gives a more uniform appearance. However, cycloramas with seams are just as effective.
Backdrops: A backdrop is actually a generic term used to refer to several different types of stage curtains including scrims and cycloramas. Most frequently, backdrops are used at the back of the stage or scene. For our purposes, a backdrop is a hand painted, scenery of various themes. In essence, we use the term “backdrop” to solely describe our painted scenes.