What background to use for a self-tape? What is the right background? Is there any industry standard? Do I have to use any background, or is just a blank white wall enough? All and more in today’s article.
What is the right background
There are two things to consider before choosing the right background. The material and the color. Let’s start with what material. What is the right material for your background.
If you are a YouTuber, it is very different. You want to bring something special into the background or create some cool lighting or whatever. Still, in self-taping, the most important object is YOU, and anything extra behind you can distract casting directors or agents. Imagine you are the casting director, and you can see a great actor doing his monologue, but in the background is the taxidermy head of a bear. Maybe you got a picture of how disturbing it could be. Ok, Yes, this is too much, but still, you know what I mean. So please stick with a simple one-color background. No textures, no patterns, no stuffed animals, just one-color background. You can start with the basic wall.
The blank wall. The easiest way to create your background is the blank wall for your self-tape. Find the right spot in your apartment, remove pictures from the wall if you need to, and voilà, you got your first background for your self-tape. Don’t worry. Nothing is wrong, and if you don’t have the resources or money to do more, the blank wall is just enough. As I said, everything is about you and your acting. If you are a great actor and have a blank white wall behind you, the casting directors won’t decline you just because of the background. But disturbing background can affect their opinion of your performance. If you don’t have the space to have just a blank wall, try to keep it as simple as possible to avoid any distraction. Maybe, in this case it is time to consider choosing something other than a blank wall.
Suppose you can paint your wall in a specific color, even better. Check out the right color for the background later in this article.
You can get rolls with paper in any photo supply shop or on Amazon. The pros of the paper are no wrinkles. You can get it in many colors. It’s recyclable. Ideal solution for studios. When it gets dirty, you just cut off the dirty piece. But you have to have some stands, or you need to build any holder for it. And also, one of the big disadvantages is it should be store horizontally and out of the sun because the tube could bend when it’s holding up, and the sun can play with the colors of the paper. Also, the tubes with the paper are big, so you really have to have a bigger studio to hang them and store them. So this solution would be great for those with big space.
Cotton fabric sheets are easy to store, you fold them, and that’s it. You can put them in a closet or anywhere. It’s ideal for moving around and shooting on a location if you need to do your self-tape somewhere on your travels. It’s cheaper than paper ones. The big disadvantage is it is wriggled when unfolded, so you have to iron it. Make sure you are buying good quality ones. If it’s 100% synthetic, it will wrinkle, and you can’t iron synthetic material so that you would be screwed. If you can have it on the spot all the time, it is a great solution for you, you iron it once and have it there, ready to shoot your amazing performance.
Easy to store, easy to set up. That’s why it is one of the most common backgrounds for self-tape. It works great. It’s portable. The disadvantage is it will cover just a small surface of the area you are shooting. So, make sure you will use it properly and cover all your surroundings behind you. There are many self-tapes out there where the backdrop is just behind the actor, and you can see the actor’s living room around the backdrop. When you buy it, it wrings, but in a time, it’s straightened up.
If you have big windows or have a space to install blinds, it’s a great option. You can find many different colors in a hardware store. You install it, pull it down, and you can rock’n’roll like Travolta in Pulp Fiction.
This is a unique system mostly used for photography, but it could also be an option for self-tape background. The price is pretty high, so if you don’t have a studio or enough space and not planning to do more things with this system, don’t invest in it. But it’s great to mention it as it could be useful to somebody who is also a photographer.
The big advantage of vinyl is it doesn’t reflect almost any light. You could use white vinyl for many setups because it’s white when light is lighting on it, it’s grey without light and black if you are further from the background. As this could be an interesting use of vinyl, I don’t think it is ideal for self-tape. But I mention it here for you, YouTubers, and content creators. If you are one of them, you should check out more about the vinyl options for the background.
The right background
The right background is covering all the background behind you. You are the focal point. Casting directors or viewers want to focus on you and not on any disturbing picture or stuff you have in the background.
What color to choose for your background
Every color can work differently. It really depends on your skin tone and the lighting. The industry standard is blue, but grey is often used to work better with darker skin. You can go with the industry standard or experiment with a different color to find the right background for semi-tones of your skin.
Let’s start with the industry standard. The industry standard for self-tape is a blue background. As the blue is the industry standard, it is always great to use, but you should know a few things. This background brings yellowish balance to your footage.
Curiosity: The blue color doesn’t have any spill, which means it doesn’t bring blueish contour on you. On the opposite side, the green color has the spill, which is more challenging for chroma keying in visual effects.
How to get rid of yellowish balance footage
There are a few things to avoid it. First, use lighting. Bring white balance by setting up the white balance with your lights. Use white light, white bulb, or bring up the white balance in your light settings if you use LED panels. Secondly, bring a sheet of white paper next to your face and set up the white balance on your camera/phone. For iPhone users – after you bring the paper next to your face, touch the screen for 2 seconds and when the AF/AE is locked, drag it a little bit up. Thirdly, you can bring the brightness on the camera up to get the right result (don’t overkill it.)
The grey color works great as well. It’s not the standard, but it is very commonly used because the grey color is very neutral. And it usually works better with darker skin.
Experimenting with different colors
Even though blue is the industry standard and grey is also commonly used, you can experiment with different colors to discover which is best for the semi-tones of your skin, as long as the colors are not distracting or too bright. The camera captures you in different color pallets (different colors of the picture) in different backgrounds because there is just you and the one-color background.
How the camera captures the background
The camera works only with the colors it is capturing. The background covers most of the place in the frame so that the camera will add a big portion of the color from the background to its color spectrum. That’s why the blue background creates a yellowish color balance. If you bring white paper next to your face, the camera also grabs the white color to its color spectrum and changes the color palette, and “destroys” the yellowish look and the colors are more “real.”
The colors to experiment with
Don’t go crazy with your background color. You can experiment and find the right color for the semi-tones of your skin. Please don’t have a flashy red color background. As you might guess, you can use every color that is not disturbing or too bright. And yes, it is supposed to be just one color—no texture or patterns.
Check out this video to see how different backgrounds can affect your overall view of yourself.
TIP: How to get rid of shadows in your background – Bring lighting and camera closer to you and don’t stand far away from the background.
In consideration of what color to choose, you can also think of your wardrobe. The clothing shouldn’t be the same color as your background. If you have only blue clothes in your wardrobe, please don’t use a blue background.
Maybe you already notice that Blue and Green colors are used for visual effects in the film industry. Have you always wondered why? Read more to find out.
Chroma key – Blue and Green background
Humans’ skin tones naturally don’t contain any green or blue color. That’s why these are the two colors filmmakers are using for the chroma key. The chroma keying is a post-production process to change the background. Basically, they take the green or blue color in the background and change it for whatever they need.
Are there more types of backgrounds you can use? Or what do you use? Did I cover everything? Let me know in the comments below.
Break a leg with your next audition!
About the author:
I am a never-ending fighter for the perfect ART, enjoying the process of unperfectness. I am many things and nothing, but my main focus is acting. I've studied at the Vancouver Academy of Dramatic Arts. I've been an actor in Theater Around The Corner, Moravian Theater Olomouc, Theater DiGoknu, or Mlada Scena II. And I am working hard on my craft.