Why it's not so easy

We probably make the largest Digital Panoramic Images in the world. Because of our process, the print size and image size is unlimited.  Three times larger than the TNO image and the Bryce image.

Our process to manufacture backdrops is uniquely suited to model railroads and wall murals.   Railroad layouts require a wide landscape image that has good resolution and constant perspective over the entire length.  Conventional film, digital and panoramic photography have some serious problems.  The process we use to produce our backdrops was developed by (BackDrop Warehouse) and is not conventional photography, digital, panoramic, or some scanning device. 

We are the only manufacturer of backdrops that lets you test our scenes on a layout.

Use   to try different combinations

Know what you are buying

1)  Size:   A normal photo or slide can be blown up to about 3 ft, but larger prints become blurry.  Even wide negative and panoramic film are under noticeable strain over 8 ft.  It is impossible to make a 10 ft. image from a 35mm slide unless you are planning to stand back 20 ft. and panoramic films show distortions at large sizes. Good luck trying to piece 35mm slides together. Plan to stand back about 20 ft. from the print. Most layouts need 20 to over 100 ft. in length.  A 10 ft. scene is of little use for most layouts and several unrelated and unmatched scenes end to end don't do much for the layout either. One way to increase size is to mirror image.  We saw one scene that had 3 reversals to make 12 ft  (Definitely not one of ours).  

BackDrop Warehouse makes scenes up to 78 ft. that are distortion free, unique the entire length (no reversals), then broken into matching sections (4 inch overlap)  A, B, C, D or A, B for 24 ft.  We sell any scene reversed at no additional cost.

3)  Color Tone:   There are inherent color changes over long horizontal distances.  Conventional film and panoramic cameras capture these changes and may produce an unnatural print with varying brightness, contrast and other strange effects from end to end. 

Since our technique is entirely different we can correct for these color shifts in a two stage process which allows our backdrops to have the same tone, contrast, brightness, and saturation over the entire length. We adjust the color to be a little washed out for a few customers and a little dark for some but just right for most.

5)  Clouds:   Our clouds are real but stripped of the sky and stored ready for use as an individual digital object.  We can change the shape, density, and contrast.  The same clouds are used on many scenes in varying forms.
7)  Sharpness:   As mentioned above conventional photography and processing make for blurred images printed over 3 ft or 8 ft long depending on the camera used.   This is due to limitations on lenses and grain of the film or pixels in the sensor.

Although our methods have limitations, they are far beyond what is needed for backdrops.  We are pushing technology to stay well ahead of current requirements.  We also offer two resolutions,  BackDrops (higher), BackGrounds (lower resolution and most common).   More info.

9)  Media:   Know what you are buying for the media that the backdrop is on.  Plastic based medias have a high coefficient of expansion and can stretch or tear off the wall with temperature changes.  We have personal experience with plastic media. Some media is shiny - not good.  Most paper media are flimsy and will tear easily and may soak up mounting pastes and cements.  Many have wrinkles because they are too thin.

We use a heavy grade paper  (12 mil) with embedded nylon for strength.  It is water resistant and scratch resistant, wrinkle free and very low coefficient of temperature expansion. There is no reflectivity (matte surface). The media may soak up a little paste if the application is too heavy (rubber cement - no problem). Our inks are UV protected with a fade life of about 20 years. We have been using this media for years without a problem.   For more info  (click here)

2)  Perspective:   Since most photography is from a single point, the scene changes over long horizontal distances.  35mm film doesn't have this problem because it has no horizontal distance, but wide negatives and panoramic images have a very noticeable fish eye effect.  Moving away from the center causes the image to become larger or smaller depending on the terrain and lens.  Usually there is a darkening of the image on the ends especially noticeable in the sky and clouds. 

Our scenes are nearly the same size and perspective over the entire length.  You may see a different angle of buildings and some slight reduction in horizon on some scenes from end to end, but many scenes have no apparent change in angle or size.  Color changes are due to the natural lighting, not the photography.

4)  Sky match:   For any backdrop made from film or panoramic image, the sky will be different for each scene plus darker or lighter from end to end and the clouds are never where you want them.  Not only will there be scenery mismatch from scene to scene but large variations in sky as well.

Again, since our process is unique, we have developed a digital way to completely remove the sky and clouds from all scenes.  We then replace the original sky with our gradient eastern or western sky, and place our real but rebuilt clouds always away from edges (10 inches from ends and 1-2 inches down from top).  Over the years our gradient has changed and some older scenes may have a slightly different gradient.  We are rebuilding these as time permits.  We only guarantee a match on A, B, etc. printed at the same time, however, it is unlikely you would notice a difference on any east to east or west to west.  On transitions we either correct mismatches or blend.  The gradient will be slightly different for different vertical sizes and scales.  Theoretically all eastern skys will match for the same vertical size and scale as will all western.

6)  Scale:   A major problem with conventional film or digital images is that one size fits all.  You may not want an N scale scene for your O scale layout or worse a 3 ft high G scale print for N scale.  

Since our scenes are broken down digitally we can manipulate the size to fit different scales and print sizes. We check the closest objects for relative scale and size and adjust as necessary.  Although our scaling isn't exact, it is within tolerance.  Again, some customers like smaller, some larger, the drift is to larger or slightly over scale. Over size allows for scenery in front of the backdrop without hiding the contents. We have 40 pre-made size and scale variations for each scene, that is about 10,000 combinations. We do not make custom scaling.  For more information on scale   (click here).

8)  Transitions:   A requirement for a good backdrop is to be able to have a continuous scene changing from hills to agricultural to commercial to mountains.  Because our scenes are perspectively flat, corrected to color standards and broken down digitally, we can make custom transitions that continue for 100s of feet.  There are some restrictions and some transitions look better than others but all are possible.  For more information  (click here).
10)  Cutting edge:   We are always trying to improve our backdrops to make your layout look as realistic as possible.   Layout photos   (click here)

For more information on how-we-do-it,  (click here)