Monday, March 8, 2021

Why no backdrops?

Why I didn't add backdrops (other than the room walls) to my layout can be summarized by this photo. 
I got an interesting email on one of my recent video layout updates the other day. ***

Essentially, the email questioned why I didn't include backdrops along behind both peninsulas and behind the "front" section of the layout where the Enosburg Falls and "Junction" scenes are located. An earlier view of the layout from the front "viewing aisle" is shown below for reference:

There's a couple of reasons I didn't include backdrops on those sections of the layout. In no particular order they are:

1. One of the toughest things to deal with in model photography and videography are shadows reflected from the 3-d world onto the 2-d wall, which is supposed to represent sky. Last time I checked, the sky outside my window doesn't reflect anything. 

Adding more backdrops is simply adding more walls - creating more distracting shadows that have to be addressed. 

2. Somewhat related to #1 is the issues with lighting that additional backdrops would introduce. If there's one area where we model railroaders really need to focus it's on thinking through and improving layout room lighting. I really failed in this area on my previous layout, and although I feel the current layout room lighting is better,  it's far short of ideal. 

More backdrops means more light is getting blocked from reaching the layout - the solution of just adding more light fixtures in the hope the problem goes away only goes so far!

3. Multiple peninsulas broken up with backdrops may help create a sense of isolation and distance - and if that's the goal that's fine. But such a benchwork footprint usually means narrow shelves (a few inches on each side of the track has been promoted by some) which may serve the purpose of stretching the mainline length but at the expense of visual impact. The only photo angle available is the "extreme 3/4 wedge shot." Worse than that, when viewing the layout in person you will find it a struggle to achieve the sense of a train in the environment - it usually looks like exactly what it is - a model train running along a narrow shelf with a modicum of scenery on each side. 

The 3/4 wedgie view of a train - you better like this perspective - a lot - unless you include some deeper scenes somewhere on your layout. 

4. The last, and perhaps most important reason I didn't add a bunch of backdrops to the layout room is simply the fact that I enjoy stepping back and surveying the landscape. In person it's pleasant to look at the layout. And, when you drop the camera down to eye level you can achieve some truly deep, realistic vistas. 

If you don't care for my thoughts on rabbit warren layout design, you don't want to hear about my preference for continuous running! 

(***I tried to illustrate some of this in my latest video layout update - you can see that on YouTube by clicking HERE. )


Anonymous said...

I've got two peninsulas on my layout under construction. I have no plans to erect a backdrop down the center of either. I do hope to create separation from the two scenes using view blocks such as very low hills and trees. Like you, I'm not fond of the very narrow shelves everywhere.

-Jack Shall

Bill Gill said...

Marty, I heartily agree and like your nobackdrop-expansive views across the layout.
My own layout has a hill/mountain running the length of its middle which in this particiular case also makes the tiny layout look bigger because otherwise it would look like a parking space for a farmstand.

Bernie said...

I agree with your assessment of narrow benchwork. The advocates of that approach are really trying to maximize their mainline run, usually at the expense of scenic beauty.

I am dealing with the multiple shadows from recessed can lights right now in my layout expansion. I don't have a solution.

The Aquia Landing section of my backdrop has the effect you are going for. I can be effective from certain viewing angles.