Seamless, Fabric SoftDrops Come Up BIG!
As They Transport Stonewall Back To 1969

Our newest backdrop product – Rosco SoftDrop – offers huge, seamless images, in a matte finish, that are printed onto a wrinkle-resistant cotton drop, which is easy to ship, easy to hang and easy to light. Rosco SoftDrop is making its feature film debut in Roland Emerich’s upcoming movie Stonewall, where it solved a number of challenges that the filmmakers faced while making the movie.

To bring the story of New York’s 1969 Stonewall riots to the screen, an entire two blocks around the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village needed to be built on a soundstage in Montreal, Canada. The buildings lining the north and south sides of Christopher Street would be constructed as full-scale facades, but HUGE backdrops would be needed for the more distant end views across Seventh Avenue and Greenwich Avenue. Confronted by the size requirements of the backdrops and other extreme shooting conditions, the filmmakers knew they were going to need something special and called Rosco to address their challenges.

Rosco’s Phil Greenstreet and Denis Levesque met with production designer Michèle Laliberté, art director Vincent Liberalli, and cinematographer Markus Förderer to discuss the look they were trying to achieve, inspect the building facades that were under construction, and see for themselves how the backdrops would be used to cap the ends of the set. One end would need three backdrops, measuring 40’ x 32’, 40’ x 150’, and 40’ x 32’. The other end, representing Seventh Avenue, would be a single curved drop that measured 40’ x 180’.

Phil and Förderer stared at the model silently for several minutes, trying to conceive how to light such a monster drop, at “night,” while avoiding spurious reflections in the vinyl – while a full-on riot was going on in front of it. This was also the point where we found out that they planned to have busses and other vehicles driving through the drops to create movement on Broadway. Phil’s conclusion was that, due to the size of the drops needed and the complexity of the Seventh Avenue view, there was only one possible solution – Rosco’s new SoftDrops. Seamless in sizes up to 40’H x 170’W with a completely matte finish, the cotton drops were ideal for the range of lighting and camera set ups required to recreate the riot.

Confident that we could deliver the solutions to their gargantuan challenges, Phil departed immediately to New York to shoot the images around the Stonewall Inn that would eventually be printed into the huge backdrops needed on set. After an entire day and a half of shooting that involved ten camera positions – each shot in sunny, flat, and night conditions – Phil had captured the images needed. Now it was time for the visual experts at Rosco Digital Imaging (RDI) in San Diego to go to work compositing the images together, removing the unavoidable foot & vehicle traffic in Phil’s shots and, most importantly, turning back the hands of time from Greenwich Village in 2014 to Greenwich Village in 1969. Working closely with Laliberté and Förderer, RDI digital artists manipulated the imagery to recreate the look of the neighborhood in 1969, while adapting the scale of the views to the available stage space.

Once RDI was done manipulating the files, the SoftDrops were printed. The three smaller ones were printed as Day/Night Drops and the monster Seventh Avenue drop was printed as two drops – one for day and one for night. Two of the drops came in at the very last minute, necessitating Denis to deliver the drops directly to the soundstage… in his Honda. Normal vinyl backdrops this size would need to be rolled and shipped inside a 44’ long Sonotube, necessitating a 53’ long tractor trailer to transport it. Thanks to the wrinkle-resistant nature of the cotton SoftDrops, they’re nowhere near as heavy, and they’re foldable – making SoftDrops MUCH easier to ship and install anywhere in the world.

Once they arrived on set the crew began hoisting the drops out of their boxes and hanging them in place. The weight of the fabric pulled itself taught and removed any wrinkles immediately. “I’ve never installed a backdrop so easily” reported Daniel Robidoux, the production’s Key Rigging Grip.

Having the backdrop play so heavily in the scene would normally be a nightmare to light with traditional, shiny, vinyl backdrops. However, the matte finish and semi-translucent nature of the printed cotton made them “so easy to light,” according to gaffer Eames Gagnon.

The end results were spectacular! Rarely do you see a backdrop featured as prominently in the shot as you do in this film. Note how close the actors are standing next to the cigar shop backdrop, as the 1960’s era vehicle drives past. The entire crew was thrilled with how well the drops came out. “Amazing, really beautiful and realistic,” said art director Vincent Liberali.

We’re always happy when our products can provide unique solutions to our customers and we are thrilled to be a part of this feature film and its telling of the historic events of “where pride began.” The filmmakers say “it was like taking a time machine back to New York City in the late 60’s,” and it was Rosco SoftDrop that transported them from a sound stage in Montreal – 600 miles south and 45 years into the past – to New York City in 1969.

Make sure you see how realistic the SoftDrops look on the big screen when Stonewall hits theaters on September 25th!

If you need a backdrop that can transport your next project into another time and place, contact us: backdrops@rosco.com.

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Tom Swartz

About Tom Swartz

Film, Video and Broadcast Market Manager: Prior to joining Rosco, Tom enjoyed over 25 years of production lighting while working for major television networks and feature film production companies. Tom served as Managing Director of Rosco Canada since 1997, but his true passion lies in face to face engagement with gaffers, cinematographers and lighting directors. Tom's stories will reflect the trends and product developments he accumulates while visiting feature film sets, television shows and broadcast studios around the world.