Well each background is one layout, basically, at 1280x720 resolution. There's no scrolling or anything (well actually there is, but only in special scenes and I'll load the textures for these manually thus avoiding the problem). I can load each layout fine, it's just loading LOTS of layouts at once that makes the VRAM huge. Without loading multiple layouts in one go, there is a huge pause as you transition between layouts and the program loads the texture.
I've tried making it load the textures for the next layout while the player is still on a previous one, but loading the textures at any point causes a pause; there no way to slowly or 'subtly' load in layout textures in the background.
By cutting up brackgrounds and minimising wasted forground space, I should be able to load each screen in at around 10mb of VRAM. This means I should safely be able to load up to six layouts at a time, and have them transition smoothly, without overstepping the ~60mb VRAM usage required for working with rubbish graphics cards. I'll design the game's environment around this limit; I'll add doors or some such that the player has to move through, then slyly load/dump the neccessary textures as the screen changes, eliminating the noticable pause for loading.
I havn't tested this fully yet; I need to try loading 6 full backgrounds and layout object in one go and see if the VRAM stays at a reasonable level. If not, I'll have to drop the load to 5, and so on 'til it work. It's a pain, and a compromise, but I think I can make it work.