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How to create/light a breath.


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#1 jason joseffer

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Posted 29 April 2009 - 06:21 PM

Hey guys. I am looking for suggestions on how to simulate a breath. For example, it is cold outside and you can see your own breath. I know I need to backlight it. But how do I artificially create that effect? (fogger inhailed by talent?) Any advice would be a great help.
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 29 April 2009 - 06:41 PM

Hey guys. I am looking for suggestions on how to simulate a breath. For example, it is cold outside and you can see your own breath. I know I need to backlight it. But how do I artificially create that effect? (fogger inhailed by talent?) Any advice would be a great help.


Generally it has to be cold and humid to get that effect -- to see it, it has to be backlit, just like rain does.

I don't think any of the tricks to fake it on a set work, like using cigarette smoke, etc. If you can't get it to happen for real, then generally you'd have to create it digitally in post. You could shoot some backlit breath elements in a refrigerated room against black cloth, then track and composite those in.

In "The Exorcist" they refrigerated the set, and use a small snooted light like an Inky to backlight the breath.

In "2010" they first refrigerated the set for the abandoned Discovery that the astronauts explore, but found that they had to add some moisture / humidity to the air to get the right effect.
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#3 K Borowski

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Posted 29 April 2009 - 08:28 PM

If you can't get it to happen for real, then generally you'd have to create it digitally in post. You could shoot some backlit breath elements in a refrigerated room against black cloth, then track and composite those in.


I seem to recall hearing somewhere that only one of the "breaths" in "Titanic" was real. The entire rest of the film had them composited in digitally and there are quite a few. That was way back in '97. There've been quite a few films I've seen since then that, to my eye, look to have all been digital as well, so it must be easier to use the DI approach than actually lighting breaths.
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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 29 April 2009 - 08:33 PM

I seem to recall hearing somewhere that only one of the "breaths" in "Titanic" was real. The entire rest of the film had them composited in digitally and there are quite a few. That was way back in '97. There've been quite a few films I've seen since then that, to my eye, look to have all been digital as well, so it must be easier to use the DI approach than actually lighting breaths.


It's not lighting the breaths that is hard, it's getting the right temperature and humidity conditions to create them.

Doing it in post is just one of those things where when it's done successfully, no one knows that it was faked, and when it's done badly, then everyone says "see... doing it in post never looks right." It never looks right because you never notice it except when its done badly.

You can think of it this way -- if you have to fake a winter scene on a summer day or hot soundstage, at least the digital breath helps hide the fact that the room is not actually cold. It's one more layer of detail that helps sell something being faked as being real.
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#5 Justin Hayward

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Posted 29 April 2009 - 09:24 PM

I don't think any of the tricks to fake it on a set work, like using cigarette smoke, etc.


It works the other way around... cold for warm. I did some pick-ups in February that took place in April. Good thing the characters smoked, because they had to drag off a cigarette before every line of dialogue to hide their breath.

What's really tough is keeping them from shaking long enough to get through a take.
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#6 Ryan Ball

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Posted 30 April 2009 - 12:41 AM

It works the other way around... cold for warm. I did some pick-ups in February that took place in April. Good thing the characters smoked, because they had to drag off a cigarette before every line of dialogue to hide their breath.

What's really tough is keeping them from shaking long enough to get through a take.



Try having your actors chomp on some ice before takes. I've heard that works for the misty breath effect.
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